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the recap recap

The Best of This Week’s Game of Thrones Recaps: ‘Breaker of Chains’

“In ‘Breaker of Chains,’ everyone is reassessing their relationships and trying to figure out who can be counted on,” writes Vulture recapper Nina Shen Rastogi. In the wake of the Purple Wedding, new titles were conferred, fingers pointed, and hidden machinations revealed. (Welcome back, Littlefinger!) This week, the critics debated the staying power of top dog Tywin Lannister and analyzed that scene. You know the one. Here is your recap of the recaps:

“Beaten, raped, kidnapped, tortured, widowed, belittled, ruthlessly ridiculed, dragged across the country, abandoned by their lovers, shot up with crossbows, stabbed in the uterus while pregnant, molested by their own fathers, literally hunted by dogs, made to marry men they barely know, made to marry men who are openly gay, made to marry men who are sociopaths, locked up in towers, forced to watch their families be slaughtered, and murdered at their brother’s weddings, the women of the Seven Kingdoms have seen and experienced just about any horror you can name. This isn’t to say that their male counterparts are let off easy: I still have nightmares about that maester cleaning Jaime’s bloody stump.” The New Republic

“It's looking pretty bleak until Davos heads to Shireen's chamber for his regularly scheduled reading lesson; and, while discussing The Life And Adventures Of Elyo Grivas, suddenly realizes the key to securing the gold necessary to hire an army. Who says home schooling doesn't work? (Side note: Is Davos planning to rob the Iron Bank, perhaps aided by a ragtag crew of Westerosi misfits? Because I am fully on board with that.)” —Previously.TV

“After the show devoted half of last week's episode to the wedding, 'Breaker of Chains' has some catching up to do, and we return to guided tour mode, bouncing all around Westeros, then stopping over in Essos, to see what most of the characters are up to, and how those who know of Joffrey's murder are reacting to it. Because of that plot thread, it doesn't feel as disjointed as the show sometimes can as it whips from place to place and character subset to character subset. And it helps that nearly everyone we see, whether they are aware of Joffrey's death or not, is in the midst of regrouping and figuring out how they will survive under circumstances that are changing rapidly.” HitFix

“Of course, Jaime’s rape of Cersei is 100 percent horrific, a bizarre turn of events that I understand is presented as a consensual encounter in the books. I’ll leave the larger, show-wide implications of the act to the Sonia Saraiya-penned For Our Consideration essay that it inspired; at the micro level, it’s an odd pockmark on an otherwise spotless episode. The attraction between the Lannister twins is a complicated issue, one the show could conveniently set aside when Jaime was away from the capital. But now that he’s returned, it gives Game Of Thrones another source of tension to play with, even if it’s one that always feels designed to shock, rather than to illuminate some inner truth about Cersei or Jaime or the world in which they live.” A.V. Club 

“The follow up to the bombast of the Purple Wedding, this episode is dark, violent and serious, and troubling in its resistance to answer questions and willingness to bring other elements into play in the murder of Joffrey. Team Throne Games are not holding back on the depths of human darkness this season, and they are deeply complicating the someone like Jaime, an incest rapist, a child maimer, a Kingslayer, but also the one chance to possibly save Tyrion (with regard to the rape scene, here is a great analysis over at Women and Hollywood). The writing is deft and jam-packed, with nuance and code and double speak hitting fast and furiously. Not a single line, no matter how tossed off it may seem, can be spared as everything is efficiently communicating or foreshadowing some element of the story. It’s honestly anyone’s game from here.” The Playlist

“Tywin lives for this stuff, and actor Charles Dance crackles while wielding fresh power over both his children and the kingdom. Cersei can be horrendous, but I felt for her as Tywin snatched Tommen away. By doing so, Tywin nullified Cersei and she knows it. Joffrey was Cersei’s favorite, her obsession. Her influence over King Joffrey won’t extend to King Tommen. And so Cersei is left alone to mourn her dead son, because one else will. Not even Jaime.” The Wall Street Journal

“This week’s episode began right where we left off, with a dead king and his mother screaming for her brother to be arrested for committing the crime. As Tyrion is being hauled away, Ser Dontos is shuttling Sansa through King’s Landing in an attempt to escape the city before Tywin Lannister can have it completely closed off. The fact that Dontos — a literal fool — is able to thwart Tywin’s effort so effortlessly was a nice hint that he wasn’t acting alone. Strange things happen in Westeros all the time, but the idea that a bumbling former knight could thwart the designs of the realm’s most manipulative thinker would require too much suspension of disbelief. Sure enough, when Sansa and Dontos arrive at the large ship, accompanied by so much fog it practically deserves its own place in the credits, we discover that Littlefinger has been the one pulling these particular puppet strings.” Time

“The ambitious scheming small councilman/brothel owner must have known about the attack on Joffrey. Perhaps he's even the mastermind? He's been pervving on Sansa since the tournament at the beginning of season 1, just like he loved her mother Catelyn. He reassures Sansa she's perfectly safe now. Littlefinger is the only person who's somehow more creepy when he's being reassuring.” Entertainment Weekly

