Updated: 20th April 2018

Game of Thrones recap: season six, episode three Oathbreaker

Families are shaken up and characters forced to face some bitter truths, in an episode with a welcome shift in pace

Spoiler alert: this blog is published after Game of Thrones airs on HBO in the US on Sunday night and on Foxtel in Australia on Monday afternoon. Do not read unless you have watched season six, episode two, which airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm, and is repeated in Australia on Showcase on Monday, at 7.30pm AEST.

My watch is ended

Ive long argued that this show is at its best when it takes the time to slow down. So it proved with this smart, slow-burner of an episode, which advanced a number of plotlines while still thrumming with the threat of deep unpleasantness to come.

It was also an episode concerned with the gap between the stories we want to hear, and the bleak reality. Thus Jons resurrection should have been a moment of joy but instead was something darker and more complicated, with the man himself acknowledging that he shouldnt be alive. Like Olly, Jon too once dreamed of vengeance for his family, and as he gazed into the dead boys blue and swollen face it was obvious he was haunted by the parallels between them.

Those parallels were further reinforced by the episodes title, which was both a nod to season fours Oathkeeper in which Jon first taught Olly how to defend himself as a young Nights Watch recruit and a reference to the closing moments in which Jon, having hanged the men who killed him (and only in Game of Thrones would I ever get to write a sentence like that), renounced his time as Lord Commander of the Nights Watch, breaking his oath to his sworn brothers in the process.

What now for our man of the furrowed brow and minimalist way with words? Its possible that he just wants to have some time out, to come to terms with his unexpected resurrection and who would blame him but Id say a return home to Winterfell must be on the cards.

Speaking of which, poor Stannis will be spinning in whatever grave he lies in all he ever wanted was Jon Snow to quit the Nights Watch and give him legitimacy in the North.

And now it begins No, now it ends

Jon wasnt the only one learning some bitter truths. Bran headed back in time, on what is proving a hugely enjoyable vision quest: it should be the rule of all such TV moments that Max Von Sydow and his beautiful voice guide you through the past with cryptic statements like the past is already written, the ink is dry.

The story of the Tower of Joy and what happened outside it is one of the most iconic moments in the books, so powerful on the printed page that its hard to do it justice on screen. That said, the fight scene between Ser Arthur Dayne the Sword of the Morning, the finest knight in the land and Rhaegar Targaryens best friend and poor, outclassed Ned Stark was wonderfully done. Not least because of the dawning recognition on Brans face that there are the stories you learn from your family and then there is the bleak, brutish reality.

This wasnt the heroic story Bran had heard at his fathers knee, and Ned Stark didnt defeat Arthur Dayne because he was the better swordsman or even because he got lucky. Instead Howland Reed, father of Meera and Jojen, stabbed the Sword of the Morning in the throat from behind. They stabbed him in the back, said an anguished Bran, and it was hard not to imagine the last vestige of his childhood dreams crumbling to dust.

Similar issues were dogging Dany in Vaes Dothrak as she slowly realised that there are many stories of wives to great Khals and many tales of conquest, and they all seem to end the same way: with the men dead in their blood on the Dothraki plains, and the women serving out their days in the Dosh Khaleen. For Dany, even that cold fate may no longer be a possibility if I were her Id be anxiously scanning the skies for Drogon right now.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. Photograph: HBO

A wise man once said that the true history of the world is the history of great conversations in elegant rooms

Or in the case of Cersei Lannister, threatening conversations in dimly lit rooms.

The elder Lannister siblings made a bid to regain power this week, bringing out their Uncle Kevans inner teenager in the process (We cant make you leave but you cant make us stay). It was all hugely entertaining, although I cant help wondering how much governing is actually going on here if the Small Council flounce off at the first sign of trouble. Tywin Lannister would never have stood for this no wonder the High Sparrow is tightening his grip by the day.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. Photograph: HBO

Still, at least one of Tywins relatives understands the basics of governance, as Tyrion and Varys continue to sort out Danys mess in Meereen. The problem with Meereen is that given Danys wider plan is to conquer Westeros, there is always the nagging sense that the people here are doomed. Eventually their current rulers will move on and theyll be prey to the Good Masters of Astapor, Yunkai and Volantis once again.

By trying to install stability and a spy network, are Tyrion and Varys really doing anything more than prolonging the inevitable? Will the people of Meereen pay the price for being Danys warm-up city before she hits Kings Landing? To be honest if it wasnt for the fact that the Sons of the Harpy were largely a bunch of aristocrats annoyed that they lost their slaves, Id say they have a good point …

Additional thoughts

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark Photograph: HBO

  • I was quite enjoying the straight-talking Smalljon Umber until he turned out to be a treacherous sod who was prepared to do business with Ramsay. I understand why he wants the deal, but at the same time I really cant bear for this season to descend into another Ramsay Bolton-tortures-a-Stark storyline. Im still hoping that this is part of an elaborate anti-Bolton revenge plot, although the dead Direwolf doesnt fill me with hope.
  • Conleth Hill continues to be one of the best things on this show his little interrogation scene was a cruel joy.
  • Also on good form this season: Nikolaj Coster-Waldaus Jaime, who like the rest of us is clearly doing his best to forget that last season in Dorne ever happened.
  • Poor old Melisandre seems to have had her faith knocked a bit by Jons statement that he didnt see anything while dead. As someone who was raised Catholic I feel her pain: the afterlifes all we had to cling to as well, Mel.
  • I may have to start a Save Prince Tommen fund at this rate. The poor boy tried hard this week but hes easy prey for just about every other character in Kings Landing.
  • Hey Sam and Gilly, nice to see you. Im pretty sure this plan of going to your parents wont work out well though, Sam. This is Game of Thrones, where any invocation of family inevitably leads to death, destruction or, at best, bitter disappointment and despair.
  • While Im not a huge fan of Aryas training, Maisie Williams sold the hell out of her scenes this week She sounds confused; She was. Oh Arya, you break my heart.
  • Hurrah for Lord Commander Edd Tollett. May your watch be a good one (or at least go better than it did for the last two holders of the post).
  • Where is Littlefinger? How long can it take one man to master a new accent? I miss his cryptic comments on how to rule/destroy the world.

Violence count

One incredible and brutal fight between Ned Stark, Howland Reed and Ser Arthur Dayne culminating in the shocking death of Ser Arthur, the prolonged training through beating of Arya Stark, one flayed man to remind us that Ramsay is just not nice and four sworn brothers of the Nights Watch hanged by their Lord Commander, who had somewhat inconveniently returned from the dead.

Nudity Count

A brief glimpse of Danys back as she was stripped by the Dosh Khaleen. (Look, we take our pleasures where we can these days.)

Random Brit of The Week

Did the man playing Ser Arthur Dayne seem familiar? Thats because he was Luke Roberts, best known to fans of long-running medical soap operas as Holby Citys troubled, OCD-suffering surgeon Joseph Byrne.

Did the slower pace work for you? What did you think about the Tower of Joy scene? Can Qyburn and Cersei continue to control Ser Gregorstein? And on a scale of terrible things that happen to the Stark family, where one is Ned getting his head chopped off and ten is the Red Wedding, how bad do things look for Osha and Rickon right now? As ever: all speculation and no spoilers are welcome below (discussion of the trailers count as spoilers, as not everyone watches them and Ive had a number of complaints)

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us