Episode Review: Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker
The episode opens with the panting breaths of Jon Snow, filtered through Davos’s point of view, forcing the viewer to experience Jon’s panic through the otherness of disembodied breath. The only other sound in the room is the fire crackling. When Jon is finally brought into view, it is from the back of his head, his body still on the slab. His breathing steadies, he takes in a deep breath and exhales as he sits up. For a few seconds, the viewer is still unable to see Jon’s face, which creates tension as the viewer’s need to see the humanity in Jon’s eyes grows. Finally, the side of Jon’s face is shown, then, as he looks at Davos, the camera shifts perspective so that Jon is seen from Davos’s point of view again. This delay, this purposeful distancing is meant to keep the tension going, to allow the viewer to question whether or not the soul can be heard in the breath or seen in the eyes.
The writers of the show choose not to indicate a sense of the supernatural when the viewer finally sees Jon’s contemplative and bewildered face. There is no flicker in his eyes, no physical change, which I suppose is the point: to demystify resurrection. Without being explicit, the writers have taken a stance against religion, expressing the need to disassociate the natural processes of life and death with the supernatural. Ultimately, however, the show leaves it up to the viewer to decide the cause of resurrection: is it magic, God, or science? In the end, does the how or why of it really matter?
Being seen reminds Jon of the strangeness of his own existence. As he feels his breaths again—in and out—he realizes that’s what matters: how the ordinary can become unfamiliar, how a change in perspective can make you see yourself differently.
Looking down, Jon touches his scars. His breathing becomes edged with fear. He begins to shake, eyes haunted, as if he feels it all over again, not his death, but each stab. Davos goes to Jon and catches him as he falls from the slab, covering him with a cloak. Jon tells Davos, “They stabbed me . . . I shouldn’t be here.” When the Red Woman asks Jon where he went and what he saw, Jon replies, “Nothing. There was nothing at all.” This is the true horror of Jon’s resurrection—that death offers no answers, that life is all there is. No belief can salve one’s fear of the unknown, because even the dead have no answers.
Later, those who colluded and murdered Jon Snow are noosed before the men of the Night’s Watch. The crowd is silent as Jon approaches, awed by his very existence. As Jon stands before the rope, prepared to cut it with his sword, he pauses. There is true horror in his eyes, for he understands the choice he is making: to kill them is to condemn them to the unknown. The viewer sees Jon’s fear of the unknown, the disappearance of self, and perhaps, the feeling of death. Despite all of this, Jon swings the blade. He does his duty as Lord Commander, as his father would have done. He even watches as the dying men kick their legs and struggle to breathe, each one with their eyes open, mirroring the last look on Jon’s face when he too went into that very same dark.
In the end, if all men must die, where does that leave Jon Snow?
By Erica Spriggs