'Game Of Thrones' – The 10 Most Important Moments In 'Oathbreaker'

Game of Thrones' sixth season has been moving forward with the force and speed of a runaway freight train. HBO's flagship series, traditionally a lumbering and patient affair, has been burning story like gasoline and it has been all the better for it. "Oathbreaker," the third episode of the season, kept the fire bright. The show is officially barreling toward something, maybe a a final seventh season, and it's as good as it has ever been.

Now, let's run down the most important stuff that happened last night, shall we?

Resurrected and It Feels So Weird

Game of Thrones spawns think pieces like a family of rabbits spawns children and the main topic of tongue-clucking, disdainful conversation last week revolved around the show bringing Jon Snow back to life after having him stabbed to death by members of the Night's Watch in the season five finale. It was cheap, some argued, a reversal of the show's "nobody is safe" ethos. To watch how many people reacted to the events of "Home," you'd think showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decided to bring the deceased Lord Commander back on a whim, to reverse his death as a newly thought-up twist.

"Oathbreaker" was a necessary pin that particular balloon. Game of Thrones has spent six seasons rewarding patience and providing slow-burning pay-offs and you'd think the internet would be better at not instantly judging each and every one of the show's decisions by now. Jon Snow didn't die and get brought back to life because the writers and producers changed their minds – Jon Snow died and came back to life so the series could explore the implications of that situation, to see how such a monumental supernatural event would change the psyche of Jon and the people in his life. Jon coming back from beyond the grave with a little aid from Melisandre's "one true god" isn't a twist. It's the next step forward for a character on a crash course with destiny. It's all part of the plan.

In the earliest scenes of "Oathbreaker," we were able to see this plan at work. Jon came back from "nothing." He's traumatized by his death, shell-shocked that his own men would murder him. As Tormund Giantsbane informs him, some of the wildlings have started to wonder if he's a god...although Jon's bearded buddy cuts through any potential treacle with a well-timed dick joke. This is Jon's new status quo. Someone hit the reset button on his very existence and now he's got to deal with what that means for him. And as we learn later in the episode, it has sent him down a new and completely different path as a character.

The Tower of Joy, Part One

The first of Bran's big psychic flashbacks took us to a pleasant scene: Eddard Stark and his brother Benjen train in Winterfell, while the oft-discussed but never-before-seen Lyanna Stark makes her grand appearance. As expected, that scene was all about orienting us for something darker and more important. Nothing nice happens on Game of Thrones unless it's secretly establishing the foundation for something horrible.

And then "Oathbreaker" took us back to the end of Robert's Rebellion, to the Tower of Joy (although it's not specifically called that on the show), the Dornish keep where three members of the Targaryen Kingsguard are guarding the abducted Lyanna Stark. The war is all but over. The Mad King is dead. Rhaegar Targaryen fell to Robert Baratheon's warhammer at the Battle of the Trident. But these three knights, led by the legendary swordsman Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, aren't backing down. Ned and his four companions, including Howland Reed, the father to Meera and Jojen, will have to fight their way to Robert's betrothed. They'll have to fight their way to Ned's sister.

Because this battle is between five young soldiers and three knights specifically chosen to protect the interests of the Targaryen dynasty, it's an unfair and nasty fight. Most of Ned's allies fall and he faces certain death at the hands of Arthur Dayne, who only perishes because Howland Reed ambushes from behind. It's Game of Thrones at its best. This encounter, which Bran has heard about before, isn't a romantic battle between worthy opponents, but a dirty and brutish affair that ended with one of the greatest knights in Westerosi history being felled by a sneak attack.

Then Ned hears screams coming from the tower and he heads toward the steps and...the Three-Eyed Raven decides that Bran has seen enough for the day. It's a maddening moment. Fans have long speculated about what's inside the Tower of Joy (and this season has seemingly been confirming it step-by-step) but Benioff and Weiss are just bastard enough to hold it back from us. We got an excellent sword fight and our first proper snapshot of Robert's Rebellion that wasn't an extended monologue, but any ground-shaking revelations will have to wait for another episode.

