Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 3 “Breaker of Chains”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

King’s Landing: Joffrey is dead! I almost half expected to see this episode open with Joffrey recovering in bed, and Maester Pycelle explaining how the poison wasn’t entirely fatal, but I suppose that’s a thing best left to The Princess Bride.

So, in my previous conclusion I conjectured on what would happen to the kingship, now that there’s no obvious successor better than Princess Myrcella, Joffrey’s sister. Well, it turns out Joffrey has a brother! Who knew?! I certainly didn’t. His name is Tommen and I definitely don’t recall him ever being introduced or mentioned before, although it’s definitely possible that I overlooked it at the time (there are a lot of details in this show that seem utterly unimportant at the time).

Anyway, we’ll get to Tommen in a bit. Immediately after Joffrey lies dead at his own wedding feast, we see Sansa being led away to safety by the Fool. Lucky for her, because Cersei is on the warpath and not only wants Tyrion arrested for Joffrey’s murder, but Sansa taken as well. Tywin orders the city gates sealed and Sansa captured and brought to them. But she’s already away, and the Fool leads her to a boat and rows out to sea. In the fog, they meet a ship, and the Fool tells Sansa to climb up the ladder first. A hand grabs her arm to help her aboard… it’s Petyr Baelish! Fairly predictable in hindsight, but I hadn’t really pondered who might be behind her rescue until he was revealed.

The Fool asks for his reward of 10,000 coins, and Baelish responds by having him shot with arrows and killed. Sansa protests, but Petyr explains that the Fool was only as loyal as the next person to offer him money or booze, and the best way to keep her safe was to silence him. She ponders this for a second and sees the logic, but is still appalled. Okay, well, Sansa is no doubt safer here than in King’s Landing, but I don’t entirely trust Baelish. He was in love with Cat, who rejected him. I wonder if his motivations with Sansa are entirely well-intentioned, or if lurking in the back of his mind is the possibility that she’ll be a young surrogate for her mother. And where is he going to take her?

In a short scene later on, Margaery talks to her grandmother in the garden. Margaery asks if she’s the queen now, which is a question I had assumed would be obviously yes, but Lady Tyrell answers that her claim would have been stronger if her marriage to Joffrey had been consummated. This is very interesting, as it weakens my theory that Margaery killed Joffrey. I had her pegged as someone who would do anything to achieve power, and savvy enough to set things up properly. But this indicates a damning oversight, which I can’t believe she wouldn’t have thought of if she’d planned to have Joffrey killed. No way would she leave a loophole open for Cersei to quash her claim to queenship. So… there goes my prime theory on who killed Joffrey. I don’t have a backup theory nearly as strong, so I’m in a bit of indecision now.

Joffrey lies in state in the great Sept, Cersei weeping over his body. And here’s Tommen. Tywin asks Tommen if he knows what Joffrey’s death means. When Tommen hesitates, Tywin says it’s not a trick question. Tommen answers that he will be king now, and Tywin nods. Tywin then asks Tommen what quality makes a good king. Tommen’s first answer is “holiness”, which is very telling. There’s no way Joffrey’s immediate answer to this question would have been “holiness”. But Tywin gives an example of a previous king who was holy and pious, but not effective. Tommen changes his answer to “justice”, and again Tywin refutes with an example of a just king, but one who failed his people. Tommen tries “strength”, and here Tywin refers to Robert Baratheon, who he says was strong, but let Westeros fall to pieces after he’d won it. Tywin prompts, “What did they all lack?” The answer is obvious, and Tommen provides it: wisdom.

Very good, says Tywin. He goes on to say that wisdom is gained with years, and so Tommen’s best approach to being king will be to listen to his advisors until he comes of age. And to continue listening to them even after that. Tommen nods – he seems a much better candidate for king than Joffrey ever was. And writing this up I suddenly realise who might well have had Joffrey killed.


