They say the best swords have names. Any ideas?
Written by: Bryan Cogman
Directed by: Michelle MacLaren
"Oathkeeper" is the most plot heavy episode of season four so far. It's tough to say which story line deserves the top headline, as several of them make some significant steps forward, as we near the midway point of the season. This time around, I'd say the top headline goes to Jon Snow and company, because everything that currently involves the Night's Watch takes up the lion's share of the plot, and I'm actually kind of glad, because there hasn't been too many occasions where an episode is mostly focused on Jon Snow and what's happening at or beyond the Wall. When we see where Game of Thrones ends up for its final stretch of episodes, we can look back and make the argument that the story line involving Jon Snow and the Night's Watch is the most important one of all.
Last time, the Night's Watch learns of Karl Tanner and his band of mutineers taking over Craster's Keep. Jon requested that a party ride north to kill the mutineers, as Karl and his men are aware of how small a number there is at Castle Black. Jon had lied to Mance Rayder, telling him they had 1,000 men guarding the Wall, and if Mance learns that he has Castle Black vastly outnumbered, he will surely launch a full-scale assault. Jon volunteers to go north to Craster's Keep, and a few others agree to join him on his journey. One of these others is the new recruit Locke. Wait, what? Locke? The same Locke that serves House Bolton and cut off Jaime Lannister's right hand? When did he show up at Castle Black? I mean, we know that Locke was ordered to find and eliminate Jon Snow and the two Stark boys, but come on, a malicious character like Locke deserves at least a short "Welcome to Castle Black" moment and not just be magically inserted into the crowd. Quick side note: season seven got a lot of criticism for "time warping" and having characters zip across Westeros at the speed of light. It looks like Game of Thrones was doing a little bit of the same thing here, because I don't think too much time has passed since the events of the premiere episode. I don't care that Locke isn't a main character; he's done enough thus far to get at least an ominous welcoming moment, and we don't get one.
Oh well. Even though the vicious Craster is dead, Karl and his men have been making sure Craster's Keep remains as vile and unwelcoming as it always has been: Craster's wives are now forced to please the mutineers, while they enjoy all the food and drinks they could ever ask for. Karl agrees to maintain one of Craster's old customs: offer the baby boys to the White Walkers. Craster's last child turns out to be a boy, and when he's left out to be offered, this is when we get our first peak at the leader of the White Walkers: the Night King. The Night King holds the crying baby in his arms, pressing a finger to his cheek and making the baby's eyes turn an icy blue. I know I've said it to death already that the White Walkers are the biggest threat in all of Game of Thrones, so wouldn't that mean that the Night King should be considered the main villain of the series? It's hard to say: this is the first time we're seeing the Night King, and he makes incredibly sporadic appearances from here on out. We actually won't see him again until late in season five. For right now anyway, let it be known that we have another scary ice creature to worry about, one that will play a huge factor in the war to come.
Meanwhile, Grey Worm and the other Unsullied sneak into Meereen and help the slaves overthrow the masters, allowing Daenerys to take control of the city. She orders for many of the remaining masters to be crucified, a decision that goes against Ser Barristan Selmy's advice to show mercy. Daenerys will make frequent speeches about breaking chains and being a ruler that her people will want to love and admire, but it's decisions like these that reinforce the fact that she is still a Targaryen, and even if she isn't completely insane like her father came to be, she still has a fiery desire deep within her that can only be satisfied if she crushes her enemies with the might of a berserk dragon. Here, Barristan Selmy gets a small look into what he signed up for: a loving Mother of Dragons who is fully capable of unleashing a fury as devastating as a dragon. I think it's necessary for Game of Thrones to remind us of that from time to time. On the surface, it appears that following the well-intentioned Daenerys is the right decision for the likes of Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis. But when she does something like crucify nearly 200 slave masters, it might make her advisers start to think the wine they were drinking was actually Kool-aid.
So then, now we come to where the episode gets it name: the Valyrian steel sword that Jaime gives to Brienne. This is one of Jaime's best scenes of the entire season: he requests for Brienne to find and protect Sansa, using the sword that was forged from the sword of Sansa's father, Ned. Saving Brienne from the bear was the moment that suggested to us that Jaime was a changed man. This right here, asking Brienne to go and protect Sansa Stark, is the ultimate indication of how much more humble he has become. It's as if gifting Brienne with his sword and tasking her to protect Sansa is Jaime's way of finally giving up his past ways; he found someone like Brienne who inspired him to find new ways to be happy other than slashing through everyone with a sword.Assuming he knows that Sansa Stark is an innocent girl who had no direct part to play in Joffrey's murder, Jaime believes he can do good and find happiness by having Brienne keep her oath to Catelyn and protect Sansa. It's quite heartbreaking to watch Jaime say goodbye to Brienne, who reluctantly takes Podrick Payne with her. Brienne has become a true friend to Jaime, and he can't be sure that he'll ever see her again. No matter what happens, Jaime can always be grateful that Brienne encouraged him to keep going right after he lost his sword hand.
In conclusion, the bulk of the episode goes to the story lines involving the Night's Watch, but in terms of material worthy of dissection, the bittersweet scene between Jaime and Brienne takes the cake. The main flaw with "Oathkeeper" is that, because of how plot-heavy it is, there's not much space for anything that doesn't involve moving the plot lines forward. Character development takes a bit of a backseat here, but what we do get certainly leaves us excited to see what comes next. A battle between the Night's Watch and the mutineers is on the way, Daenerys is ruling over a new city, and now we've seen who is leading the White Walkers. All good story lines, and rest assured Game of Thrones will keep it that way.
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