‘Game of Thrones’ Breakdown: ‘Breaker of Chains’

WARNING: For the words are dark and full of spoilers…

Season Four, Episode Three: “Breaker of Chains”

Written and Directed by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

With each new episode of Game of Thrones, I’m learning more not to ask if someone will die, but rather who will die, in what way, and how important that person has been thus far to the many story arcs both in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. In the last episode, for example, we lost a universally-detested but unquestionably-powerful character in King Joffrey. This week, however, only one minor character dies. Oh, and an entire village is slaughtered. And Daario Naharis totally kills the crap out of some guy and his horse. When put that way, it sounds like a relatively calm week for the Realm. Let’s jump in:

Quick Breakdown

We pick up this week in exactly the spot that we left off in the last one — Mother Cersei clutches her baby duckling Joffrey during his final moments, and she and the rest of King’s Landing watch helplessly as he draws his last breath. This is a sight worth repeating, not only because I found such satisfaction in it (I’m thinking we all did), but because it helps to remind us who it is that’s taking the fall for the death of this beloved king. It’s uncle Tyrion who becomes the scapegoat, ordered away to a cell somewhere thanks to Cersei’s decree. After a week to mull it over, I’m positive Tyrion wasn’t involved in this murder (a fact he later confesses to Podrick from his cell), but Cersei has a couple legitimate reasons to suspect him.

Let’s review: Joffrey was poisoned, and Tyrion was appointed the King’s cupbearer in a juvenile attempt to embarrass him, thanks to a Kardashian-level public falling out between the two at the royal wedding. Tyrion was both the last person to touch the King’s cup before he was poisoned and the first to touch it after he had died. To an uninformed observer, that’s looking all kinds of shady.

“I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you’re safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you will know the debt is paid.” Anybody remember this quote? It came from Tyrion back in season two, after Cersei takes Ros, who she mistakes to be Shae, captive. That’s a lot of name dropping, I know, but I hope it helps. Cersei certainly remembers it, and it’s one of the first things she references after Tyrion is taken away. “He killed him. He told me he would,” she says to Jaime.

You and I both know that Tyrion is too smart to arrange for Joffrey’s death in a way that implicates himself, but either Cersei doesn’t know this or she just doesn’t care; She wants her brother imprisoned, and what Cersei wants, she usually gets.

Unless, of course, it involves her other brother, Jaime. In that relationship, she’s getting a little more than that. This time around, it comes in the form of (and this is about to get weird, even by Westeros standards) Jaime’s unwanted sexual advances while they’re alone in the sept, where King Joffrey’s corpse is displayed for mourning. This is not only one of the most uncomfortable scenes to date in the series, but also the scene that single-handedly (harhar, get it?) erased any sympathy I had accrued for Jaime following his tepid return to King’s Landing.

Meanwhile, Sansa is whisked away through the streets of King’s Landing and into a row boat with Ser Dontos, the fool, who paddles her across the water and through a scene straight out of Stephen King’s The Mist. Eventually, they reach a larger boat that’s just floating out in the middle of the sea. On it is Petyr Baelish, one of the few characters we have yet to catch up with in season four. He’s been absent since he left for the Vale back in season three, and King’s Landing has been noticeably less scummy without him.

He’s back now, though, and he’s been using Ser Dontos to help carry out his tougher tasks. Most recently, the fool was promised 10,000 gold in exchange for smuggling Sansa out of King’s Landing. Instead, of gold, though, Ser Dontos is awarded a couple of crossbow bolts through his face and chest for his efforts. “Money buys a man silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever,” says Lord Baelish. Hard to argue with that logic.

After that, we’re sent out to the Riverlands to catch up with Arya and the Hound (that seriously sounds like it could be the title of a Disney movie, if not for all the killing and stealing that’s associated with it). They’re caught watering their horses by a farmer and his young girl, who, after some convincing from Arya, believe she and the Hound are father and daughter. They’re invited in for supper and a night’s sleep, where the Hound interrupts the family’s meal-time prayer with his wisecracks and spills stew all over their dinner table. They leave the next morning after Ser Clegane steals every bit of silver the farmer has. Arya protests, to which the Hound responds, “They’ll both be dead come winter. Dead men don’t need silver.”

We visit Dragonstone Isle briefly, where Stannis and Ser Davos continue to mope around with a depleted army like Pinky and the Brain grasping for ideas on how to seize the iron throne (“Gee, Stannis, what do you want to do tonight?” “The same thing we do every night, Davos — try to take over King’s Landing!”). Their scheming is mostly unsuccessful, until Ser Davos returns to his reading lessons with Stannis’ daughter, Shireen. There, he comes up with a plan to borrow the money needed to hire an army of sellswords, and he, with Shireen’s help, writes a letter to the Iron Bank of Braavos in Stannis’ name. Stannis wasn’t too keen on the idea of commanding an army of mercenaries before, so I’m curious to see how this turns out.

