Game of Thrones “Breaker of Chains” Review

by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)

I should have spent these last few days dissecting the fallout from Joffrey’s death in last week’s episode of Game of Thrones (or doing something altogether more productive), but I found myself trying to sift through the rubble left in the wake of this latest episode’s odd Jaime/Cersei scene. Apparently I wasn’t the only one bothered by it or the way it could affect the characters’ relationship and arcs going forward.

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“Money buys a man’s silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever.” -Batman… errr… Littlefinger explaining to Sansa the best way to earn a man’s trust.

I usually don’t read any other reviews or too many opinions before writing my weekly reviews, but with this particular scene leaving me so vexed after Sunday night, I could not help myself. I have perused interviews with the showrunners and director. I have read arguments that it isn’t much different from the books. I’ve heard people say that Jaime did not rape her in the show. I’ve seen discussions centered on whether it will or will not set back Jaime’s recent growth as a character. They’ve been interesting to read even if I found some of them terribly misguided, but in the end I’m left feeling about the same way as I did when I first saw it. Jaime raped Cersei in the sept. That isn’t up for debate in my opinion regardless of what the people behind the show’s intentions were. And it doesn’t fit Jaime’s character and will ultimately have a negative effect on his progression and how he is seen by viewers.

The first argument I saw against this was, “But this guy threw a kid out a window and killed his cousin while he was in captivity. He’s always been a shithead, this makes sense.” The circumstances, timing and motivations for these events make those comparisons to this episode’s rape fall very flat to me. I do agree that the changes made to the show meant this scene was going to feel different from the book version. Jaime’s earlier arrival in King’s Landing and Cersei’s denials of his advances prior to the sept scene mean this couldn’t play out the same as before. It doesn’t mean this was the way to go though.

If this was a way to show that despite his actions in Season 3, Jaime isn’t a good guy, then I still think this was the wrong way to go about it. Because it seems like it would change the two characters’ relationship drastically going forward which in turn would change both of their arcs.

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Tywin gives Tommen lessons on former Kings and the birds and the bees. What can’t he do?

Of course, maybe this is the intent of the showrunners and writers of Game of Thrones. Maybe they are going in a new direction from the source material. That is their right. I don’t have to like it, but I am generally pretty open to changes from the books. I really love the show and while not every tweak they make sits well with me, I am understanding of both the kind of cuts that need making for the TV show to exist as well as changes that might just benefit the storyline overall. And for all that I’m willing to wait and see how things play out.

I still haven’t dove into GRRM’s take on the scene or the fact that this isn’t the first time the showrunners have changed a consensual sex scene to one depicting rape. This could certainly be a blog of its own, but I don’t want to do that, so I will stop here. I don’t like this scene or the repercussions it may have and I don’t think it fits the characters involved. But I will wait and see where they are taking this next.

Other than my objections to all of that, there was plenty to like in this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. It starts right where last week’s left off. Cersei is cradling her dead son and calling for the guards to haul Tyrion away. She is also looking for Tyrion’s wife Sansa who has been whisked away by Dontos to a boat that intends to help her flee the capital. And here we get our first appearance this year of the always creepy Littlefinger who explains his role in getting her there while giving good old Dontos a bolt in the head for his troubles.

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“There has never lived a more loyal squire.” -Tyrion to Pod as he says goodbye to him. *sniff sniff*

There is lots of other fallout due to King Joffrey’s death. Margaery discusses her bad luck with marriages with her grandmother Olenna. I love both of Tywin’s scenes this week. His discussion with the soon to be new king Tommen about what is needed to be a good ruler is classic Tywin Lannister. He manages to let the boy and his mother know who will be running things while also taking shots at his dead grandson lying right next to him. His discussion with Oberyn is even better. After claiming no part in Elia’s murder and Oberyn denying any involvement in Joffrey’s despite his knowledge of poisons, Tywin actually reaches out for help from the Prince of Dorne. He wants him to be a judge in Tyrion’s upcoming trial and a part of the small council. This scene also illuminates a bit of history which is something I love to see them work into the show. When the Targaryens conquered the Seven Kingdoms long ago, the Dornish unlike the rest of Westeros were able to hold out using certain tactics that proved successful against dragon warfare. Tywin is thinking ahead and wants the Dornish in the fold if Dany ever decides to stop screwing around out East and brings her dragons and army to Westeros.

