Game of Thrones 4×03, “Breaker of Chains”: Other than that, how was the wedding Mrs. Baratheon?

game-of-thrones-season-4-stills-14-arya-and-the-hound

Fallout from The Most Awkward (but Totally Rewarding) Wedding of all time sends its ripples throughout Westeros as news of the late King Joffrey’s fatal indigestion spreads from Kings’ Landing, while those within the palisades begin the preliminary stages of figuring out what next to do when your really horrible monarch dies and pretty much everyone in two thousand miles is a credible suspect, because seriously, Joffrey was a tit.  And not even a fun one, really.  Like, I had friends back in school who could be really hard to tolerate, but they never went around bragging about murdering people and stuff.  Well, “Murdering Leroy” did, but we all thought it was just a clever nickname.

First of all, big thanks to new GottaWatchIt.Com writers Jonathan Raeder and Bri K. for covering the last two weeks!  They did a great job, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with on their regular gigs.  Future stars, I tell you.  Get their autographs while you still can.  Alright, onto the show . . . .

source: HBO

source: HBO

So, yeah, lots of reaction this week to Joffrey’s timely death, starting firstly with Cersei who is out for blood over her son’s assassination; specifically Tyrion’s blood, which is kinda the breaking-off point of all the bad blood that had been simmering between the two of them for several seasons.  Cersei has ended up being one of my least favorite characters on a show that has a lot of bad eggs, but she’s not in the “so bad they’re good” camp unlike, say, Ramsay Bolton or even weird ol’ Mesliandre.  Instead, for me Cersei lost her shine when she made it apparent that even after all her scheming and enabling of regicide, she never really wanted anything from it that she didn’t already have, and that’s not just what I’d consider a well-developed motivation.  Cersei, as portrayed here, just wants MORE; Tywin is the patron saint of schemes and realpolitik, but it’s always with an aim such as “control over Westeros” or “protect his family’s hold on the Iron Throne.”  You get the feeling that with Tywin, as long as there was peace in the realms and a seat saved for him near the head of the table, he would be perfectly content to relax and not jump into the middle of five wars at once just because he could earn another pin on his lapel.  This episode features the Lannister patriarch up to his usual tricks of manning the rudder during times of crisis, insidiously laying the groundwork for his next administration with heir-apparent grandson, the mild-mannered Tommen.  Cersei and Jaime have the weirdest grief-counseling session ever, by which I mean she cries out for Tyrion’s head on a pike and her lover-brother responds by calling her a horrible selfish jerk . . . . and then they ferociously bone on top of the body of their dead son.  If the Lannisters are looking for another family slogan, maybe they should think about, “Oh, Yeah, It Gets Weirder.”

source: HBO

source: HBO

Meanwhile, the other chess pieces on this endless sprawl of a gameboard meander their way into position, as goes every season: Tyrion is fairly resigned to being executed for Joffrey’s death, and thus assures his few trusted allies (Shea, Sansa, Bronn, and Podric) are safely out of harm’s way, sending them hither and yon; Stannis and Davos stand out on those same freaking rocks for the hundredth time bickering about The God of Light for the thousandth time, going nowhere with as much urgency as ever; The Wildlings and their previously-heretofore-unknown cannibal comrades from beyond the wall are making quick work of the defenseless northern farmsteads; The prudes over at Castle Black are still complaining about what Jon Snow knows about Mance Rayder (hint: it’s nothing, it’s always nothing) instead of making plans to withstand the coming onslaught; Tywin is cooking something up to bring Dorne back into the fold by possibly offering the Mountain’s head in return for Prince Oberyn Martell’s affiliation with the Lannisters; The Hound is sending mixed signals to Arya about how personal codes of conduct work; And Daenerys and company are still making their plodding way toward Westeros, leaving charred cities and freed slaves in their increasing wake.

I’ve come to enjoy the playful dynamic between Arya and the Hound as they traverse the apparently endless woodlands on their way to the Aerie, but much like so many of Game of Thrones’ dynamics, the show seems to drag these things out longer than the narrative value requires.  Here, we spend a decent amount of time exploring the shocking facet of the Hound still being kind of a selfish oaf and not terribly honorable.  I mean, I love anything that gives us more Arya screentime, but she’s unfortunately been given the role of “the character who gets taken to places” for pretty much the entire tenure of the show; she’s dragged here, and then here, and then there, and then over there, and then to this place . . . . for a character with such an active agency who always skirts the edges of major conflicts, the show leaves her in a fairly passive position.  She’s a professional hostage at this point, though I do say it runs in the family, no?  Just ask Sansa: you can reach her at her new digs on Peytr Baelish’s creeptastic pleasure yacht, headed for god knows where.

source: HBO

source: HBO

Daenerys continues to be a somewhat problematic character as well, as she labors under the dual burdens of being both a “mighty whitey” trope and suffering from Cersei Syndrome, a la, not having a really strong motivation for her aims.  The show has developed her into a freedom fighter of sorts, freeing the poor brown peoples of Essos from their real-life Frank Frazetta paintings, but all that has come later on down the stretch; the Mother of Dragons has always been, at heart, a princess fighting for her birthright.  In my book, that makes her little better than the umpteen other selfish dillholes back in Westeros fighting over the same dumb thing.  I mean, yeah, the slave-freeing is nice, but the bar for being a not-awful governing official in this world is pretty low.  As long as you’re not murdering babies or practicing your crossbow using servants for targets, you’re a step up on some of the high brass.

 

 

Tune in next week for what’s surely to be another step of careful progression toward an inevitable conflict between the myriad parties in play, and some boobs.  Always with the boobs.  THAT’S HOW YOU KNOW YOU’RE WATCHING HBO![/zappbrannigan]

 

 

Oh, and if anyone puts book spoilers in the comments, I’ll feed you to the crows.

 

Ta!

Atomika D.

is a writer and critic of TV and film since 2006, an alumnus of NYFA’s school of celluloid direction and production, and she once ate seven burritos on a dare. It was not pleasant. Read all about it on Tumblr.

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  • Kat

    Awesome review. Agree with everything said about Dany.

  • Sheryl Parrish

    Cersei is motivated by the love of her children. And she and Jamie didn’t bone on her son’s casket. She was raped.

    Arya has to be taken everywhere because she is just a kid. Give her time. She’s taking everything in and becoming quite formidable.

    • http://atomic-atomika.tumblr.com/ Atomika

      I agree that Cersei has her children in mind with her motivation, but it’s still up to this point been a fairly thin motivation. Her children are assured a lifetime of wealth and comfort merely by being Baratheons, but it’s never enough for her. Cersei basically set the world on fire so her already-rich family and children could be richer and more powerful. So, yeah, I don’t have a lot of sympathy or appreciation for her.

      And yes, she was raped. That scene is problematic. A lot of outlets have covered that ground already, and I don’t think I could do the topic justice and still get to the rest of the episode in my allotted time. In short, it was a weird moment, but I’m not sure it was entirely out of character for Jaime to act that way. He’s on a redemption arc, but he’s still a guy with a history of being an evil douche . . . and that’s in addition to him being incestuous and terribly selfish. They had been setting up a violent confrontation between he and Cersei since he came back to King’s Landing, so it at least makes narrative sense. Whether it was a good idea on the writers’ part is debatable.

      I also agree with you about Arya, but my greater point is that for going on four seasons now she’s been a character with very little to do and very little ability to do it. She’s growing and doing more, as you say, but from the standpoint of narrative momentum, Arya has done little more than act as a bystander and plot-hook to show other characters’ stories.