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”There is only one war. Life against death.”
After three episodes (”The Wars To Come,” “The House of Black and White” and ”High Sparrow”) that, while still very entertaining, seemed mostly concerned with putting the pieces in place for the new season, this week’s Game of Thrones started moving them around the chessboard to bloody thrilling results. “The Sons of the Harpy” is one of the most streamlined installments of the HBO fantasy series ever and the results prove that perhaps less is more. Hands down (or should I say ‘hand’ down?) the best episode of the fifth season so far. And things are only just starting to bubble over…
”The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight.”
All season long I have talked about wanting a Tyrion and Varys sitcom spinoff, but now I’m starting to think I might prefer ‘Cooper & Darnell.’ Jaime and Bronn make a terrific pair and, like the previously mentioned traveling companions, highlight that Game of Thrones is a really funny series when it wants to be. Both of the hand gags worked and I somehow managed to still be surprised when he used it to save himself from the Dornish attacker.
Bronn was also right about the ship captain immediately making dock in order to sell the secret, but the play didn’t work out so well. He probably should have kept the large bag of gold and his mouth shut. His death did make for a pretty badass introduction to the much talked about Sand Snakes. We finally meet Oberyn’s daughters - Obara with the spear, Nymeria with the whip, Tyene with the knives - and they lived up to the hype. Looking forward to seeing more from them. If they cross paths with Jaime and Bronn, I don’t see everyone making it out of that encounter alive.
”Aren’t you and mother getting along?”
Oh, Tommen. You sweet boy. You are in way over your head. And given what we know about Game of Thrones, how long will it stay attached to your shoulders? After having the best night of his life, the boy King is caught in the middle of the war between his mother and his new wife. It starts in the Small Council meeting where Cersei makes plans to send Margaery’s father Mace away to Braavos to deal with the debt with the Iron Bank in person. It’s not at all ominous that she sends her fixer Meryn Trant to go with him as ‘protection.’ But keep this in mind. He’s on, uh, no one’s list. This show knows how to move those pieces.
Cersei also moves the High Sparrow against the Tyrells, first by restoring the Faith Militant - the religion’s army - and then by telling tales about Ser Loras. The cross-cutting (get it?) between the siege on Littlefinger’s brothel and the Inglourious Basterds-style branding was really well done. And back to poor King Tommen. He was completely man-handled by his mother and wife, and is way too sweet to have anyone killed on the steps of the Sept. Nice lad. Bad leader. Good thing Margaery will be calling in reinforcements. Lady Olenna to the rescue?
”You know nothing, Jon Snow.” “The Sons of the Harpy” did a lot in its few scenes to make me like Stannis way more than I ever have. That’s not saying a lot since the stoic and rigid ‘King’ has always rubbed me the wrong way, but the time at the Wall has been good for his character. The last scene with his daughter was by far the most emotional sequence Stannis has ever been involved in and it was very moving when he called her Princess Shireen of House Baratheon.
Of course, this is Game of Thrones at its finest, because the earlier scene between Melisandre and Selyse suggested that the young girl’s future may be in jeopardy. Fire doesn’t care about greyscale, only the King’s blood. Not good. Things also get pretty hot and heavy between the Red Priestess and the Lord Commander but Jon eventually turned down her advances as he’s still mourning the loss of Ygritte. Oh, and those vows or whatever. When Mel dropped the line on the out, I got chills. The show made a point to show Jon asking the Boltons for assistance. I wonder if the reply will inform him of the impending marriage?
”Even the most dangerous men can be outmaneuvred. And you learned to maneuver from the very best.”
We only get a short scene with the future Lady Bolton in Winterfell but it contained one of Game of Thrones' famous stories delivered via monologue. My favorite of these was Oberyn telling Tyrion of his visit to Casterly Rock, yet this new tale gave that a run for its money. When Littlefinger joined Sansa in the crypts, he told her about the infamous Tourney of Harrenhal where Prince Rhaegar Targaryen bested Ser Barristan Selmy in the finals before causing a stir by giving Lyanna Stark, not his wife Elia Martell, the crown of blue winter roses.
This in many ways was the beginning of Robert’s Rebellion, as Rhaegar would soon kidnap and rape Lyanna. Well, that’s one version anyway. The guy Barristan described doesn’t sound like a rapist. On top of the history lesson, Sansa also learned that Stannis will be coming and Littlefinger will be going. In the meantime, it’s just her and the Boltons. Yikes. If you don’t remember, the feather she finds was the one left by King Robert Baratheon in the very first episode. It’s the details that count.
”Go, Ser Barristan. Sing a song for me.”
It’s no coincidence that we got two different Rhaegar Targaryen stories in the same episode, as Game of Thrones at its core is really about how perspective plays such a key role in storytelling. ‘Songs’ are written by the victors. Brienne would tell a very different story about the ‘Kingslayer’ than the rest of Westeros. Tyrion makes note of this when Jorah finally removes his gag when discussing how Jorah could be executed instead of welcomed by Dany upon his return, present or no. Tyrion also plays a mean Sherlock. Unfortunately, Jorah packs a mean punch.
It does look like Dany will need some new advisors though since one of her most trusted advisors and protectors didn’t make it out of “The Sons of the Harpy” alive. At least, Ser Barristan went out swinging and potentially saved Grey Worm in the process. I couldn’t tell whether he died, too. I don’t think so. But there are worse ways to go for men bred to be soldiers. And another one (or two) bite(s) the dust. They’re both still alive in the books. Roads? Who needs roads.
”All men must die. But not all can die in glory.”
Game of Thrones continues with Episode 5, “Kill the Boy,” next Sunday at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO. Based on the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R.R. Martin, the series was adapted for TV by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.