“Let's say your average Game of Thrones episode is a Thanksgiving turkey, stuffed with plotlines like the TV equivalent of a Thanksgiving turkey. If this is our metaphor, then its latest episode, 'Breaker of Chains,' is a goddamn glorious storytelling turducken. It's hard to think of another single hour of this series that's more engorged with incidents and ideas, or rich enough to sustain entire Tumblrs' worth of analysis ... Let's start with Sansa: The visuals of her scenes alone, with their allusions to Girl with a Pearl Earring and images of fog-shrouded ships with dark sails, tell the story here. The young Lady Stark has been whisked from the life in King's Landing's soul-sapping, sun-drenched spotlight into a murky nightscape of skullduggery and intrigue. It's a fairtytale in reverse, with her 'happy ending' – an escape from the Lannisters – only drawing her further into the deep dark woods. It's clear that her new caretaker, Petyr Baelish, was in on the plot to kill King Joffrey up to his Littlefinger; though her kid sister Arya has had a superior succession of killer mentors, this ersatz father-daughter relationship is no less lethal.” Rolling Stone

“What happens next dramatically complicates the work Game of Thrones has done to make Jaime a more explicable, even sympathetic character, given what we learned of his reasons for killing the king he was sworn to protest. Jaime has experienced profound losses over the last two seasons. His hand and his identity as a fighter have been taken from him. His son has been murdered. His father, a toxic, commanding man has returned to his life. And what Cersei is asking of Jaime is that he remove one of the few remaining things that gives him happiness, the little brother who makes him feel better about his hand, from existence. To assuage her pain and grief, Cersei is asking Jaime to inflict more pain on himself. 'You’re a hateful woman,' Jaime tells her. 'Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?'” The Washington Post

“Wisdom is the answer Tywin wants from Tommen — wisdom to trust one's advisers, and essentially let the Hand of the King and his Council run the show. The scene plays out over Joffrey's corpse and sees Tywin dialing back his terrifying side while firming up his influence. Charles Dance simply can't get enough praise for the work he does on this show. Last week, when chatting with Oberyn and Olenna or gritting his teeth next to Joffrey on the dais, we got a welcome glimpse of Tywin the diplomat, who seeks to paper over his own ruthlessness and his grandson's vile behavior to secure peace. Rather than seriously suspect Prince Oberyn of Joffrey's murder, he invites him to be a juror in Tyrion's trial and serve on the Small Council, to further an alliance between the crown and Dorne that, it should be remembered, began with Tyrion sending Joffrey's sister Myrcella down south in season two.” The Wire

“Things were a little bit calmer this week, as King's Landing dealt with the fallout from Joffrey's death, the Night's Watch finally understood the danger they're in, and Arya's faith in humanity was shattered by Sandor (yes, I was surprised she still had any as well). If only she could have compared notes with Sansa, who after three traumatic seasons, was finally able to escape King's Landing only to find herself in the dubious custody of Lord Littlefinger of the wandering accent. Voice issues apart, it was great to see the return of the arch-manipulator, although were I Sansa I'd be very worried indeed – she's literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.” The Guardian 

“The message seemed to be that any sense of justice you might have derived from the murder of the malignant Joffrey was misplaced. The young tyrant didn’t die because he deserved it. He died because it was in someone else’s interest for him to do so, just like it was for that village father or even poor Dontos Hollard, felled by arrows after serving his purpose for Littlefinger. I’m beyond weary of this season’s ubiquitous tagline, but it indubitably qualifies as truth in advertising: Everyone must die eventually, and it’s often not pretty or fair. On Sunday, innocents were slayed all over the place. Even the dignified stallion in Meereen, the only competitor in that contest who didn’t relieve himself in front of everybody, was coldly dispatched by Daario Naharis with a dagger in the eye.” New York Times

“By this point, we should all recognize that Thrones is a study in the harsh virtues of realpolitik. But the yin-yang shocks of the Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding had kicked back up suspicions that good and evil, right and wrong, and crime and punishment, might be relevant concepts in Westeros. Tonight’s hour filleted those suspicions. When the Hound responds to accusations of amoral shittiness, he’s addressing the audience as much as he’s addressing Arya: 'I just understand the way things are. How many Starks do they have to behead before you figure it out?'” —The Atlantic

“Even after Joffrey’s death, Tywin remains the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms. But how solid is his position in the face of the soft, unconventional power wielded by Littlefinger and his like? I’m reminded of the lesson Oberyn taught the Lannister bannermen in the whorehouse back in the premiere: Big swords aren’t all that useful in close combat. (And where did Oberyn stab the one who taunted him? In the hand.) And another thing: Tywin is so skilled at putting out external fires that it almost distracts from the inferno threatening to consume his own home. Almost. Despite all his decades of maneuvering, Tywin’s still the only member of his family capable of ruling. (The king died just as Jaime came back as his bodyguard, and I wouldn’t let Cersei manage a roadside Cinnabon.) The more obstacles he clears for his offspring, the less deserving of it they seem. At the close of last night’s episode, Tywin seemed content to let one son hang for a murder he didn’t commit while the other was busy raping his sister on the floor of a church as the corpse of their illegitimate love child slowly decomposed above them. Tywin Lannister is unparalleled at getting every house in order but his own, and I can’t help but think that, eventually, it’s going to cost him. The biggest trees, family and otherwise, are rarely felled by axes. They rot, you see, and it strikes from the inside out.” Grantland 

Photo: HBO