There was a surprisingly small amount of Tyrion this week, but I suppose there is only so much they can do with him while he is locked up in a cell. He makes the most of his single scene, a fairly touching one with his loyal squire Podrick Paine. He learns about the judges for his trial. He learns his wife is nowhere to be found. He learns that Pod is refusing to speak against him and urges him to get out of King’s Landing since sticking up for him will just get him killed. And like this show has reiterated time and time again, Tyrion does not lose his wits or sense of humor even in the most hopeless of situations. I loved this line when Cersei came up as a suspect in Joffrey’s murder: “She is the only one I’m certain had nothing to do with this murder which makes it unique as King’s Landing murders go.”

Elsewhere the Hound and Arya continue their diner tour of the Riverlands. There is no significant plot progress here, but these two are so fun together it is impossible to complain. Posing as father and daughter, Arya slyly earns them a place to eat dinner. The resulting meal has some laughs and it all ends in The Hound stealing some silver while trying to impart some wisdom to young Arya and reminding everyone once again that Winter is Coming.

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“Are you bored of me?” -Gilly asks. I can’t speak for Sam, but I was bored watching this part.

Up North, the wilding group south of the wall attacks a small village. I feel like this scene may have been done to really play up the villainous side to the Wildings, but I’m not sure. The Thenns seem really over the top in their evil ways when their leader tells a kid he is going to eat his parents as he twirls his mustache. And Ygritte brains a man with an arrow while he talks to his son about how great his mother’s potatoes are. Maybe those still sympathizing with Ygritte over Jon abandoning her will have a more even view running up to the inevitable battle looming with the Night’s Watch. Meanwhile at The Wall, the return of some rangers who were present during the madness at Craster’s Keep last season has Jon worried that those left behind might reveal just how small the Night’s Watch is to Mance Rayder and his wildling army.

The whole episode wraps up with scene outside Meereen. The Meereenese have sent out a champion and Dany decides to pit Daario 2.0 against him in a bout of single combat. This is our second look at the new Daario and he gets a better showing here than in the premiere I’d say. A kiss of his dagger’s lady-shaped hilt and a wink at Dany and he is ready to go. A quickknife throw and a slash of his arakh and he has made quick work of the opposition. This scene also contains a few other staples of recent Daenerys scenes. You have your commanding speech in a foreign language (sorry if you are tired of these, I still love them). You have Dany swooning over Daario. She also tells Jorah they are the best of friends… just friends (she may not have said this but we all heard it). And finally Dany uses catapults to cleverly let the slaves of the city know what she is all about. Plus as a bonus: an almost literal pissing contest! I thought this scene worked well overall though I do wish the duel lasted a bit longer.

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Nu-Daario right before entertaining the crowd with his best Indiana Jones impression.

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: I’d probably give the nod to the Tywin pair, but they are unfortunately situated right next two awkward sex scenes (tune in next week to see who Oberyn talks to after his next orgy!). If not them perhaps the Daenerys scene or Tyrion’s. I guess nothing stands out too far from the pack this week. Lots of great stuff though.
  • I actually really liked the Stannis scenes this week. Or maybe I just liked the Davos/Shireen one. They have a cute relationship and it leading to a lightbulb going off in Davos’ head about the Iron Bank of Braavos was a nice touch.
  • In this episode, Sam ponders whether a child is better off growing up in Castle Black or a whore house.
  • “Just point out the next map shop you see and I’ll buy you one.” Arya and the Hound’s banter is hilarious.
  • I love the music that goes along with Daenerys closing scenes and the first shot of Meereen looked fantastic.
  • Sorry the review is so late this week. I was trying to sort the sept scene out in my head. I still haven’t.
  • Missing in Action this Week: Bran, Theon and the Boltons. These two storylines just aren’t a weekly necessity even at their best.

