How to follow the Purple Wedding? With more sex, violence and betrayal, of course. Breaker of Chains marks a return to familiar Game of Thrones themes, only in order to subvert them.
Joffrey’s death has set an old-fashioned murder mystery in motion, leading each character to face their own consequences. On the run from her accusers, Sansa is told ‘you’re stronger than you know’, but she flees straight into the clutches of slimy treasurer Petyr Baelish. What does Littlefinger have planned for her aboard his magical mystery ship? A romantic cruise? A musical number? A trip to the Aran Islands (his accent seems raspier and more leprechaun-like than ever, more suited to an ad for Bord Failte than the court of King’s Landing)? He assures her that they are ‘sailing home’, but ‘home’ for the Starks has always been precarious.
Besides, no home in Westeros is safe. As one peasant remarks, ‘the whole country’s gone sour’. Guests murder their hosts, parents are butchered in front of their children, and the cannibalistic Thenns are well fed by this episode’s close. One upside to the mayhem is that slaves are freed: Daenerys is back on regal form with the invasion of yet another desert city, Meereen, setting up Daario Nahaaris as her champion in an old-fashioned duel. Meanwhile, detained as prime suspect, Tyrion watches from the cells as they (“the ominous They”) buy off his allies one by one.
Tywin Lannister wastes no time in grooming Cersei’s youngest child, Tommen, as Joffrey’s successor. The boy is alarmingly stoical, faced with the death of his brother, his imminent kingship and the prospect of learning rudimentary Sex Ed from Tywin all in the same day. Tywin leads him away, leaving Cersei and Jaime alone with their grief. Which sets up this week’s most controversial moment?
Readers of A Song of Ice and Fire will know that the book’s version of this scene is not nearly so, for want of a better word, rapey. Cersei protests at first but seems happy enough to commit incest in front of her son’s corpse. The filmed version adds a new layer of horror to what is already one of GoT’s darkest moments, portraying the scene as a rape committed by Jaime. All that character development?fighting the bear, being humbled with the loss of his hand?and now this? Really, Kingslayer? Really?
The scene is one of those cruel moments when Game of Thrones calls us out on our own immunity to taboos like incest by lacing them with further discomfort (the ‘twincest’ plotline has begun to seem almost normal- most of us were waiting for Cersei and Jaime to reunite). It’s an augury for Cersei’s painful future, and a reminder that Jaime, for all his redemption, remains the man who pushed Bran Stark out of a window.
The bad taste this leaves is lifted somewhat by the appearance of Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand, whose return to the brothel heralds the first orgy of the season. The habitual hedonists are interrupted by Tywin. Westeros’s most austere man attempts to win over its resident swinger, but not before Ellaria delivers an especially memorable line about how Oberyn will never run out of groupies.
Death and destruction 9/10
-Though Jaime and Cersei’s wince-inducing acts take centre stage, this episode features scenes of unchecked brutality. The Wildling invasion of a settlement near Castle Black prompts all kinds of indiscriminate axe-swinging, with Ygritte cutting down innocent bystanders. War does strange things to an individual, as does being spurned in love.
Westeros Stylewatch 4/10
-Margaery’s hair is still in place! The giant up-do survived the wedding (which is more than can be said for some?).
-Daenerys loses style points for appearing again in that blue culottes ensemble, which must by now?with due respect, dear Khaleesi?be getting rather dusty.
Dragon sightings 0/10
-This time it’s all about the catapults, and Daario Nahaaris’s sword-slinging mad skills.
Other scenes of note
Stannis announces “I will not become another page in someone else’s history book”. Sorry Stannis, but it’s too late. No amount of blood magic could ever make you interesting.
On that topic, Davos tells Shireen about his past as a daredevil smuggler and explaining ?the finer points of bad behaviour?. He might even be planning to hoodwink the Bank of Braavos. Davos Seaworth, recessionary hero.
Oberyn Martell has studied poisoning at the Citadel (is that BA, or BSc?). Useful, but not the best for looking innocent…
One can’t help but wonder how Tywin explains the birds and the bees to young Tommen. Westeros Sex Ed 101 might go as follows: 1. Do not skewer your bride with a crossbow. 2. Hire a midwife to make sure it’s not a ghost-baby. 3.Try to combine sex with spoken exposition of the plot. 4. You can learn a lot from Oberyn Martell?
Roisin Kiberd @RoisinTheMirror