Brought to you by our friends at Talk Thrones.
There are so many forms of capital in Game of Thrones. Whether it be the traditional form, of which the Lannisters have plenty, or certain skills that will forever be necessary and that can be had for a price—ask any sellsword or prostitute. Varys and Littlefinger’s favorite currency is whispers and secrets.
What’s the least reliable monetization in Westeros? Something that can be forged over years of developing friendships. It can make a character feel secure, but the wisest know it’s a false security and a fool’s game to depend on. It is loyalty, justice.
A week (to viewers) before the larger sword forged of Nedd Stark’s greatsword is given the name “Oathkeeper,” Tywin Lannister gave his grandson Tommen some advice on leadership. When the young king offered “justice” as a hallmark of a great figurehead, Tywin agreed that the quality is useful. But not imperative. And certainly not something to hang one’s hat on. “Orys the First was just,” the elder Lannister uttered, pacing about the high religious court in view of his assassinated grandson’s body. “Everyone applauded his reforms, nobles and commoners alike. But he wasn’t just for long. He was murdered in his sleep after less than a year by his own brother. Was that truly just of him? To abandon his subjects to an evil that he was too gullible to recognize?”
In fact, it’s a bit silly to present any evidence at all that honor and loyalty are really just weakness asking to be taken advantage of—it’s practically the thesis of the show, and that lesson is learned multiple times in each episode. Last week? Ser Dontos had his silence regarding smuggling Sansa out of King’s Landing bought with a bolt to the heart instead of of the 10,000 gold he was expecting; a weak farmer practically told The Hound and Arya “I’m defenseless, but I have some silver if you’d like to punch me in the face for it.”
Yet this episode’s brim runs over with acts of loyalty, be they big or small: the Lord Commander of the King’s Guard sends his favorite giant female knight to retrieve the daughter of the murdered Lord of the North in order to uphold his oath to her, flying in the face of his sister-lover’s request to find and kill the daughter; the jailed Master of Coin sends his steward with the female knight just to keep him alive; after his sister-lover requests of that same Lord Commander to kill their brother (to say she’s not in a good place right now would be an understatement), his loyalty to his brother’s life supersedes that of his love for “such a hateful woman”; the Lord Commander continues to train with his brother’s sellsword guard, despite the implications their being seen together might have; the eldest lady of House Tyrell assumes great risk for many in having assassinated the king, one of those many being her granddaughter, who’d be unhappy married to such an unpleasant chap; a young warg and his sister risk themselves for their friend and traveling companion, determined not to leave his and his brother’s direwolves with a vicious lot holed up in a keep north of the wall; the most physically ill-equipped of the Night’s Watch wants to travel to rescue his female friend from the path of a wildling hoard; a Night’s Watch bastard steward risks himself for the lives of the rest of those residing in the wall; his friends don’t allow him to make the journey alone; the Mother of Dragons continues to build her army through loyalty, freeing yet more slaves and not requiring anything of them afterward.
Unfortunately, the repercussions of these loyalties weren’t manifested in time to fit into this hour of television. But after the mystery of the king’s death is revealed, the reactions to these weaknesses is the unknown driving viewers toward the next installment. Will Jaime pay for disobeying his sister-lover? Will the Lannisters find out about Lady Olenna’s (latest) misdeed? Could justice be making a comeback? Nah, probably not. Will we ever find out what makes prostitutes give Podrick his money back? Oh, how I wish.