Further north, everything’s all messed up. Jon Snow is back on his feet after his vacation with the Wildlings, and there’s a girl, Gilly, staying at Castle Black. She must feel really out of place. Sam fears for her safety as the lone female amongst a hundred men, so he takes her to a small town not far from Castle Black where she begins work in a brothel, not as a whore, but as a maid and a babysitter. She won’t be used for sex. Sam made sure of that when he said it so loudly to that lady behind the counter. She’s totally safe. (Right, guys…?)

Not far down the road, Ygritte and her band of Wildings slaughter an entire village of people methodically — and in a matter of minutes, like they’re making breakfast or something. Actually, they might be, because they’re traveling with the Thenns, a tribe of Wildlings known for their cannibalism. These guys are ugly, and they seem to have a thing for telling everyone they meet that they eat other people. It’s weird.

When word of the slaughter reaches Castle Black, the place is in an uproar. Jon Snow, who apparently does know something, warns the rest of the Night’s Watch of the impending Wildling attack. They’re outnumbered by the thousands, and the oath of the Night’s Watchmen, to protect the realm from what lies beyond the Wall, grows more futile by the hour. “Even if every one of us kills a hundred Wildlings, there’s still not a thing we can do to stop them,” Jon tells them. (I’m expecting these two factions to clash soon, and I am curious to see whether or not the dynamic between Jon and Ygritte becomes a factor. I hope that it does.)

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys and her army reach the city of Meereen. The kind folks there greet her with a champion’s duel. A soldier rides out on horseback armed with an absurdly long lance looking to fight a designated champion from her horde of infantrymen. After asking for volunteers, she settles on Daario Naharis, who declines Dany’s offer to even the odds with a horse of his own. “Horses are dumber than men,” he tells her.

This scene really won me over in favor of the new Daario. As a man on horseback barrels toward him with a lance aimed at his head, Daario turns over his shoulder and winks at Dany. Then, without any hint of uncertainty, he pulls his knife from its sheath, kisses it (so romantic), and then throws it, sticking it straight through the horse’s skull. The horse and rider collapse, and Daario quickly beheads the champion of Meereen before he even makes it to his feet. Dany smiles at him as reward for his victory.

Dany then gives another speech about liberation and the freedom of slaves. This time, though, it’s unclear how the people or Meereen receive it. As some kind of unique demonstration, she orders a row of trebuchets to fire wooden barrels over the walls of the city. These barrels break open to reveal their contents: the chains and restraints of former slaves, unlocked and removed. It’s an illustration that resonates with the people she seeks to set free, but it is also, at least in part, symbolic of her own journey. A good queen remembers her humble beginnings, and Daenerys doesn’t seem to have forgotten how she was sold into slavery by her brother not so long ago. It’s the closest thing to a success story you’ll find in Essos, and perhaps the most compelling case for the iron throne throughout the realm.



The pacing of this episode is a testament to the talent of the people working behind the scenes of Game of Thrones. So much content is crammed into a short amount of time, and no parts ever felt rushed or neglected.

Closing Thoughts

Tywin pays a visit to Oberyn Martell in King’s Landing during a short scene in this episode. He offers Oberyn a spot on the King’s small council and a chance to avenge his sister’s death in exchange for Oberyn’s service as a judge in Tyrion’s upcoming trial. I initially thought when Oberyn rode into town that he’d be at odds with the Lannisters for the duration of his stay, not joining their ranks. I look forward to seeing how this unfolds.

Joffrey’s murder remains unsolved, for now. Petyr Baelish has catapulted himself near the top of my suspects list, though. The Tyrells remain high on the list, and Tyrion is off the list entirely.

The scene between Tyrion and Podrick was heartbreaking. Podrick’s allegiance to Tyrion, even when facing the possibility of death, is unusual in King’s Landing, and I’m sad to see it go. “There has never lived a more loyal squire,” Tyrion told him. Hopefully Podrick isn’t really gone for good.

It seems easy to feel sorry for Margaery Tyrell because all of her husbands keep getting murdered, by I have this creeping sense that she isn’t totally blameless. As they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire and, so far, Margaery’s got two dead husband’s-worth of smoke.

Quote of the Week: From the Hound to Arya, after she protests his decision to steal from the farmer: “I just understand the way things are. How many Starks have they got to behead before you figure it out?”

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