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Monday, 27 April 2015

Game of Thrones S5E3: High Sparrow.


Game of Thrones
Series 5, Episode 3
High Sparrow.



(This review contains spoilers for S5E3 throughout, but it also contains very minor spoilers for A Dance With Dragons. While I try not to talk about the books in these reviews, in this instance I felt there was interesting mileage. There will be a spoiler warning before the paragraph containing said spoilers, so by all means do avoid that section if you so wish.

Also, trigger warning for mentions of suicide.)


I'm writing this review on very little sleep, so I apologise in advance if it's a shade scatterbrained and/or totally incoherent. While I get some very strong yet dubiously effective coffee, here's last week's bingo for you to - I don't know, admire.



In this week's episode, Arya is set to sweeping floors at the House of Black and White, and draws the ire of another apprentice, a mysterious girl who wants to play the 'game of faces' with her. Tyrion, on his way to Meereen, has a series of unsettling chance encounters. In King's Landing, Cersei finds herself at a disadvantage as Margaery is wed to Tommen, and has to deal with the fallout of religious extremist faction 'the Sparrows' after they assault and humiliate a religious official. Meanwhile, in the North, Sansa arrives at Winterfell to be wed to Ramsay Bolton; Brienne and Pod track her; and Jon, now Lord-Commander of the Night's Watch, is forced to reject Stannis' offer and deal with dissent in the ranks.

It pleases me to say that the plot is fairly laser-focused in this episode - not as much as episodes like 'Blackwater', which remains enshrined in my mind as the best episode of Game of Thrones yet, but certainly moreso than the entirety of the last series. None of the viewpoints fall prey to holding pattern shenanigans: Even Brienne and Pod's storyline, certainly the least important and relevant of the episode, gives us some much appreciated backstory for Brienne. 

Probably the most vexing of the plotlines is Jon's, because at this point I feel like I'm just being taunted with a much more interesting storyline than the 'oooh, Jon's Lord-Commander now, oooh' storyline - that is, Jon setting himself up as a rival Warden of the North, bringing himself into conflict with the Boltons and, potentially, Littlefinger and Sansa. But as established before, I'm not a big fan of the Wall plotlines.

Speaking of, this new plot development of Sansa potentially wedding Ramsay does not bode well for Ramsay's continued good health. Sansa is, after all, now surrounded by Stark loyalists, in an unbreached stronghold, under the care of Littlefinger, whose attitude to murder within wedlock could be most charitably described as 'relaxed'. It would be very easy for Roose and Ramsay to meet with an 'accident' and both to perish - especially since Theon is also there, and it's an equal toss-up between Sansa being terrified, furious, or perhaps most dangerously both when she discovers what's happened to him.

Horses.


(Here's that A Dance With Dragons spoiler warning.)

Interestingly, though, this plot development also marks the sharpest divergence from the plot of the books that we've had so far. Without saying too much, Sansa and Ramsay do not ever interact in the books thus far, and Sansa's presence at Winterfell sends the plot spiraling off onto a path that I think will prove very interesting, and should have a knock-on effect on several other storylines. Better still, we should see that knock-on effect by the end of this series, if all goes well, so I'm looking forward.

(And it's safe to look again.)

Tyrion's storyline right now is mostly connecting tissue stuff, veering him away from Daenerys and onto a new storyline as Jorah's - captive, I suppose. Actually, just in general, Tyrion has been chronically underused this series, and while that's terrible, I don't expect it to last. In fact, my hope would be that we see a lot more of him next episode, but we'll see how that one pans out.

Good job not being conspicuous, guys. A+.

Cersei and Margaery's storyline, meanwhile, has surprisingly little ceremony for what is an important turning point. Margaery's wedding to Tommen is treated as a footnote, with the happy couple's, ah, bedding given a much greater focus, despite the fact that the marriage itself completely changes the power dynamics of King's Landing. A decent amount of focus is also given to bringing Cersei into conflict (of a sorts) with the Sparrows, including meeting their leader, the titular High Sparrow. It's pretty obvious that this is all going to backfire on Cersei, and that her attempts to court the Sparrows to increase her own personal power are going to result in the unpleasant realisation that their desire to ritually humiliate, shame, and do violence to anyone they don't like (and we've established already that Cersei is very definitely a candidate there) is greater than any desire for power they have.

Actually, her entire scene with the High Sparrow just screamed that fact, with him actively renouncing power while subtly praising the violence done to the High Septon constantly, so it's a wonder that Cersei didn't figure that one out already.

What a lovely wedding.

The best plotline this episode, though, is Arya's, and that's not surprising, since it receives more focus than I think any other storyline in the episode. While not a tremendous amount happens, we do get an important character moment for Arya, as she attempts to cast away her possessions, but finds herself unable to give up her sword, hiding it instead. More importantly, we get to see the workings of the House of Black and White - spartan, filled with statues of death gods from numerous cultures, and seemingly a place that worshippers come to commit suicide, so that's, er. That is a thing. Of course, we also know that the Faceless Men are shapeshifting assassins, and given the ominous silence after Arya asks what happens after they're done washing the body of those who've committed suicide, I'm going to guess the answer is 'we carve off their faces'. Just a hunch.

Anyway, here's the updated bingo:



Overall, a very strong episode in what has so far been an excellent return to form for the show. I'm looking forward to the next episode, where we will presumably be seeing more of the Faceless Men, Tyrion might be getting bundled onto a boat, and I don't know, maybe Sansa will stab someone.

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