Contains spoiler alerts
“Comprehensive” is the way we could describe Sunday night’s “Game of Thrones” episode, “Breaker of Chains.” After confining itself to King’s Landing for most of the second half of episode two, the world goes ahead and opens up in the wake of King Joffrey’s rather delicious, purple-faced demise. “Breaker of Chains” treks all around George R.R. Martin’s fictional world to check in on all the doins’ and goins’-on, and we’re rewarded with one of the more explicit episodes of the show to ever air. That’s saying a lot.
We begin right where we left off, where, to paraphrase Chevy Chase, Joffrey Baratheon, first of his name, is still dead. In fact, we open up exactly where the last episode ended – with a glorious shot of Joffrey’s choked-to-death face. As Tyrion is arrested for the murder, Sansa Stark continues her reign as the Kim Bauer of Westeros, habitually stumbling falling from one type of trouble into another. Her supposed savior, the drunken Dontos, spirits her away to a mysterious ship – where the gloriously-goateed Petyr Baelish is revealed as one of the grand conspirators. Baelish quickly crossbows Dontos to death and promises to bring Sansa home, wherever that is. Poor Sansa. A cougar might be preferred to the maniacal plottings of the Baelish.
In King’s Landing, Margaery doesn’t seem all too broken up about the whole husband-being-poisoned-to-death thing, casually chatting with Olenna and lamenting the violent ends to her two previous relationships. It looks like the Tyrells still have their eyes on the throne; will Margaery target the next King? Maybe her third royal marriage will stick. Those two practice ones were doozies.
Joffrey gets that stones-on-his-eyes burial ritual as Tywin feels out his grandson Tommen – the next in line for the throne – quizzing him about kingly leadership qualities right over the corpse. It’s one of the best scenes so far this season, as Tywin dispenses hot, juicy bombs of truth about Robert and Joffrey and kings prior over the latter’s corpse. He appears to be pleased with his grandson’s answers and spirit; could we finally have a competent, non-drunk, non-masochist on the throne?
After the new power in King’s Landing leaves, a grieving Cersei and Jamie are left alone with their dead son’s body; Jamie takes the opportunity to end his sexual frustrations by raping Cersei right next to the table where their dead son lies. In a series full of WTF moments, this one goes right to the top; you can see Joffrey’s prone, dead body shaking as his mother and father/uncle are the floor next to the burial table. Disturbing isn’t a strong enough word to describe this one. Yikes.
The world’s bloodiest and most entertaining duo continues to trek through Westeros, as The Hound and Arya encounter a generous father and daughter who invite them over for a dinner of rabbit stew. Appropriate for Easter, isn’t it? The kill-happy duo slurp and devour like Bluto in the Animal House lunch line, and the father offers The Hound a farming gig. Are the two going to settle into a nice domestic existence? Not a chance – the next morning, The Hound conks the father out and steals his silver, to the objections of Arya. The Hound shrugs them off. “I’m just a man who understands how things are,” he says. Brutal truth in a brutal land.
Up around the Wall, the will-they-or-won’t-they couple of the season, Sam and Gilly, appear; Sam, rightfully concerned for Gilly’s safety among the testosterone in the Watch, brings her to stay at the whorehouse in Molestown. Ygritte and the rest of the wildlings sack an idyllic little town near the Wall, causing the Night’s Watch to debate the merits of confronting the invaders. In Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon, the man with all of the charm and warmth of post-game Bill Belichick, is still scowling lamenting his in-limbo situation. Davos feels his wrath … and then gets a light-bulb idea while in the middle of one of his talks with little Shireen, enlisting the girl to contact the Iron Bank of Braavos, the resource that funded all of the Lannisters’ expensive wars. As the greatest band from Down Under not named Crowded House once said, money talks.
