Aidan Gillen, Alfie Allen, Aquaman, Arya Stark, Braavos, Cersei Lannister, Daario Naharis, Daenerys Targaryen, Dean-Charles Chapman, Dominic Carter, Dragons, Emilia Clarke, Evil, Faceless Men, Fantasy, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, Gethin Anthony, Gwendoline Christie, Heroes, Iwan Rheon, James Cosmo, Janos Slynt, Jason Momoa, Joer Mormont, John Wick, Jon Snow, Jonathan Pryce, Justice League, Khal Drogo, King's Landing, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Littlefinger, Maisie Williams, Margaery Tyrell, Meereen, Michael McElhatton, Michiel Huisman, Natalie Dormer, Ned Stark, Peter Dinklage, Ramsay Bolton, Religion, Renly Baratheon, Roose Bolton, Sansa Stark, Sean Bean, Sophie Turner, Stannis Baratheon, Star Wars, Stephen Dillane, Television, The High Sparrow, The Hunger Games, The Night's Watch, The Wall, Theon Greyjoy, Tommen Baratheon, TV, Tyrion Lannister, Unsullied, Villains, Volantis
After criticising the first two episodes of this season, I’m glad to say that “Game of Thrones” has found its feet again. This episode, entitled “The High Sparrow”, was a huge step in the right direction for season five, as more time was spent with the key characters (other than Daenerys (Emilia Clarke)) so that we were able to connect with them emotionally and get a better grasp of where they are right now (psychologically speaking). As we’ve flittered around Westeros over the last couple of episodes I’ve found myself disinterested in the events happening before my eyes, and much more interested in speculating on the future. In this episode I didn’t do that, because it was an hour of compelling television with twists and turns and important character-shaping decisions being made. It didn’t feel like it was setting anything else up (even though each episode of “Game of Thrones” invariably is) and it was thoroughly entertaining.
The first thing to address regarding episode three is that Daenerys isn’t involved at all. She’s spoken about in Volantis, giving us all a bit of an insight into how much her influence is shaping the world around her, but she’s never actually on screen. It’s sad to say it, but I think that this episode was all the better for it. A lot of people love Daenerys as a character, and it’s easy to see why; she started the series as a girl being passed off to a horse lord as a wife – a child being used as a pawn in another’s ugly game. Now she’s a powerful woman with an army of Unsullied, a former kingsguard, and three dragons as her protection. Her arc has been one of the best on the show and she’s one of very few ‘heroes’ in the “Game of Thrones” universe.
However, right now her story has stagnated, partly because she’s simply learning lessons necessary to be a good queen, and also because she has the insufferable Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) at her side, making her seem much less self-sufficient and weak. I feel like Daario’s presence in the series is a bit of a betrayal for fans like me who loved Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), and if I’m honest I detest the character. The actor doesn’t really fit in for me, I don’t like his delivery and I don’t buy him in the role. I hope that the character evolves and hopefully has a villainous part to play, because if all there is to him is a piece of eye-candy for Daenerys then I could see myself hoping that the dragons leave Meereen in flames, Daenerys and all.
Without Daenerys weighing the episode down with melodrama things felt a lot more solid, a lot more slick, and I enjoyed it so much more than last week’s episode as a result. Each of the other key characters had more time to be developed, and because of this they all had memorable moments in the episode.
Cersei (Lena Headey) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) faced off over Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), with the two finally beginning to understand one another. For a while now I’ve been wondering what to make of Margaery myself – she’s a gold-digger, it has to be said, because this is her third marriage to a would-be king and she hasn’t mourned for either of the men she’s lost – but I still felt like there was something nice about her. However, in this episode Margaery’s attitude actually made me feel sorry for Cersei, which is really hard to do, and I finally feel that I have a grasp on who Margaery really is. She’s just as manipulative as any of the players at King’s Landing, even though she wields different weapons than most of the villains on the show, and she has positioned herself as the most powerful woman in the land without even a hint of an objection.
The way that she called Cersei ‘mother’, the way that she told her, implicitly, about making love to her child, the way that she basically tried to get Tommen to cast his mother aside – she’s just another monster in a world of evil. She’s not a woman to be messed with, and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to next.
Because of this interaction and the way that Cersei feels about her status as Queen Mother, she wants to stack the deck in her favour, which leads her to meet a man known as the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). He’s a religious man, and when we first meet him he’s helping the poor, giving them food and even his own shoes. The conversation between the two was amicable and made a nice change from the dialogue we’re used to on the show, as it felt like the religious language used belonged in a Catholic Church just as much as it did in Westeros. However, even as the two talked in this friendly way you couldn’t help but feel uneasy, knowing full well that this man has a larger role to play in the story moving forward, and wondering what both Cersei and the High Sparrow were truly thinking as each word slivered out of the other’s mouth.
