Published on April 27th, 2015 | by Bean0
Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 3 “High Sparrow”
Game of Thrones season 5 has been largely dealing with new leadership across it’s many territories, and where the last episode saw characters flailing from one error to the next, ‘High Sparrow” concerns itself with the more effective players and sees characters draw new strength or clarity for their plots and machinations.
Of the new contenders, the Sparrows make a bold statement in King’s Landing, prising the High Septon from his whore-house role-play and marching him through the streets clutching his wherewithals! Their mission, to root out hypocrisy and corruption, is expounded to the investigating Cersei (nice to see HRH getting out and about a bit more) by the High Sparrow himself, played with delicious and characteristic understatement by Jonathan Pryce.
Lena Headey continues to imbue Cersei with more than the script seems to afford, and this is possibly her most interesting instalment re. character development for an age. As the two speak on “faith and the crown”, there is the sense that here is a man she can learn from. Or did I imagine it? I’ve rarely seen such a look on Cersei’s face though; is that respect?! Perhaps… perhaps not. Who can tell with her? Still, she can see power, knowledge, and a diligence she is not unfamiliar with in her own way. If she can make an effective ally in this humble but influential man, all the better.
She has less success manoeuvring the newly wed King Tommen, who in the throes of marital bliss has gained a new puppet master; Cersei no longer holds any sway in her son’s choices. For the time being, she can do her best to recreate the Small Council in her image, and rebuild the Lannister stronghold with new confederates, but if the Queen wishes her banished to Casterly Rock…
Margaery has a much better grasp of the reign than Cersei, but let’s not count the old ‘dowager’ (ouch!) out yet. As Margaery plants seeds to expel the Queen Mother she is generous with her beneficent smiles. Her aptitude out-reaches Cersei’s but she isn’t below sniping, if gamely; during her conversation with her new mother-in-law she gets in a dig at her boozing, her age and some inappropriate sack-talk about Tommen and his prowess (ewww, he’s 14. And her son.) Whilst Cersei still has much to learn about diplomacy – her pleasantries are still too forced – she does manage to hold it together. As she steps forward to Margaery, whispering “Remember..” you can feel her hold her tongue. She has no power here and must play a smarter game this time.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow is busy making a name for himself as new Lord Commander at The Wall. The meeting with Stannis as he rebuffs his offer of Winterfell and the Stark legitimacy might be difficult, but he holds firm; as we know, Snow has nothing without his honour and his conviction. The discussion doesn’t seem to be over anyway, as Ser Daavos pulls his usual “What Stannis meant to say if her weren’t being such an uptight prick, was…” and leaves Jon with a real sense of the conundrum he is in.
Still, there are jobs to do in the Night’s Watch, and dealing with the malcontent Janos Slynt is first on the list. Alliser, he grants a noble office as First Ranger (a role much better suited to Thorn’s talents, though he looks like he’s chewing on a wasp as Jon bestows it), but Slynt must go. He is a coward and, let’s not forget, a baby-murdering shit. What ensues was both surprising and necessary. As Jon deals Janos the duty to command East-watch-by-the-sea (he’s already got out of being Master Bog Attendant, mind), Slynt disdains such a lowly post. After Jon explains it’s not an offer, but a command (yet more elucidation and patience), the arrogant worm calls his new Lord Commander a bastard and tells him to stick the job.
As he is pinned to the executioners block, Snow truly inherits his father’s name, being the man who passes the sentence and swings the sword. The show deliberately makes this an explicit choice; Slynt even begs for mercy, cravenly admitting he has always been afraid. And Jon decapitates him all the same; because you don’t get the luxury of bitching or threatening insurrection or being a coward. Not on The Wall.
Indeed, each of the scenes with the Stark children all bear some hallmark of their evolving beyond their family name. Arya must let go of her identity entirely to become what she must, though she cannot yet bear to part with the last reminder she has of Jon, Needle, instead stowing it in a rock pile; a wise choice, since who knows what wrongun’s these Valar Morgulis types might turn out to be. Sansa is lined up for another dubious marriage, and must transcend her sense of right and wrong in order to make alliances, and somehow this will avenge her family (Littlefinger Logic TM).
At Moat Cailin, Ramsey Bolton learns some valuable lessons about rulership from his, so far, oddly patient father Roose. The elder Bolton manages to exert calm authority over his lunatic son, explaining the methods needed to lead; namely that flaying your subjects alive is less resourceful than making alliances. There is an interesting dynamic to their scene, Roose’s firm lessons spoken low but with purpose. Each step in his thought process is elucidated clearly to his son, in the hopes that he will comprehend how his role as a Lord has changed, if not what is permissible, then what is useful.
So, can Ramsey keep a lid on his psychopathy long enough to wed Sansa? And what is Sansa’s game here? Littlefinger uses his extraordinary talent for describing a violation like it is a gift, and Sansa sucks up her horror, for now. I have hoped and hoped for four long seasons that the elder Stark daughter will obtain the faculty to determine her own fate, and time and again the saga has robbed her of the opportunity. From pillar to post, frying pan to fire, one perverted betrothal to another. It is the most frustrating element of the story to watch this young woman beaten down, coerced and pinioned in a never-ending series of affronts. Will she ever stand up for herself, strike out alone, accept the help of good people? I pray to the old gods and the new that one day she will. Sophie Turner deserves some badass recompense at this stage.
There is an intriguing scene where Reek, lurking as he does these days, hides his face from Sansa at Moat Cailin. This is the second indication that some trace of Theon still exists; when he sees the bodies at the gate, flayed by his maniacal master, Alfie Allen’s face is transported, presumably as memories of his past life and crimes at Winterfell flood back. What it will take to resume his old self, or if there is anything there left to resurrect is unclear. But he remembers, and feels…something.
New mysteries are scattered throughout; we see another Red Woman in Volantis, preaching to the crowd to back Daenerys. So what then is Mellissandre’s game? Or are there different factions? The Lord of Light and the Queen of Dragons makes a solid pairing…And what has Qyburn done to The Mountain?! Elsewhere in Westeros we have some poignant moments of growth and exposition; Brienne ultimately understanding Poddrick’s worth and sharing something of her past and her expertise with him; Tyrion realising that what he though his last refuge is only a reminder of what he has lost. Alas, his lazy, wilful naivety gets him kidnapped by a desperate and drunken Jorah Mormont. But which Queen is he being taken to?
Review by Nina Clark
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