Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “Oathkeeper”

I sincerely apologize to any of you who were looking for my post about last week’s episode. I found some of the elements of that episode (and the way they were explained by the director) too difficult for me to write about, especially because I interpreted Jaime and Cersei’s interactions in that episode in a way that was different from how the director seemed for it to be intended (as I think many did). I have decided to pretend that the moment existed as it did in the book (since that seems to be the intention of those involved). If you’re still looking for an excellent analysis of last week’s episode, I can direct you to frequent NGN contributor Heather’s take on it.

The Moment: Jaime sends Brienne on her quest

Setting the Scene: After Cersei tells Jaime she wants Sansa Stark dead, he tasks Brienne with keeping his oath to the late Catelyn Stark to find Sansa and keep her safe. To help Brienne on her journey, Jaime gives her a new suit of armor, a squire (Pod), and the Valyrian steel sword given to him by his father, which Brienne names Oathkeeper.

Why It’s Awesome: Last week’s controversial episode of Game of Thrones reminded us that there are very few healthy relationships between men and women in Westeros, and usually those relationships are based solely on power (hence the prevalence of rape on this show—including the horribly gratuitous scenes at Craster’s Keep in this episode). But “Oathkeeper” served as a moving reminder that there is at least one relationship between a man and a woman in this world that is based on true, mutual respect, and that’s the relationship between Jaime and Brienne.

The scene where Jaime gives Brienne Oathkeeper has been one of my favorite scenes in the entire A Song of Ice and Fire book series since the moment I read it last year. I didn’t think it was possible that Game of Thrones could actually make me love it more. But I guess I underestimated the power of very pointed and specific changes made to enhance the emotional impact of the scene, as well as the performances of Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

The whole tone of the scene was much warmer than it was in the books, and it was infused with a very real sense of equality between them. That changed the tone of the scene somewhat from the hesitancy in the book, but I think that actually served the show well. The depth of emotion between these two characters has always felt even more intense on the show than in the books, and I think that comes from how good Coster-Waldau and Christie are at conveying a host of emotions simply through their eyes.

Jaime giving Brienne the sword his father made for him was such a symbolic gesture of choosing a better path than the one his family was on and trusting what little bit of his honor he feels is left to a person he believes is worthy of that trust. But my favorite moment in this grand unveiling of gifts was the moment Brienne took in her new, blue armor. The color was a nice reference to Jaime’s admiration of her “astonishing” blue eyes in the books, and this gift was perhaps the most perfect anyone could give Brienne. It was stylish armor—a mixture of masculine and feminine, beautiful but strong. By giving her the armor, Jaime was showing Brienne that he sees her as both a woman and a knight. And Christie played Brienne’s reaction so beautifully. She seemed in awe of this gift and what it represented, and it highlighted just how rarely this woman has been shown kindness and appreciation in her life, which makes Jaime’s gestures all the more meaningful.

Jaime gave Brienne many gifts in this scene—a true knightly quest for a woman who was often treated as less than a real knight, a sword, a suit of armor, and a squire (the perfect Pod)—but Brienne also gave Jaime a gift, too. When she told him she would find Sansa not just for Catelyn but for Jaime, both of their expressions showed how much that moment meant. Christie did an excellent job of showing how Brienne literally had to summon her courage to tell him that because that was her own little way of admitting to Jaime how important he has become in her life. And Coster-Waldau’s soft look of surprise spoke to Jaime’s shock and appreciation that someone could still see him as a man with some sense of honor worth saving.

Brienne naming the sword Oathkeeper was another gift she gave Jaime. In the books, it’s Jaime who names his sword, but having Brienne name it actually gave the moment more weight. The sword is Jaime’s, and by naming it Oathkeeper, Brienne is calling him an oath keeper himself, which is a huge contrast from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, who only saw him as the lowest kind of oath breaker. Both Jaime and Brienne are knights; they know the importance of oaths, and having Brienne name the sword reflects the idea that she has come to be the only person who sees the best Jaime can be—the oath keeper behind the oath breaker reputation. Brienne has always kept her oaths, and she made Jaime want to be someone who could do that again as well.

The loaded eye contact they shared after Brienne named the sword spoke to the significance of that moment for this relationship. And then Jaime did for Brienne what she did for him in “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” he called her by her name. For these two characters, that is as intimate a gesture as it gets—wrapping up themes of love, respect, understanding, and appreciation of true selves into one line.

