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via screenrant.com

This episode of “Game of Thrones” season 6 was my least favourite of the three to be aired thus far. Whilst it would be a decent episode on any other show, in my opinion it was substandard given the level of quality that we’ve become accustomed to since this series began.

“Oathbreaker” started where the previous episode left off, with a naked Jon Snow (Kit Harington) rising from the dead. I have to say that after such a long build up to this moment I was incredibly disappointed with its lacklustre execution; the dialogue was uninspired, the performances were overstated, and the way that characters acted didn’t make sense given how they’d been established in previous episodes. It should’ve been one of the most memorable moments of the series so far, but instead it felt soulless. There was no sincerity in Davos (Liam Cunningham) when he spoke to Jon, and Jon didn’t seem particularly grateful to be back, so the whole escapade felt flat for me. I’d have also liked shock to have been shown by Davos and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) in a more subtle and considered way, because rather than stumbling on their words or expressing their disbelief they pulled their best ‘oh my god’ faces and then moved on. I’m not sure when “Game of Thrones” became a soap opera, but that was the standard of this moment.

The next scene at The Wall was equally frustrating, although the conversation between Edd (Ben Crompton) and Jon made it slightly less so. I didn’t appreciate the fact that Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) gave Jon a hug, because that isn’t the way that a wildling would act, but it was interesting that when Edd looked into Jon’s eyes he asked if Jon was still in there. This was intended to remind the audience of previous scenes such as the one in which Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) told Melisandre what being resurrected by the Lord of Light was like – in this scene Beric told Melisandre that each time he came back he was ‘a little less’, which makes me wonder whether or not Jon will be significantly different now that he’s back. That remains to be seen, but I’m looking forward to watching this storyline play out in future episodes.

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via winteriscoming.net

After this scene we finally got to see what Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) have been up to since the end of last season, and it turns out that they’ve done very little. We knew that Sam would be heading to the Citadel when Jon allowed him to leave The Wall, and he’s still on that journey now. The scene served as a tool to re-establish the dynamic between the two star-crossed lovers and tell the audience what their plans were, so it didn’t really do much for me. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but it could’ve easily been cut out to give more interesting characters extra screen time.

Then we saw Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) continuing his training with the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow), as he delved into the past in a scene which book readers have been talking about for many years. I didn’t dislike this scene, but in my opinion it was weaker than it should’ve been because of the actors that were involved. I personally didn’t feel very attached to Ned Stark because of the actor that was playing him – he didn’t look powerful or manly enough for my liking – and (as usual) Isaac Hempstead-Wright’s performance was devoid of emotion; it felt more like the work of an amateur drama student than that of a top actor. I also thought that the Three-Eyed Raven’s line about learning ‘everything’ was very cliché, and it reminded me of a comedy sketch from BriTANick (which you should definitely watch on YouTube – just type in ‘BriTANick everything’ and it will pop up).

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via screenrant.com

Moving south, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is still biding her time with the Dothraki. I’ve said before that this is a storyline that I’m not interested in, and this is only furthered by the fact that Daenerys doesn’t seem to be learning anything by going backwards and revisiting her past. She’s so arrogant and sure of herself right now that it’s almost sickening, and I’m really starting to dislike her as a character. She doesn’t respect anyone else’s traditions or views and she belittles them at every turn – just look at what she’s done to Meereen.

My biggest problem with her storyline is that it’s unclear whether or not this is the angle that the writers are going for – the plot is formed in such a way that Daenerys should be the protagonist, and I feel as though that’s what the writers are going for, yet from my perspective she isn’t. She isn’t likeable, she isn’t humble, and she’s a conqueror not a liberator. If she takes King’s Landing in the state that she’s in right now then she’ll destroy it!

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via vox.com

In Daenerys’ absence Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) has been ruling over Meereen, and so far he’s had a relatively easy job (compared to the job that Daenerys had). There’s not been a lot of resistance, and with Varys (Conleth Hill) taking control of the situation he finds himself making small talk with Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) as though he didn’t have a care in the world. It’s common on “Game of Thrones” for Tyrion to spend the majority of his time enjoying the sound of his own voice, but usually his friends have something to say back; however, right now only Varys is on his level, so having a meaningful conversation is becoming difficult. This is something which this episode tackled in an attempt to create comedy, as Tyrion tried to play the game that he played with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) in season one with Missandei and Grey Worm, only to be met with confusion and silence. Sadly, this scene wasn’t particularly funny, and only served to show that Missandei and Grey Worm are underdeveloped characters.

Elsewhere, in King’s Landing Qyburn (Anton Lesser) persuaded Varys’ little birds into doing his bidding by offering them candied plums. This was another scene which was designed to reintroduce a character and his role in the story, as having not seen him yet this year it would be easy to forget that he is the Master of Whispers. It wasn’t a bad scene, but the fact that the writers are still wasting screen time to reintroduce characters in episode three is worrying, particularly because people like Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) are yet to appear.

One positive aspect of this scene was that Cersei (Lena Headey) revealed her intention to request a trial by combat, something which will have excited book readers aplenty. It’s been speculated for a long time that Cersei would request such a trial, and that her champion would be The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), and it looks like that will be the case. The question then is who will The Faith choose as their champion – the prevalent theory is that The Hound (Rory McCann) will come back to fight his brother, in an epic clash that has been foreshadowed since the very start of the series, and I have to say that it’s a theory I believe.

