After two weeks of what could perhaps be classed as filler (though in Game of Thrones terms they’re still fantastic episodes), ‘High Sparrow’ was an episode right up there with the best the show has to offer, excelling in just about every way possible.
In amongst so many great scenes, the best was arguably right at the start, as we saw Natalie Dormer give an outstanding performance as the ever-scheming Margaery, more and more usurping Cersei’s place in the kingdom. The manipulation of Tommen, the holding court over her ladies; even away from King’s Landing the shift in power is quite clear. All of which lead to an overdue showdown between the two.
How often we’ve seen Cersei stride about the Red Keep, making someone’s life a misery – Tyrion, for example – but the subsequent scene drove home the reality of her position in the world. And what a scene it was. Every now and then in Game of Thrones we see occurrences that narratively count for very little, but provide incredible depth of character and intrigue instead, and Margaery’s overt mocking of Cersei, as she realised she could do nothing but grin and bear it, was great to watch.
Sticking with Cersei, and has she made a mistake foraging an alliance of sorts with the fanatical Sparrows, lead almost reluctantly, or so he would have us believe, by Jonathan Pryce’s High Sparrow? Certainly, if they don’t take kindly to ‘sinners’, one might only imagine their disdain for the incestuous Queen Mother. Although their discussion was another strong, dialogue-heavy scene, I have to admit to being disappointed by the introduction to the High Sparrow. Presumably their presence will grow as the season progresses, but I had hoped for the death of the High Septon, kick-starting a revolt of the lower classes, to really cause problems for the crown.
Next we move North, to ‘Lord Commander Snow’, newly appointed and already having to deal with dissent. The farewell to Janos Slynt was a questionable one. Firstly, I’ve always (read: since he reappeared last season) been skeptical as to how a heartless, successful man became such a sniveling wreck. We can all laugh at the sight of him cowering with Gilly, all pity him at pleading for his life on the chopping block, but really? This character has changed so much in a relatively short space of time. That isn’t a blot against the episode mind, as it’s only a continuation of the newer characterisation of Slynt, but it does stick in my mind.
Secondly, I’m not sure if Jon realises the gravity of just ignoring pleas for mercy, especially in front of the other brothers. He won their respect and support through being just and fair, as well as a good fighter, and ignoring that plea might not sit right with those Thorne can get near to. Still, any chance for the show to bring out the tried and tested ‘beheading music’ – last seen as Robb took the life of Rickard Karstark – is more than welcome to my ears.
Still in the North, and it’s hard to not feel sorry for Sansa. She’s supported Baelish at the Eerie over their travels, and what does she get in return? She has to face the man who killed her mother and brother, and marry his son, a man who (unbeknown to her) lists torturing, dismembering and setting the dogs on people among his favourite hobbies. Yet Sansa’s phoenix-like (yes that was an X-Men reference) transformation continues.
It might not be cut and dry though, given the telling shots of Reek – perhaps being reminded of his true identity by the combination of Winterfell and Sansa – and then of a rather angry looking Myranda. And, lest we forget, last time she got jealous, a girl got literally devoured. Watch out Sansa Stark. It was quite intriguing to see the two turncoat-supremes – Roose Bolton and Littlefinger – try to get the measure of each other, and we can hope for more scenes between the two soon.
Finally, to Essos. Arya began her training in earnest this week, though not quite at the level of excitement she perhaps hoped for. Then, we finished with an extended Tyrion scene in Volantis. The look into Volantian culture was a strong element, fleshing out an area of the world not yet visited, despite previous reference in passing.
While in a brothel, who should we see? Of course it’s Jorah, now carting Tyrion off to face the justice of the very queen he was intending to become acquainted with, just in more drastic circumstances than planned. Is it clichéd for them to wind up in the same place, at the same time? Perhaps. But for the sheer narrative value it offers, it’s a coincidence worth developing.
‘High Sparrow’ was a packed yet excellent episode, upping the game for season five and next week’s ‘Sons of the Harpy’.