Obviously I didn’t care much for the way they handled the Jaime/Cersei scene in the sept. Other than that and a rather forgettable Sam/Gilly sequence, there was a lot to like. It certainly didn’t feel as eventful as the opening two episodes. No scene stole the show for me like last week’s wedding or the premiere’s showdown at the Inn and introduction of Oberyn. But that is okay. Not every episode of this show can be like that. This one helps continue to move pieces into place for the season to come after the events of the Royal Wedding. But because of my issues with that sept scene, I just didn’t enjoy “Breaker of Chains” as much as the first two eps of Season 4.

If you’ve watched “Breaker of Chains,” let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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10 comments on “Game of Thrones “Breaker of Chains” Review

  1. Didn’t feel like a rape to me. These two have a fucked up sex life and I felt (Remember I haven’t read the books) like this was just something they do. The more inappropriate, the more turned on they BOTH are. I swear after Jamie throws the kid out the window I feel like they went right back to screwing. And I also feel like that wasn’t the first time they had sex next to a dead body. Again this is just what I got from the show (having never read the books)

    I have a friend who loves sword and sorcery fantasy books but says she doesn’t like GoT when I asked her if I should read the books she warned me that they were far too rapey. And I have noticed that there is a lot of talk of rapes. Men get killed and women get raped in this brutal world. Nearly every female character has been threatened with rape at some time and I’m guessing there is more rape in the books.

    But I didn’t see this scene as a rape scene. I saw it as a brother & sister having creepy sex next to the body of their dead child scene. You know. That old chestnut.

    • Yeah I didn’t see it that way. Jaime forced her down while she said no, he said he didn’t care. The writers have said that Jaime forced himself on Cersei. The director has referred to it as rape. Plus Cersei has been turning Jaime away when he tried to have sex with her this season so far which means their relationship isn’t the same as it used to be, so using former examples of sex between the two as evidence doesn’t hold much weight to me. To me this scene depicted a rape.

      And it was not a rape scene in the books. Cersei makes it clear in the books that she consents.

      It is fine if you don’t want to read the books. They aren’t for everyone. There is rape in them. But there is rape in the show too. Even if you don’t agree that this was rape the writers have before changed what was a consensual sex scene to rape. They have also added several acts of violence against women that weren’t in the book (like the way Joffrey killed Ros). So it is not like the show is free of doing that sort of thing. There is more of everything in the books. More battles, more deaths, more characters, more history, more details. There might be more rape, I haven’t exactly counted in each. The show writers have certainly added scenes of rape to the show that weren’t in the books though.

      And as you said the world whether it be show or books is a brutal one. Rape is a part of that. I don’t have an issue with the act being a part of the fiction. It can be disturbing at times, but I know what I’m getting into with this type of show. I just don’t see how this one in particular fits the characters or situation or how it could be a good addition to the show. The writers made a conscious decision to change this to rape in my opinion and it feels like it is more for shock value than anything else. I am willing to see how they handle it in the future though. Maybe they will make it work in a way that I just can’t predict.

      Anyway, I will have to respectfully disagree with you about this particular scene and how it was portrayed. I do appreciate hearing your opinion though. I honestly wish I felt the same way about it. Creepy incest sex next to their dead son is exactly what it should have been (still plenty disturbing on its own!), I just don’t see it that way.

      • Perhaps they thought that a mother having consensual sex next to her dead son with his father/uncle was too much creep so they wanted it to seem rapey. But I thought from the visuals that she was pulling him in. I have only watched it once. I will check it out again. She is saying no but it looks like she is physically consenting. Everyone sees art different that’s why I love art. The director or writer or artist’s meaning means nothing once they release it to the public. I’m sorry it upset you. Now if Cersei calls it rape in future eps then it is a rape (period. full stop) I thought she was saying this is so wrong but in a – I still want to do it – way not a – get the hell off of me – way. My friend called the books too rapey. So that has always been in the back of my mind. The show has been brutal but rape is more talked about than shown. I got more upset with the castration scene than anything else so far and I don’t even like that character.

        Something is wrong with the first pic on this post. Do you see it? Or is it just me? It looks blacked out and dark. Like your blog.

