Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 3 “High Sparrow”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: Stannis makes another overture to Jon, to accept the legitimised title of Lord Stark and rule the North, but Jon rejects him again, quoting his vows to the Night’s Watch. Jon asks how much longer Stannis is staying at Castle Black, and Stannis comments on the subtlety or lack thereof of Jon’s question. But then he says he will march on Winterfell within the fortnight. Jon tells him that the wildlings will never follow him, so Stannis tells Jon that it’s up to him what to do with them, as the new Lord Commander of the the Watch.

At dinner, Jon is seated at the commander’s position on the high table. The seat next to him is empty, and he asks where Maester Aemon is, to be told that he is ill. Jon then makes some announcements to the men. He starts by declaring that a new latrine needs to be dug, so he is appointing someone to lead the work crew. The camera lingers on Ser Alliser, looking sullen and petulant, and gives the impression that Jon is about to assign him this filthy task. But no, he appoints one of the men, who takes it good-naturedly amongst the laughs of his comrades. Jon then mentions Alliser’s valuable service to the Watch, and appoints him as First Ranger, which takes Alliser by surprise.

Next, he orders Janos Slynt to travel to some other castle (presumably along the Wall a bit) and restore it to service. Slynt refuses and calls Jon a pretender, and that he should order someone who cast their vote for him. Jon calls him to order, but Slynt ups the ante with insults. Jon responds by ordering Slynt held and taken outside, and asks for his sword. One presumes the penalty for blatant insubordination in the Watch is execution. Slynt is placed on the execution block. He panics and begs for mercy, saying how afraid he is, and that he’s always been afraid. Jon hesitates briefly, then swings his sword, beheading Slynt. Stannis looks on approvingly from a balcony.

Okay, so Stannis is going to try to take Winterfell back. That should be interesting, especially given what’s happening there (see next section). Maester Aemon’s illness must be foreshadowing, possibly of the old man’s death, otherwise there’s no plot reason for him to miss the dinner. Aemon cast the deciding vote, so if he dies soon one could see Alliser mount an argument that Jon’s appointment is less than valid. Although Alliser has also lost a supporter in Slynt, so Jon would still win the vote. Jon presumably wants to set a mark for upholding the rules and not taking any flak, thus his swift justice against Slynt. Presumably Slynt figured Jon wouldn’t have the gumption to go through with an execution, otherwise why stand up to him so stupidly? Especially given what a coward he is. Unless something else odd is going on here.

And now Stannis is leaving, but the hints of plot involving Jon and Melisandre, and Gilly and Stannis’s daughter haven’t led to anything yet. So maybe there’ll be more development of those before Stannis leaves.

Winterfell: Ramsay Bolton starts rebuilding Winterfell with the help of some men. Theon Greyjoy does menial tasks, but sees several flayed people in the square – presumably Stark supporters. He stares at them and twitches… perhaps the beginnings of recovering his senses after being brainwashed to think of himself as Theon’s servant “Reek”. Roose Bolton and Ramsay talk tactics over dinner, with Theon serving. Roose says they don’t have enough men to hold Winterfell if all of the remaining Stark supporters attack, and he suggests that the best way to cement power is through marriage. Theon overhears, and again a spark of sensibility seems to enter his eyes briefly.

The scene cuts immediately to Sansa, standing on a cliff overlooking the castle of Moat Cailin, and it’s immediately obvious who Roose is talking about. Petyr joins Sansa and says that he’s arranged for her to marry Ramsay Bolton. Sansa protests, saying the Boltons murdered Rob and Cat and destroyed Winterfell; why would she ever marry a Bolton? Petyr gives her a less than subtle lecture about avenging her family, and this being a perfect opportunity. Sansa thinks for a bit, and finally agrees.

Also overlooking Moat Cailin as Petyr and Sansa and their retinue travel through are Brienne and Podrick. They see they are heading for Winterfell, and decide to ride around Moat Cailin to pick up the trail on the other side. Brienne asks Podrick how he got to be a squire, and he tells her the story. She offers to teach him how to fight with a sword and to ride a horse properly. She also tells him that she served Renly Baratheon, and saw the mysterious shadow that murdered him, in the shape of Stannis. She doesn’t know how, but she knows Stannis is responsible, and swears to kill him.

