"The Breaker of Chains" serves as a fitting autopsy of the Purple Wedding and Joffrey's shocking death. The "Game of Thrones" series is at its best when it uses its characters to dissect a single theme or question.
With Joffrey's death in "The Lion and the Rose," Westeros and the viewers are once again faced with the question of what is right. Was tin no time, "Breaker of Chains" quickly reveals who orchestrated the plot to kill Joffrey and rescue Sansa from King's Landing.
Petyr Baelish being revealed as the one behind the plot is a fitting reintroduction to the character of Littlefinger. He believes in chaos and personal gain from the ruins of war and death and Joffrey's death provides quite the opportunity for Littlefinger.
Littlefinger recognizes weakness and quickly seizes on Ser Dontos as an easily manipulated pawn in the much larger game for the Iron Throne that is being played by Petyr. The necklace was an easy way to smuggle the poison into the Purple Wedding and Joffrey's death provided the necessary chaos to get Sansa away. And what is Ser Dontos' reward? Death, as "Money buys a man’s silence for a time, a bolt in the heart buys it forever."
Littlefinger has his prize, Sansa, but all good assassinations require conspirators and there are enough clues to lead the viewer to Oleanna Redwyne. “Game of Thrones” series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss follow the Littlefinger scene with a discussion between the Queen of Thorns and the newly widowed Margaery Tyrell. While Margaery laments her fortunes, Oleanna shrewdly notes her granddaughter’s “circumstances have markedly improved.” Margaery would have had to work tirelessly to control Joffrey if he lived and based on the Lannister’s reliance on their alliance with the Tyrells, she will still serve as queen with Tommen at her side.
Each scene has the specter of Joffery hanging over it and in, a lot of ways, “Breaker of Chains,” is examining order and righteousness. Littlefinger’s interpretation of righteousness is an obvious, everything is morally good as long as it serves to propel his cause forward and he gains something from his actions. While not quite as ruthless as Littlefinger’s climb up the social ladder, Oleanna wants to make Margaery queen and, perhaps, overtake the Lannisters as the House that wields the most power in King’s Landing.
Tywin’s first lesson on how to be a good king is an important one for Tommen and “Game of Thrones” viewers. For Tywin, it’s not about holiness, justice or strength but wisdom. Listening to counsel and understanding one’s limitations won’t get you killed as king, something Joffrey and Robert failed to learn. Tywin’s assessment of his recently deceased grandson’s reign is ruthless and pragmatic, Joffrey was definitely not a good king or a wise king and that is what ultimately killed him.
Later on in "Breaker of Chains," Tywin's wisdom is once again on display during his meeting with Oberyn at the brothel, which also continues the trend of Lannisters interrupting Oberyn and Elaria.
Tywin's investigation is a quick way to air the dirty laundry between the Lannisters and Oberyn. Tywin knows the Red Viper did not kill Joffrey and also denies any involvement in the murder of Elia Martell at the hands of the Mountain. The viewers are sure Tywin is lying, and it is likely Oberyn suspects as much, but justice can be served in other ways. After all, Tywin does not just show up for trivial matters and when the head of the Lannisters is talking, you listen.
Tywin's offer of a seat on the small council and to serve as a judge in Tyrion's trial in exchange for the Mountain seems like a great deal for the Red Viper but one that involves an uneasy partnership between Dorne and the Lannisters. The Martells are an important and powerful house and Dorne was the only kingdom that was not conquered by Aegon the Conquerer and his dragons.
The Hound also has a harsh lesson to teach Arya Stark about righteousness. For the Hound, strength and understanding how horrible the world truly is justifies his actions. Whether it is following Joffrey’s orders to kill the butcher’s boy in “Game of Thrones” season 1 or to steal from someone who took you in as a guest and fed you in “Breaker of Chains,” the Hound believes someone is doing something far worse in Westeros and he has yet to be proven wrong in that belief. Whether or not Oberyn wants to an accept such an offer remains to be seen.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sam’s concept of righteousness is protecting others. He struggles with the taunting from his brothers in the Night’s Watch and worries about Gilly’s safety. Sam hides her in Mole’s Town which is a departure from what happens in “A Storm of Swords” but I think the “Game of Thrones” series can still follow the events of the upcoming novels pretty easily.
Ygritte is part of a Wildling attack and, despite being Jon Snow's lover, she is a killer and an enemy to the Night's Watch. Sam and Jon would seek mercy but the same cannot be said for Ygritte, Tormund and especially Styr. When news of the attack reaches Jon, he opts for the greater good. The mutineers at Craster's know the Night's Watch is weak and if that news spreads, Mance Rayder would easily overrun Castle Black. Jon knows the brothers must be killed but the mission beyond the Wall will not be easy one.
The scene between Cersei and Jaime in front of Joffrey’s corpse will be the cause of much debate. In “A Storm of Swords,” the siblings are overcome with emotion and their sexual encounter is consensual, with Cersei’s only concern involves keeping their relationship a secret from their father. Jaime is willing to give up everything, including Tommen’s claim to the Iron Throne, in order to marry Cersei but she refuses his offer. In “Breaker of Chains,” the issue of whether or not Cersei consented or if it was rape will be raised and that drastically alters the larger narrative.
In George R.R. Martin’s novels, Jaime is becoming a sympathetic character and the Kingslayer’s transformation will be complete by the end of “A Storm of Swords.” While the “Game of Thrones” series could continue with Jaime’s story without changing too much, it’s an interesting decision to change that scene and I'm looking forward to hearing Weiss and Benioff discuss the sexual encounter between Jaime and Cersei.
Tywin's words to Tommen ring true for Stannis and Daenerys. Stannis, pleasant as ever, receives the news of Joffrey's death which strengthens his commitment to Melisandre and the Lord of Light. This loyalty means Stannis ignores the advice of Ser Davos, his loyal Hand. Davos makes a great point about Stannis' resistance towards buying an army but will use Melisandre's magic to kill his enemies and this thought leads to his recruitment of Shireen to draft a letter to the Iron Bank.
Daenerys has enough wisdom to know who is valuable which leads to Daario Naharis being named as her champion to face Meeren's champion. Her decision proves to be the right one and after Meeren's champion is killed, Daenerys presents the slaves of Meeren with a choice to be free. So far, Daenerys appears to have everything necessary to be a good queen but she has yet to truly rule. When Meeren falls, Daenerys' true challenge as queen will begin.
As for the man accused of Joffrey's murder, Tyrion sits alone in his jail cell and won't have much to do before his trial begins. His loyal squire, Podrick Payne, has been offered knighthood and Tyrion pushes him to accept the offer, knowing Pod will be dead if he refuses. Without Pod or Bronn, Tyrion's only ally may be Jaime.
'Game Of Thrones" Season 4 Spoiler Discussion
- I like the direction Benioff and Weiss are going with the Hound and Arya. Although the Hound should be dead, he could be a good foil for Ayra prior to her departure to Braavos. I'm not sure how they kill the Hound but his death could be his final lesson to his young companion.
- Daavos spent much of his time in "A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance with Dragons" traveling and the storyline was kind of boring. The "Game of Thrones" series could condense his storyline to focus on Salladhor Saan and the Manderlays without losing much.
- Littlefinger is back! I thought "A Storm of Swords" laid out Petyr's scheming, such as setting up the conflict between Tyrion and Joffrey which would lead to the former getting accused of murder. Littlefinger will be a dangerous character going forward and I wonder how much of Vale gets covered in the busy "Game of Thrones" season 4.