Outside of King’s Landing, Arya (Maisie Williams) was having religious troubles of her own, as she tried to understand the nature of the Faceless Men and their Many-Faced God. Arya is such a wonderful and likeable character, so seeing her struggle to give up her old life, even crying over trying to become ‘No One’, was pretty heart-breaking (even if she was only crying over a sword and some rags). She’s still a child and her past clearly has a lot of meaning to where she is now and who she will become, so giving that up would be extremely difficult. I can’t see her giving up her old life for too long, and I think that it would only take the glimpse of an enemy in Braavos to trigger Arya’s return, but I’m excited to see what she does in the meantime.
In the North, Sansa (Sophie Turner) finally got to go back to being who she really is, being called by her real name, but it came at a price. It was probably my favourite moment of the episode when it was revealed that she would marry Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) because he’s so evil and she wants revenge, so there’s so much potential for mayhem there. It’s a big change from the books, but it’s a change that actually makes other plots a bit more coherent, even if it doesn’t make complete sense on its own.
Ultimately, I’m not sure that Sansa marrying Ramsay is believable, because part of Roose (Michael McElhatton) must be wondering whether or not she will turn on him, given the fact that he murdered her brother and allied himself with the Lannisters. It also seems slightly odd that Sansa agreed, because although Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) has power over her, she shouldn’t really trust him enough to take this risk, and before now I thought that she was just going along because she had nowhere else to go, but now I’m thinking that she might actually believe in him, which isn’t entirely plausible. It’s genuinely great that she’s playing the game, and she’s really committing to it, but her character change has been so drastic and swift that it can at times seem a little bit too much.
Of course, this plot does mean that I was possibly wrong about Brienne’s (Gwendoline Christie) fate in the last review, but I’m not completely shocked by that. I knew that this could come about when writing the episode two review, but I didn’t want to put it on the table as a possibility because it would’ve been a bit of a spoiler and I’m trying to keep those to a minimum as far as future episodes are concerned. I’m now very worried for what could happen to Sansa, but here’s hoping that whatever Ramsay does to her she gives back to him ten-fold, and maybe we’ll see Theon (Alfie Allen) finally man up, so that together they can flay the whole Bolton army! Wouldn’t that be lovely?
Brienne could still fall prey to Ramsay and his unorthodox methods of psychological and physical torture, because she’s hot on the heels of Sansa, but I hope that that plot takes a slightly different direction. Anything could happen with her so I hope that the writers do something creative if they aren’t going to go with the books. Also, it was nice to get a bit more character development for her in the form of her story about Renly (Gethin Anthony), because we don’t know all that much about her other than the fact that she’s one of the good guys and can play with swords quite well.
It would be unfair to mention good guys in “Game of Thrones” without mentioning the most heroic character on the show, Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Jon is fast becoming my favourite character as Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) screen time lessens week by week, and in this episode he won my heart all over again. The way that he took charge of the situation with Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter), following his father’s teaching and carrying out the sentence himself, showed that he has what it takes to rule. He’s not a boy with a big responsibility, he’s a man with power and he’s going to use all the lessons he’s learnt from Ned (Sean Bean), Mance (Ciaran Hinds), and Joer Mormont (James Cosmo) to do the best he can for the Night’s Watch.
Jon’s situation this week echoed last week’s execution in Meereen, but the difference was that Jon got an approving nod from Stannis (Stephen Dillane) for his efforts, whereas Daenerys got a barrage of hisses and abuse. The difference as far as I’m concerned is that Jon was doing what he had to do; there was no other genuine alternative because Janos admitted that he was afraid (which has no place at The Wall) and he also questioned Jon’s authority, putting his leadership into disrepute. Any kind of hesitation from Jon would’ve been met with disgrace and shown him to be weak, so by making the sentence and personally carrying it out he demonstrated both control and authority, hopefully winning over his foes at The Wall. Daenerys, on the other hand, did something reckless when it wasn’t pleasing anyone, misunderstanding her role at Meereen and believing that the people would accept her decision simply because it was what seemed right by an arbitrary standard.
Episode three of “Game of Thrones” season five was a massive improvement over the first two lacklustre additions to the series. It felt like it had been carefully put together and the characters didn’t feel like they were fighting for screen time. Each plot point was given time to play out and the actors were allowed to convey the emotions they felt to the audience without the screen suddenly changing and revealing the next obligatory character appearance. “Game of Thrones” is a much better show when we actually get to see how the characters react to the world around them, such as the way in which we got to see Arya mourn her old life as she stared down at Needle. It’s in these scenes that the show shines, because what would the unexpected murders and betrayals be if they weren’t coming from, and happening to, well-established characters? A lot happened in “The High Sparrow”, but it wasn’t happening too fast, which in the end makes the difference between a forgettable hour of television, and an hour to savour in the days before the next episode.