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Game Of Thrones S4.03 Breaker Of Chains review

So that’s why Littlefinger had been so quiet this season! “Breaker Of Chains” wastes no time revealing who pulled the strings behind King Joffrey’s murder, picking up where “The Lion And The Rose” left off with Sansa being whisked away by Ser Dontos to Lord Baelish’s ship in the bay. No sooner has Dontos delivered the Stark he’s receiving a crossbow bolt in lieu of payment (the best way to buy eternal silence, as Baelish puts it), and strongly hints that Littlefinger isn’t helping Sansa out of the goodness of his heart. Not that we’d ever have suspected anything else – this, after all, is the man who betrayed her father in season one. The question is, who else is Littlefinger working with and how deep does the conspiracy run?

Unsurprisingly, the Westeros-shattering events of the Purple Wedding cast a shadow over much of the episode – and these moments are by far the standouts. It's another talky outing, with all the players of the game working out their positions now that Joffrey is gone, but in Game Of Thrones , talky rarely means dull. Why waste money on expensive action scenes when you can deliver the pyrotechnics with words and compelling character beats?

The two best scenes belong to Tywin, who doesn’t seem too upset that his grandson (and boss) has met the big adios. Charles Dance is in his element both when he talks to young king-to-be Tommen about the new job (luckily for King’s Landing, the newbie seems nothing like his big bro), and meets with Prince Oberyn to make an offer that could be mutually beneficial for the Lannisters and Dorne. Tywin's’s every bit the master politician, prepared to make a deal with a man who’s made no secret of the fact he wants him dead – and the Red Viper is a more-than-worthy sparring partner. Considering he’s only appeared in three episodes so far, it’s remarkable how integral to the show the newbie already feels.

The one where...

Littlefinger is revealed as the brains behind Joffrey's assassination, Lady Oleanna gives Margaery an arm around the shoulder after losing a second regal husband, Sam moves Gilly out of Castle Black, the Hound and Arya briefly look like they've found a new home, king-elect Tommen has a pep talk from his grandfather, Ser Davos gets inspiration from Princess Shireen, Podrick pays Tyrion a visit in prison, the Wildlings attack a village, Oberyn gets an intriguing offer from Lord Tywin, and Daenerys makes her move on Meereen...

As one of the judges at Tyrion’s murder trial, Oberyn may well be the best chance the accused has of an acquittal – certainly more help than his family. Languishing in a cell, it’s not looking good for everybody’s favourite GoT character, and he shares a really touching scene with Podrick, who gets a tearful farewell, as Tyrion realises his squire’s loyalty could get him killed. One of Game Of Thrones ’s greatest strengths is that despite its gargantuan cast, it can really make you care about some of the more minor players.

The episode undoubtedly lags when it ventures out of King’s Landing. Arya and the Hound’s odd couple adventures have seemingly taken an unexpected twist when he’s offered work as a farm hand, but he soon reveals he’s anything but tamed as he robs a kindly farmer and his daughter – he reasons that they’ll be dead soon anyway. Nice. Meanwhile, Ser Davos's efforts to raise an army and funds for his ever-miserable employer Stannis is treading-water stuff, though there's something very sweet about his friendship with Princess Shireen.

Up by the Wall, there are some nice parallels with Tyrion sending Shae packing as a tearful Sam moves Gilly and the baby out of Castle Black for her own good. And to be fair, it’s probably best to be anywhere but Castle Black for now, with Mance Rayder’s forces running wild, and Jon Snow’s realisation that – should the Rangers north of the Wall be forced to talk – the Wildlings might just realise that the Castle isn’t quite as well protected as they thought.

On the other side of the Narrow Sea, Daenerys’s mission to free every slave is getting slightly repetitive, though the new look Daario Naharis does get to prove his worth in a wonderfully inventive, tongue-in-cheek duel that redefines the term “pissing contest”. This is the closest Game Of Thrones has come to the Raiders Of The Lost Ark “shoot the swordsman” scene – the episode may be short on action, but it delivers when it has to.

Episode 4.03Breaker Of Chains
WritersDavid Benioff and DB Weiss
DirectorAlex Graves

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Available platformsTV