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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Breaker of Chains” (S4, E3)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Breaker of Chains” (S4, E3)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 4, Episode 3: “Breaker of Chains”

Original Air Date: April 20th, 2014
Director: Alex Graves
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

There is much to love about this episode, “Breaker of Chains,” but it contains the show’s most controversial scene, which is arguably also its worst. Before we take our normal look at some of the best moments from the fourth season’s third episode, we can’t ignore what happened between Jaime and Cersei in the Sept of Baelor.

Considering only what appears on screen—and not how it was explained by the show’s creators after air—it was rape. Plain and simple: Jaime raped Cersei beside Joffrey’s dead body (and if you don’t believe us, read our own Managing Editor Alicia Lutes’ explanation why). I know that’s not what the director, writers, or actors meant to convey. They meant for it to be complicated and disturbing, but ultimately consensual.

There are a few physical actions they point to to defend themselves: Cersei wraps her legs around him, kisses him back at one point, and grips the table, but they failed. Because without any explanation it’s sexual assault. She constantly says “stop” and “don’t” throughout, and Jaime keeps responding with “I don’t care.” Whatever they meant to accomplish here they screwed up.


From a purely story telling perspective it really hurts, possibly even kills, Jaime’s redemption arc, and it makes the strong Cersei appear needlessly weak. But on a bigger, more important scale, the fact they so callously handled the entire scene damaged the show with many viewers, who were rightfully angry with them for displaying such a horrible scene that didn’t service the story in any way. It felt gratuitous and that hurt many people on a personal level. It was a colossal mistake, probably the show’s biggest, and it was so easily avoidable.

Screwing up a story line (like everything happening in Dorne for example) is one thing, but showing a rape that you intended to be consensual sex is troubling on a deeper level. If a show as brilliantly executed as Game of Thrones, one with powerful female characters, fails to understand the problems of how sexual assault is often depicted on screen, the larger problem of how Hollywood handles rape is even more pronounced than some might want to acknowledge.

Believe me, I know this is not a conversation some fans of the show want to revisit, but it would be wrong to ignore it, because at the very least hopefully lots of television and film makers learned some very important lessons from the mistakes made here.

After hearing their explanations, I gave them the benefit of the doubt at the time that they made a mistake, and I still do, but I don’t fault anyone that decided this was no longer the show for them after this scene. It’s that bad.

The rest of the episode was the show at it’s normal, terrific self.

  • The great revelation that Littlefinger orchestrated the plan to have Joffrey murdered makes even more sense now, since we now know he also had Lysa Arryn kill her husband Jon, Robert’s Hand of the King. That it what put all of this in motion, because that led King Robert to go to Winterfell to ask Ned to be his new Hand. “Chaos is a ladder” to Littlefinger, but his climb has suddenly been stalled by the new King-in-the-North, Jon Snow, which makes Lord Baelish as dangerous to him as the Night’s King.


  • Tywin’s masterful manipulation of Tommen, right in front of his dead brother’s body, is one of Charles Dance’s best scenes (which is saying something since all of his scenes as Tywin are his best scenes). Recognizing that Joffrey’s death is probably seven blessings in disguise, he immediately begins molding Tommen into who he wants/needs him to be. Because a king that has the “wisdom” to listen to Tywin Lannister is just the kind of king Tywin wants. Tommen was kind and sweet, but far too impressionable, which is why he was so easily manipulated by the High Sparrow.


  • Tyrion’s murder of Tywin, which essentially put Cersei in charge, made it so Joffrey probably would have been a better short term leader for House Lannister in the immediate aftermath, which is weird to admit.


  • The Hound, who previously had taken great pride in not being a thief, steals silver from a man who took him and Arya into his home and gave them both food and shelter. The Hound justifies his actions to a furious Arya by saying the man will be dead soon, and dead men don’t need silver. When she says he’s the “worst shit in the Seven Kingdoms,” he responds with one of the best lines in the series, and maybe the best advice Arya ever received.

“There’s plenty worse than me. I just understand the way things are. How many Starks they got to behead before you figure it out?”


(He’s not wrong.)

  • This is where Ser Davos has the idea to appeal to the Iron Bank to support Stannis’ claim, which ends up working, giving them the money they need to hire men and ships. The growing fear about the crown’s debt—and therefore House Lannister’s huge potential problem—to the Iron Bank had been alluded to previously, and it seemed to finally blow up in their face when they decided to back Stannis, but there really hasn’t been much of a payoff to this story line. Yet. Because the Iron Bank will get repaid one way or another, and if Stannis is dead someone can take his place and fulfill his obligations, which include taking down House Lannister. Might they make an investment in the Dragon Market? I hear it’s on fire these days.


  • Tywin walks in on Oberyn’s orgy, and then offers an alliance of sorts to the Red Viper. Oberyn will be a judge in Tyrion’s trial, assuring “justice” is done, and he will be given a spot on the Small Council, as well as a “meeting” with his sister Elia’s murderer, The Mountain. Tywin wants to bring Dorne back into the fold, in part because he doesn’t totally trust the Tyrells, the Iron Islands are in open revolt, and there is a Wildling army marching on The Wall. However, it’s the last reason that matters most, because it’s the biggest threat Tywin and his family face.


“And in the East, a Targaryen girl has three dragons. Before long she will turn her eyes to Westeros. Only the Dornish managed to resist Aegon Targaryen and his dragons.”

  • Aegon actually conquered only six kingdoms; the Dornish staved him off (mainly by hiding and not being melted by dragonflame). It wasn’t until 187 years later when Dorne officially joined the rest of Westeros through marriage, when Prince Moran Martell married the sister of King Daeron II. Her name? Daenerys.


  • Speaking of Daenerys, the modern day one arrives at Meereen. This is episode three of season four—she won’t leave until the end of season six. (Strap in, y’all.)


I hate Meereen.

But what did you think of this episode, both the good and the very bad? Break your chains and tell us in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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