*Spoilers, naturally, follow for those yet to watch Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 3 ‘Oathbreaker’*
The fallout from Jon Snow’s resurrection at the end of episode 2 proved to be every bit as eerie and ultimately satisfying as one could hope for it to be, as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch made his return to the land of the living in the most epic way possible.
The biggest question about Jon Snow since he was stabbed last season was never really about whether he was coming back, everyone knew that- the real question always was how he would come back and what effect that would have on the honourable Lord Snow.
And Jon looked pretty unnerved after his resurrection, and throughout the episode his usual sombreness seems to have been notched up another level. He joked around with Tormund and Edd, but his execution of the traitors was brutal. Old Jon might have given Olly at least one last chance at reform, but this new Jon, who knows the consequences of always being ‘honourable’, wasn’t taking any chances.
Both his father and his brother, ‘The King in the North’, died due to honour, and they never had the chance to learn from those fatal mistakes. Jon does, so he’s probably going to be a very changed Jon going forward.
The show decided to call this episode ‘Oathbreaker’ as a nod to the final scene, and the genius of that lies in the fact that even though Jon Snow shed his cloak and was no longer a member of the Night’s Watch, he’s still, technically, not an oathbreaker.
It’s simple, really. The Night’s Watch oath reads that you would serve the watch until your death, which he did. So his watch ended when Thorne and his goons shoved their knives into his belly. He’s just saying it out loud now, but he has fulfilled his vows, and he’s now free to chase what is his- Winterfell.
There was some other oathbreaking in the episode for us to feel angst about, that of Lord Umber in turning his back on the Starks and delivering young Rickon Stark to the biggest oathbreaker of all, Ramsay Snow in Winterfell. The death of Shaggydog, Rickon’s direwolf, means the direwolf count is now down to half the original number, three left alive out of six. The implications of Smalljon Umber’s oathbreaking are staggering.
This episode, a typical early-season Game of Thrones episode, continued setting the pieces for the wars to come, as I like to call them, and unravelling the mysteries of the past. Our main vehicle for that, the greenseeing Brandon Stark, was guided to a very significant portion of his father’s past by the three eyed raven, even though the vision was truncated.
In it, Bran visited a time when his young father rode to an abandoned tower in the hills of Dorne, only to be met by two members of the Mad King’s Kingsguard. Ser Arthur Dayne, the legendary ‘Sword of the Morning’, and one other kingsguard member. Ned had six men with him, and the dialogue was carefully constructed to make us know that those odds were a piece of cake for a man the calibre of Arthur Dayne.
And he really showed his mettle, even when it was four to one he gradually beat them all back till it was one-on-one with Ned. There was no way the young Eddard was surviving that, and he needed an assist from one of his wounded friends- Howland Reed, Meera’s father- to prevail: contradicting the probably haughty story Ned had always told his children about the time he beat the legendary Arthur Dayne one-on-one.
The significance of the fiercely honourable Lord Stark lying to his future children is overshadowed by what was in that tower that he fought so hard for. But the three eyed crow said it was time to go back, and we are left to wonder what it could be. It is a woman, that much we know from her scream. We are learning about all this with the return of Jon and with questions about his parentage yet to be resolved- at the end of Bran’s visions we should know who Jon’s mother, and his father too, were.
The Meereen arc probably provided us with the deepest insight into the character of Varys we’ve ever seen, as he interrogated the woman who had been helping the Harpy massacre Daenerys’ forces. In it you see the master schemer in all his glory, and you can easily see how when it comes to understanding human nature, very few can rival Varys- which is what makes him such a deadly player of the game.
Whilst they wait for Varys to complete his interrogation, Tyrion engages in the most awkward conversation of all time with Grey Worm and Missandei. His relief when Varys entered was palpable, and with the information he wiggled out, that the other cities of Slavers Bay were funding the Harpies to oust Dany, they formulated a plan to show their strength. ‘The only language the Masters understand’ as Missandei put it.
Speaking of the Queen of Meereen and the Breaker of Chains, the ex-Khaleesi arrived in the Dothraki city and was dumped with the Dosh Khaleen, the council of ex-Khaleesi’s. Traditionally a dead Khal’s wife lives out the remainder of her life with the group, but Dany broke protocol when she went on her own conquering cities after Drogo’s death- and now a referendum has to be held on what her eventual fate would be.
Arya’s training is moving along rather nicely, which is good to see, although I remain quite sceptical that she is losing herself as the Faceless Men want. They are quite thorough in their efforts at stripping away your identity- the Waif questioned Arya brutally about her kill list- but the little wolf seems to know just the right answers to give to their questions without losing herself too much. She continues to progress in her training, finally beating the Waif back blind and eventually regaining her sight. The next step in her training should be exciting.
The war between the combined forces of the Lannister/Tyrell alliance and the faith militant is coming, even if King Tommen doesn’t know it yet. The King tries his best to be a true Lannister, arrogant and brutal to the core, but it’s obvious it’s an act and nothing like his true nature. It’s why every single time a confrontation has popped up, he has folded like the weak hand he is. He wilted when the faith took his wife, again when he went to confront the Sparrow after Margaery’s imprisonment, and he wilted again when the High Septon just won him over with some religious mumbo-jumbo about the gods and the mother.
Speaking of the capital, the saucy tongued Lady Olenna is back, and she is still at her witty best, as Cersei brutally learned. The players in King’s Landing seem fractured at the moment, but in the face of their common enemy they would inevitably band together.
Also, it seems like Cersei has gone full back into b*tch mode, after it seemed she was a little resigned to fate in the season premiere when Myrcella’s dead body was brought to her. But Jaime’s f*ck them all tirade he unleashed in the preniere seems to have got to her, and she made clear to Qyburn that at this moment, she wants to know all the enemies of House Lannister – and we know it’s not because she wants to give every one of them special golden hugs.
Samwell Tarly made his return, and we learned he’s taking Gilly and little Sam to his home, Horn Hill, which is in Tyrell land. His father is a monumental arse, but he assured Gilly his mom and sister would be kind enough to take care of her. After he gets her settled, Sam then has to leave for Oldtown to start earning his maester’s chains.
‘Oathbreaker’ was a solid hour of Thrones, which had the unenviable job of following last week’s blockbuster ‘Home’. It wasn’t the most exciting episode, but with Thrones we know the pay-off is often worth it if we’re just patient enough to slog through the setting up episodes. We now know that Melisandre has regained her faith, and is already looking at latcthing onto Jon as the saviour Stannis never was. I doubt Jon would have much patience for that, but they would still be allies, if only for the fact that they both have the same goal of stopping the White Walkers.
This season is three episodes in, and each one has ended at the Wall. If you didn’t know this season’s biggest storyline, the show is screaming it subliminally into your skull. Kit Harrington has also revealed in interviews that this is Jon’s biggest season yet, so if you thinks things are exciting now- you ain’t seen nothing yet! His watch may have ended, but the fun is just about to begin.
Game of Thrones airs every Sunday at 9pm EST on HBO. You can read episode reviews here every Monday.