Like vinegar, Jaime is in quite the pickle, and he’s pretty sour about it. With an if-that’s-not-rape-I-don’t-know-what-is under his belt, his approval rating with audiences plummeted after a week of (deserved) viewer uproar. But he does his best to remedy that in “Oathkeeper.” With his sister coming apart at the seams, lusting for death and blood more so than justice, Jaime’s remained relatively calm. He disregards the woman he loves in two regards: instead of killing Tyrion, he meets with his younger brother and offers help; instead of finding Sansa and returning her to the capital only to be caged like the dove Cersei has always referred to her by, Jaime sends Brienne, armed with his sword of Valyrian steel and Podrick the Pleaser, to retrieve Sansa to safety in an attempt to uphold the oath they each gave to Cat Stark. His scene with Tyrion in his dungeon cell conveys some of the warmth we remember from their relationship, but that we’d almost forgotten after such considerable time apart. This includes Tyrion’s correctly guessing that his sister wants him murdered (Jamie: “she did mention it”), a pitch for a new pilot on TBS (“The kingslayer brothers! Do you like it? I like it”), and the imp taking ironic shots at Tywin: “One of my three judges has wished me dead more times than I can count, and that judge is my father.” Combine that with the number of times Prince Oberyn has done the same, and the math doesn’t favor Tyrion’s living if he follows the traditional route of submission to King’s Landing superiors. Of course, Jaime’s been avoiding seeing his brother at all, and only did so after Tyrion’s sellsword proves as handy with the art of guilt-tripping as he is with that of beating someone down with their own metallic hand.
Yet again, Bran must feel so close to home, sitting in unbearable cold, two direwolves posted outside of a keep. But he’s in some serious, cliffhanging danger. Summer, his direwolf, has fallen into a trap, and he’s being detained by the most sickening lot of the series (yes, more so than the cannibals), power-tripping lowlifes who waste their days overconsuming and raping Craster’s daughters. It’s a disturbing scene, possibly the hardest to stomach for this viewer. (Of course, the creators almost outdo themselves minutes after revealing the scene at Craster’s, leaving a wailing baby for dead in the freezing wilderness.) Luckily for Bran and his friends, Jon Snow is en route with his loyal brethren, making audiences eager for a double-warg, double-direwolf throwdown with a handful of Night’s Watch thrown in for good measure. Something tells me their reunion won’t be as simple as defeating the rapers at Craster’s Keep, followed by a brisk hike back to the wall, followed by hot chocolate with those mini marshmallows.
Sansa proves that she’s developed some wile under the watchful, scheming eyes of King’s Landing, calling the circumstances of Joffrey’s murder before most of the audience is able to. Littlefinger seems impressed and too sexually gratified by this realization, before pouring on that classic Lord Baelish charm: “A man with no motive is a man no one suspects … If they don’t know who you are or what you want, they can’t know what you plan to do next.” And this chuckle-inducing nugget:
Littlefinger: “I’d risk everything to get what I want.
Sansa: “And what do you want?”
Littlefinger: (after a considerable squeeze of her arm and not-so-subtle admiration of her newly adult body) “Everything.”
We learn a considerable amount about Lady Olenna’s past, but none of it surprises. The High Garden high heel dropped: Olenna was, for the most part, the instigator of Joffrey’s assassination, her reasoning ranging from the well-being of her granddaughter to the well-being of humanity. We also learn she used her … uh … femininity to steal her older sister’s husband away before his proposal, back when King’s Landing assassinations only cost two silver.
She imparts this information onto Margaery Tyrell to convince her to do the same: namely, win over Tommen before his sadistic, bat-shit mother turns the young king against the Tyrells. And she does. So well that I cringed with the partial expectation she would engage in less than holy acts with the 12-year-old Lannister. Thankfully, she’s skilled enough to get the blood rushing without so much as toeing the line of inappropriateness.
– With Jaime and Brienne having made it to King’s Landing and Arya and The Hound no-shows in “Oathkeeper,” the show runners have blessed us with yet another unlikely road trip duo: Brienne and Podrick! Hilarity ensues? Me thinks yes.
– There were two “Trojan Horse” scenarios outlined in this episode. First, the poison that introduced Joffrey to his doom was snuck into the royal wedding on Sansa’s necklace, a gift supposedly of sentimental value to Ser Dontos. Second, Daenerys’ soldiers re-dawn their old slave-chic outfits to enter Meereen and supply its slaves with the weapons necessary to revolt. Thankfully, she denies a request for mercy on the masters of Meereen, nailing them to planks like they did the slave children on the road to their city.
– More White Walkers. Although they’ve been “coming” for four seasons now.
– Not seen: Tywin, Oberyn, Arya, The Hound, Stannis, consensual sex, Joffrey’s corpse, Gilly, cannibalism