        • I definitely see where you are coming from. Hopefully in my next review or a few episodes down the line, I will look back and think I made way too much of this.

          Thanks for the tip on the picture too. I tried my hand at taking my own screenshots of the show for the blog for the first time this week, so I could have them for specific quotes. And since Sansa and Littlefinger met in the darkest foggiest part of Westeros, it was hard to get a good picture! I am going to see if I can switch it out for a better one.

          What did you think of the rest of the episode? Anything stand out to you?

          • My favorite thing was the way Tywin went right to work on teaching the new little king. When Cersei says that this is not the right time I actually said out loud no that’s the perfect time. And you’re right the way he handled Oberyn was cool too. He knows how to play the game. This seems like his season. Even before the first opening credit of the first show this year he melts down the Stark blade (at least I think that was what it was) and makes the two smaller ones… then they roll the credits sequence. I also liked the advice that the grandmother (I don’t know their names as well as you) the girl who was married to Joffrey asks what she is now and her grandmother is like This is not the time to press that. That was a great line.

            I will be happier once the Boltons are dead though. All three of them annoy me. Last season I loved when the story went north. Now I no longer care. No zombies. No dice. And when they go east has lost its interest with me as well. More dragons. I almost expected one of her dragons to roast that champion guy. KIng’s Landing is where the good story is now and also with my girl Arya.

  2. This is an episode I plan on watching again, I didn’t catch all of the dialogue so I’m glad you explained why Tywin wants to bring Dorne into the fold. I feel the same way that there wasn’t a scene that stole the episode and as a whole, it fell short of the first two episodes of the season.

    I’ll eventually read what the producers have said and wait to see how it plays out on the show before I’ll process the Jamie and Cersei scene but I’ll say this – as it happened on screen I thought it was rape.

    Tyrion is a character who rarely gets a week off since Season 2 so I’ll be interested to see how his scenes will be written while in custody. I can see a visit by Jamie, perhaps one by Varys and then the trial before episode 8. Pod is the best squire ever, yeah that goodbye was touching without it being sappy – they may never cross paths again for all I know.

    I’m not feeling Daario 2.0. I wish they got an actor that has a commanding, dangerous presence like Oberyn. I guess it was supposed to be cool how new Daario took out the horse rider without breaking a sweat but it didn’t give me goosebumps or anything.

    So many more things to talk about but I’ll leave it there. Great review, glad you found the time to post it.

    • Yeah I suppose Tyrion is in for a lot of meetings in his cell! Some of those scenes you mentioned could be very strong, so that is a plus.

      I’m still not sold on the new Daario either. He wasn’t exactly a favorite of mine in the books or last year in the show and I still feel about the same. He is certainly no Oberyn and since that is a character I liked more in the books I’m at least happy they nailed his character. He seems almost perfect so far.

      Thanks for stopping by to give some thoughts. I always like hearing your opinion on these.

  3. Great stuff as always Matt. Your analysis of “that” scene is spot on. My girlfriend Casey actually brought up a good point in the first podcast we worked on – that’s right, I’ve got a podcast coming! We’re just editing it right now, so hopefully it will be up soon! Anyway, she said that she thinks that Jaime was possibly taking out his anger and frustrations on Cersei. He’s been shit on ever since he came back – his father and nephew disrespect him, he can’t fight anymore, and he’s deformed. Taking Cersei like that was this huge display of masculinity. Doesn’t justify what he does at all of course, but I thought it was a really interesting point and frames his actions in a different way.

    • Yeah I have seen that explanation (or something similar) around the web and that is a pretty good one. Obviously nothing will justify his actions (it’s rape, their is no justifying it), but my greater concern is how it will affect the character arcs/relationship going forward. To me this will change how those things are viewed by people and I see it hurting one of my favorite storylines from the books. I don’t know. I will have to wait and see how they do it.

      Good luck with the podcast Nick. I haven’t exactly been able to carve out the time for mine yet, but I’m still hopeful I will have one some day!

  4. Pingback: Game of Thrones “Oathkeeper” Review | The Triple Option

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