TV Review: Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episodes 4 “Oathkeeper” and 5 “First of His Name” (USA, 2014)

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These episodes are being welded together as they both serve the purpose of re-arranging the show after Joffrey’s shocking death in “The Lion and The Rose.”

While we are seeing Dany get a bit more innovative with her “roam around freeing slaves” shtick, “Oathkeeper” gave us one of her weaker sequences. It was a grand, of course, and very well shot with her physically and metaphorically taking Meereen and brutally skewering the slave masters on wooden crucifixes. However, the scene where the slaves overtake the city as much too rushed, and could have been much more exciting than it actually was. We basically saw a horde of uprising slaves rush one of their masters and then we flashed to Dany occupying the city. It’s storytelling that is necessarily rushed, but it’s still storytelling which is lacking in the excitement it once promised.

Fast forward to “First of His Name” and we spend a bit more time re-visiting Dany’s ultimate purpose and then finding out that she has put that on hold to learn how to make the slavers stay fearful of her. Jorah continues to be as loyal as he can to make up for his past betrayal, but aside from him and Grey Worm, viewers may have stopped caring about the army seeing as development across her core team is really imbalanced.

Another dynamic we really should see more of is Bronn and Jamie, sparing partners who have great chemistry on-screen. We got a nice call-back to when Bronn and Tyrion first became buddies, and a nice mention of the Eyrie to remind us all of that awesome moon door. Bronn cleverly invokes guilt in Jamie, coaxing him into visit Tyrion in that dank prison he has been sitting in ever since he was accused to Joffrey’s murder.

A nice heap of dialogue is seen here, working on Tyrion and Jamie’s dynamic while we see the sympathy between them and the understanding that seems exclusive to these two Lannisters.

The reveal that Littlefinger was involved in Joffrey’s death was already implied, but his cunning is further revealed in a major way as he details the use of the necklace Ser Dontas gave Sansa in assassinating the King. Seeing as “First of His Name” pretty much confirmed that Littlefinger is one of the most compelling and dangerous figures in the entire series, the focus on developing him into a very complex kind of villain adds a layer to this series that wasn’t there before. Littlefinger (with the help of Lady Lysa Arryn) set the entire series in motion by organising the death of Jon Arryn; it was because of them that Ned Stark accepted King Robert’s offer, and this is what led to every subsequent event.

Revealing that Olenna was also involved was great, and it was done in an amusing way; grounding the Tyrell as a serious and pragmatic woman as well as one of the show’s most entertaining characters. Her basically using throwing Margaery back on the manipulative, sexy path which she treads so brilliantly, also speaks highly for the Tyrell’s subtle dominance over the current landscape of King’s Landing, and their viability as one of the most powerful families in the Seven Kingdoms.

Pairing Brienne and Podric makes a new pair we’ll be tuning in for every week, while our other fan-favourite pair – The Hound and Arya – seem to be playing with antagonism as The Hound’s penchant for subdued comedy coming out in his dressing down of Arya and her recollection of the great Syrio Forel – the greatest swordsman that ever lived [who didn’t have a sword].

What created some of the most interesting tension in “Oathkeeper” was the swift introduction of Locke to the Castle Black scene. All viewers know that he was sent to kill every Stark male he can find, so his rather warm approach to Jon Snow was filled with both dread and excitement; excitement that didn’t last too long, as Locke was unexpectedly killed off far too early. With his neck brutally snapped by a warg-driven Hodor, the Bolton bannerman’s mission seemed to fizzle out before it even got a chance to make for compelling television.

Our re-introduction to Karl and Rast at Craster’s Keep was exciting but short lived. Seeing the mutineers act so primal and disgusting with Craster’s daughters built up a great little bit of ‘good versus bad’ that exploded with the thrilling arrival of the Night’s Watch. Jon taking on Karl felt was a one-on-one which we haven’t really seen for awhile in Game of Thrones, playing out well until the cliche stab-in-the-back came from one of Craster’s daughters and the delightfully gory sword-through-the-head came from Jon. At least now Jon can focus on the wildlings.

In mentioning Craster’s Keep, I’d be remiss not to mention the whitewalkers in “Oathkeeper.” With a sequence that confused even the pretentious book-readers, the episode gave us our biggest twist thus far (seeing as it’s not in the books at all) by showing us a very ridiculous-looking White Walker transforming one of Craster’s babies into what is seemingly a walker baby, simply by touching him. This introduces alot of questions and possibly looks forward to the final two books George RR Martin is still to produce.

The two episodes were rather lacking in the big power punch so far, but this is unquestionably building up to some very interesting happenings. From Tyrion’s plight to Brienne’s mission, things are obviously shaking up on Game of Thrones now that Joffrey is dead and his more subdued brother sits on the Iron Throne.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Positives:
Craster’s Keep battle
Littlefinger and Lysa Arryn behind Jon Arryn’s death
Lady Olenna is brutal and cunning
Ser pounce!!

Negatives:
Dany’s rise very rushed and unexciting
Locke was a missed opportunity
Karl a bit overacted
New White Walker looks ridiculous

Episode 4 M.V.P: Jamie
Episode 5 M.V.P: Jon Snow

Game of Thrones airs Mondays at 3:30pm on Showcase