‘Game of Thrones’ 4.04 Recap: “You Want to Fight Pretty or You Want to Win?”

It would seem that the controversial scene in last week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ that got many fans all riled up has ultimately not led to much. This week’s new episode essentially brushes it aside.

The only repercussion Jaime suffers after raping his sister last week is that Cersei is pissed at him this week. But she’s been pissed at him ever since he returned to King’s Landing, so there’s really no net change to their relationship.

On the one hand (no pun intended), I have to remind myself that this story takes place in a fictional medieval society that has different cultural values and mores than ours. Human life in general holds less value there. While rape and incest are still regarded as serious crimes, they’re so prevalent and common that the characters have become desensitized to them. (That’s reiterated in a later scene involving the mutineers at Craster’s Keep.) Also, Jaime and Cersei have a very complex relationship that can’t be reduced to a simple dichotomy of good vs. bad. On the other hand, I’m a little disappointed that the show’s writers resorted to using rape as a cheap plot device for shock value without making an effort to explore the ramifications of that action – at least not so far.

In any case, Jaime goes to visit Tyrion in his dungeon cell and concludes that he doesn’t believe his brother killed Joffrey. He offers to help in any way he can, though he cannot simply set him free. Cersei isn’t too happy about this either.

Later, Jaime gives Brienne his Valyrian steel sword, a new suit of armor and a squire (Tyrion’s squire Podrick). Her tasks her to go find and protect Sansa. When asked what she will call the sword, Brienne names it “Oathkeeper” (also the title of the episode).

Speaking of Sansa, Baelish tells the girl that he’s bringing her to her aunt Lysa at the Eyrie, the same place the Hound is headed with Arya. Whether this is true, I guess we’ll find out later. Baelish basically admits to Sansa that he was involved in the conspiracy to kill Joffrey – as was she, albeit unwittingly. The poison was smuggled into King’s Landing in the necklace that he had Dontos give her. However, Dontos did not deliver the poison to Joffrey’s drink. Sansa reasons that Baelish is too smart to ever trust something so important to a drunk. When Sansa questions what Baelish’s motive for killing Joffrey was, he gives a grand speech about keeping his enemies off balance by not having something so obvious as a motive to do what he does. He also intimates that he has “new friends” backing his power play.

Cut immediately to the Tyrells. Lady Olenna likewise intimates to Margaery that she was behind Joffrey’s murder. She would never allow her granddaughter to be enslaved to that dreadful boy. Instead, she has already set plans in motion for Margaery to be wed to new king Tommen, and urges the girl to do her part in making that happen. As such, Margaery sneaks into Tommen’s bed chamber at night and begins the process of seducing him.

Across the Narrow Sea, Grey Worm is learning English (or whatever the primary language in this world is supposed to be). He and a small group of Unsullied sneak into the fortified city of Meereen to rally the slaves there. The next thing you know, Daenerys has conquered the city. Despite being counseled that mercy may be a wise course of action, she orders that the slave masters be crucified just as they had crucified young children on the road to the city. Daenerys has hardened, and is not interested in mercy.

At Castle Black, Jon Snow begins to train some of the lesser skilled Brothers how to fight, until he’s demoted back down to steward by Acting Commander Alliser, who thinks he’s a traitor and doesn’t believe his stories about Mance Rayder. However, Alliser is convinced to let Snow have his mission to attack the mutineers at Craster’s Keep, if only because he recognizes that Snow is growing popular with the men and may threaten him for leadership. He authorizes Snow to go, if he can recruit volunteers to go with him, under the assumption that no one would volunteer for what sounds like a suicide mission. Much to Alliser’s surprise, Snow gives a stirring speech and does recruit at least a handful of good men, including his new BFF, the ranger named Locke (Noah Taylor).

Up north at Craster’s Keep, the mutineers are led by the nasty Karl Tanner, who brags of drinking wine from Lord Commander Mormont’s skull (a skull would not actually make a very good cup – too leaky) and encourages his men to rape all of Craster’s sister-wives. When presented with Craster’s last infant son, he intends to kill it, until one of the wives informs him that Craster would leave his sons in the woods as a “gift to the gods” (the White Walkers). Tanner figures that it couldn’t hurt to do the same, and maybe get on the Walkers’ good side.