Ah, another explicit brothel scene, as genitals fly in the midst of one of Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand’s prostitute-laden orgies. We get the first bit of full-frontal male nudity of the season (drink, everyone!) as a characteristically serious Tywin interrupts the party to offer Oberyn a deal – serve on the three-person trial that will decide the fate of Tyrion Lannister (charged with his nephew’s murder), get a shot at revenge against The Mountain. Oberyn appears to accept, as the jailed Tyrion finds out from Podrick Payne in a jailhouse visit. Peter Dinklage (Tyrion) is his usual wonderful self in this scene, giving a near-tearful goodbye to Pod, who appears to be one of the few true innocents in the world.
Meanwhile, across the narrow sea, Dany Targaryen finally arrives at Meereen, where we get the second bit of male nudity in about fifteen minutes –as Meereen’s “champion” whizzes on the ground in a sign of disrespect towards the conquering queen. Equal-opportunity TV-MA, this episode was. Anyways, that anonymous champion is quickly dispatched by Daario Naharis, who gives Dany a knowing, cocky little wink before a deadly knife to the horse / arakh to the throat combo. After that, Dany – who must have a voice louder than the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket – whips up support from the slaves in Meereen in an impassioned, fire-and-brimstone speech. She caps it off by catapulting buckets full of metaphor-laden broken chains into the city, in the Arrested Development “Hey, that’s the name of the episode!” moment of the week. What’s next episode going to bring – surrender or a bloody battle? Either way, the young queen is quickly becoming a formidable threat – even Tywin Lannister acknowledges it, as he mentions the dragons and Daenerys in his list of looming threats while speaking with Oberyn. But how does he know about the dragons? Or the threat? Hmmmm….
Other thoughts, as HBO’s one-two “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” punch provide a nice chaser to “Thrones.”
- No Theon, no Bran, no Rickon in this episode. Didn’t really miss them too much. No Brienne, though – she’s always missed. Expect heavily doses of them in the next episode.
- Styr, the leader of the people-munching Thenns, gets in a truly horrifying bit of a speech in this episode, telling a terrified little boy of the plans to eat his murdered parents in the wake of the town’s sacking.
- Isn’t it funny that in an entire show featuring people murdered in horrifying fashion, the gruesome death of one horse can trump them all for the “awwwwwww….no!” factor?
- Charles Dance fact of the week, just because the actor who plays Tywin Lannister is awesome: Dance played the crosshair-eyed bad guy in the completely underrated 1995 movie Last Action Hero, a winking Schwarzenegger-helmed satire of action movie blockbusters that flopped at the box office. Here’s Dance shooting Anthony Quinn and trading dialogue with Arnie. Such range.
- While we’re on the subject of other roles for “Game of Thrones” actors, Natalia Tena (Osha) once played the object of little Marcus’ affection in “About a Boy.” Think about that the next time you see Nicholas Hoult in the “X-Men: Days of Future Past” trailer.
- The “Purple Wedding” reaction compilation has arrived on YouTube. It’s not as compelling as the “Red Wedding” one, but there are some highlights – the gleeful chuckles are just lovely.
- A couple of helpful resources. If you ever get confused and need to find out something about the world the show takes place in, the Wiki of Ice and Fire is full of helpful detail. There are spoilers there, obviously. If you need a map of Westeros, click here – you control the spoilers to your level of book reading / show watching.
- One final link – George R.R. Martin released a sample from his upcoming illustrated history of Westeros. It’s well worth a read.
- Next week: An episode entitled Oathkeeper, directed by the fantastic Michelle MacLaren. MacLaren ‘s directed several of the best “Thrones” episodes, and was responsible for some of the more gorgeous images in “Breaking Bad.” With Hollywood mining the series for directing talent (Alan Taylor, most notably), it wouldn’t be shocking to see MacLaren get a high-profile behind-the-camera feature film gig soon.
Corrections—My bad for a few rather amateurish mistakes. The “Blackfish” is NOT Petyr Baelish, and Jamie is Joffrey’s father, of course, not his brother. I owe myself a public flogging for those two.