Petyr and Sansa arrive in Winterfell and Ramsay and Sansa are introduced, she acting sufficiently demure. Roose is pleased that the marriage will forge an unlikely alliance between the Boltons, supported by the Lannisters, and the Starks. However, he’s not sure how the Lannisters will take his consorting with the enemy. Petyr reassures him that with Tywin dead, the Lannisters’ power is waning and he has nothing to worry about. Roose counters with a message, sent to Petyr, from Cersei, by raven. Cersei is recalling him to King’s Landing (actually, we see her sending the message earlier in the episode, but I’m writing that bit later). Petyr asks for a raven to send a reply, and Roose says sure, but he’s going to read his message first.

Okay, there’s a lot going on here. Theon seems to be at least partly recovering his senses. This looks like it’s setting up for him to snap back into his old self at some point, and betray Ramsay. Unless he gets himself killed before then, of course. Petyr’s plan to marry Sansa to Ramsay is weird. I’m not sure what he’s trying to achieve here. I really thought he was planning to abduct Sansa off to have for his own, given all his constant profession of love for Cat and how Sansa is a younger, prettier version of her. Giving her to Ramsay seems really odd. Clearly he wants something from the Boltons, but I have no idea what it is. And Sansa, for her part, seems to slowly be developing from her meek useless self into someone who can at least dream of revenge. Whether she can execute some sort of plan against Ramsay remains to be seen. She seems too much of a damp blanket to really pull off anything dangerous, but I live in hope of the day that she proves me wrong.

Brienne may be on a road to run into Stannis, given she is headed to Winterfell, and so is Stannis. Their meeting should be interesting, but probably a few episodes away at least. And whether Podrick can actually be taught to be a competent fighting man is a question that should provide some amusement. And finally, I wonder what message Petyr will return to Cersei. Will he run to King’s Landing, or will he defy her? I’ve really got no idea what Petyr’s long term plan is, or even if he has one. All his actions seem so random and unpredictable. Maybe that’s his thing – be unpredictable so nobody can ever be a step ahead of you.

King’s Landing: Tommen and Margaery are married, and – surprisingly – nobody dies at the wedding. As Cersei rides in a palanquin to the ceremony, she is disgusted by the crowds chanting “Queen Margaery!” There’s no doubt, Margaery has done a masterful job of winning over the public. She continues on her wedding night, showing Tommen the time of his life, and then dropping subtle hints that Cersei still thinks of King Tommen as her “little boy”, and that she won’t ever let him be truly free to do as he wishes. Not as long as she’s in King’s Landing, anyway…

Later, Tommen talks to Cersei and suggests she would be happier at Casterly Rock, where she grew up, and of course Tommen has nothing higher on his mind than his mother’s happiness. Cersei sees through this and goes to confront Margaery. But Margaery is in the company of a half dozens ladies in waiting, and making jokes about Tommen’s enthusiasm for generating Cersei’s grandchildren. She asks Cersei if the correct way to address her now is “Queen Mother” or “Dowager Queen”. Cersei fumes and staks off to write the aforesaid letter to Petyr Baelish to order him back to King’s Landing.

In between, we see the high priest of the Sept having some down time in one of Baelish’s whorehouses. A group known as the Sparrows intervenes and parades the naked priest through the streets. The high priest demands the Small Council do something – find the High Sparrow and bring him to justice. Cersei goes alone to find the High Sparrow, telling her guards that the Sparrows are very religious, looking to guard the faith, and she will be safe alone. She meets the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce!!), a seemingly genuinely humble and devout man, and offers him the job of high priest, to replace the disgraced former one.

Cersei then goes to the Dr Frankenstein guy who is looking after Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane. I think this must be the same guy who said he was stripped of the title of Maester for experimenting on live people, when he was tending the stump of Jaime’s severed hand back in Harrenhal (Season 3, Episodes 5 and 7). Anyway, she asks him to write the message to Petyr Baelish. After she leaves, Frankenstein starts writing, and a sheet-covered body in the background starts thrashing about. Yep, this guys’ lab looks pretty much exactly like Dr Frankenstein’s. The body is presumably The Mountain, being rebuilt.