Throughout that final scene, there was a sense from both characters that they truly felt this would be the last time they saw each other. So as Brienne rode away, I loved that Jaime followed her, wanting to watch over this reflection of who he wants to be until the last possible moment. Coster-Waldau played Jaime’s final moments in this scene so brilliantly. There was real longing there, but not the twisted kind that he once shared with Cersei. As Brienne looked back and Christie so devastatingly showed her almost begin to cry, it was as if Jaime finally realized the extent of how much he meant to her and how much she meant to him. They were both leaving pieces of themselves with the other, having both been forever changed by their relationship. And if you’re wondering if I cried in this moment, the answer is “Of course.”

Honorable Mentions: Missandei and Grey Worm talking about their pasts, Jaime and Tyrion in the jail cell, Olenna explaining to Margaery how to play the game of thrones, Margaery visiting Tommen in the middle of the night, the abandoned baby being turned into a White Walker

21 thoughts on “Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “Oathkeeper”

  1. This is just perfect. I knew that this would be your pick the moment I saw it because they got this scene so right. It was true to the relationship we have seen develop between these two on the show while maintaining the heart of the book scene and the relationship there.

    I don’t think any other combination of actors could have brought these two to life as well. They both convey so much through their expressions and do a lot with relatively few words. Neither of these characters is capable of expressing everything they feel for each other verbally, either out of hesitance or because they are not aware of the depth of their feelings, so the fact that Nikolaj and Gwen have incredible nonverbal chemistry is perfect for the characters.

    I could probably go on for days about these two because you know how much I love this relationship, but I think you said everything so well already that I’d just be repeating your words.

    I completely agree with all of your honorable mentions. Margaery visiting Tommen showed how great she is at manipulating those around her and how creepy she can be while doing so. She plays the game very well, probably because of her grandmother’s influence.

    I really want to see more of Missandei and Grey Worm’s lessons together. There was something so sweet and sad about the way they were able to connect.

    • This relationship is one of my favorites to talk about with you, and it makes me so happy that you loved this scene as much as I did. I completely agree that this particular combination of actors is what makes Jaime and Brienne’s relationship so unique and wonderful on the show. Both actors have real talent for finding more depth in silence than in dialogue. The nuances they lend to these moments are extraordinary.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who wants to see more of Missandei and Grey Worm! That opening scene was unexpectedly sweet and truly touching.

  2. To be honest, I didn’t really care much about the episode as a whole. Maybe I was spoiled because the first two episodes of this seasons were so promising, but last weeks debacle and the last one didn’t do much for me as complete episodes. There were, thankfully, fantastic scenes that made watching the show worth it. The one you chose chiefly made me hope for the show to get back on track, even though there were parts in this episode that annoyed me quite a lot.

    Brienne is also one of my favourite characters, and I dare say that I’m enjoying her relationship with Jamie in the TV show even more than in the books. You summed up my thoughts beautifully in your review so I don’t have much to add, except that I agree wholeheartedly with the absolutely inspired choice of having Brienne name Oathkeeper instead of Jamie. I always get the feeling that Jamie doesn’t take himself too seriously so having him name the sword with such a powerful and meaningfun name could be taken as a joke to a certain point, but when it’s Brienne who names it, it’s a declaration of trust, respect and love. The armour was very nice and a wink to her place in the Rainbow Guard as Brienne the Blue, and Pod was… I hate to say cute because it’s not very knightly but well, he is! I found myself mouthing along Brienne when she told Jamie she was doing this for him because I knew she was going to say it, it was the only thing she could have said in my mind and I’m glad I was right. And I did too, “Of course” indeed. 😉

    I enjoyed quite a lot Lady Olenna too, and Margaery is an excellent pupil. Tyrion was interesting as always and I loved his interaction with Jamie, particularly the part about the “Kingslayer brothers” and “Are you really asking if I killed your son?” / “Are you really asking if I’d kill my brother?” I have a soft spot for Ser Barristan, so I liked seeing him try to convince Daenerys to show mercy.

    I sadly didn’t enjoy quite a lot. The gratuitous scenes at Craster’s Keep, like you said. Also, most of the Night’s Watch scenes aren’t living up to my expectation; I can’t seem to like the show’s Jon Snow, which is a pity because I like him alright in the books. I have the same problem with Bran Stark. And I don’t like to see the direwolves in cages so that’s another negative point.

    The end was chilling. I’ve always been very curious about the Others so I’m really interested in finding out if the show will give us more on them than the books do.

    • Meaningfun? Mouthing along Brienne? Maybe I should stay away from the internet when I’m functionning on 3 hours of sleep… Sorry about the many typos and grammar murdering.