Varys Does What He Does Best

While the Westeros storylines have never moved faster, action in Meereen continued at a slow pace this week. That may be appropriate, as the men and women currently trying to govern the city in Daenerys' stead still have no idea how to approach the debacle that is everything about this place. Although he gets little of actual consequence to do, Tyrion Lannister gets to provide the episode with some much-needed levity, trying to get to know Grey Worm and Missandei over a drinking game where his companions aren't drinking. As expected, watching the affable and sly Tyrion try to understand and get along with Dany's oh-so-serious advisors is a lot of a fun and a reminder of just how strange it is to see the Imp hanging out on this side of the world. He's not gelling with anyone else, but that's the point. He sticks out like a sore thumb and it's delightful.

The real action in Meereen this week was pulled off by Game of Thrones' secret weapon: Varys the spider, who promises a Sons of the Harpy collaborator a new life and a bagful of silver if she gives up the goods about whomever is footing the bill for the Masters' little resistance army. Since season one, this clean-shaven spymaster has been one of the most effective characters on the show, a fascinating and enigmatic spymaster whose greatest weapon is his tongue, a man who is powerful because of what he chooses to not say. He's the perfect companion for the brash Tyrion and it's a genuine pleasure to watch him work. Unlike so much of Game of Thrones' cast, he doesn't exude menace. He's not powered by emotion or a desire for personal power. He's pragmatic. He approaches every situation with one goal in mind: how does this fix my problem and make things better for everyone? He is, strangely enough, the most selfless player in the entire game.

Daenerys Inches Toward...Something

For the first time since season two ("Where are my dragons!?"), Daenerys Targaryen seems a little lost. To be fair, there was some momentum in her storyline this week – we made our grand return to Vaes Dothrak and she finally met up with the Dosh Khaleen, the group of widows of former former Khals who will decide her fate. You may remember that Dany had to devour a horse's heart in front of this group back in season one to gain their approval. Now, she has to earn their approval once again, or something will happen to her.

However, Dany is currently falling victim to the one-scene curse, the term I just made up for a Game of Thrones character whose storyline is minor enough that an episode can only spend one scene with them before moving on to other places where things are actually happening. It's not clear when Daenerys will actually matter again, or when Daario and Jorah will arrive and help her matter again. At this point, she's hanging out so far on the fringes of the action that it's not clear why we should care about what's going on with her. Well, beyond the fact that we like Daenerys and don't want anything horrible to her. Still, with the action moving at an unprecedented rate in other locales, it's a little frustrating to watch the most powerful character on the entire series not matter. Knowing Game of Thrones, we're heading toward some kind of major pay-off, but the show is taking its sweet time getting there.

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Samwell and Gilly Are on a Boat

In season five, Samwell Tarly, Gilly, and baby Sam departed the Wall and headed out on a road trip to Oldtown, so he could train at the Citadel to become a maester and she could get as far away as possible from the scoundrels of the Night's Watch. It only took three episodes, but we finally caught up with this adorable trio and they're on a boat. The one-scene curse strikes again!

To be fair, seeds of information for future events are planted here. Samwell informs his part-time girlfriend that women are not allowed at the Citadel, so she'll have to crash at his family's castle, Horn Hill. While Samwell has nice things to say about his mother, he dodges the topic of his father and we know why. As you may remember from season one, Randyll Tarly gave his craven oldest son a choice: join the Night's Watch so his younger brother could become heir to Horn Hill or find himself the victim of an "accident." Samwell chose and here we are. In other words, Samwell is about to get his Harry Potter on and Gilly is about to go spend some time with a genuine bastard and a half, a man whose abilities as a soldier and commander (he was one of the few generals to wage successful war against Robert's forces in the rebellion) are matched only by the disdain he feels for his weak son.

Also, in true Samwell Tarly fashion, he spends the entirety of this scene vomiting in a bucket. The poor guy will never catch a break.

