At this point in Game of Thrones we have surpassed the stories as told by George R.R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire books. Like Jon Snow’s return from death, we’ve broken the void and have seen into the ether. The show uses ‘Oathbreaker’ to comment upon the fact the stories we’ve all been told now mean nothing and are completely in the past. That doesn’t mean the past is to be trusted.
Ser Davos may be the most logical character on Game of Thrones. He believes only the things he’s seen and only the tales of those who are the exclusive authority on a subject. His face when confronted with the newly resurrected Jon Snow is one of disbelief and pragmatism. Davos wants to reason with Jon and ask questions about the worldly things he remembers; namely his murder.
Melisandre wants to know what’s beyond. The stories she believes in have been shaken to their cores after the failure of Stannis Baratheon to take Winterfell and become the chosen son of R’hllor. She chomps at the bits of Jon’s post-homicide memory and wants to know what he’s seen of the afterlife.
“Nothing. There was nothing at all.” – Jon Snow
The stories of Gods and the afterlife and The Great Stallion might be horseshit after all. But Jon’s back and Melisandre believes in that above all else. The Lord of Light has given her another miracle and Davos and the rest of the Wildlings and Night’s Watchmen have witnessed this as well. Some have even come to accept Jon Snow as some sort of God*.
In the continued past adventures of Bran Stark and The Three-Eyed Raven, more myths are undone as we finally see the famous battle between Ned Stark and Ser Arthur Dayne. One of the building blocks of Ned Stark’s tale of honorable courage has been his victory over the Sword of the Morning. Ned has always been more humble when recounting this story and for good reason, as Bran and the viewer see that Ned would have lost and been killed by Arthur if it hadn’t been for Howland Reed (father of Meera and Jojen) stabbing Dayne in the back (of his throat).
I’d like to give pause to the coherent thematic discussion to kneel at the feet of the fight choreographers for this particular sword fight. It wasn’t the flashiest or most tense battle we’ve seen on this show but that’s what makes it a slice of exciting genius. The fight is shot with minimal takes and from very wide angles. We can see each and every move of the combatants and the skill it takes to wield these heavy weapons. Arthur Dayne was fighting with two! This fight is one which might typically be forgotten when all the fireworks have exploded at the end of a season but it’s this sort of detail that makes Game of Thrones the best show on television.
Elsewhere, Tyrion continues to try to build his legend for people who couldn’t care less. His exchanges with Messandei and Grey Worm are priceless as he coins phrases left and right and exudes all the charms and stereotypical Tyrion-isms he is known for across the Narrow Sea. Unfortunately for Tyrion, Messandei and Grey Worm have zero need for this dwarf’s poeticism and parlor tricks.
Tyrion’s mythology is as useless in Meereen as Varys’s own legend turns out to be in The Red Keep. Until this point, Varys’s word and sources have been the most infallible on the show but we finally see who his little “birds” actually are and just how easy they can be turned against their allegiance, if they even had one in the first place. Maester Qyburn discovers that young children have been the bearers of the Spider’s news in Westeros and wins them over to his side with such simple things as sweets.
Dany is now beholden to her attachment to the deceased Khal Drogo amidst a group of other widowed Khaleesies. Her own created mythology may even come back to bite as her “Breaker of Chains”, “The Unburnt” and “Mother of Dragons” monikers will seem to the humble widows as highfalutin dressings to a woman who abandoned her rightful place in Dothraki culture.
This is the wild west when it comes to whose story will survive and which winner will wind up telling it.
The High Sparrow gets his own frightening moment in ‘Oathbreaker’ recounting the story of the godly Mother to Tommen when he demands that his actual mother be able to see the body of Myrcella. The fact that ‘Oathbreaker’ premieres on Mother’s Day is most definitely not lost amongst Benioff and Weiss and is a horrifically creepy touch of detail as we fear for Tommen’s safety in the mouth of Sparrow madness.
Arya believes in her own fake myth so greatly that Jaqen H’gar gives her back her eyes.
Back in the hellhole that has been Winterfell, Smalljon Umber comes to town to demand an alliance, refusing to believe the stories Ramsey Snow** purports about the death of his father. Umber breathes some fire in the court of Ramsey and his dissension against the word of this bastard is highly entertaining. Umber stands behind his brazen words because of the ace stashed deep in his sleeve. When denying fealty to Ramsey in the form of bowing or swearing loyalty, Umber presents two long-missing characters of the series in Osha and Rickon Stark. Welcome home, Rickon. I fear the hell you will likely be put through.
Rounding things off back at Castle Black, Jon Snow brings his murderers to justice on the hangman’s noose. This includes Ser Alliser Thorne, who actually dies with dignified words and the smallest bit of honor, and Olly, the young boy who stabbed Jon in the heart, ceasing its beating for good***. Olly’s arc has been an interesting one as the once protege of Jon, saving his life whilst killing Ygritte and eventually Jon himself in the coup. Olly is one of the saddest elements Game of Thrones has given its audience and the most telling sign that Jon Snow isn’t the man he was before he was killed.
In his previous life, Jon Snow would’ve taken Olly off the chopping block forgiving his sins and believing in a life under misleading circumstances. In this life, Jon Snow lets Olly hang for his crimes more likely for killing Ygritte than actually ending his own life.
Or is it from pure cold-hearted ambivalence? When Jon ends up giving Dolorous Edd the reigns to Castle Black and walks off into the wild, he has clearly lost belief in his oath to the Night’s Watch.
Or has he become more pragmatic? He’s already lived through his oath to the Watch, having died trying to protect The Wall and his brothers. This new life doesn’t bind him to that obligation and his willingness to leave his friends behind, destroying the lives of four sworn brothers shows this Jon Snow has a new agenda.
Or no agenda at all?
Jon Snow and the rest of the characters in Game of Thrones are forging new stories against a world that is facing a fresh start. Pasts cannot be trusted and only the bold will be proven to survive.
“My watch has ended.” – Jon Snow
Check out my reviews of previous episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’:
*Except Tormund has pecker-proof that this isn’t actually true.
**Still not calling him Bolton.
***Is there any proof his heart is actually beating in its resurrected form?