Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 3: High Sparrow


Arya is now in the creepy house of creepiness getting inpatient with Jaqen H’Ghar because all she’s been doing is sweeping the floor. Of course this is all part of her apprenticeship to become a Faceless Man. Jaqen is also wonderfully creepily vague and cryptic about their god, the Many Faced God and also tells Arya she should become “no-one”. And a guy Jaqen gave a drink too just died which seems to be a thing in the House. Arya is juuuust a bit out of her depth

To emphasise this she’s fiercely questioned by another woman there, who asks who she is with a coin she knows nothing about – when Arya doesn’t answer to her liking, the woman hits her. Jaqen intervenes, saying Arya isn’t ready which Arya, foolishly, objects to, saying she’s ready to be “no-one”.  Jaqen points out she has Arya’s stolen silver, Arya’s clothes – and Arya’s sword. How can she be “no-one” when she’s surrounded by Arya Stark’s things?

She throws her things in the water, one by one until she reaches needle and, tearfully, she can’t do it. She hides it instead.

She returns to her sweeping and is led to the next stage in her training – cleaning a body with the woman who hit her. She’s not allowed any questions.

Kings Landing

In a covered palanquin, Cersei travels through the streets while the crowd hails and adores her – because they think she’s queen Margaery. Ouch. She doesn’t have the happiest smile on her face as she watches her son, Tommen, the king marry Margaery.

On the wedding night Tommen is all nervous and sweet and so afraid he hurt Margaery. Oh Margaery is going to eat him alive. He’s all naïve and innocent and is all sweetly conflicted because he has so much now because his brother died and he may be one of only two people in the entire world who is sad about that; at least he doesn’t feel guilty because of it

Unfortunately, Margaery tells us that Olenna has left Kings Landing while commenting that Cersei still is – she artfully starts to drive a wedge between Tommen and his mother, making Cersei look over-protective and controlling and seeing him as a child.

So when Tommen is walking with his mother and she’s trying, with far less skill, to stick her knife in Margaery, he tries to get her to go back to Casterly Rock.

Cersei is not amused and goes to visit Margaery and her friends (Margaery greets her with “I wish we had some wine for you, it’s a bit early in the day for us” – first blood Margaery). Cersei seems to be playing nice, even when Margaery makes a sex joke about Tommen’s prowess (I suppose sex within the family isn’t a taboo subject for the Lannisters though). Surprisingly Cersei doesn’t try for one dig – what is this? Surrender or more plotting?

The High Septon is visiting a brothel (like everyone else on this show ever. Westeros has the first sex-worker based economy. They should rename their coinage after sex acts) and his sex games are particularly blasphemous. He’s interrupted by Lancel and the Sparrows raiding the brothel who drag him into the street, naked and force him to walk down the street while chanting “sinner”, hitting him whenever he tries to cover himself.

Later he takes his complaints to Cersei and her council. Some are shocked that he visited a brothel (Lord Tyrell is wonderfully doubtful about his whole “ministering” to prostitutes) while Pycell calls it a man’s own private business which should stay private (since he also visits brothels). The Septon demands the High Sparrow be executed

Cersei goes to the enclave of the Sparrows looking for the High Sparrow. The place is crowded and poor and they minister to the sick and hungry – the High sparrow himself is wearing the same simple robes as the rest and helping give out food; he even denies they have a leader since “High Sparrow” is a name their detractors gave him. He’s very sympathetic and gentle, but he doesn’t deny is disavow what happened to the Septon calling it lancing the boil of hypocrisy.

Cersei… agrees and has arrested the High Septon and thrown him in prison. She argues they need a strong faith because the faith supports the crown.

I think she’s playing with fire trying to empower this religious group, especially one concerned with “sexual morality”. She’s going to get burned.

It also looks like her pet evil Maester is playing Frankenstein with the Mountain’s body.

The North

The Boltons still control Winterfell – and hold Theon enslaved. They’re also still flaying people and displaying the skinned carcases. They aren’t having an easy time of it though – some northern lords are refusing to pay taxes, only accepting a Stark overlord. Of course, Ramsay is responding by slaughtering people which he thinks is effective even if Roose, Lord Bolton and his father, doesn’t think they can hold the north by terror alone. Roose lays out the situation for Ramsay – House Bolton cannot hold the north if the lords rebel and their pact with the Lannisters was with the now deceased Tywin and it’s not like the Lannisters are the most reliable of allies. To become a great house they need allies. To get allies, they need to marry off Ramsay. And Roose knows just who to choose

Which is when Baelish and Sansa arrive in the North. Oh Sansa, there’s just no good end to your story is there? Unsurprisingly, Sansa is not thrilled at the idea of marrying Roose or Ramsay given what they did to the North and (as far as she knows) little brothers. She emotionally rails against it but Littlefinger urges her to take the opportunity for power, for security – and to use it to seek revenge.

She considers this and seems to agree

Brienne and Pod are still following them. Brienne takes a moment to question Pod and learn his origins and he keeps being so upbeat and cheerful, saying how proud he is to be her squire since she’s such an amazing fighter (even if she is surlier than his previous lords). Brienne finally seems to accept him as her squire – and that it’s her job to train him to be a knight and to start training him. Brienne also talks about her own past – how she was mocked for being big and tall and ugly and only Renly offered comfort and kindness. It’s a wonderful exposition of her loyalty to him.