The Lannisters v the Small Council: Dawn of Awkward

These past few episodes have seen Jaime and Cersei Lannister come together in a unified front and "Oathbreaker" allowed us to see this front in action. For the first time since the first season, Westeros' most cunning brother/sister duo are fully on the same page and entirely united in their goals and they are one creepy, compelling, and intimating sight. While Qyburn, their personal mad scientist, takes control of Varys' network of "little birds," they storm a meeting of the Small Council with their Frankenstein monster of a bodyguard in tow. And here, we meet their opposition: Kevan Lannister, the current Hand of the King and father to religious zealot Lancel; Olenna Tyrell, who is still working to get her grandchildren out of church jail; Grand Maester Pycelle, who still doesn't approve of Qyburn's presence in the Red Keep; and Mace Tyrell, the ineffective bumbler who wouldn't know which way to look unless someone with a little more power gives him some marching orders.

This council is a shadow of its former self. There's no Tywin, no Varys, no Tyrion, no Littlefinger. This is a competent group, perhaps even the group you'd want in peacetime, but it's not the dream team you'd want assembled against Team Twincest, who are going to stop at nothing to get what they want now that they're down to one kid and their last drops of true power. If you back a Lannister into a corner, he's bound to push a kid off a tower or strangle a cousin with a chain. Cersei and Jaime are people who get what they want, rules be damned. There is no way these people stand in their way. The council has a Hand of the King pin. Jaime and Cersei have a Mountain. Watching these two wheel and deal their way through the hornet's nest of King's Landing has been one of season six's most unexpected pleasures.


King Tommen and the High Sparrow Have a Moment

Earlier this season, poor, young, innocent, and wholly ineffective King Tommen sat down with mommy and asked for help. How does a lion cub learn to be a lion? Simple: you take lessons from the lioness who has made murdering and scheming into a way of life.

For a moment, it looked like Tommen had taken Cersei's way of life to heart. He marches into the heart of High Sparrow HQ with a team of guards and demands the release of his wife. However, Westeros' unlikely religious leader doesn't respond well to threats and he's certainly not one to engage in violence. Instead, he once again proves himself to be the most honest guy this side of Jon Snow, one of the only people in Westeros who actually means what he says and does what he says he will do. Even when his actions are monstrous, even when his beliefs fly against modern concepts of right and wrong, the High Sparrow does not lie or cheat and scheme. He's a true believer.

When the High Sparrow talks, Tommen listens. The King of Westeros dismisses his guards and listens to this old man explain his reasoning. He soaks in his message of kings needing to humble themselves before all that is holy, that no powerful man is above the will of the gods. And Tommen, soft, putty-like Tommen, seemingly takes it all in. The brashness melts away. The anger dissipates. He doesn't say so, but his face seems to suggest that he...agrees with him? Tommen's greatest strength is that he's a good person, but his greatest weakness is that he's a good person. He listens to all sides. He sees different points of view. And there is no way in hell he's getting Margaery Tyrell out of captivity if he can't even stand tall against an old man who can barely stand at all. This looks like a job for Jaime and Cersei. The king sure as hell isn't going to get it done.

Arya Gets Her Eyes Back

While the rest of the Essos crew stagnated a bit this week, Arya's storyline did something that Game of Thrones simply doesn't do: it leapt forward. And it didn't just leap forward: it leapt forward through a montage. Wisely realizing that we can only take so much of blind Arya getting beaten up by the assassins of the House of Black and White, "Oathbreaker" allowed Arya to get good at her Daredevil routine through a training montage, climaxing with Jaquen H'ghar asking for her name one more time. When Arya gives him the right answer ("no one") and willingly drinks the assassin school Kool-Aid, her eyesight is returned. Now we're cooking.

It's still unclear where Arya's storyline is going at this point and that's so much of the thrill here. Be denouncing her identity, she is finally ready to become a Faceless Man, to be a tool wielded by the followers of the Many-Faced God. The big question now is in which direction the weapon formerly known as Arya Stark will be aimed. After all, there are a few troublesome politicians in Westeros. There is a problematic leader over in Meereen. Arya is certainly on a collision course with someone. But whom?

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Rickon, Osha, and Another Dead Direwolf

"Oathbreaker" stopped by Winterfell for one very, very eventful scene. Let's run down everything of importance that transpired in our five minutes with Ramsay Snow, shall we?

