Last week, Game of Thrones fans across the world screamed with joy as one of the most deplorable characters in the show met an unpleasant end and effectively changed the tide in the war for the Iron Throne. While this week's episode, “Breaker of Chains” fails to reach the level of excitement that last week's “The Lion and the Rose” achieved, it sets the stage for something much bigger and leaves viewers drooling for more. As you might expect, this review contains MAJOR spoilers from the fourth season of Game of Thrones. If you are a believer in the “ignorance is bliss” idea and prefer to wait until you've caught up on the first three seasons, stop reading now.
King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) is dead, but the residents of King's Landing remain understandably indifferent toward his passing. Cersei (Lena Headey) mourns for her fallen son, while her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) attempts to rekindle their incestuous romance. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) sits in his cell awaiting trial for Joffrey's murder, convinced that this might be the end for him. Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann) continue to clash, while Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) makes a hasty escape from King's Landing with Dontos (Tony Way). Her timely departure from the city and its deceitful inhabitants turns out to be the work of Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen), who has Dontos killed. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) clues in his fellow Night's Watch brothers about the looming Wildling threat as Sam Tarly (John Bradley) escorts his Wildling friend Gilly to safety. Across the world, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) continues her journey to Meereen, where she hopes to free the countless slaves there.
Now that we're three episodes deep in the show's fourth season, it's become quite clear that the showrunners are upping the game in every way. The stakes are higher, the death toll is increasing, and the drums of war are beginning to beat. “Breaker of Chains” focuses heavily on the aftermath of Joffrey's death, a decision that both helps and hinders it. On one hand, the showrunners had to follow up with Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, and everyone else directly affected by the young king's demise. On the other hand, though, this focus sucks some of the energy (and time) out of the other character arcs that need and warrant expansion. Since the last half of last week's episode pretty much discouraged any further nuptials in Westeros, it would have been great to see more of other popular characters, such as Daenerys and Jon Snow. So much time has been spent at King's Landing that it's time to see more of Arya, the Hound, and others who have such engaging story lines that need to be explored.
All in all, though, the fourth season of Game of Thrones stuns and entertains at every turn, delivering an entertainment experience that is tough to top. Sure, this week's episode turns out to be a bit of a letdown in terms of structure and execution, but it still boasts some incredible writing and a handful of gorgeous set pieces. So really, there's no huge problem here.
Be sure to drop back by next week for our review of the season's fourth episode, “Oathkeeper.”
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