[For Game of Thrones “Oathbreaker” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Oathbreaker. Daenerys meets her future; Bran meets the past; Tommen confronts the High Sparrow.
In starting to do these recaps I’ve come to a new respect for the people who write and direct Game of Thrones every week. I know that might sound odd because it is widely considered the best show on television and everything, but it isn’t just compelling… It’s wicked tight. Game of Thrones can coordinate so many complicated storylines only because they can pack so much into just three minutes or so. There is no wasted movement; not a wasted line.
We start circa 9:06 after some house ads and “previously on” refreshers to find the glassy eyes of the Onion Knight looking over a recovering Jon Snow. Despite a few scars and scratches (he was murdered by his own men just a few episodes ago, remember), Jon is naked as the day he was born, providing some eye candy for the other half of the audience.
Melisandre asks Jon what he remembers… He remembers the mutiny, and Olly stabbing him in the heart; but presumably depresses her by saying there was nothing after… Just nothing. “Stannis was not the Prince Who Was Promised,” Melisandre concludes, “but somebody has to be.”
By 9:10 Jon is back in his giant black cloak and greeting the remaining Watch and the assembled wildlings. They think he is some kind of god, but Tormund knows better; he’s seen Jon’s pecker… And what kind of god would have a pecker that small? Jon embraces Edd, who notes his eyes are still brown (ergo presumably not the icy blue of a White Walker); Edd is just happy to see his friend.
After a short interlude with Sam sailing to Oldtown (and vomiting over and over, ew) we come to the money shot of “Oathbreaker” at 9:16. A man is sharpening a sword beneath a great tower. We see him put on his helmet as riders approach. He is Kingsguard, but no Kingsguard we have ever seen on the show so far.
This is real Kingsguard; a stronger breed than Robert Baratheon’s… From back when every man was on the order of Barristan the Bold in his prime. A young Eddard Stark with a handful of Northern Knights (including Howland Reed, Meera’s father) are the riders! We see this from the perspective of Bran, once again warging into the past.
They meet two Kingsguard, the man sharpening his sword, and Arthur Dayne, “the Sword of the Morning” the deadliest swordsman Eddard ever encountered. Eddard asks where his sister is, and instead of answering, a deadly fight breaks out.
To his credit, Eddard dispatches the other Kingsguard (presumably Gerold Hightower* if only because he is later mentioned in the episode by Pycelle). To their credit the Kingsguard are cutting down Eddard’s Knights, too; with Reed going down first. Soon it is a four-on-one including Eddard against Arthur Dayne.
Dayne is reimagined in “Oathbreaker” as a Drizzt Do’Urden-style fighter, wielding two swords with great dexterity. Four-on-one becomes three-on-one, then two-on-one, then just Eddard against Dayne.
Eddard, remember, is considered even by Jaime Lannister to be a master swordsman… But he is hopelessly overmatched by the skilled Dayne.
“He’s better than my father,” observes Brand.
“Far better,” agrees the Three-Eyed-Raven.
“My father beat him,” recalls Bran.
“I know he did! I’ve heard the story a thousand times.”
Just as Bran is saying this, Eddard is disarmed by Dayne. Things are looking bad for the Warden of the North, when…
… The injured Howland Reed jumps Arthur from behind and stabs him in the back!
Bran is shocked! He calls out to his father, who seems to hear him.
“The past is already written; the ink is dry,” reminds the Three-Eyed Raven as he pulls Bran back into the present. “Stay too long and you won’t return.” For his part, though, Bran doesn’t much care about returning. He just loves to see his parents when they were young.
But Bran has a different task. The Three-Eyed Raven has been waiting for him for a thousand years. Unlike him, Bran will be allowed to leave (rather than growing into a tree), but first must learn everything.
Across the Narrow Sea Dany reaches Vaes Dotrhak and Varys finds out who is backing the Sons of the Harpy. It turns out that Masters from Astapor, Yunkai, and Volantis are bankrolling the Sons of the Harpy and are the root cause for Meereen’s current predicament.
Varys is known for his little birds, children who do his spying… We see back in King’s Landing that Qyburn has taken over that position, including giving out candy in return for loyalty. Cersei and Jaime attempt to join a Small Council meeting; but, just as the Small Council can’t throw out Jaime and Cersei… They can’t force the Council to stay.
At 9:42 we pick up Arya’s training. She learns to fight blind and practice lying. At the end of a short montage, Arya can hold her own against the Waif. Jaqen gives her the poisonous water from the Many-Faced God’s temple, but assures her that if she is “truly no one” it won’t hurt her. It doesn’t and she gets her eyesight back at 9:45.
Speaking of Starks, we return to Winterfell at 9:47, where Lord Umber is addressing the newly promoted Lord Bolton and Lord Karstark. Umber never swore fealty to the Boltons, which is a sticking point from Ramsay’s position. Umber still doesn’t want to bend the knee, but he has nevertheless brought a gift… Rickon Stark!
Ramsay wants to know how it is really Rickon, and in one of the sadder moments of the last couple of seasons, Umber plops the head of a dead Shaggydog onto the table, with a hook through his skull. Satisfied, Ramsay greets the young Lord Stark.
“Oathbreaker” concludes with Jon executing the men of the Night’s Watch who betrayed him. All of them have a few words, or short requests, except Olly; who remains silent throughout the scene. After executing his former Brothers, Jon gives up his Lord Commander’s cloak to Edd, says his watch is done, and walks out the gate as credits close.
All episode it is probably logical to try to find the eponymous Oathbreaker. Is it Jon? He is in fact walking out on the Night’s Watch. Is it the Knights of the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy? They didn’t stand by Prince Rhaegar when Robert killed him on the Trident. Is Dany the Oathbreaker? She was supposed to go straight into retirement when Khal Drogo died.
In the end, I don’t think it matters. This episode is more about one thing than anything else, and that is the beginnings of Jon Snow. It opens with him returning to life [for the second time], and flips relatively quickly to the Tower of Joy, which is widely speculated to be the place of Jon’s actual birth. Perhaps, then, is the Oathbreaker Lord Eddard? He lied to his wife… Or maybe he didn’t which would really make him an oathbreaker.
* The version of the battle at the Tower of Joy in the novels features three Kingsguard, not two; so it is either Hightower or Oswell Whent.