First: Harald Karstark is still sitting on Ramsay's side, the new toadie to the most monstrous bully the North has ever seen.

Second: We meet Smalljon Umber, head of House Umber, and he has little love for the new Warden of the North. This is our first time meeting the Smalljon, but you may remember his father, Greatjon Umber, the northern bannerman from season one who actually grew to respect Robb after Grey Wind ate his fingers. Although the character never returned thanks to a failure to negotiate with the actor offscreen, his son has now stepped in and he wants House Bolton help defend them against the wildling threat. However, he makes this request while refusing to bend the knee and being a hilariously insulting jackass. He is very much his father's son.

Third: Smalljon Umber offers Ramsay Bolton a gift in the form of Osha and Rickon Stark, who vanished into the wilderness at the end of season three after Bran and company decided to head north of the Wall. This puts House Bolton in a most powerful position. By holding the heir to Winterfell, they wield the most powerful bargaining chip imaginable.

Fourth: Shaggydog is dead. R.I.P., Shaggydog.

We know from last season that certain houses are still loyal to the Starks and that the North remembers and that these ancient families won't easily forgive the Boltons for their actions at the Red Wedding. The question now is whether or not House Karstark and House Umber will change their tune when they learn that a certain Stark bastard has left his post at Castle Black.

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Jon Snow Executes His Enemies, Takes a Hike

What does a man do when he's brought back to life following his own murder? He executes his murderers, of course. Alliser Thorne and his fellow mutineers, including young Olly, met their end this week. Once again, Jon Snow proved himself to be very much a man raised by Eddard Stark – he passed the sentence and he swung the sword. Like that, Jon's main antagonist at Castle Black since season one endured a short drop and a sudden stop. Like that, young Olly got what was coming to him. Like that, there was no one left to stand in Jon's way.

But what is left for Jon at Castle Black, anyway? A job he can't stomach? Men who are willing to stab him in the back? A war with the undead that he knows he can't win? Jon Snow died. He literally died. His watch ended. He fulfilled his oath. He doesn't need this anymore. So he hands his cloak to Edd, the last friendly face in the entire Night's Watch at this point, and takes off. And this is why Jon Snow had to die. This was the only way he could escape Castle Black, the only way he could march south toward a cause that actually needs him, a cause that will appreciate him, a cause that will actually matter when the White Walkers arrives.

Jon Snow was a dead man walking before he was killed. Everyone at the Wall was as good as killed by wights. But Jon is free of his oaths and free to pursue other goals. After all, he has an army of wildlings loyal to him. And there's some bastard sitting in his family's castle.

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Spoiler Corner

Random speculation and book spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.

  • Two new pieces of evidence support the awesomely wacky "Cleganebowl" theory this week. First, Cersei makes it clear that she will demand a trial by combat (as is the Lannister way) against the High Sparrow and that Gregor Celgane will fight on her behalf. Second, Arya is asked about Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, who we last saw dying at the end of season four. Since textual evidence suggests that the younger Clegane is alive and living amongst the monks on the Quiet Isle (a subplot that Brienne should run into soon enough) and will step up to battle his brother on behalf of the gods, this was actually a very shrewdly placed reminder of his existence and supposed fate.
  • Like in the books, the only other survivor of the skirmish at the Tower of Joy is Howland Reed, which means that the father of Meera and Jojen is the only living person who knows what was in that tower...and knows that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Suddenly, Meera's role in the series is clear – she's going to have to take Bran and company to her father to expose this vital truth to the world.
  • I touched on this above, but I have a hard time believing that both House Umber and House Karstark are both going to embrace House Bolton. With House Manderly cut from the show, surely one of these two families is secretly plotting against Ramsay, working alongside him and waiting for the right moment to strike. The Umbers seem less likely since they just handed over Rickon like a sack of valuable meat, but Harald Karstark has been too quiet and too eager to please. It's almost as if he's waiting for just the right moment.
  • The book and show timelines have diverged wildly at this point, but the last time we saw Book Samwell, he was heading straight toward Oldtown just as Euron Greyjoy was planning to assault the city. Since we met Euron earlier this season, does this mean poor Sam is sailing for a world of hurt?