Game of ThronesRecap

Game of Thrones: Season 5 Episode 3 – High Sparrow

Well, it’s finally happened. For those book readers in the audience, the series has finally launched headlong into the great unknown, and despite the subtle and incremental plot developments of this particular episode, there was at least one moment that was – for this book reader at least – as unexpectedly thrilling as either the Red or Purple Wedding, and no blood had to be spilled at all.

But we’ll get to that. Firstly, in Braavos, Arya is settling in to the House of Black and White by sweeping, as all men must serve. But the artist formerly known as Jaqen H’ghar tells her that faceless men must serve most of all. The question is, who do they serve? Just in case it was in any doubt, someone dies in the background, and is promptly taken away. There is only one god they serve, and everyone knows his name.

What is interesting is that in what is essentially a house of death, and as Arya cleans a cadaver, she suddenly becomes more human than she probably has been since Season 1. Arya had until now become increasingly sociopathic, and despite their banter, only became more so under tutelage from the Hound. It is good to see her finding some life.

She is, as in the books, made to give everything up, not just her name. But is unable to part with Needle, hiding the sword Jon made for her under a pile of rocks nearby. It’s up to us to wonder whether this is just symbolic of her inabiltiy to fully let go, or if it is necessary for a future plot development. Probably both.

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Jon, meanwhile, has assumed his new position as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. The North is full of intrigue and manouevring in this episode, and events at the Wall live up to this. Stannis tries to lure Jon into becoming a Stark once more, and is refused again. But at least Davos gets some lines! He reminds Jon that the Night’s Watch is the shield that guards the realms of men, and therefore should feel compelled to aid the planned assault on Winterfell to reclaim the North.

Which basically means Jon will have to convince Tormund to lead the wildlings under Stannis’ banner. Still undecided on how much this part of the story is matching or deviating from the novel.

Jon manages to successfully (maybe) shore up some begrudging support from Ser Alliser Thorne, but has no luck with the coward Janos Slynt. It’s been a relatively brutal-free series so far, but the show hasn’t ever shied away from beheadings before, especially in the name of justice. Jon passes the sentence, and so swings the sword. It is notable that in refusing to become a Stark and then executing Janos, Jon resembles Ned Stark more than ever.

Stannis approves.

Littlefinger and Sansa are still travelling, but we’re done guessing now. They arrive promptly at Moat Cailin, but it’s only a pitstop as Sansa knows. They’re heading to Winterfell; Littlefinger is delivering her to be married to Ramsay Bolton. And if the suggestion of this wasn’t enough to make the book readers gasp at the changes, she promptly arrives at Winterfell in the very next scene, wasting no time at all. It’s been a long journey for her to return there, even if she is now being introduced to the current lord, Roose Bolton, who kiled her brother and mother. But New Sansa handles it deftly.

Also, Theon is around, and has seen Sansa.

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This was thrillingly wonderful, it has to be said. There’s been lots of enjoyment and appreciation for the storytelling so far, but it’s now that we’re heading into dangerously good territory. It’s become an almost irrelevant point now to tally the differences between the books and the show, as the show is now fully embracing of its different status. There is huge drama in having Sansa present among the enemy at Winterfell, and this doesn’t exist at all in the books. The directness of this approach can only be fruitful for future episodes.

Nearby, Pod and Brienne are closely following Sansa, and Brienne knows where they’re going. Brienne is going to start training Pod to be a knight, and she regales him (and us) to the tale of how she became to be Brienne the wandering knight, firstly in service to Renly and then now to avenge Catelyn Stark.

It’s mostly told as a monologue, in a lovely long moment for the character, speaking probably more than she has since her time with Jaime Lannister. In a different way to the developments with Sansa, I’m really enjoying their approach to Brienne, who disappears for long stretches of time in the books. It’s a worthwhile investment, and now we have a purpose: kill Stannis.

So, the Boltons are in Winterfell with Sansa and Theon. Pod and Brienne aren’t far behind, and Stannis will march soon with his army to try and reclaim the North. Some sort of very explosive intersection is about to happen, and hopefully sooner this season rather than later.

King’s Landing is much as it ever is. Tommen and Margaery are married and she finally lands a king for good, third time lucky. Certainly not afraid of weddings, despite their reputation in the show. She’s working well to isolate Cersei, and it’s interesting to see whether the show is trying to gain our sympathies for the new Queen Mother, and if they are, why? There must be a pay off coming.

Cersei is able to meet the High Sparrow, who claims the title of the episode despite not really appearing much at all. But maybe she is spying an opportunity to gain new allies in unexpected places, particularly as the High Septon has disgraced himself.

Qyburn meanwhile is playing Frankenstein, with the Mountain under a sheet on a slab, not totally dead but certainly not yet alive.

640-7And finally Varys and Tyrion arrive in Volantis, en route to Meereen. It’s shore leave for Tyrion, who goes out in search of drunkeness and iniquity, but finds the disgraced Jorah Mormont instead.

That cliffhanger aside, the episode was a clever look at the developments of the remaining (and present) Starks: Arya, Sansa and Jon. Each are trying to give up parts of their past, but finding it entirely difficult to do so. Arya can’t quite let go, Jon embodies his past in all but name, and having embraced her alter-ego, Sansa is now forced to be a Stark against her wishes.

There’s a mid-season conflict looming I feel, and the show is working double-time to get the characters into place for it to happen. If the books were spinning out endlessly in the world-building, the show has already found the edges of the map, and now its characters are finding their way back to each other, and to conflicts as yet unexplored in the books.

  • Valar Morghulis: all men must serve, and so did that random guy in the House of Black and White. Oh, and Janos Slynt, of course.
  • Some nice, if haunting touches of Theon confronting his past in more ways than one.
  • No Meereen! Unfortunately I feel this means lots of Meereen next week.
  • What is up with Sam and Maester Aemon?
  • Greyscale Watch: referenced again with Tyrion and Varys in Volantis, in some talk related to the Stone Men.
  • Roose Bolton and Littlefinger fancy themselves heirs to Tywin’s throne. Not the toilet throne, the other one.

 

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