Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 4 “The Sons of the Harpy” Review
*Full book and show spoilers follow*
In any society, who is it that really holds the power?
Power (and its structure and relation to society) is a vital theme in “Game of Thrones,” and this week the show — through the use of two very similar and brutal mob scenes — showed just how quickly power can shift, and the ever fearful results of what happens when the people (in this case, two fringe mobs) don’t exactly see things eye-to-eye with those at the top.
The problem is this episode showed the eruptions a little too quickly. Ka-boom!
After last week’s cliffhanger, the show opens with Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) off to sail away on a dark little boat into the dark depths of the dark ocean.
It was interesting seeing how different people reacted to the cliffhanger last week. It never crossed my mind that it was a clever misdirect of the show (of course Jorah would be taking Tyrion to Mereen), but a lot of people assumed it meant that Tyrion was headed back to Westeros to have a little run in with his sister.
It was thus, as Tyrion put it, a “waste of a kidnapping,” as Tyrion was already headed for Mereen. We got a little segment of Tyrion playing detective while Jorah just sat there not talking…which is an odd way to give context to what is going on.
(Also, Varys (Conleth Hill) was totally missing, and at the very least won’t be travelling with Tyrion — on THIS ship, at least.)
Tyrion wasn’t the only Lannister set adrift, as Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) themselves were sneakily trying to make their way into Dorne.
Bronn, clever little snot, is of course not buying any of Jaime’s story that he was sent to rescue his “niece”…no, he’s far too smart to buy that hook, line, and sinker. Bronn shared the same concerns that I’ve been having with this whole plot: How does Jaime expect to get into Dorne without it being taken as an act of aggression?
Sending a no-name knight (as in the books), remedied this fact. But Jaimie just walking into Dorne is mighty suspicious, both to the believers of the Lannister brother-sister fuck fest theory, and to the Dornish, who probably won’t take too lightly to the idea of the Kingslayer just merrily coming down to their land in the hopes of stealing away Myceralla (Neil Tiger Free).
So, while Jaime keeps saying he wants to avoid war, all of his actions point otherwise.
But, we did get to see Bronn kick some ass, and Jaimie somehow accidently win a fight because he forgot that he had a metal hand? Well. OK.
Cersei (Lena Headey) has her own troubles, though she’s far too important to bother worrying about them. The Iron Bank is a-callin,’ and the crown’s debts are only a-growin’, and instead of trying to do something about it she half heartedly sends away Lord Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) with Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) to go to Braavos themselves to sort the whole thing out. Taking bets now that one of them doesn’t come back alive.
The problem with Cersei is she thinks she’s smarter than everybody else, and can’t see when she isn’t. Deciding that it’s time to do something about that smirk on her daughter-in-law’s face, she decides to play with fire and finally gives the new High Septon (Jonathan Pryce) that power trip he’s always wanted: A whole new army. Enter the return of the Faith Militant.
Of course, it isn’t super clear WHY Cersei is doing this. Clearly she can’t think that arming the fringe Sparrow movement is going to turn out well for anybody.
It’s not that she doesn’t get anything out of it. The militant arrest Loras (Finn Jones) for being gay, is something that Cersei clearly had a hand in, even if she didn’t do it directly.
Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is none too happy about this, and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) tried to go play king with the High Sparrow and failed miserably. One can only hope that Margaery’s cry to go be with her family and write her Grandmother means the return of one of the show’s best characters. And it looks like poor Tommen won’t be getting with a piece of THAT anytime soon.
We’ve reached the boiling point in a flash, though.
This would all hold more ground if the show had built to this a little more, instead of seemingly plopping the viewer into a battle between the faith and the crown. It’s also weird how cultish the show is making the Faith Militant. The head scars certainly were not in the books, and gives the army a much different feeling of rashness and fear. That’s probably the point, but it also lessens the fact that they do have some solid ground to stand on. Instead, here they just seem wild and rampant and senseless.
Instead of showing us the water in the pot boiling, which the show has done with many other plots, it’s like we’ve all of a sudden been shown the kettle boiling without even showing us a scene of somebody pouring the water in the kettle first. Oh, here’s a new High Septon, here’s a new bunch of unhappy religious people, oh now they are in charge and raiding brothels. It’s a lot of jumps to happen so quickly.
Up at the wall, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) had a brief discussion about his own faith, and also had a few lines that are probably going to be important later: the royal blood that Shireen (Kerry Ingram) has, and the non-whore parentage of Jon. What could all this be leading to?!?
Before they march on Winterfell, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) tried to get Jon to come (in more ways than one!). She gave him the good ol’ boobie argument, and given Jon’s (Kit Harington) thing for redheads I’m surprised he was able to resist. Then she went to a local Hot Topic and bought a “You know nothing, Jon Snow” t-shirt and put it on, confusing Jon in more ways than one.
( I’ve always found it interesting how ‘religious’ Mel is, but yet all we ever really see is her trying to seduce men to do something. It doesn’t seem very religious, if you ask me. )
The show cut back to Stannis, giving us one of his most interesting, and definitely softest, scenes we’ve ever seen him in. The show has really been hitting on the grey scale this season, and having Shireen at the wall, it feels like grey scale is going to become important sooner rather than later.
