It says a lot that a powerful scene like Danerys Targaryen surveying her newly conquered city as her family's flag waves above a sea of freed slaves is one of the opening shots of an episode in this season of "Game of Thrones." A devastatingly epic moment like that seems reserved for a pre-credits gut-punch, but if there's one thing the show is doing differently this year, it's subverting the mechanics of typical television story structure. It's a thing the books are famous for, too (the Red Wedding happens about two-thirds of the way into "A Storm of Swords"), but it's nice to see how that works onscreen. It's crazy that Joffrey's death happened in episode two… it makes you wonder what kind of gnarly stuff they're saving for the end.
And now, thanks to a great diversion in translation, even book readers are wondering. The final scene of "Oathkeeper" – in fact, the final twenty minutes of "Oathkeeper" – play out way differently on screen than on page. Bran never goes to Craster's Keep in the books, and we haven't yet learned what becomes of the sacrificial babies. We're finally breaching the intersection of show and yet-to-be-written books; now that the creators know how things will wrap up, nuggets of exposition like the black-cloaked white walker baby council will likely be staples. It's creating an interesting conversation among fans – devout readers are worried that scenes like this will ruin future plot developments in the books, even debating if they should keep watching. But for some of us, myself included, these added moments and mounting differences mean an exciting new way to watch our show: totally green, with no idea what's to come.
After the breakneck speed of the season's first three hours, much of this episode feels like a breather. There is, of course, Dany conquering Meereen. Her Unsullied army, led by Grey Worm, sneak in through the sewers and convince the slaves of Meereen to kill their masters and accept the Targaryen queen. There's been much controversy surrounding the white savior complex of Dany's slave-freeing, and the visuals – her stark whiteness in a flurry of brown – is disorienting and problematic. But there's also something foreboding about it. Dany is now the queen of a race of people she knows nothing about, and though she's good at amassing followers, we've yet to see her truly lead. Is it something she's even capable of? The greatest queens weren't known for their mercy, and Dany's oath to meet injustice with justice is bone-chilling. But a few shrill moments does not a ruler make. I'm anxious to see how she juggles her bounty of responsibilities – I'm not sure I have faith in her. Though I'll admit, that panning shot of her on the pyramid of Meereen with the Targaryen flag snapping in the wind was pretty damn awesome.
Back in King's Landing, the Lannisters are all over the place in their allegiances. Jaime visits Tyrion, whom he's convinced is innocent. This angers Cersei, who wants Tyrion dead. She asks Jaime to find the missing Sansa and kill her, but Jaime isn't buying her involvement, either. Lannister sibling politics seem to sway this way – Jaime feels indebted to Cersei but pities his brother. But this time, Jaime's honor (or guilt) wins: He gifts Brienne his sword (which she names Oathkeeper), and Podrick, and sets her off on a journey to find Sansa before Cersei's people do, to protect her. If it wasn't for last week's puzzling rape scene, this episode would be another notch in the Jaime Lannister redemption arc. Instead, it's a reminder that the occasional good deed is about all Jaime has in him these days – and that the presence of his sister severely mars his world views (and vice versa). Perhaps all Lannisters are better off apart.
Elsewhere in the city, the Queen of Thorns blatantly admits that she had a hand in the murder of Joffrey (to the puzzlement of Margaery) and teaches her granddaughter about the power of seduction. Book fans will love the moment when Margaery, back to her conniving "I want to be the queen" ways, sneaks into Tommen's bed chambers if only for our first glimpse at Ser Pounce, Tommen's cat, who reminds us that our new king is a little softie and his brother was a raving lunatic. Margaery doesn't go too far – just kisses Tommen on the head and sways his allegiance from Cersei – but it's enough to make us feel pretty icky.