Recap: ‘Game of Thrones’ S5E3 “High Sparrow”
Though it might be a bit slower to start than previous seasons, episode 3 of Game of Thrones’ fifth year has begun to show this season’s teeth. Characters are put into place, barbs are made and taken in a vocal yowling match, and the North gains a queen as well as a warrior of conviction. What’s great about “High Sparrow” is that at least one character is beginning to show the start of gaining back our favor while others still seek a way to gain that from others, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.
In a show full of conversations and veiled language, perhaps the greatest exchange this week belongs to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady). Margaery and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) marry with little pomp and sans celebrations resulting in death, and the new queen flaunts her position with ladies of the court while digging the manipulative claws in deeper to her young, naïve husband. Upon hearing from Tommen that perhaps she would be happier at home at Casterly Rock – for he only wants her to be happy – Cersei pays her new daughter a visit, and the claws come out, in the most civil of manners, of course.
Cersei has finally come toe to toe with someone we genuinely don’t think she can beat, as the flashback from episode 1 suggests, and it’s brilliant to watch her grind her teeth while being laughed at as she walks away. Dormer and Heady play this scene perfectly, Dormer lacing every sentence with sickly sweetness to the point that the insults roll off her tongue like syrup, so sweet in fact that it takes a beat to realize what she has said. It’s fantastic to have Dormer back after a two-episode absence, we have missed the honeyed strategist, and now she’s queen. Heady, as always, is strong in “High Sparrow”, refusing to let her grace fall even as Dormer questions which unflattering name to call her and Cersei is faced with becoming the old woman amongst a sea of young blood.
Besides the assumed revelry a royal wedding brings, we are introduced to a fundamentalist religious sect worshiping the old Seven Gods that take matters of religious heresy into their own hands in Kings Landing. Caught red-handed by these self-appointed enforcers, the supposedly celibate High Septon (Paul Bentley) is dragged out of a brothel and humiliated for his transgressions, and he demands justice from Cersei. The queen mother pays a visit to the group’s leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and finds a humble servant, an interesting plot point for the future perhaps, as Stannis and his Red Lady close in on one side with Daenerys and her dragons from another. The battle between the old gods, the one true god, and the faith of the further lands remains a constant in Game of Thrones.
Speaking of humble, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) begins her time in the House of Black and White as any good apprentice does: sweeping the floor. Though she demands to be trained by Jaqen H’gar (Tom Wlaschiha), she is deemed not ready, not until she lets go of everything that labels her as Arya Stark. Realizing that until she destroys everything, including her beloved Needle, Arya cannot progress beyond the front room, and Maisie Williams gives a poignant performance as she gives up her name. Though we knew her training would probably begin in such a way, much like her water dancing sword training seemed innocuous at first, but just as Syrio Florel had hidden ways of making the meaningless necessary, undoubtedly Jaqen H’gar has his reasons for the monotonous start. We can’t wait to see Arya in full training mode, though!
The pursuit of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) continues, and while Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) reminisces about Renly Baratheon with Pod (Daniel Portman), Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) delivers Sansa into somewhat more dangerous hands. As part of whatever grand scheme he has in store for Westeros, Baelish reveals that he has offered Sansa in marriage to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), lord of Winterfell. Though she heads home to yet another marriage of convenience for someone else, Baelish arms her with words of vengeance and betrayal while holding her a little too lovingly for an “uncle”, yet what else can we expect from him? The spark that returns to Sophie Turner’s eyes after so long when she realizes that she can use this marriage to her advantage, especially on her home turf, is a welcome sight, and hopefully she will continue to bring some life back to Sansa and revitalize her character from the moping emo she has become.
One of the more interesting factors in Sansa’s return to Winterfell is the presence of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Ramsay’s whipped servant who clearly remembers Ned Stark’s eldest daughter, as he hides his face from her sight. Theon has proven to be a source of contention for those wishing to hurt his master, but with recognition in his eyes could this be the beginning of the end for “Reek” and lead to the return of Theon? It will be interesting to see if she can pull him out of the depths.
Farther north, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) sits quite oddly as Lord Commander of the Nights Watch, not yet grown into his post with an attendant even younger. He turns down Stannis’ (Stephen Dillane) offer to grant him the name Stark, but heeds the king’s warnings about keeping his enemies within Castle Black, but who truly is his enemy? Jon presents a test of his men’s loyalties, giving Allister Thorne (Owen Teale) and Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) new positions. One reacts as expected, one does not, and Jon takes the opportunity to show his strength of loyalty to his oath and demonstrate his character to his men, looking every bit his father enacting Northern justice. Jon is capitalizing on the position given to him both as the hero of the Wall and as Lord Commander, and by the end of the episode Harington has him carrying his new responsibilities boldly. Harington has always been strong in this role, exuding a presence that makes us think Jon will survive until the very end, and in the last moments of his time on screen in “High Sparrow” he delivers his final blow with strength and conviction, his scarred face belying the beginning of a new Jon Snow.
Though we don’t visit Meereen in “High Sparrow”, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is finally allowed to walk in a city as he and Varys (Conleth Hill) reach Volantis. Unfortunately for Tyrion, the lure of a price for his head and a run in with a familiar face may have sealed his fate. Tyrion’s story needed to have a little more than his and Varys’ vocabulary to liven it up, and thankfully it seems as though that injection of mystery and intrigue has come, especially since he could either end up where he wants to be with Dany, or he could find his way back into his sisters’ vengeful hands. As the episode ends, Tyrions’ psychological state of mind is in question as he is clearly suffering from more than a thirst for wine in the wake of killing his father and his lover, and Dinklage proves why he remains one of the best actors on the show as Tyrion struggles to understand why he cannot sleep with a prostitute. It is a really brilliant moment from Dinklage, revealing a new level of vulnerability that we have only seen from Tyrion a handful of times.
Things are truly starting to happen in what has so far been a slow start to Game of Thrones Season 5, and even if “High Sparrow” is still moving pieces and bringing characters together, the prospects for this season are beginning to reveal themselves, and some of our characters are benefitting handsomely because of it. Sansa is one that needed something more to keep us interested in her other than her darker self and her recent penchant for wearing her hair like her mother. With what sounds like a clear plan to be implemented on her wedding night – though Littlefinger will clearly be working his own angle alongside – Sophie Turner has finally sparked our interest once more.
With Arya finally in good standing with her faceless man, perhaps her training will kick off in the coming episodes, something we’re all looking forward to. Jon Snow got a massive boost this week, as he started the episode looking like a small man playing at confidence with Stannis Baratheon from behind his new desk, but he evolved into one that showed his men and the king that he is truly in charge, he will be followed, and he commands respect. The only face missing from Jon’s story is Ghost. The white direwolf is decidedly absent, and what could make Jon Snow look more a commander than his greatest companion? The other face we have yet to see, though we were reminded this week, is The Hound (Rory McCann). With his fate uncertain yet very much painful, The Hound is one character we would expect to come back not just because of his popularity, but also because of his inherent ability to cheat death (scars on his face!), so it will be interesting to see when and where he pops up again in this season, or if like Bran he has been retired until next year.(4 / 5)
(Photos copyright: HBO)