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!