‘Game of Thrones’ Review: “Breaker of Chains”
‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 conjures its third episode of the season, “Breaker of Chains,” as Kings' Landing deals with the aftermath of the so-called "Purple Wedding," while Jon Snow comes to a grave realization about the Wildlings, and Daenerys sets her sights on Mereen.
Last week's ‘Game of Thrones’ season premiere “The Lion and the Rose” saw the royal wedding of Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell going predictably awry, while Tyrion made a heartbreaking sacrifice, and Ramsay Bolton got a new mission from his father. So, what does the latest installment of season 4 bring?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4, episode 3, “Breaker of Chains!”
Returning to the scene of Joffrey’s death, Ser Dontos pulls Sansa through the panicked city toward a small boat on the outskirts, rowing her out to the fog where Peter Baelish awaits her arrival on a boat. With Sansa save in hand, Baelish has his men kill Dontos to protect her secret, noting that Sansa’s necklace from the man had been a fake. Meanwhile, a mourning Margaery and Lady Olenna discuss Joffrey’s death, as Olenna notes that Margaery’s circumstances have markedly improved by the turn of events, if not on the surface.
Cersei stands by Joffrey’s body in the High Septa, as Tywin takes the opportunity to question Tommen about his fitness and wisdom to become the next king. Jaime requests a moment alone with Cersei and the body, as Cersei insists Tyrion to be responsible, demanding he be killed. Jaime bristles at the thought of killing his own brother, before he and Cersei share a grieving kiss for their son. Lamenting that the gods have made him love a hateful woman, Jaime forces himself on Cersei then and there, despite her protests at the side of her son’s body.
Arya makes conversation with the Hound over his future plans, before a farmer and his daughter question the pair's presence on his land, offering a meal and a roof over their heads when Arya pretends her “father” fought for the Tullys. Later over dinner, Arya and the Hound eagerly slurp the rabbit stew, before the man offers the Hound a job to pitch in keep away the raiders, something the Hound accepts. The next morning however, Arya awakes to the sound of the Hound robbing the farmer of his silver, as the Hound notes the man was too weak to defend his land regardless.
Sam visits Gilly at work in Castle Black, continually worried that he won’t be able to protect her from the other men, despite her comfort being in Sam’s proximity. Sam elects to take Gilly and little Sam to Moles Town, finding Gilly work as a nanny in a brothel, though she clearly resents being away from Sam. Meanwhile, Davos learns of King Joffrey’s death from a bitter Stannis, before heading to his regular reading session with Shireen. During their time together, Davos realizes that he might sway the Iron Bank of Braavos to Stannis’ cause, and tasks Shireen with writing a letter in Stannis’ name.
Prince Oberyn and Ellaria Sand continue to enjoy the comforts of the brothel, before Tywin Lannister interrupts with a proposal for Oberyn. After assessing that the poison-knowledgeable Oberyn had nothing to do with Joffrey’s murder, Tywin offers Oberyn a spot as a judge for Tyrion’s trial, as well as a spot on Tommen’s small council to repair relations with Dorne. Oberyn accepts, though only on the condition that Tywin affords him the chance to answer the Mountain for his sister Elia’s death. Meanwhile, Podrick visits Tyrion in a cell to inform him of his judges, while Tyrion asks for the chance to speak with Jaime about his circumstances. Podrick reveals that he’d been approached to testify against Tyrion, for which Tyrion urges the boy to flee Kings’ Landing for his safety.
Ygritte, Tormund and Styr raid a village south of the Wall, after which the lone survivor flees to Castle Black to inform the Night’s Watch. The elders agree that they can’t spare the men to answer the threat, just before two rangers return from the mutiny at Craster’s Keep. Jon realizes that they’ll have to slay the remaining watchmen at the keep, lest they reveal under pain of torture that the Wall is manned by thousands less than Jon led Mance Rayder to believe.
Daenerys arrives to the city of Mereen, assembling her army outside the gate, as the city releases its solitary “champion” while the slaves and their masters watch from above. The champion insults Dany and her Unsullied, for which Daario volunteers to fight the man, easily dispatching the so-called “champion” by killing his horse and slitting the man’s throat in the fall. Daenerys addresses the slaves of the city, assuring that the masters are the real enemies, before launching multiple cannisters into the city. Upon breaking, the cannisters are revealed to contain broken slave collars.
Granted, ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 has certainly shaken things up by introducing a landmark event like Joffrey’s death so early into the season, rather than wait until the ninth episode as has become familiar, but such surprise still understandably gives way to a more retaliatory episode. Picking up mere moments after Joffrey’s death certainly returns a sense of urgency to the proceedings, and perhaps sheds a bit of light on the mystery (for casual fans) with Baelish’s presence to retrieve Sansa, though for the most part “Breaker of Chains” lends mostly to illuminating character in the wake of the wedding.
Cersei in particular has always proven a troubled character to find sympathy for, especially given her unwavering belief that Tyrion must have done the deed, though it speaks volumes to the sympathy we’ve lent Jaime in recent seasons that for all his character growth, he remains entrenched in a twisted familial relationship that reach new depth of depravity tonight. However we’re meant to take Jaime’s emotions over the death of his son, his attack on Cersei by Joffrey’s body overwhelmingly speaks to the sinister discord in the family, even as it seems Tywin remains intelligent, even sympathetically opportunistic in the wake of such a devastating loss.
Outside of Kings’ Landing of course, “Breaker of Chains” could only find so much to do for the time being, as the Wildlings advance closer toward the wall (in a chillingly effective, but nonetheless inconsequential raid), while Jon realizes just how desperate things have become for the diminished Nights’ Watch. It’s certainly nice to check in with Sam’s unique relationship with Gilly as well, though it’s hard not to feel both characters somewhat languishing away in the service of a larger backdrop, at least until they presumably break away.
The same goes for Daenerys’ really, as despite yet another thrilling conquest, and another romantic and heroic gesture for Daario, it’s a bit difficult to see what the next step in the emotional journeys might be beyond the bloodshed. Tywin provided a nice reminder to Oberyn that Daenerys remains a palpable threat, however far away, though it’ll be interesting to see how the fourth season handles Daenerys’ journey, particularly if the HBO series intends to compress the books’ timeline somewhat into 7, or possibly eight seasons.
Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of sword-swinging ‘Game of Thrones’ action? What did you think about tonight’s installment, “Breaker of Chains”? Check out all our other ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4 coverage, and join us next week for the all-new episode recap of ‘Game of Thrones’ season 4's latest installment, "Oathkeeper" on HBO!