Bran Stark and his small group come across Craster’s Keep and recognize Jon Snow’s direwolf Ghost penned up in a cage. Acting as a warg, Bran sends his own wolf Summer to investigate closer, but the animal gets caught in a trap. Before they can do anything else, Bran and his friends are captured by the mutineers, who injure Hodor and force Bran to reveal his identity. It’s a good thing that Jon Snow is on his way to rescue them.

The episode ends with a White Walker picking up Craster’s baby in the woods and carrying it back to an altar made of ice, surrounded by other Walkers. A leader or perhaps zombie priest of some sort steps forward and, rather than kill the child, gently scratches its face, which immediately triggers an infection that turns the baby into one of their own. This must be how they multiply and build their zombie army.

All told, this is a pretty good episode, but one that lacks any major dramatic events in favor of setting the stage for bigger things to come.

16 comments

  1. Ryan

    “I have to remind myself that this story takes place in a fictional medieval society that has different cultural values and mores than ours. Human life in general holds less value there. While rape and incest are still regarded as serious crimes, they’re so prevalent and common that the characters have become desensitized to them.”
    This is basically my feeling on the whole thing. I didn’t think the scene was a big deal (in THAT world). Characters have done far worse. The only thing shocking about that scene is WHERE it took place.

  2. This was the first major episode this season that shows us how they will steady their crazy fast pace. Almost none of these scenes in this episode were in the books, which is awesome. I’m curious to see where they are going with the White Walkers. The books give us almost nothing in regards to who or what they are or what is going on with them at any point. I’m wondering if some of these characters are to be introduced in future books.

  3. Kyle

    A few things…

    1. It’s not supposed to be a rape, it’s supposed to be consensual, if a bit rough. The filmmakers were surprised last week by the audience reactions judging by what I’ve read.

    2. Locke is Lord Bolton’s man sent north to find Brand and Rickon, and IIRC kill them.

    3. You forgot to mention Ser Pounce, King’s Landing’s first pet.

    P.S> it’s Valyrian Steel.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Spelling corrected, thanks. And yes, I probably should have mentioned Ser Pounce. 🙂

      However, it’s a cop-out on the producers’ part to claim that the scene wasn’t supposed to be rape. It was clearly, indisputably rape. In fact, saying that it was supposed to be consensual is pretty offensive to actual rape victims.

      • Andrew

        I assumed it was his own (Jamie’s) as well. Figured Joffrey would be buried/interned with his. It wasn’t all that clear.

        • Kyle

          It was the sword that Tywin gave to Jaime in the first episode. Valyrian swords are too valuable to be buried with their owner’s, even if they were king. Widow’s Wail passes to Tommen. Ice was the sword of the Lord of Winterfell for more than 400 years. Brightroar was the ancestral sword of House Lannister, but it was lost with King Tommen II of The Rock, who sailed to Valyria and never returned.

  4. Timcharger

    Josh: “The only repercussion Jaime suffers after raping his sister last week is that Cersei is pissed at him this week.”

    I really don’t see it that way. Cersei is mad that Jaime hasn’t killed Tyrion yet.
    She’s mad that revenge hasn’t been served yet for her son’s death.

    The fact that the incident is ignored, suggest that the only disagreement she
    had is that she would have preferred the comfort of her Queen-Regent’s bed
    instead of the hard floor of the Sept.

    • Timcharger

      Josh: “I have to remind myself that this story takes place in a fictional medieval society that has different cultural values and mores than ours. Human life in general holds less value there. While rape and incest are still regarded as serious crimes, they’re so prevalent and common that the characters have become desensitized to them. (That’s reiterated in a later scene involving the mutineers at Craster’s Keep.)”

      It took you a week, but you’re coming to the right opinion of that incident.

  5. Timcharger

    Ice zombies.
    Great (sarcasm).

    Does every show on T.V. have to be about zombies? Yes, the earlier seasons
    already had them, and we knew they would be a major plot line. I’m just so
    less interested in the fantasy aspects of this world. The people aspects of
    this world are so much more interesting.

  6. Good episode. One thing that struck me as odd: Cersei calls Sansa ‘murderous’ (I’m paraphrasing here) and wants her brought to justice, yet she also believes Tyrion killed Joffrey. So who did it, according to her? Sansa or Tyrion?

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