A wise man once said a true history of the world is a history of great conversations in elegant rooms.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Daniel Sackheim
With Jon Snow's resurrection, all the pieces are now in place for season six to get its story lines moving and bring us a whole new batch of thrills, character moments, and worthwhile storytelling. After the load of surprises we got from "Home", "Oathbreaker" dials back on the shock value and aims for being one of the more plot-heavy episodes in recent memory. In the past, plotty episodes were more focused on setting up events to come, usually happening close to or right before a penultimate episode. We're still pretty early in season six, so to say that "Oathbreaker" is plotty is actually a good thing, as it's not yet clear where things are supposed to be going. Not to worry: by the time the end credits roll, we should have a more clear picture of what to expect the rest of the way.
There's a growing problem at this point for Game of Thrones: finding appropriate things to do for its supporting characters. As we come closer and closer to the end, the focus grows stronger and stronger on main characters like Jon and Daenerys, leaving the likes of Sam, Varys, and Missandei without a whole lot to accomplish. However, D&D and the other writers have done well when it comes to keeping these characters involved and having them face challenges that feel at least somewhat important to the narrative. This is especially true in Meereen, as Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, and Missandei are all working together to keep the Sons of the Harpy at bay, while Daenerys is absent. The reason I especially like these scenes is that it keeps up Game of Thrones' realistic political conflicts, especially when we're at a point where the action could take over at any second. Scenes of characters talking about political matters regarding finances, power, and other general policies have always been one of the main reasons as to why the world of Westeros is one of the more realistic fantasy worlds that exists in both book and audio-visual form. While it would be passable for D&D to show little to nothing of Meereen while Daenerys is away, it's way better that they are keeping us in the loop as to how Tyrion and company are holding down the fort. It's kind of refreshing actually that it currently stands as one of the ongoing story lines that we can watch and not expect any kind of crazy, eye-popping action.
Now, everything I just said doesn't mean that there aren't at least a few characters suffering from a lack of productivity. Sam sailing to Oldtown with Gilly and Sam Jr. is pretty much him being taken out of the main action, at least until the middle of season seven. At the same time, I think it's kind of a good thing that Sam is currently not a part of anything that's currently happening at Castle Black. Jon's time serving as a member of the Night's Watch is coming to an end, and with so many other significant characters coming together to unite with Jon, Sam would likely find himself getting lost in the crowd. This isn't going to be the last time we see Sam this season, but as the other story lines really start to heat up, it's highly unlikely that we'll be wondering whatever he's up to in Oldtown.
Speaking of Jon, he must be absolutely beaming that he was brought back from the dead, right? Well, actually, no. He's not happy. In fact, he looks like he wished that he stayed dead. Continuing from what I said in my review of "Home" about D&D not quite fleshing out exactly why Davos thought about bringing Jon back to life, they make it clear that they flat out refuse to go into detail about it, as Davos simply tells Jon he doesn't know why the Lord of Light brought him back, and that they'll probably never know. I have always found Jon's resurrection to be vital to his character arc, but I can't help but have this nagging feeling that it's never fully explained as to why Jon is the one that someone considers trying to bring back from the dead. I guess a part of it is that Jon was lucky his body wasn't mutilated in some grotesque fashion like Ned, Catelyn, and Robb. Having a Red Priestess capable of magic rituals nearby certainly helps as well. Anyway, Jon has Alliser Thorne, Ollie, and the other mutineers hanged, and decides to hit the road, informally resigning as Lord Commander. In a show where characters die left and right, you would think we would feel some sense of joy upon one of those characters being brought back, but D&D do quite the opposite: instead of having Jon be all happy that he gets a second chance, they have him come back as bitter, tired of all the fighting and killing. Jon has always tried to do the right thing because he felt it was his duty, but being killed by his own brothers seemingly broke him. Now he's not sure what he should feel, or if he should even bother to continue fighting, if he assumes he's going to end up just like he did before.
So while Jon is having a bad day, Arya is having a great one: she finally starts defending herself from the Waif's attack, and Jaqen gives her her eyesight back. Arya losing her eyes back in the season five finale was Jaqen forcing Arya to stop seeing as "a girl named Arya Stark", as Arya defying his orders and killing Meryn Trant was proof that she still clung to a piece of her old self. After some time on the streets to think about how she can better prepare herself to become "no one", Arya now appears ready to give up on her kill list, give up on being Arya Stark, and to, at long last, accept a new life as "no one". By giving her eyes back, Jaqen is now confident that Arya will see everything as "no one", and no longer as Arya Stark. Well then, it looks like the tomboy-ish girl from Winterfell that we came to know and love is no more, right?
I'll conclude on what's happening with Bran, as the Three-Eyed Raven continues to show him visions of the past. This time, we get a fairly lengthy one, as Bran watches a young Ned arrive with some soldiers at the Tower of Joy, where they take on the Targaryen fighter, Ser Arthur Dayne (Luke Roberts). Bran had heard many times from his father about how he defeated Ser Arthur, but as the vision unfolds, it turns out that Ned's story was a lie. This is the first of what will be a few times in which Bran finds out something he always believed to be true is actually a lie. Isn't it fascinating that Bran, pretty much in the middle of nowhere beyond the Wall, is starting to uncover some of the biggest secrets in all of Westeros? The power structure of Westeros has been built on lies and deceit ever since the start of the series, and while it would be tempting to think someone like Jon would discover all these hidden secrets, I go back to something I said before: some of the most significant events in Game of Thrones involve characters seen as weak, broken, and unworthy. The overweight and clumsy Sam discovered that dragonglass can kill White Walkers. The hated dwarf Tyrion killed the most powerful man in Westeros. Now the crippled Bran is learning facts that could upset the balance of power that currently stands in Westeros. The vision is cut off before Bran gets to see what is inside the Tower of Joy, but judging from what we already saw, you can bet that what the young Ned goes to find in the Tower is another secret that could have a huge impact on the present.
So to conclude, forward-moving story telling is what encompasses a lot of "Oathbreaker", and thanks to another sharp script from D&D, the direction of season six is now a lot more clear. While there are no shocking deaths or game-changing twists, "Oathbreaker" succeeds because of it's heavy plot, highlighted by Bran's vision of the Tower of Joy, Arya regaining her eye sight, and Jon Snow's loss of hope. There will definitely be some surprises down the road, but for now, it's good for Game of Thrones to take some time to prepare us for what's yet to come. Before, it was somewhat of a weakness that a Game of Thrones episode was plotty for the sake of setting up future events. Early here in season six, "Oathbreaker" thrives on being plotty for the sake of setting up future events.
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