[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 4 Episode 4, "Oathkeeper"

Courtesy of HBO
I've long advocated for the television series Game of Thrones to differentiate itself from the novels on which it is based. And in small ways, it has. Enough has been changed to keep book readers from knowing exactly what will happen, while keeping the major events and characters similar enough to those we fell in love with on the written page. The series also has the ability to cover events and interactions that the novels never could, because of the character-focused way they are written. These are the things that I've appreciated and cherished about the series.

And occasionally, the writers are able to use the series to make explicit what the novels have kept implicit. It happened with Renly, it happened with Theon, and in this episode it happened with a significant part of the larger mythology of Westeros. It was sudden, it was surprising, and it was most welcome, in an episode that contributed a lot to veering off the established course of the prose version.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that actually did want a kiss.

The final scene was, to put it simply, huge. Not just because it confirmed what was happening to Craster's sons, though that is fairly significant too. But it gave us a glimpse at the finer workings of an aspect of the mythology of the Song of Ice and Fire that we all, book reader and show watcher alike, have been isolated from. We've seen and read plenty about the workings of the Fire side of things, between the dragons and the R'hllor faithful. But the White Walkers have remained the bogey-snowmen out in the wilderness. That final scene gives them structure, gives them intent, gives them a finer degree of malice that just being ice zombies. They have hierarchy and they have purpose. Melisandre's feared Other has been without champion thus far, but that changed in this episode, giving him form, flesh and crown.

Elsewhere, Jamie was incredibly likable. His scenes were easily the best of the episode. His relationship with Tyion has never had the greatest opportunities to be explored, what with the characters always at opposite ends of the country, but here it was made very clear that Jamie is the only ally he has ever had in his family. Equally, Jamie's scenes with Brienne and with Bron present him as a sympathetic, tortured character desperate for redemption. And all of it is incredibly uncomfortable in the shadow of last week's rape scene. I want to like Jamie, he's one of my favourite characters. But the way that scene was filmed last week has made my affection for the character, and my interest in his development taste like poisonous fruit.

It's easy to like scoundrels and liars and even murderers. But it is a harder sell to an audience to make them appreciate and adore a monster. And I'm sorry, but rape makes him that. I know that in the novels it was consensual and that the writers and director of last week's episode have said it was intended to be so, but the way it was shot made it seem everything but that, and it has tainted the character for me. I fear that they've given him a moment that I will never be able to get over, and that depresses me more that I can articulate.

The show did a significant amount of independent plotting in this episode, taking the storylines of the Boltons, Bran and the Night's Watch into unexplored territory. A character from the novels was removed from the show, and because of his Elk-riding absence, it left a sizable plot hole in the story of the Night's Watch mutineers. Not gaping, but big enough that questions could have been raised afterwards, and all credit to the writers for noticing the hole, and figuring an interesting way to plug it. Thus, Bran fell into the clutches of the villainous Burn Gorman, who is fantastic as the blood-and-power-mad leader of the Night's Watch Separatists.

At the same time, Jon Snow continues his rise out of whininess and rouses a group of volunteers to head out and kill these deserters before they can provide damaging information to the encroaching Mance Rayder. It is a clever way to fill in time in both of the stories, and tease a potential reunion between two of the few remaining Starks. Add to that the unexpected threat of the Bolton's man Locke securing himself a place of regard in Jon's number, in an attempt to get locate the remaining heirs of Winterfell and remove them from the equation. Because this plot is entirely new, the outcome is beyond by ability to infer. I suspect that Bran and Jon will not have a tearful reunion, but I am interested to see how the presence of Locke complicates things, and how much of his true intentions Jon will become aware of before the shit goes down.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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