GAME OF THRONES – Live-action fantasy-political drama based on the series of novels by George R. R. Martin "A Song of Ice and Fire"; rated TV-MA; airs Sundays on HBO; 60 minutes. Episode 4.4: “Oathkeeper” (original airdate, April 27, 2014). Directed by Michelle MacLaren; written by Bryan Cogman (8 out of 10)

The story so far: The kingdom of Westeros is in turmoil, facing civil war as various factions fight for the right to sit on the Iron Throne. Its current occupant, Joffrey, was poisoned at his wedding. The Queen Regent Cersei, devastated by the loss of her son, has sworn vengeance on her brother Tyrion, whom she blames for his death, along with Tyrion's wife Sansa, who was previously Joffrey's betrothed. While Sansa has been taken away by Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, the rest of her family, House Stark, remains scattered: her younger brother Bran, is north of wall in search of their half-brother Jon Snow, a member of the Night's Watch at Castle Black; her younger sister, Arya, is on the run with The Hound, a dangerous soldier who was involved in the execution of their father. 

In last week's episode: Oh, boy. It was a doozy, which KMC1138 so beautifully reviewed here. Yeah, so Jaime Lannister raped Cersei. Tywin starts getting his hooks in Tommen. And Daenerys comes to Mereen, calling on the slaves to rebel against their masters.

In this episode: (contains mild plot spoilers, but we keep the major bits under wraps)

Daenerys is liberating cities again, and this time she gets to choose whether to respond with mercy to the slavemasters or exact justice for their brutality. Given that they nailed over 160 children to road signs, Daeny makes, in my opinion, the right decision. People are going to be peeing their pants when her armies start approaching them.

Meanwhile, we get two revealing conversations between Littlefinger and Sansa on their boat and Margaery Tyrell and her grandmother in the betrayal garden, I mean, er. . .  Anyway, between these two conversations, we get more details implied about exactly who was behind Joffrey's murder and their varied motivations.My favorite moment of the entire episode was Sansa asking Baelish what he wants. "Everything," is his reply, but those pervy eyes are just fawning over Sansa. *creepy*

The Lannister family continues to win the award for Westeros's most dysfunctional, with Jaime finally going to see Tyrion in prison and then trying to convince Cersei that Tyrion wasn't behind the murder. He also gives a mission and a gift to Brienne, giving us the name of the episode.

Oh, and Tommen gets a late night visitor. And they play with his kitty. Good times.

Meanwhile, at Castle Black, Jon Snow attempts to train some recruits to disarm and fight the wildlings. He's also still trying to convince the Night's Watch to send a force to take back Craster's Keep, especially after hearing reports that Bran might be heading there.

Oh, hey, did you get really upset at last week's episode because of rape? Well, there's LOTS more of it this week, so keep the outrage swelling over the women of Craster's Keep and the order by Karl, formerly of the Night's Watch, to have their way with the women until they are dead. Yes, raped to death. And graphic rape occurring on screen. And, of course, he orders this with fiendish villainy while drinking wine from the skull of Ser Jeor Mormont.

And when presented with another baby from Craster's harem, he is convinced to send Rast to give the child "to the Gods."

After he leaves the baby in the cold, Bran and the others hear its cries. Bran wargs into Summer, his direwolf, to investigate. But rather than finding the baby, Summer finds Ghost, Jon Snow's wolf, caged at Craster's, but then is trapped, as are Bran, Hodor, and the rest and taken to the keep. (Ruh-roh)

And then. . . 

(SPOILER ALERT)

And oh my gosh, White Walkers. Been a while, right? And. . .that final scene. Wowza.

Final verdict: 8 out of 10

Finally some Hodor. And promise of more Hodor.

This episode delivered on some much-needed closure for those who haven't read the books and need to know who killed Joffrey and why. While it's not completely spelled out, this was really excellent.

Also, this episode left us with a couple of big cliffhangers, at least one of which probably won't be resolved for quite a while. But next week it looks like more stuff is going down.

This episode balanced a lot of character development on various fronts. I think they did a great job with pacing it and leaving us immediately wanting more. Given the bitter taste left in a lot of fans' mouths last week, that probably helps.

Leigh George Kade should be back next week to review episode 5, "First of His Name."

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Tags: Game of Thrones , george r r martin , HBO