      • No need to apologize! I totally understand the dangers of mixing sleep deprivation with commenting—the same thing was happening to me earlier this week when I was trying to respond to OUaT comments. I hope you were able to get a good night’s sleep last night! 😀

    • Another Brienne lover! 😀 I agree with your whole assessment of Jaime naming the sword versus Brienne naming it. By giving that role to Brienne, it adds even more meaning to the moment and says so much about not just Jaime’s character arc but their arc together. And I think I also like their relationship even more on the show, which I didn’t think was possible.

      The Jaime/Tyrion exchange you quoted was such a powerful moment, and I’m very excited to see the continuation of their story this season because both actors bring so much to their scenes.

      I was so turned off by the unnecessarily brutal things happening at Craster’s Keep that I wished I could just turn my computer off. Coming on the heels of what happened in the last episode, it just further gave credence to the idea that this show has a real problem with gratuitous rape.

      I’m actually finding myself liking the show’s depiction of Jon Snow more and more this season (he’s got a backbone, which I felt was missing in earlier seasons), but I’m with you on still not being able to warm up to Bran’s storyline. It’s far from my favorite in the books as well, which doesn’t help matters.

      • Jon Snow in the show is alright, but I find him a bit one-dimensional. I imagine my problem is actually more about the actor playing him than the actual storyline. I like him more in the books, particularly after really getting into the Ice and Fire universe and learning about the story of Westeros. I remember reading about Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and thinking “oh wow, Jon Snow is probably their son and that’s why Eddard Stark doesn’t talk about the mother”. I was not surprised to find that it was actually a widespread theory in the internet. For now, I’m sure his story in the show will turn exponentially more interesting with everything that’s about to happen in the Wall.

        • I hope Katie’s readers know the comments section isnt a spoiler free zone…I have always tried to be a little vague just in case, but since you brought it up…

          I am definitely in the camp of believers that thinks Jon is Lyanna and Rhaegar’s son. I have this headcannon that Jon and Dany are going to eventually come together and unite all of Westeros. I am not sure how I can ship two characters that have never even met after 5 books with one of them possibly being dead, but I do. Although its much stronger in the book than on the show, because I just don’t feel anything exciting between those two actors. Its both exciting and frustrating knowing whats going to happen on the show, but still not knowing how it all ends in the books.

          • I am so very sorry. I remember Katie saying in the first recap of this season that there might be some spoilers in the comments, but I tend to get carried away when discussing these books.
            You are so right about your last sentence! I wish George R. R. Martin would hurry up and write the rest of them. He took five years to complete “A Dance of Dragons” so I’m sure we still have quite a while to wait. At this rate, between Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, I’ll manage to get an ulcer. 😦

            • No need to apologize! I warned people about book spoilers being inevitable in my first of these posts, so I think we’re all good. I’m a big believer in the idea that if the books have been out for a long time, talking about them (or even theories about them) doesn’t really count as spoilers at this point. 😉

          • I am a proud member of the “Jon is Lyanna and Rhaegar’s son” camp as well. And I’m also a proud member of “Team Jon + Dany”. 😉

  3. I for once actually enjoyed the scenes at the wall. It was great to get that first glimpse of Jon taking on more of a leadership role and seeing his brothers rally behind him (even if one of them is Bolton’s mole…thats new right?). I could have done without all of the scenes at Crastor’s keep however. And I have a really hard time liking Bran. That said, I am interested to see where they go with his storyline, because if my memory serves me correctly, them getting captured is new…

    This was the first episode in a long time where I actually could feel the shift of the story and momentum to the scenes at the wall, and thats important for the rest of the season. If they dont get viewers interested in what is happening in the North, the rest of the season is going to fall flat. I also got the feeling that while the Kings Landing scenes are lighter and more enjoyable (and I say “lighter” as a strongly relative term here) we can finally start to see a bit of the frivolity of them compared to the very bleak and serious threat at the wall. Most of the drama happening in Kings Landing are all the Westeros version of first world problems. Most of these people should want for nothing but they are so consumed by greed and power and pride that they are tearing each other apart. Compare that to the north, where these people are in the bleakest of circumstances just trying to survive, and are facing a more primitive and animalistic threat in the whitewalkers. Although, even in those conditions you have those that are trying to vie for power and control, so I am not sure where I am going with this argument. Do you ever just want to shake these people and scream “get over yourself!”? Cause I do, all the time.

