GAME OF THRONES: Season 6, Episode 3 ‘Oathbreaker’

PrintE-mail Written by Hayden Mears

Following the last episode's soul-stirring final scene, this week's Game of Thrones, titled Oathbreaker, finds itself with some big, blood-caked shoes to fill. Not only would it need to immediately address the aftermath of such a scene, but it would also need to lay the groundwork for the inevitable battle that will probably serve as the season capper. Luckily, it accomplishes both with aplomb. Now that showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have settled into their roles as this season's sole source of written material, they're both more confident, more assured in their direction. It's not a perfect episode by any stretch, but it boasts the same competence that bolstered some of their best work. Not to be confused with the Season 4 episode, similarly titled, Oathkeeper, this propulsive third hour of an otherwise lackluster sixth season single-handedly restores Game of Thrones to its former glory, slamming viewers with stunning revelations, gripping character arcs, and some truly fantastic setup that spells good news for this season and for the show as a whole.

Oathbreaker spends an exhaustive amount of time setting up what's to come, but that's preferable compared to the constant fan service that has crippled this season so far. The showrunners gave us too much too soon in the first two episodes, completely undoing the show's long-standing tradition of delaying big payoffs until the last two or three episodes. It's almost as if they couldn't wait to put certain characters back into play, never fully realising that hurrying off to some earth-shattering reveal defeats the underlying purpose of a payoff. Fortunately, they slam on the brakes when they need to and ensure that viewers are picking up on what they're putting down, a smart move considering their blunders with the first two episodes.

Sluggish pace aside, the episode packs in some great exposition, including a flashback involving a young, battle-ready Ned Stark going up against a couple of armor-clad Targaryen soldiers. The scene's as bloody and as tense as longtime fans could have hoped for, but it's the significance to the overarching plot that really sells this unforgivably short but undeniably sweet sequence. What's more, this glimpse at what once was actually clues viewers in on what's to come. And yes, we're talking about Jon Snow's true parents. As the show inches closer to its highly-anticipated, heavily-theorised revelation about the Stark bastard's parentage, the tension at Castle Black builds to its breaking point, suggesting a correlation between those flashbacks and the happenings at Night's Watch HQ. Regardless of what the actual secret turns out to be, the journey there has been one of the most exciting, most talked-about aspects of the show.

Oathbreaker marks a significant spike in quality for Game of Thrones and its struggling sixth year, cementing itself as the best episode since last year's phenomenal Hardhome. Granted, it's not bereft of issues, but it blends action, humour, and exposition well enough that even the biggest sticklers will enjoy themselves at least a bit.

Next week's episode is titled, Book of the Stranger, and will air on Monday, May 16th on Sky Atlantic. As always, stay tuned into STARBURST for everything you need to satisfy your Game of Thrones fix, and check back next week for a review of the next episode!


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