This review contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 6, episode 3 “Oathbreaker”. This is your only warning.
Things are definitely simmering down a bit now, after a fast paced start to the brand new season. Episode 3, Oathbreaker, turns down the heat a bit more and we resume our more usual, slightly more plodding pace that we’re used to.
For this episode, it works. There a lot of threads going on right now, but each of them is a complex smorgasbord of events needing their own screentime. The episode thankfully kicks off with what we all want to see: the aftermath of Jon’s resurrection.
We begin proceedings with a look at Davos’ shocked, physically shaken and scared (?) face. Lord knows why he’s back in the room, but he is. Davos wastes little time in asking Jon what he saw on the “other side” and the answer from Jon was suitably bleak; nothing.
This answer could actually mean a couple of things, though. It could mean that the Lord of Light (or any of the other gods) isn’t real, and there is actually nothing. Or, it could mean Jon didn’t go to the afterlife because R’hllor knew he would be resurrecting him later. The third option is that he did go to the afterlife, but doesn’t remember. Any of these could be plausible, and I doubt we’ll ever be getting a concrete answer.
The show checks in with Sam, who is having a bad time on a ship bound for Oldtown. To be honest, I had forgotten all about his pledge to become a Maester, so this little update on him and Gilly was appreciated, even if it felt a little like padding.
The biggest tease of this episode absolutely has to go to this week’s flashback scene with Bran and the Raven. Fans have been speculating for years about the Tower of Joy, and the potential ramifications it could have about a popular theory regarding Jon Snow. You’ve probably heard the theory, but it’s essentially that Ned never cheated, and that Jon is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, (R+L=J) which leads to a further possibility that he is Azhor Ahai.
The potential answer to this could lie within what happened at the Tower of Joy, and we saw the young Ned ask “What’s in the Tower?” repeatedly to Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. Sadly, we don’t get an answer this week, leaving a definite taste of frustration in my mouth as the show creators dangled the answer above us saying, “You want it? You want it?…. Well, you can’t have it.”
We do learn something interesting here, though: the legend of Eddard Stark, bravely defeating the skilled swordsman Arthur Dayne, is not true. This definitely makes Ned seem more complex a character than perhaps we gave him credit for, as the consequences of him telling the truth about their battle could have been disastrous.
Dany’s story is ticking along nicely, with things looking rather bleak for her at Vaes Dothrak, as the other Khaleesi warn her that because she didn’t immediately go there, her life is in the balance. Things here are a mere nod, though, which is a little frustrating as in comparison things in Meereen are rapidly burning down. We do get to see a very amusing scene with Tyrion, though, which genuinely had been laughing at the awkwardness. Varys is just as awesome as ever, as was the small glimpse at his “little birds” that he left behind in King’s Landing.
It’s in this episode, though, that we get our first real slice of Arya pie as she is back at the House of Black and White, in a pseudo-training montage. We see her finally start to fight back against the other, very smug student in their battle as the other one asks Arya what her name is, and her past. What’s interesting in this scene, is that they actually leave a key point out from the books. (skip ahead if you don’t want book spoilers)
In the books, a similar scene takes place, but instead of Arya sensing her opponent’s presence, she is actually seeing them through the eyes of a nearby cat, as she also possesses warg powers. It’s not yet known if they are leaving her warg status out of the show, or if they will be hinting at it later on.
After this, though, we get treated to a gripping scene as Arya drinks from the water fountain we have seen kill people in seasons past. Jaqen H’ghar assures her that if she is truly “no one”, she will be fine. However, we know that a girl still has a name as long as Needle is hidden at the Braavos docks which is what lends this scene it’s tension. Surely the Faceless God will know a girl still has a name? Apparently not, or she truly has given up her name despite having hidden Needle, as she is still alive and with her sight finally restored.
In last week’s preview, we saw a familiar looking bearded man offering the comically evil Ramsay Bolton a “present”. He is revealed to be Lord Umber, a house previously thought to be fiercely loyal to house Stark. No more, it seems at first, as his present is Rickon Stark and Osha, the wildling he was travelling with. Umber exchanges them both for Bolton’s trust and allegiance for when the wildings inevitably move south.
However, I think there is more to this scene. On the surface, it seems like a basic betrayal. Greatjon Umber, the father of the man see see, Smalljon Umber, was fiercely loyal to Robb Stark and fought with him for a long time. The Umbers have shown themselves to be very loyal to the Starks, and have shown to be very passionate about defending that.
So, here’s the theory: Smalljon get’s Ramsay’s trust, then betray him when the time comes to help Jon take Winterfell, and just conveniently have a pureblood Stark there to become Warden of the North. Look at some key factors here: he never actually swears an oath to him, instead gives him Rickon with proof of ShaggyDog’s head (which in itself could be a fake).
We will have to see, but I think Lord Umber has something up his sleeve here. Overall, this is a slow burning episode which mostly sets things up for future episodes by either closing or starting new storylines. The most satisfying scene is definitely the final one with Jon at the wall, as he executes the traitors who stabbed him. What’s most interesting in this scene, though, is you can see the hesitation in Jon.
He doesn’t want to do it, especially now that he “knows” there is nothing beyond death. He seems most perturbed by Olly, who despite his acts is still only a child. For a moment, I thought he would let them live seemingly out of an unwillingness to send them to oblivion. But, he hangs them, bringing an end to not only the traitors’ lives, but his status as Lord Commander.
Jon ends the episode with the ultimate mic drop: “My watch has ended.” Then smash cut to credits. I couldn’t help but think, “Ohhhh damn, it’s happening!” and think about the epic scenes we’ll have in our future: Jon storming Winterfell with the wildings, with the cunning Smalljon Umber working from within.
So, overall thoughts are that despite that Game of Thrones has now resumed it’s usual, frustratingly plodding pace from previous seasons, it was a great episode with some excellent performances. Props must go to Kit Harrington, who did a brilliant job portraying a shaken, unsure Jon who seemed to be questioning everything, even his own self. (And who can blame him?) All of the threads continued, ended and begun here were handled with aplomb, even if we got majorly teased with the Tower of Joy.
Overall, though, we got another enjoyable episode, and while there was no cliffhanger this time, there is still plenty for us to look forward to next week.