In “Breaker of Chains,” the third episode of season four of HBO’s Game of Thrones, everything is running amok in Westeros, North beyond the Wall, and Meereen. Things were never sweet, but they sure are sour. The long overdue death of the king has created a power vacuum, and the many players of the Game are scrambling to realign themselves with the next ruler.

This episode, unlike last week’s, featured tons of characters, all in transition, going somewhere or running like hell from someone or something. For other basic recaps of what went down, go here, here, here, and here. Needless to say, there will be spoilers if you read on.

Image of a character from the novel A Game of Thrones called Eddard Stark. He is holding a sword about to behead a man with the quote: "The man who passes the sentence shall swing the sword."

The quote above from Eddard Stark, former Lord of Winterfell (R.I.P.), seems quaint compared to the hard realities his children are facing. Eddard was no fool; he ruled with a clear sense of right and wrong. His idea of leadership included responsibility for the choices he made, even if it required sacrifice and pain.

Perhaps Eddard’s ways are dead. Both Sansa and Arya struggle to reconcile the values from their upbringing with basic SURVIVAL. Ser Dontos, playing the role of the Fool, helps Sansa escape post-poisoning.

Littlefinger smugly informs her in his raspy whispers that he is the hero, not Ser Dontos.

Two characters from the novel A Game of Thrones. A man named Littlefinger whispering to a young woman with the quote: "Shhh, shhh, now. Don't freak out."Two characters from the novel A Game of Thrones. A man named Littlefinger whispering to a young woman with the quote: "Hello, Sansa. Welcome to my secret murder ship."Two characters from the novel A Game of Thrones. A man named Littlefinger whispering to a young woman with the quote: "Things are going to get much creepier from here."

Ser Dontos was just a convenient pawn, expendable now that Sansa is in Littlefinger’s arms (or clutches). Once aboard Littlefinger’s ship, Ser Dontos receives a shower of arrows as payment. What choice does Sansa have except to place her safety and future in Littlefinger’s hands? Knowing that everyone’s a liar and that danger lurks everywhere, Sansa’s choices are limited and leaving King’s Landing takes precedence over revulsion at Littlefinger’s methods.

Meanwhile, Arya and the Hound are on their way to the Eyrie where they come upon a simple farmer and his daughter. Arya wrangles shelter and dinner for the both of them (no thanks to the Hound’s manners). The farmer is clearly struggling with little food and a leaky roof and yet he still shares what he has.

With the offer of fair work for fair wages, the viewer might be led to think that the Hound could earn a few coins for some delicious roast chickens. Um, no. Arya wakes up the next morning to find the Hound mugging the farmer.

Despite Arya’s protestations, the Hound gives it to her plain and simple: the farmer and his daughter are not going to survive. Being “good” and “kind” will only open you up to harm.

A character named Arya, a young girl in the novel A Game of Thrones saying "You're the worst shit in the seven kingdoms."A character named the Hound saying to Arya, a young girl in the novel A Game of Thrones saying "Plenty worse than me."

Like Ser Dontos, they will never make it in the future Westeros. Fairly or not, this silences Arya as she and the Hound resume their journey, this time with a few more silver coins in their pockets. Roast chicken and wine, here we come!

Throughout the three seasons of the television series and the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, we see people try to cling to some basic sense of honor and decency (e.g., Jon, Samwell, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion). Leaders with a “top-view” may have some semblance of a moral and ethical code but much of that is a farce in the case of the Lannisters. Tyrion, in chains, finds out from his loyal squire Podrick Payne that his father among others are selected to judge him in his sham of a trial.

He learns that Varys has thrown his support to Cersei, acting as a witness for her, and that someone approached Podrick with an offer to betray Tyrion in exchange for a title. Tyrion sees the writing on the wall, especially knowing Cersei’s taste for vengeance. In a touching moment like the he had with Shae, Tyrion commands Podrick to get away from King’s Landing as soon as possible.

A character named Tyrion in the novel A Game of Thrones saying "Pod…there has never lived a more loyal squire."Image of Podrick, the loyal squire getting a little misty-eyed.Eddard’s ways are disappearing as are the godswoods throughout Westeros. No one was ever purely “good” or “bad,” but in these extreme times, these concepts are now useless to the remaining survivors in the Game.

Final thoughts and questions:

  • King’s Landing is no place for anyone who has a basic moral framework (e.g., Podrick).

  • According to Tywin, wisdom is in the eye of the beholder (or king).

A character named Tywin Lannister in the novel A Game of Thrones saying "What do they all lack?"A character named Tommen Lannister the novel A Game of Thrones saying "Wisdom." Tywin answers, "Yes!"

  • One man’s pirate is another man’s smuggler.

A character named Shireen in the novel A Game of Thrones saying "Weren't you a pirate once, Ser Davos?"A character named Ser Davos in the novel A Game of Thrones saying "Nah, I was a smuggler"

  • If everyone’s a liar, there is no ONE truth, just as there is no ONE king (or queen).
  • What is the point of being good anymore if it makes you weak and vulnerable?

  • If only the good are destined to die and fail in Westeros, who is left?

Hope I didn’t leave things on a too depressing note. See ya later this season!

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5 thoughts on “NOC Recaps Game of Thrones: Only the Good Die Young

  1. Good recap, friend. It turns out that we did well with having you take this week. I was so disturbed by the unconscionable and utterly unnecessary transformation of civilized Thenns to CANNIBALS that I probably need to rewatch this episode to catch what I missed. You see, my self-preservation instincts kicked in to throw brain bleach around inside my head after that ritually scarred demon told that poor little boy that his parents would become FOOD. I promptly forgot everything I watched when I saw what was turning over the fire on that spit. Aiiiieeeeeeeee! THAT WAS NOT IN THE BOOKS. HDU, SHOWRUNNERS.

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  2. Tywin is a bastard, but a compelling one. He strikes me as not so much malicious as ruthless. That might be splitting hairs, but it does make an important difference. We loved to hate Jeoffrey (sic?) but we secretly respect and admire Tywin. He’s basically Dr. Doom without the bluster.

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    1. You have a point, Shawn. If Tywin’s goal as a father is the keep his legacy alive and their power intact, he’s doing a great job. I think I tweeted earlier where I said “Tywin: worst father ever? Or just pragmatic?” He knows what’s necessary to rule even though it’s in sharp contrast w/ other leaders (e.g., Eddard, Stannis, Robert).

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