Recapping the Realm: Jon Snow, Tower of Joy and Shaggydog in ‘Game of Thrones’ ‘Oathbreaker’
Welcome to “Recapping the Realm,” where each week ScreenCrush senior editor Erin Whitney is joined by Tyler McCarthy and Kelly Lawler for a SPOILER-filled discussion of the latest Game of Thrones. This week, Erin, Tyler, and Kelly discuss “Oathbreaker” (full episode review here). Tyler is an Entertainment Writer for International Business Times. You can tweet at him at @TylerMcCarthy. Kelly is an Entertainment Writer and Social Media Editor at USA Today. You can tweet at her at @klawls.
Erin: Things definitely mellowed out this week after Jon Snow’s resurrection, which makes sense. The biggest event the show has been leading up to since the Season 5 finale has happened: Jon’s alive and he's not all that different (we’ll get to that later). But let’s start with the Tower of Joy, a sequence many of us were hoping would reveal Jon’s parentage, but the Three-Eyed Raven swooped us and Bran out before we got up the stairs. While I was hoping to meet the older Lyanna Stark, I am glad that bit of plot is on hold for now, and was pretty satisfied overall with the sword fight in itself. What did you two think?
Kelly: Yes, I thought the Tower of Joy sequence was exceedingly well-done. I tend to prefer when this show finds quieter and more intimate ways to surprise us (rather than say, feeding a baby to dogs) and I was riveted during the entire sequence. The show managed to keep the emotion of that moment, which had happened 20 or more years ago, really high and immediate, especially as Bran realized that his father was not the perfect man he always thought he was. I’m glad we didn’t go inside the Tower yet, because there was plenty of good happening on the outside.
Tyler: I think, without a doubt, this fight was one of the best the show has ever done. Before we talk too much about it, lets give props to whoever choreographed that sequence. It was, however, very disheartening to see that Ned didn’t defeat the Targaryen knight in single combat. I’m a big Ned Stark fan and, like Bran, I didn’t like seeing a part of his mythic legend stripped away by the pesky old truth.
Kelly: The fight was so good to watch. Arthur Dayne managed to bring something entirely new to the table, visually, with his two-sword style, and there was something really compelling about this occurring in the daylight. We’ve seen so many battles (and really, most of the recent show) at night and overcast. Bran’s vision stood out as another time and place the moment we got there.
Tyler: Great point. Give me a good daytime battle, no one does those anymore!
Kelly: Dayne IS the “Sword in the Morning!”
Erin: We don’t often see a good old sword fight on this show, especially one between a group of fighters. I still think Brienne vs The Hound is my number one GoT fight, but this was the best this season so far.
Tyler: Great choice for top fight scene, Erin. A good reason that I like that fight, this fight and most of the fights on Game of Thrones is that they do a good job of making sure everyone fights in character. The Targaryens have this opulent nature to them and that manifested in a guy with two swords. Ned fought very technically proficiently and with honor. It wasn’t just a big dance number with swords, there was a lot of character going on in that fight… Well, except for when it was 4-on-1, that was a dance and it was brilliant.
Erin: That’s such a good point. In this show everything is so character driven, and though the show gets criticized for its excess in violence I do think it often times reveals a lot about each person’s motivations and house history. Violence is like its very own language in George RR Martin’s world. Luckily we didn’t see too much this week, but the worst of it came with House Umber. RIP Shaggydog :(
Kelly: Where is the justice for the direwolves on this show, I ask you?
Tyler: That was so tough to watch. I can handle the implication of what Ramsay did last week, but actually seeing Shaggydog like that was so tough. Reminded me of what happened with Robb Stark’s body, it’s just so disrespectful. The direwolf represents so much on this show, so when one of them dies a little piece of Westeros’ moral fiber dies too. And I liked the Umber’s father! He’s the one who got his finger bit off for mouthing off at Robb’s table and then laughed about it. The North is really becoming a place where great men raised crappy kids that are now inheriting the place. Well, “great men” on paper. Roose was still a monster’s monster.
Kelly: It’s interesting, not to go too far into “it’s different in the books” territory, but there are bits from the books that give me hope that the Umbers are potentially on the good side of things. And like you said, Greatjohn Umber from seasons past was a really good man, so it gives me some semblance of hope that all is not lost for Rickon and Osha. I do have to admit that their reveal was one of the first times this show has genuinely surprised me, and even though he’s clearly in imminent danger, I was happy to see Rickon again, even if he’s not really little anymore.
Tyler: Oh man, I didn’t even think of that. This could all be an elaborate caper for Rickon to maybe get Winterfell back? Or at least be in a prime position to do something about Ramsay with the backup of the Umbers. Still, cutting off Shaggydog’s head is a really long way to go for a bluff.
