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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
- One man’s pirate is another man’s 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!