Tywin knew very well that Joffrey was a disaster waiting to happen, and once he started exerting his authority Tywin could lose control of the kingdom and his family. He needed someone more level-headed on the throne, someone less chaotic, someone more pliable. And now his conversation with Tommen falls right into place. Tywin is grooming Tommen to be his proxy in a way that Joffrey would never have been. Motive, means, and opportunity – Tywin had them all. And as a bonus, if he can pin the blame on Tyrion, he gets rid of his troublesome son as well. Well, I think I was wrong about Margaery, and maybe this is another red herring, but I think Tywin is now the strongest candidate for murder.

Tywin escorts the young king out of the Sept, leaving Cersei to mourn. Jaime appears to comfort her. She becomes livid with hate for their brother Tyrion, and demands that Jaime kill him for her, before the trial that is to come. Jaime doesn’t think that’s such a great idea, and has other things on his mind as he tries to get it on with Cersei… they kiss, but she pushes him away, saying this isn’t the time or place (right next to Joffrey’s corpse!). Jaime however doesn’t take no for an answer, professing his love for his sister while pushing her to the ground and having his way with her. Yeesh. This is one messed-up family. I imagine this may turn Cersei against Jaime, so, bad move there boyo. No doubt the fallout will be awful and complex and take many episodes to play out.

Okay, my prediction on what Tywin would do wth Prince Oberyn was completely wrong. Instead of having him killed, Tywin approaches Oberyn and asks him to be the third judge in Tyrion’s trial. And also invites him to sit on the Small Council. Oberyn says he’s only here to seek revenge against Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane for raping and murdering his sister, at Tywin’s orders. Tywin denies responsibility, saying Gregor tends to act on his own impulses, and offers to have Gregor brought before Oberyn to answer the accusation. Oberyn ponders the offer, asking why. Tywin explains that Danaerys is conquering cities across the Narrow Sea with the help of dragons, and the only people to fend off the Targaryen dragons last time were the people of Dorne, where Oberyn comes from. Man, everyone else is playing snakes and ladders and Tywin is playing go.

Tyrion sits mouldering in a cell, awaiting trial. His squire Podrick enters to tell him his trial is soon, and that Sansa has disappeared. And that he was offered a knighthood to testify against Tyrion, which he refused. Tyrion assesses (probably correctly) that Podrick’s life is now in danger, and tells him to flee King’s Landing. But first get Jaime – Tyrion wants to see Jaime. I imagine Tyrion will plead for sense from his brother, but I don’t know how useful that will be. Unless Tyrion has something he can use as a bargaining chip… well, maybe he does. If, at his trial, Tyrion were to drop something about Jaime and Cersei’s incestuous relationship, that could be bad enough that Jaime might be blackmailable. I guess we’ll see.

Castle Black: Meanwhile, things are happening elsewhere too! Sam hears a bunch of Night’s Watch recruits having their records read out, every second one being either a murderer or rapist, and some both. He decides Gilly isn’t safe in Castle Black and takes her, against her protests, to a nearby village where he finds room and board for her in exchange for Gilly helping out in the kitchens. The landlady/madam he deals with says she could earn more… if you now what I mean, wink, wink, and you could take a cut too. Sam is horrified and insists that Gilly just do cooking and cleaning. Given the general unsavoury look of this village, I’d say Gilly is in significantly more danger here than in Castle Black, but Sam is blind to this. Gilly is upset, thinking Sam is abandoning her. Dear oh dear…

The Wildling raiding party attacks another village, killing everyone except a small boy who they tell to run to Castle Black and tell them what happened. This triggers an argument over what they should do: go out to track down the Wildling party or stay to defend Castle Black. Just then the remains of the patrol returns from the other side of The Wall. They report the mutiny of most of their comrades, and that they’re living in what’s left of Craster’s keep. This horrifies Jon Snow, who says that he told Mance Rayder that Castle Black has a thousand men defending it. But if Rayder finds the mutineers he’ll learn that there are only about a hundred men, and realise he outnumbers them decisively. Jon says they have to go get the mutineers to prevent Mance’s overwhelming attack. It seems people agree with him.

