in Television

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4 Episode 3 Recap: “Breaker of Chains”

Tyrion ponders his options; Tywin extends an olive branch; Jon proposes a bold plan; The Hound teaches Arya the way things are.

With a cast of characters this large and colorful, one of the many issues of HBO’s Game of Thrones going from episode to episode is balance. How is one supposed to advance all the different plot lines in a timely and interesting manner, and preferably with a unifying theme across each hour, without it feeling like… well, like a droll, jumbled mess of scenes all squished together so the audience can get a five minute recap of where all the major players are at post-Major Death Scene?

However it is one is supposed to pull something like that off, that certainly wasn’t what happened with “Breaker of Chains.” This has to be the driest Game of Thrones episode of all time (that I can remember, anyway, there’s a slim chance another ep from the first three seasons bored me just as much) and is a definite disappointment after episode two’s high stakes ending.

Oh, and all this dismay I’m showcasing is before I even get to HBO’s latest big source material change. But we’ll get to that in a bit. Recap time!

Sansa Stark

The ex-knight that rescued Sansa from the purple wedding brings her to a small rowboat nearby, and rows her over to a huge ship hidden in the fog just outside King’s Landing. Onboard is Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish – the smarmy character’s first appearance of the season.

Petyr promises Sansa he’ll take care of her, then turns right around and gives her ex-knight savior an arrow through the face. His reasoning? The man was a drunken fool who would’ve done anything for money – including, Petyr presumes,  selling Sansa out to the next highest bidder. Okay, so that’s pretty sound logic, but it was still an asshole move and Petyr is still never to be trusted so RUN SANSA RUN.

Margaery Tyrell

Newly widowed, Margaery is wondering where she stands now that her kingly husband is dead. Is she still The Queen? Her grandmother Olenna states that her standing as a ruler is much shakier than it would have been if she’d had time to consummate her marriage before Joffrey kicked the bucket… but on the other hand, her chances of surviving are now much higher without a sadistic husband, so, silver linings and all that.

Tywin Lannister

Proving himself to be the opportunistic jerkwad we all know and love-ish, Tywin barely waits for his oldest grandson’s dead body to be cold before turning his “I’m a super charming and helpful grandpa!” face on his other grandson. Tommen Baratheon is now next in line to be King – once he’s old enough, of course. Tywin has every intention of molding Tommen to be obedient and dependent on his advice before then. Apparently his way of doing so is to patiently lead Tommen through boring history lessons while standing next to Joffrey’s corpse as Cersei looks on in disgust. Yay, grandparenting!

Cersei Lannister

Okay, here’s the aforementioned source material change that’s getting much of the ASOIAF fanbase majorly pissed off. After Tywin and Tommen swan off to continue their boring ass history lessons, Jaime arrives, and Cersei dismisses the servants, leaving them alone in the crypt/tomb thing holding Joffrey’s body.

An angry and grieving Cersei asks Jaime to kill Tyrion to avenge their son’s death, and Jaime seems aghast at the very suggestion. They end up kissing passionately, but when Cersei sees Jaime’s golden hand, she turns away from him – and Jaime angrily spits at her, “You’re a hateful woman. Why did the gods make me love a hateful woman?” before raping her next to her son’s dead body.

As I understand it, this scene did not AT ALL play out this way in the book, which means HBO turned an admittedly fucked up but consensual sex scene into one that was completely non-consensual for… What? Shock value? It’s deplorable, and a complete betrayal of both characters as written in the source material – though considering the way this show has treated its characters’ developments, particularly for the women, I can’t say I’m surprised. Disgusted, but unsurprised.

Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane

Arya and Sandor take shelter for the night from a kindly farmer and his daughter. When the farmer offers Sandor a job in return for the few pieces of silver he has, Sandor attacks them, steals the money, and marches away. Angry, Arya asks Sandor why – and Sandor replies, “They’re weak. They’ll both be dead come winter. Dead people don’t need silver.” Okay, so, this is totally going to bite them in the ass later right? Right?

Samwell Tarly

Fearful for Gilly and the baby’s safety in a keep full of violent men, Sam takes them out of Castle Black and to a town nearby, where he pays for her room and board and gets her a job taking care of children. Gilly is upset with Sam, thinking that he’s grown tired of her, but she stays put in the town.