As sweet as this scene was, I still can’t really make heads or tails of it. It seemed to have no purpose aside from reminding us that Shireen is there and has grey scale (and softening Stannis), and it didn’t really fit in with the rest of what the episode was doing.
(All that’s to say that if the Shireen getting burned and unleashing grayscale on the wall theory is true than this episode is a very good set up for that, and makes Stannis having to burn her much more of a sacrifice than it would have been without this scene. So actually, that’s probably what is going to happen. I’d count on that.)
Alas, I was wrong, as I wrote last week that Sansa (Sophie Turner) and the Boltons were in Moat Cailin, when apparently I was supposed to have realized they were actually in Winterfell. My bad! I didn’t think they had made it that far already, and with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) looking in on that Moat, I thought everybody was together there.
Anyways, this scene is probably going to become one of the most talked about scenes (I wrote OMG in my notes), and one that probably passed non-book readers completely by. R+L=J! R+L=J! R PLUS L EQUALS FUCKING J.
Sansa was visiting Winterfell’s crypts, where Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) stops in and gives the viewer a nice little history lesson about Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. This is essentially the story that started all of the drama that we have been witness too since the start of the series, and it’s nice that the show is starting to give us a little back story on it, even it it didn’t directly connect the dots to modern events.
BUT, it does give some massive show support for R+L=J, even if it was subtle. (Also, Stannis also gave some support to it as well in his line to his wife about a whore probably not being Jon’s mother). The scene did feet a little odd though; Sansa seemed a bit off with some of her lines, as if she wasn’t really talking to Littlefinger. It also wasn’t the only mention we had of Rhaegar this week.
Littlefinger also spilled his guts to Sansa for his Top Secret Plan 3.0: Make her Lioness of the north. Oh? Wardeness. Either way, he knows that Stannis is about to come kick some Bolton ass, and wants Sansa there when he does so Stannis can put her back in her rightful spot. Why he can’t just take her away until then…?
It’s also interesting that Littlefinger knows just how dangerous Roose (Michael McElhatton) is, but still seems so naive about his son. This idea, along with Jaimie going to Dorne, are two plot points this season the show just isn’t selling well. There’s no way Littlefinger doesn’t know about Ramsay (Iwan Rheon)…unless he is leading Sansa into danger on purpose.
I’m guessing “i’ll be married” was Sansa’s way of telling Littlefinger to stop giving her weird uncle kisses on the mouth, but she’s going to have to be a little more forceful if she thinks she’s going to survive Ramsay.
Hisssssssssssssss. We are then finally introduced to the Sand Snakes, the bastard daughters of Oberyn (Pedro Pascal). The show has limited the number of them (a lot of Dornish people are getting the axe, it seems) but finally! Whips! Spears!
Sadly, this wasn’t the greatest introduction to the sisters as i would have liked. Right now all three come off as comic book character versions of their book selves, and the way everybody here is presented as so black and white and war and peace is a little too one dimensional.
We only got a brief scene with them, so hopefully there will be a lot more time for them to come.
Last but not least, we returned to Mereen and Danny (Emilia Clarke). The “big” death this week was accidentally spoiled for me, and of course, Barristan (Ian McElhinney) isn’t dead yet in the books. But does this really matter?
I’m not so sure. It’s going to shape Danny differently, that’s for sure. She’s now alone, with no one from her homeland to help steer her. Some are suggesting this makes a nice hole for Jorah to fill (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE), but I think it’s more than likely setting up her marriage. She’s running out of friends and needs to react to this death someway, and trying to appease the locals might be the way to do it.
My larger problem with this scene is the physical functionality of it. How on earth is a group of the Harpys able to outfight the Unsullied? I hardly doubt that rich slave masters are well trained in combat, and even if they are, there’s no way they were trained as well and adeptly with the spear as the Unsullied. It just doesn’t make sense. The way that the Harpys were getting kills in also seemed unbelievable. Just sneaking in and cutting throats? Really?
As for Barristan, was one of the best swords in the land, and yet he’s brought down by the Harpies? I can at least buy that by the time he got there he was vastly outnumbered, but it still seems unlikely that they could put him and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) both down.
One thing’s for sure. Danny is fucked now.
The rulers that we are used to seeing hold power aren’t holding it anymore, that’s clear, and it’s hard to argue that modern politics aren’t seeping into the show a bit in the depiction of both the Harpies and the Faith Militant.
The depiction of those two groups felt unsettling just for the sake of being unsettling (especially compared to the books), and there was no reason for them to invade a brothel, except for some boobs. It’s almost as if the show wanted to make sure to give a dose of boobs and violence, and well, why not do them at the same time! This is what people want, so here you go!
But, for all the book reader shout outs and bread crumbs in this episode, it still felt like a bright flash that was lacking substance. We got a lot of death and violence this week at the hands of mobs, but the motivation and back-story behind the events were lacking. The pacing is also starting to drift widely; some plots are moving fast while others are really crawling, giving us the weakest episode yet this season.
Until next week, when it’s time to “Kill the Boy.”
Notes and Quotes:
-“All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight.”
-“Corpses raises questions. Questions raise armies.”
-“Dead don’t need lovers, only the living”
-No Arya (Maisie Williams) this week, which is probably good, as I’m still worried they are going to burn through her arc (or bore us with it) way too quickly.
-I know Grey Worm probably isn’t dead but I hope he is because I want that love arc to die a fiery death.