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via thewrap.com

However, there are other possibilities; in case you’d forgotten, there are two Sand Snakes running around in King’s Landing who have a hatred for both Lannisters and The Mountain – after all, the latter killed their father and their aunt. To see one of them fight on behalf of The Faith would be pretty amazing, not only because it would bring Dorne into the wider story, but also because there would be a massive size difference between the two fighters.

After Cersei revealed her plans we saw her, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and The Mountain interrupt a meeting of the Small Council. This was probably the best scene in the episode in terms of dialogue, as the sharp-tongued Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) was brought back into the fold to throw insults at the Lannisters and bring the only genuine laugh of the season so far. It’s just a shame that the scene was tarnished by a ridiculous moment in which Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) farted in fear at the sight of The Mountain. “Game of Thrones” is beloved because of its dark tone, so I can’t comprehend why the writers thought that it would be a good idea to lower the tone with such a pointless attempt at producing a cheap laugh. Whoever made that call should be paraded in the streets naked and face a trial by combat – shame.

Next we saw The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) having a civil chat about Cersei and why she deserves the punishment she’s receiving. This scene really pushes the fact that The High Sparrow is so much more than a holy man attempting to rid the world of evil – he’s a master manipulator and he preys on the insecurities of those around him to get what he wants. He lets Tommen have his say because he knows that Tommen feels powerless, but then he talks him down by presenting himself as a wise father figure, something that Tommen has never had. He talks about Cersei and Tywin (Charles Dance) as though he cares about them and he tricks Tommen into calming down.

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via theverge.com

After this, the episode turned its attention to Arya (Maisie Williams) and her journey to become ‘No One’. This scene wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely my favourite of the episode. Montages are usually a cheap device to tell a story in a swift but still compelling way, and that’s clearly the case here, but it works for this storyline because nobody really wanted Arya’s blindness to be drawn out. I think what everyone would like is for Arya to leave Braavos immediately, so at least by streamlining her narrative in this way we’re getting closer to what we want. It’s another story which will feel hollow when it’s watched back on DVD, because Arya was only blind for a combined period of about three episodes, but right now it leaves her in a good place.

Moreover, a couple of smart decisions were made in these scenes which I appreciated. Through Arya’s conversation with The Waif (Faye Marsay) we were reminded of Rickon at the perfect moment (Art Parkinson) – a character who many will have forgotten all about – and also of The Hound, who may well come back this year. I also liked that she said she was confused when she made the decision to travel to The House of Black and White, as this set up the conflict that will occur in Braavos in future episodes nicely.

However, the fact that Melisandre wasn’t on Arya’s list annoyed me, because after Gendry (Joe Dempsie) was taken from The Brotherhood Without Banners in season three Arya added The Red Woman to her list, and there’s absolutely no reason why she would’ve removed her name from it.

After Rickon was verbally re-established, he was given to Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) as a gift from The Umbers. It’s unclear exactly what Ramsay is going to do to Rickon and Osha (Natalia Tena) at this stage, but it probably won’t be much fun for the youngest of the Stark children. By now the audience is pretty desensitised to Ramsay’s actions, and we’ve already seen him do deplorable things to characters we’re more interested in than Rickon, but that doesn’t mean that this won’t be an interesting development in the story. Personally I’d prefer if we didn’t see Ramsay torture Rickon at all, because his doing so wouldn’t achieve anything, but that might be wishful thinking.

From my perspective, the easiest way to move the plot along using Rickon is to introduce the pink letter, which book readers will know all about. In the books this is a letter that’s sent to Jon Snow and it relates to ‘Arya’, or rather a person who Ramsay claims is Arya. This character’s place was taken last year by Sansa (Sophie Turner) but the pink letter didn’t appear, so it would be very easy for the writers to introduce it now and use Rickon as the bait to force Jon and the wildlings into battle.

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via youtube.com

Speaking of Jon, the episode ended with our favourite dead man walking getting revenge on his killers. Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) and Olly (Brenock O’Connor) were hung, to the delight of fans all over the world. It was a very satisfying scene, as two of the most hated characters on the show were killed in a pretty nasty way. Alliser took it in his stride and died honourably, if that’s possible for a man who organised the murder of his commanding officer, and Olly stuck to his guns despite the fact that if he’d asked for mercy he probably would’ve got it. Both men had their reasons for doing what they did, so it was nice that neither of them were willing to apologise.

When the deed was done Jon passed on command of The Night’s Watch to Edd, (which explains why the show has been placing the character at the forefront of the storyline in recent times), and announced that his watch had ended. This is contentious, but technically he did die and the vows he made were null and void upon his death (I still think that because the vows say ‘for this night and all nights to come’ he should be bound to them, but what do I know?). This was a great mic drop moment, and served as a cool way to end the episode, but it’s unclear exactly what Jon is going to do with his new found freedom. Hopefully he’ll still meet up with Sansa in the near future.

So, that was the episode. Over the course of about fifty minutes a total of eight locations were visited, which in my opinion is a bit excessive. Every episode feels like a battle for screen time between the characters, which for me takes all impact from the show. I like where Arya’s story is headed, but because we spend so little time with her each week it’s hard to become invested. Nevertheless, I am a harsh critic, and it would be wrong of me to say that there weren’t moments in this episode that I enjoyed. I thought that the final three scenes (Arya’s, Ramsay’s, and the execution) were quite good, and the episode definitely improved as it went on. However, if the season continues in this disjointed manner then it will definitely be my least favourite of the show so far.

5.5/10

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