    • I agree with all of your thoughts in your first paragraph. This is right around the time in the books when I really started to love Jon and care about what was going on at the Wall, and I was happy to find myself enjoying his new display of leadership qualities in this episode (much like in the season premiere). The mole is definitely new (from what I remember), so I’m interested to see what happens there. I’m also both interested and concerned about the changes in Bran’s storyline because they seem to be quite major changes. His story has never been one of my favorites, but I am intrigued by what this big change means going forward.

      Calling the Kings Landing drama the Westeros version of first world problems was brilliant, by the way. 😉

    • “Locke” is actually a new character for the TV show. He’s supposed to replace Vargo Hoat, but this new storyline with him joining the Night’s Watch is definitely not in the books. I seem to remember there being a ploy at some point to send assassins disguised as men of the Night’s Watch to kill Jon Snow once he’s been made Lord Commander, coming from Cersei and Qyburn IIRC, but it didn’t end up happening because Cercei is imprisoned.

      The part about Bran, the Reed siblings and Hodor being taken didn’t happen either, but maybe it means that we’re going to be introduced to Coldhands soon. Although Jon going to Craster’s Keep is a bit weird too; maybe if they finally get Stannis to Castle Black he won’t leave.

      All this changes from the books are quite confusing, and I’m not sure I understand most of them.

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  5. I don’t have a ton to add to the rich discussion here except my first impressions as I watched the scenes with both Jamie and Tyrion and later with Brienne. For me, Jamie visiting his brother and having that conversation of candor is pivotal to his actions with Brienne, especially given the encounter with Cersei last episode. I loved the positioning of the scene with Tyrion, both men sitting as boys with the weight of men pressing down upon them. Tyrion’s refusal to deal with Jamie in any manner other than plainly. He doesn’t give him the out, which is why the word choices around Joffrey’s parentage is so important. There may be very little Jamie can do in the moment for Tyrion, but he can stand with his brother through his actions, specifically when it comes to Sansa. I think the parallel conversations of conviction from both Sansa and Tyrion were really well laid out given their marriage has not been one embedded in alliance or trust.

    For me when Jamie outfits Brienne with a suit of armor, a noble quest and a page it provides the foundation for what the oathkeeper symbolizes. For me, when he hands her a sword made from the blade of Ned Stark with the purpose of bring Sansa to safety, Jamie is doing more than trusting Brienne. He is entrusting her with his humanity. A trait that will not help him in Kings Landing but that he discovered and values through her.

    I also found the confession of Olenna to Margeary along with her wisdom for playing the Game of Thrones significant. She is the only elderly woman of note in the realms, she’s a survivor both in her actions and her savvy. I think that unlike Cersei, Olenna sees the wisdom in not only playing the game, but setting her granddaughter up to succeed her. It is a great trump move on Cersei who’s actions have been to use her children as pawns to power. That she was the mastermind behind Joffery’s murder is a revelation. She asserts a power to her granddaughter that we see her begin to weave in ways that are masterful and left me very keen to see the fate of the players in Kings Landing.

    • I’m so happy you brought up Tyrion and Sansa’s parallel conversations because those were beautiful. They trusted the fundamental humanity in the other, and that says so much about these two characters—especially Sansa, who is still able to trust a Lannister after all the pain they’ve caused her.

      “He is entrusting her with his humanity. A trait that will not help him in Kings Landing but that he discovered and values through her.” – This is completely accurate. Brienne helped Jaime rediscover the best he can be, and he entrusts that best self to her by sending her on that quest.

      I’m so excited to watch all of the King’s Landing stuff play out over the rest of this season and beyond. There are some excellent scenes and moments coming, and I can’t wait to see how they play out on the show.

    • Thank you for bringing up a point that I’m sure many people are struggling with after the last few Game of Thrones episodes.

      Here’s the thing about Jaime being a rapist…It was wrong. Not just in the moral sense; in the sense that it was wrong for the canon of the series and for the arc of the character. The scene was directed poorly and handled even more poorly after it aired. It was supposed to (according to the director) depict an unhealthy relationship through disturbing but ultimately consensual sex (like in the book series), but it didn’t come across that way for most viewers—myself included. As such, I am choosing to pretend that the scene in question happened as it did in the books (with Cersei giving verbal consent) because that is the only way I will be able to keep watching the show. And that seems to be the way the director intended for the scene to be interpreted anyway, even though it didn’t come off that way at all. I know that’s probably not the best way to handle an adaptation change being made, but that’s my choice and I’m sticking to it. And it appears I’m not the only one choosing that path.

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