This year, Game of Thrones came to a close after eight seasons, ending the reign of a show which made waves with its dynamic portrayal of women. One of the major contributors to this legacy is Michelle MacLaren, the show’s only female director, responsible for four episodes. Of these, “Oathkeeper,” always intrigues me with its fierce and unapologetic depiction of women. Notably, the episode places three women, Daenerys, Olenna and Brienne, in epic roles which are normally reserved for men.
Daenerys, the Conqueror: After conquering the city of Meereen, Daenerys is at her most confident and ambitious. But as any Greek myth tells us, pride is a great leader’s folly. In this episode, Daenerys ignores Ser Barristan’s warning that “sometimes it is better to answer injustice with mercy,” a crucial decision which foreshadows what’s to come. With shots of her standing high above her people, even only with the sky, MacLaren teases that Daenerys’ hubris is both awe-inspiring and detrimental.
Olenna, the Mentor: This episode also features the reveal of Olenna’s part in Joffrey’s murder. Her pragmatic advice and no-nonsense attitude secure her place as a guiding force in the story. She shows a remarkable ability to predict the future and to manipulate it to her will.
Brienne, the Soldier: Brienne of Tarth’s acceptance of the sword, Oathkeeper, and her promise to protect the Starks is the most impactful moment of the episode. MacLaren focuses on the resolve in Brienne’s face in order to show a woman whose sense of honor is not synonymous with piety. Her integrity stems from protecting others rather than protecting her own purity. In this scene, she is as loyal and fearless as any of King Arthur’s legendary knights.
Not every woman in “Oathkeeper” is a hero, but they all have a role in the hero’s journey. Instead of being relegated to the sidelines of this medieval-inspired world, they are the players, constantly forcing the outcome to change.