Heading to The Eyrie: Arya and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane are watering their horses at a stream when a farmer asks what they’re doing on his land. Sandor doesn’t make a good impression, but Arya saves the day and they accept a bed for the night. Over dinner, the farmer, who has a young daughter, offers Sandor a few pieces of silver that he has stashed away for some help gathering the harvest. To Arya’s surprise, Sandor accepts the offer of “a fair wage for fair work”. But next morning, as soon as the farmer reveals the silver, Sandor knocks him flat and takes off with the money. Arya protests. Sandor says that when winter comes, this farmer and his daughter will soon be dead anyway, nothing can stop that, and what does a dead man need with silver? Arya is disgusted but rides with him, leaving the daughter crying over her unconscious father.

Dragonstone: Stannis learns of Joffrey’s death. He tels Davos that he burnt a leech with Gendry’s royal blood, representing Joffrey, and now he’s dead! This is the power of Gendry’s blood, and Davos went and released him! Stannis then asks if he has an army ready to take advantage of the confusion after Joffrey’s death, but Davos says no, how about they hire some mercenaries? Stannis points out they have no gold.

A bit later, Davos visits the Princess, who is teaching him to read. He gets an idea and suddenly asks her to write a letter to the Bank of Braavos, signing it with Stannis’s name. The idea isn’t explained, but is easily imagined: presumably he wants to lure a ship full of gold to Dragonstone so he can plunder it and use the gold to buy an army. This seems like a rather desperate move from Davos, who normally seems above this sort of underhanded scheming. Maybe it’ll work, but from the reputation of Braavos, I can’t see that diddling them out of a shipful of gold will be a good idea in the long run.

Meereen: Danaerys marches on the city of Meereen with her now substantial army. They send a champion out to meet her, and she chooses Daario as her champion. He stands his ground on foot as Meereen’s champion charges him with a lance on horseback. Daario throws a knife, killing the horse and dismounting the rider, then dispatches him with a single stroke of his curved sword. The nobles of Meereen look on from atop their walls, somewhat aghast, but otherwise unreacting. This appears to be some sort of ritualised interplay that doesn’t lead immediately to mass fighting.

Danaerys gives a loud speech to Meereen, and we see numerous slaves listening behind their masters. She tells them she freed the slaves of Astapor and Yunkai. And as proof she has catapults fire barrels into the city, which break open to reveal the cast off slave collars of those two cities. The slaves of Meereen pick them up, and look at their suddenly nervous masters…

And roll credits. Well, the obvious thing is for the slaves to revolt, and the masters of Meereen to be overwhelmed, and for the slaves to join Danaerys’s growing army. It’s so obvious that it’s a question as to whether it’ll just happen, or if this is finally the point where some bizarre complication halts Danaerys in her tracks. I really don’t want to bet either way on this one.

One Response to “Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 3 “Breaker of Chains””

  1. Glen Barnett says:

    There’s certainly no lack of candidates for people with motive and capability to take Joffrey out. As with many of the big events, there was some foreshadowing of who, but it was so subtle I really didn’t pick up on any of it at the time.

    Tommen was in a few scenes earlier on (seasons 1 and 2) but he was much younger and played by a different actor (Tommen and Myrcella seem to have aged more than twice as much as anyone else in the interim). You even mention his existence (though understandably you didn’t know his name, it not being mentioned in that episode to my recollection) in your account of the episode where Stannis’ fleet attacks King’s Landing … but his role had been pretty minor before this point — a few brief appearances; I don’t think he could have said more than a couple of words. So much happens, it’s easy to lose a few details (I watched most of the early episodes twice the first time through, which made some of the details easier to retain, but I still missed plenty). There’s a *lot* of named characters. Way more than anyone with fairly normal levels of memory and attention could remember from a single watch through.

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