Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Game of Thrones reviews here.
Game of Thrones Season 6 is developing a habit of bookending its episodes with Jon Snow scenes, and it’s a trend I’m enjoying. It allows the episodes to dive into other plotlines while making it clear that Jon Snow’s story is the throughline of the season.
The opening scene of “Oathbreaker” dealt with the immediate aftermath of Jon’s resurrection, which left everyone at Castle Black—including him—baffled, and with many of them in awe. I particularly liked that Melisandre’s first reaction was to ask him what he saw after death (“nothing,” it turns out), and that Davos’s response was to get down to business right away.
The closing scene dealt with Jon executing the traitors who killed him and resigning from the Night’s Watch. That is a huge deal, since he’s been bound to that location since the beginning of the show, but now has more freedom to pursue whatever goals he chooses. It’s another instance of Game of Thrones taking a major step towards its endgame, and I’m very excited to see where his story goes from here.
As for the death of the traitors, including Alliser Thorne and Olly, the scene wasn’t as triumphant as I’m sure many viewers would have liked it to be. Even the staunchest Olly haters could not have been comfortable watching a kid get executed, and it seems that the camera lingering on him was meant to emphasize the discomfort. The most notable aspect of that scene might be Jon, who I feel would not have carried out that sentence on someone like Olly in the past. Perhaps I’m imagining this darker side, but then again, his death has to change him somehow for it to have been justified.
The best example of the writers moving the story forward far more quickly than they used to in past seasons is Arya. Rather than have her training be a slow, drawn-out affair across the season, “Oathbreaker” summed it all up in a succinct and efficient montage. By the end of it, Arya truly became “no one” and regained her sight. It’s really refreshing to see a sense of purpose restored to her storyline now that the show is no longer waiting around for the books.
Another relatively major chunk of “Oathbreaker” dealt with the continuing story of the Lannisters taking on the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, a story that hit a few notable speedbumps. Not only did Tommen’s confrontation with the High Sparrow utterly fail, but Cersei and Jaime did not receive any support from their Uncle Kevan and the small council. It was a strong scene showing that the Lannisters’ path won’t be so easy, but… was there a fart joke in there?
Bran’s flashbacks made another appearance in “Oathbreaker”, taking us to a key moment in Ned Stark’s past that many fans have been anticipating. It was nice to see Ned again, even a young version, but the viewers shared Bran’s frustration as the Three-Eyed Raven pulled him away before he could see what Ned discovered in the tower. It was a great tease, and the writers knew exactly what the fans wanted to see, but it was the right move to hold off on the revelation. All the flashbacks need to do right now is tell the viewers, “This is Lyanna. This is the Tower of Joy. This will all be important later.” The final discovery is not Bran’s to make. But it’s great to see this backstory finally reignited.
This raises interesting questions. Game of Thrones is a show that thrives on unpredictability and shocking twists. But with the end of the series approaching, it’s time to pay off on the years of buildup, leading to more conventional storytelling. For example, Jon Snow was resurrected last week exactly the way fans expected. And while some people would rush to scream “predictable”, I am adamant that there is merit to traditional setup and payoff. Many fans have forgotten that shock value is not the only valid way of telling a story. Game of Thrones has tortured its fans with out of left field twists for years, which is why I feel a satisfying ending is more than earned at this point.
This means that a lot of fan speculation might come true, and there is no greater fan theory than the one involving the Tower of Joy. Will the writers be kind enough to go the predictable route and make that theory canon on the show? Or are they hinting at it too strongly, implying they will pull the rug? I personally feel the expected route is the more narratively satisfying one, and I hope they don’t change course just for the sake of surprising the audience. But time will tell.
There were other interesting tidbits in “Oathbreaker”. For one, Ramsay Bolton received a gift in the form of Osha and Rickon Stark. I have no idea what this means for Ramsay’s story and his hold on Winterfell, but it’s definitely bad news for poor Rickon. And in a more lighthearted scene, Tyrion’s failed attempt to have a conversation with Missandei and Grey Worm was a good source of humour, and another clever use of an enjoyable and witty character to distract from the ho-hum Meereen subplot.
Speaking of ho-hum, I’m still not sold on Daenerys’s storyline this season. It blurs the line between being frustrated on a character’s behalf, and simply being frustrated with the character’s story. Unless it picks up soon, it does feel like the writers are stalling around with Daenerys.
Also, Sam and Gilly are on a boat headed to Oldtown. It was nice to catch up with them, even if it took three episodes to do it—it doesn’t seem as though their subplot will be substantial this season. Still, that introductory scene laid the groundwork for Sam and Gilly’s journey in the next few weeks.
On the whole, “Oathbreaker” was another great Game of Thrones episode that pushed the story forward thanks to Season 6’s newfound purpose, even if a couple of subplots dragged.
Rating: 4/5 (Great)
If you enjoy this website, check out the Facebook page and hit like at facebook.com/ScrawlSpace.