Sansa plays nice and courtly when introduced to Roose and Ramsay though the women of Winterfell look on with icy eyes. When alone a female servant calls her “Lady Stark” and says “the north remembers”.

Ramsay tries to reassure Baelish that he will be a wonderful, caring husband (and it seems Baelish has been remiss with his spies, ignoring Ramsay because he was a bastard). Roose worries how the Lannisters will react to the marriage (since Cersei still wants Sansa dead) but Baelish points out just how weak the Lannisters have become without Tywin. Roose isn’t convinced, he’s curious as to what Baelish is plotting since he’s still in touch with Cersei yet also betraying her – really, Roose, don’t try to follow Baelish’s machinations

The Wall

Stannis now has to deal with Jon not quite as an equal, but certainly as someone due a great deal of respect since he’s Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jon, naturally, refuses Stannis’s offer to becoming the new Lord Stark because he’s all honourable (which Stannis doesn’t consider a good thing since it’s honour that got Ned killed). They also discuss the wildlings and what to do with Alliser Thorne with Stannis advising getting rid of him (since he doesn’t have much respect for the whole “keep your enemies close” adage).

Instead, John gives Ser Alliser a high honour as First Ranger, respecting his experience and skill. But when someone else refuses his order to command one of the ruined keeps, Jon has him taken outside clearly for execution. The man looks to Alliser – who doesn’t support him. The man is dragged outside where he babbles apologies to Jon who stands ready with a sword (like Ned, he does his own executing). He begs for mercy and Jon executes him.


Poor Varys continues to try and manage Tyrion who is still in his petulant funk. Tyrion insists on going out into the city where we see it’s another slave city, the slaves marked with facial tattoos. There they find an ex-slave, a red priestess preaching to a crowd and she speaks in favour of the “dragon Queen”. She looks directly at Tyrion which unnerves him.

Instead they go to a brothel where Tyrion is duly snarky to someone who believes it is “good luck to rub a dwarf’s head.” In the brothel we have more naked women and Tyrion hears more people toasting Daenerys’s name – Varys points out that Daenerys is hailed by both priests and sex workers.

With charm and wit and flattery, Tyrion talks one of the sex workers into sleeping with him and then, much to his shock stops and says he can’t. I’m sure issues over Shae

But when he’s alone he’s joined by… Jorah! He isn’t completely out of the picture after Daenerys banished him. He decides to tie up Tyrion to take him to the queen

Since this is Jorah I’m going to assume Daenerys, but there’s a few queens to choose from at the moment.

Tommen – in some ways I’m oddly torn. I think it’s a sign that his parents failed him in raising him to be this innocent and naïve when he’s a prince in the royal court (and second in line to the throne), he shouldn’t be this innocent, it’s dangerous. Yet, that same neglect is probably why he isn’t a raving monster like his older brother.

While I miss Olenna, I think it’s telling that she has left. Cersei is in the capital trying to rule in Tommen’s stead while Olenna has left, knowing Margaery doesn’t need anyone to hold her hand.

I’ve always loved the political machinations of Game of Thrones and I find where the Lannisters are now to be fascinating. There has always been a streak of needing to be cruel and ruthless to win politics and Westeros, that honour and being good would just get you killed (witness the decimation of House Stark – lampshaded this episode by Stannis - and the continued rise of Baelish) but the Lannisters are a really good example of going too far the other way. They have no friends, no-one who will go to bat for them and the allies they have are unreliable: the Tyrells are merrily dancing around them taking what they can get, the Boltons are so appalling as to be an almost liability; their grasp is weak because they have no actual friends or supporters and, with Tywin dead, no-one who is even respected. We even have this expressly stated by Roose Bolton of all people saying the key to being a great house is through alliances – something Team!Ruthless doesn’t really have; they have people who will follow them around taking what they can and then will happily drop them if they have to.

Which makes me wonder about Sansa – in some ways this is a return to her marrying Joffrey. Marrying the abusive, sadistic megalomaniac. But Sansa isn’t the innocent she was then… I hope we’re actually seeing a situation where Ramsay needs to watch out.

And equally to worry about Jon who treats Alliser with honour and respect – the acts of a classic Stark (honourable, but harsh and uncompromising in that honour). Classic Starks get killed.

Baelish is still the one to watch – just how far do his ambition stretch?

Brienne and Pod, I do love them together as Brienne starts to accept him as her squire. Of course there’s a lot of alluded to issues behind this – for all her amazing skill and even for her having a squire, Brienne isn’t a knight. I can see why she resents Pod for all he’s such a nice guy, because her having a squire must feel like a mockery when she isn’t a knight and can’t be one – for all she spends her life chasing the trappings of “true” knighthood (and doing more so than actual knights with her honour and her oaths and her desperation to pledge service), she’s never really one (which also makes the rejections of her doubly galling). She agrees to train Pod but, ultimately there’s the background that she is training him to be something she cannot be, even though she’s so very qualified for the role. There’s a lot to Brienne’s story which is only alluded to with her attitudes and could, I think, be more overtly touched upon, but it is there.