Jon Snow

The Wildlings, now partnered up with the Scary Cannibals, attack a neighboring village and slaughter its people, leaving one boy alive so he can run to Castle Black and let the Crows know what’s coming. The men debate what to do – ride out and attack the Wildlings, risking horrifying death, or stay put, also risking horrifying death (in my semi-worthless opinion, since basically just breathing in and out in this series’ universe is risking horrifying death, they might as well go out with a bang, but hey what do I know). They’re interrupted when two men arrive fresh from Craster’s old camp, having escaped from the ex-Crows that now live there. Jon realizes they need to attack what’s left of Craster’s camp, to prevent those men from telling the Wildlings’ leader, Mance Rayder, the truth about Castle Black – that there are far, far fewer men stationed there than they believe, and that taking over would be a cinch.

Stannis Baratheon

Man, Stannis is not looking good lately. He’s all pale, and gaunt, and unnecessarily angry with Davos who’s just trying to be a good friend, goddammit. On this episode of Stannis throws a fit, the would-be king has heard of Joffrey’s death and attributes it to the leech-burning ritual Melisandre had him do last season. He’s again pissed off at Davos for letting Gendry go (oh man, I forgot about that dude! Hope he’s doing ok, and that he hasn’t fallen off that boat or something ridiculous like that), and mocks all of Davos’ suggestions for winning the war without the use of sorcery.

Davos meets up with darling angel Shireen, where a reading lesson gives him the idea to write a letter to a bank in Stannis’ name, likely to ask for a loan or some such thing so they can buy an army. Aw, Davos. You’re a good dude, dude.

Oberyn Martell

Oberyn continues his quest to make himself my favorite by being the same upfront, unapologetic, passionate, vengeful, snarky individual he’s been the past two episodes, and this time he gets to do it during a threesome (fivesome?) AND right to Tywin’s face. Oh baby, oh baby, say “it delights me” again.

Tywin has come to Oberyn for two reasons: first, to confront him about his true purpose in King’s Landing (to which Oberyn basically replies, “I’m gonna kill aaaall o’ ya’ll”) and second, to recruit him to be a judge in Tyrion’s upcoming trial. You know, the trial for murdering Joffrey? And Oberyn has sworn vengeance on the Lannisters, of whom Tyrion is a part? Ohh, I see what you’re doing here Tywin you utter bastard. He even promises to arrange a meeting between Oberyn and the Mountain, the man who murdered Oberyn’s sister, if Oberyn were to agree to be a judge.

Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion’s faithful squire Pod arrives at his prison cell smuggling various contraband – some of which is food that he’s stuck down the back of his pants, which is unsanitary but hilarious – but Tyrion is more interested in information than goods. Pod updates him on when the trial is, and who the judges are going to be, and that Tyrion is allowed to call for his own witnesses. After some pondering, Tyrion decides to call on his brother Jaime. He also orders Pod to run away from the city as soon as possible, knowing that Pod will be targeted by Tyrion’s enemies for being so unrelentingly loyal. They share an emotional goodbye, which pretty much cements my belief in Pod’s soon to be deadness.

Daenerys Targaryen

Dany marches on the city of Meereen, planning to free the slaves there and potentially add to her army. After Daario successfully kills Meereen’s champion, Dany gives the slaves a speech, launches the collars of the already freed slaves at the city, and the screen fades to black as the slaves start turning on their masters.

Memorable Quotes

Petyr: Money buys a man’s silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever.

Margaery: One of my husbands preferred the company of men and was stabbed through the heart. Another was happiest torturing animals and was poisoned at our wedding feast. I must be cursed.
Olenna: Nonsense. Your circumstances have improved markedly. You may not have enjoyed watching him die, but you enjoyed it more than you would have enjoyed being married to him, I can promise you that.

Stannis: They don’t have enough men between them to raid a pantry.

Davos: We’re willing to use blood magic to put you on the throne, but we’re not willing to pay men to fight?!

Oberyn: You calling my beauty an acquired taste?

Man: Everyone has a preference.
Oberyn: Then everyone is missing half the world’s pleasure. The gods made that, and it delights me. The gods made this, and it delights me. When it comes to war, I fight for Dorne. When it comes to love, I don’t choose sides.

Oberyn: So you deny involvement in Elia’s murder?
Tywin: Categorically.

Tyrion: The world is a better place without him, but I had nothing to do with it. I would like to think that if I were arranging a royal assassination, I’d plan it in such a way that I wouldn’t be standing there gawking like a fool when the king died.

Pyp: I don’t think I can kill a hundred Wildlings.

Daario: I come from nothing. Before long I will return to nothing. Let me kill this man for you.

Rating: D