Okay, Margaery has taken a few tricks here, but Cersei is still in the game. Does she have any trumps up her sleeve? Is Petyr Baelish really someone she can rely on? How can he help? And will he? Margaery has played the game skilfully, but I’d hate to bet against Cersei. Margaery is the irresistible force, but Cersei is the immovable object. It’s going to be interesting to see who wins. And what’s all this sudden new stuff about priests and the High Sparrow? Presumably it will become relevant somehow, but it’s all a bit out of the blue at the moment.

Braavos: Arya does menial chores in the House of Black and White, sweeping the floor as random men seem to just lie there on the floor. Jaqen appears and Arya asks when she can start learning to be a “Faceless Man”. He says keep sweeping, in his best Mr Miyagi impersonation. This seems to be some sort of wax on, wax off, scenario designed to teach Arya humility before her real training starts.

A slightly older girl in a sackcloth comes and asks Arya who she is. Arya replies, “Nobody”, but the girl says, “Wrong!” and starts whacking her with a stick. Arya yells at her to stop. She draws her sword,but Jaqen arrives to intervene. He asks how she can be nobody if she has Arya Stark’s clothes, Arya Stark’s sword. Arya considers this, then changes into a sackcloth herself, and throws her clothes into the sea. She is about to throw Needle into the sea too, but pauses… on the edge of throwing away her precious sword for a good minute or two… I thought she might really have been about to do it, but she pulls back and hides the sword under some rocks inside a stone wall. She returns to the House, and Jaqen gets her to do more wax on, wax off, this time washing some dead guy’s body.

This is all really weird. I don’t know what Arya is doing or thinking she’s doing here. She’s putting up with a lot of pseudo-mystical crap in pursuit of… what? I don’t even know what she expects to gain from any of this. Hmm. Looking back at my notes for Season 2, Episode 10, I see that Jaqen originally wanted to take Arya to Braavos to teach her to fight. I guess Arya’s taking up that offer now. Still, she’s put up with a lot of crap to get this far. She seems determined to stick it out though.

Volantis: Still on the way to Meereen, Varys and Tyrion pass through the city of Volantis. Tyrion says he needs to get out of the litter to see someone else’s face. Varys replies that he has a perfectly good face, what’s Tyrion complaining about. But he agrees they can go for a walk, after warning Tyrion that he could be recognised and Tyrion wraps a hood around his face as a partial disguise. But of course the very first person they come to in the streets is a priestess preaching to a crowd about the virtues of Daenerys Targaryen, and the priestess looks straight at Tyrion in a recognising way.

Varys and Tyrion rush away and into a brothel, which was where Tyrion really wanted to go. Other customers are entranced by a whore dressed to resemble Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, but Tyrion’s eye turns to a plainer brunette. When she speaks, she sounds eerily familiar, and it’s only later that I realise she has the same accent as Shae. Tyrion seems very interested, but can’t seem to perform, and goes to relieve himself over a castle wall. As he’s doing so, Jorah Mormont appears and kidnaps him! He says he’s going to take him to see Daenerys.

Okay, what? It’s a bit of a coincidence that Jorah is here, in the same brothel as Tyrion – why is he even there at all? Okay, I presume he’d recognise Tyrion – I can’t remember if they’ve ever met, but he probably knows him by reputation. But why grab him and take him to Daenerys? Daenerys banishes Jorah for… oh… spying for the Lannisters. Okay, this could be Jorah’s way of proving to Daenerys that he is loyal to her and not to the Lannisters – by bringing her a Lannister prisoner. Yeah, that makes sense. Interesting.

No update on Jaime and Bronn for a couple of episodes. I presume they’re on the way to Dorne and will arrive in an episode or two.

2 Responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 3 “High Sparrow””

  1. Glen says:

    “I think this must be the same guy who said he was stripped of the title of Maester for experimenting on live people,” — that’s right.

  2. Lauri T. says:

    Jonathan Pryce delivers such a brilliant performance as the High Sparrow. There are loads of great veteran actors in this show, a couple of big names have yet to have their first appearance at this point.

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