The king is dead, long live the king. The third episode of this series of Game of Thrones focused on the fallout of Joffrey's shocking if immensely satisfying death by looking at what it takes to survive in the world of Westeros. Impressively managing to visit almost every important character, Breaker of Chains might not have had a standout scene to rival 'The Purple Wedding', but it did provide some fascinating exchanges as the fourth series starts to take shape.
Like the mythical hydra, it appears if one Lannister is killed another springs in its place. Now Joffrey's brother Tommen takes the throne, and is given his first real lines as grandfather Tywin immediately begins teaching the new king how to rule, or be ruled.
Sweet-natured and sharp-minded, it's almost impossible to imagine Tommen as the sibling of Joffrey. After Tywin asks what the most important quality of a king is, the boy works out it is wisdom. As his grandfather coldly states, "Your brother was not a wise king. Your brother was not a good king. If he had been, perhaps he'd still be alive". Perhaps he's right, but its testament to just how much of a pragmatic and ruthless individual Tywin is that he immediately exploits the regicide as a chance to assert his grip on the Iron throne.
All these remarks are made right by the corpse of Joffrey in the Sept and the grieving Cersei by his side, before in the episode's most disturbing moment Jaime turns his sorrow into lust by raping Cersei right by the dead son the two created. But Cersei's hatred is aimed squarely at her other brother Tyrion, who she is adamant poisoned her son.
It's of course not the first time Tyrion has been accused of trying to kill a child, with Caitlin Stark locking him up in the Eyrie after believing he pushed her son Bran out of a window. His imprisonment reveals how few friends he has, with Cersei turning the city against him, and his own father Tywin standing as his judge, jury and most likely executioner.
A potential thorn in the Lannister lord's side is the Martells. Oberyn might declare in another sexposition scene that, "When it comes to love I don't choose sides," but outside of the bedroom he is firmly against House Lannister. Tywin follows the old adage of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer by asking him to be one of the judges to Tyrion's trial, for as he remarks to Oberyn, the main threats to the Seven Kingdoms now are Daenerys in the east and the wildlings in the north.
It's a shame the layered wildling characters such as Tormund and Ygritte have now been joined by the one-dimensional Thenns, a sort of Westeros Uruk-hai hell-bent on eating everyone south of the wall. At least we still have Gilly, who even manages to flirt with Sam in this episode. But everything is less than rosy between the two, when well aware that she could fall victim to the lusts of some members of the Night's Watch, Sam puts her up in an inn down south.
Playing the Game
Arya continues to learn some important life lessons from The Hound as the two stop by a farmstead in the Riverlands. The farmer offers the two bread and board and says that he'll pay them, "A fair price for fair work".
But The Hound immediately betrays him and steals their silver, much to Arya's annoyance. "You're the worst s**t in the Seven Kingdoms," she yells at him. His response is equally brilliant:
"I just understand the way things are. How many Starks have they got to behead before you work it out."
One Stark who has yet to understand the way things are is Sansa. You'd think after having her mother, father and brother killed she'd realise there is no one you can trust, but she is once again shocked when after being escorted from King's Landing to a misty merchant ship by Ser Dontos, he is killed by Littlefinger.
Ser Dontos, it turns out, was no chivalric knight trying to save her, but a drunken mercenary cashing in Sansa for some silver. But if there's one person you should not trust in all of Westeros, its Petyr Baelish. As he notes to Sansa, "Money buys a man silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever".
Whilst the voyage of Daenerys, conquering slave city after slave city, is getting pretty repetitive, we did see a great action set piece as her army made its way to the gates of Mereen.
Credit to the sumptuous VFX work here that brings a truly epic scale to the Pyramid-populated slave city. It's all too obvious that the cheeky Daario Naharis would step forward as her champion, and in a duel reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark, cancels out the Mereen fighter's showboating by throwing a knife to his chest.
Daenerys shows her true wisdom as a ruler by using her words as a weapon against the city. Directly addressing the slaves by saying she has come here to liberate them, she then uses her siege engines to send a symbolic message as barrel after barrel of broken chains is lobbed in to the city. Now there is someone who knows how to rule and inspire the people.