Kelly: That is very true. I may just be having a case of book reader denial. It happens a lot with this show. (I’m still holding a candle for Lady Stoneheart, let’s be honest.)
Erin: Oh please let this be an elaborate plot to trick Ramsay! But as you say, killing Shaggydog seems a step too far for that (though there's already a detailed theory about the Umbers’ ultimate plan). If Rickon and Osha are truly in danger, I’m not sure who’s left to save them. Technically Nymeria is still out there somewhere... maybe she’ll pop up at some point.
Tyler: That’s true, either Rickon and Osha have something huge and Ocean’s Eleven-y up their sleeves, or this truly is the bad news it looks like. And while I was excited about the Boltons and their allies hitting Jon Snow at The Wall like water on rock, even that plan has changed now that the Lord Commander’s watch has technically ended.
Kelly: I don’t believe it for a second. Sure, Jon will probably go on a walkabout, but he will be back. He’ll choose his duty over whatever personal stuff he’s going through since he has been resurrected. I predict a triumphant return of the Lord Commander probably around, oh say, Episode 9. If anything the appearance of Rickon only adds fuel to that fire, since we’ll need something to pull Jon back.
Erin: I mean, how far can the guy go alone? I’m hoping while he’s on his mopey walk he’ll run into Sansa with Brienne and Pod. If anything, seeing her will revive him with some hope and purpose to carry on.
Tyler: I disagree. There’s a difference between keeping his eye on the prize (the White Walker invasion) and being the Lord Commander. Without the confines of Castle Black, which lets face it is basically in ruins politically, Jon Snow can do a lot more good for Westeros. If he returned, he’d be the commander of a bunch of people that hate/fear him. And their numbers just aren’t enough to be effective in any way, even with the Wildlings on his side.
Erin: I can’t see him returning as Lord Commander to stay at Castle Black, he can’t achieve much there at this point. Plus there’s so much grief and loss at The Wall for him, I think the only way Jon can evolve from that is by leaving. From here his purpose seems to point toward protecting Rickon and Winterfell.
Kelly: That’s a valid point. Although what I’m really more interested in seeing, and wondering if we’re actually going to get, is more fallout from his resurrection. Sure, his hairs a little different and he was manic and broody during this episode, but our other walking dead man down in King’s Landing (Ser Gregor) is a non-verbal zombie. Surely Jon will have to deal with more consequences? Otherwise the whole killing-and-resurrecting plot just seems hollow to me.
Erin: I think the biggest indication of a “changed” Jon Snow came the swinging of the sword to hang the traitors. It was slight, but I appreciated that small moment, and the look on his face as he watched Olly hang, to reveal how a resurrected Jon is a bit more ruthless and a lot less forgiving. I hope that will play into how he eventually, hopefully, faces off with Ramsay.
Tyler: Totally disagree. I think this episode took the time to show us that Jon is still Jon. I think he took the time to swing the sword because he was not only coming to grips with the fact that this is what he has to do to Olly, who from his perspective was basically his son two-ish days ago. I was worried that the Jon Snow death would be a lot like the Glenn fake-out on The Walking Dead, just audience tension for its own sake. But I think giving him the ability to walk away from the Night's Watch is enough of a payoff.
Erin: I see what you mean and I do agree with that a bit. The way I read Jon’s return was that death took the sweetness out of him, the sense of mercy and almost naiveté that Ygritte teased him for. Jon Snow knew nothing, but now that he’s seen nothing I think he’s stronger and ready to make the necessary, yet more difficult decisions. I think he needed to die to become the hero the show seems to portray he’s destined to become.
Kelly: I agree, Erin. The fact that he waited until the executions for his murder had been carried out meant that he would do what is necessary, but only that.
Erin: The hanging also reminded me a lot of the pilot scene of Ned executing a deserter, which Jon walked away from with Bran. I don’t think this new Jon would’ve turned away as quickly.
Tyler: I agree. Jon knew he had to pass the sentence and therefore swing the sword. I think what separates him from Ned is the bravado to say “Well nuts to passing the sentence then, I quit.”
Kelly: Maybe it’s the potential Targaryen in him.
Erin: Could be! Hopefully the Three-Eyed Raven lets us find out soon. For now, I think our watch has ended this week. Any last thoughts?
Tyler: I’m loving how this season isn’t messing around anymore. I was worried that the show surpassing the books was going to harm the series, but it looks like it’s just given it the freedom to not tread water.
Kelly: I agree. Even though this was what you might call a “table-setting episode,” I really enjoyed every minute of it. It was full of small moments with big implications, and that’s what I think this show needs right now. The big moments will come naturally if they don’t force it.