Game of Thrones 6×03 ‘Oathbreaker’: His watch has ended

GoT 6x03 Cover

I had forgotten just how difficult it is to get a season of Game of Thrones moving.  Three episodes in and, while characters like Jon Snow are back and made major decisions, characters like Theon have really just said a couple words and left to go somewhere else.  Jorah and Daario have only been in one scene, and that’s where they were just running across a field as they searched for Daenerys.  It’s important to service all of your characters, especially when so much has been poured into them, but it can be difficult when they don’t overlap a whole lot, or when there isn’t a whole lot to be said about some of them.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

The scope of Game of Thrones is one of its greatest strengths, but one of its greatest weaknesses.  Bouncing back between Meereen and the Wall and King’s Landing is endlessly fun and keeps the show invigorating even when not much is happening.  But the scope can also be an issue.  When so many characters exist that the show can only feature them for 3 minutes at a time, it’s difficult to get all of them moving along their respective storylines.  Props to Benioff and Weiss for pushing all of them as quickly as possible, but the overall pace can feel a little slow, especially when watching these on a week-by-week schedule.  I feel like Game of Thrones would be far better binge-watched, and maybe that’s the point.

Side Note: Can I just say (since I didn’t do these reviews for Season 5) that Gilly sleeping with Sam after he saves her from almost being raped is the absolute worst?  Goes to show that the Benioff and Weiss, despite having tough female characters, have a lot of work to do to make them real people.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Game of Thrones is very much a show crafted for the modern viewer.  It provides us not only with episodes perfect for binge-watching, but also with “moments”, headline-worthy, YouTube-clip moments.  It’s those moments that do the selling online, that make people talk the next day.  Case in point: when Shireen was sacrificed last season, that was a moment.  It was all over YouTube, all over headlines, all over Facebook feeds, and it helped to sell the show a little more.  What’s interesting about this season is that there’s aren’t any real moments (aside from Jon’s resurrection and the inevitable “R+L=J” reveal) that are scripted out for them already.  Many of these need to be created outside the context of the books.  And that might be why we haven’t seen many of them yet.  However, when the show digs into this format, characters like Ramsay are used primarily for shock value.  There really isn’t a reason for Ramsay to exist anymore, and while the show is starting to set up his downfall (thank god), I couldn’t help but groan when Rickon and Osha were brought to him, complete with direwolf head.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Anyway, let’s dig further into the events of the episode.  Much of the episode was about the notion of identity, how people try to define themselves as their roles in the world change. Jon gives up his role as Lord Commander after executing his murderers, as his death has fulfilled his oath.  Arya gives up her role as a Stark as she continues to become an assassin.  Daenerys is forced out of her role as ruler, essentially imprisoned at Vaes Dothrak because she is a widow of a Khal.  Even Cersei and Jamie are forced into different roles, as they want to take back power and authority in King’s Landing, only to realize that they don’t have the resources or the political capital to do that.  There are huge disparities between desires and realities in this episode, and as a result, many of the characters find themselves lost, unable to figure out what to do or how to get back into the roles they want to play.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

A lot of this comes with the sick malaise that occurs after a country’s identity is shaken.  War disrupts what people think of their country, the image their country has, the future that they see for themselves and their country.  The Starks were always Starks until Winterfell was destroyed and their parents were murdered.  Now, in this new order, they have to figure out where they fit in, how they create a future for themselves and those they’re responsible for.  Sam heads home with Gilly because he believes that he can find some sort of future there, just like Tyrion stays at Meereen to deal with the Sons of the Harpy because he feels there’s a future to be made by ruling in Daenerys’s absence. Game of Thrones is about finding a future and an identity amidst the ruins of an old empire and an old life, and this echoes through many of the show’s characters trying to find their place in a broken world.

Season 6 may only be a little better than the previous season, but the lack of source material while still having a general structure is invigorating the narrative, even while the typical pitfalls still damage the show.  While some characters definitely need to go (Ramsay), other characters are beginning to find purpose and direction in their stories (Jon, Arya).  We’re still in the buildup stage for the season, but as of right now, what it’s building to appears immensely exciting.  I’m actually excited to see what happens next.

What did you think of the episode?  What do you think is going to be the big setpiece of the season?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • Gui

    Admittedly, I was actually invested in Rickon and Osha being given to Ramsay because I’m sticking to the belief that there’s a conspiracy in the North against the Boltons being built up, and the moment Ramsay killed Roose he effectively signed his own death sentence as he’s easier to manipulate. They made a point to remind us in the last two episodes as to how loyal House Umber is to House Stark, and the timing of things is incredibly suspect. With Roose gone, who wouldn’t be easily played and who could recognize a direwolf’s head (I highly doubt that’s an actual direwolf’s head, too small), the Umbers can bring up a trap from within. Think about it, Rickon and Osha went to the Last Heart, disappeared for 2 seasons without the Boltons hearing a thing about them in any way and suddenly they decide to turn them over? It’s about as fishy as it gets for me. Once the time comes, the Umbers will turn on Ramsay, the last Bolton in the way of a Stark restoration. It fits, if you ask me.

    The rest of the episode does have some interesting setups as well. The fact that without the books they have less of a “greatest hits” kind of thing makes things sometimes feel a bit slower, but it also has a good deal of potential. It’s anyone’s guess where most storylines are going now and depending on how Benioff and Weiss play them, we could have something really good coming. They still have their issues, as you’ve mentioned (namely with female characters), but it’s interesting to see where they could be headed.

    • Michael St. Charles

      You know, I’ve heard a lot of talk about how House Umber could potentially pose a problem to Ramsay. We know that Ramsay is going down soon, maybe by the end of the season, just because Ramsay has no idea how to actually lead. Really, I’m just wondering how they’re going to tie together all of the storylines in the North (Jon at the Wall, Ramsay at Winterfell, Sansa and Brienne, and he Greyjoys). I’m hoping that they find a neat, organic way to do it.