Following the trend of the last few weeks, the latest episode of Game of Thrones certainly picked up the pace, following through on many of the situations set up previously. And it certainly delivered the goods, as significant moves were made in each key plot line.
None more important than that of the High Sparrow in King’s Landing. Once he had struck against the Tyrells, it was only a matter of time before Cersei got her just desserts. The only unpredictable element of this development was the manner in which she was betrayed, as the fact she was in trouble could be seen a mile off, but this manner is perhaps the most interesting bit of characterisation in the arc.
It turns out that the High Sparrow has known of Cersei’s ‘sins’ since the beginning of his involvement in the show, through ‘Brother Lancel’. When sparring with Olenna (incidentally, up there with the Olenna/Tywin scene for acting prestige), he claimed not to have a hidden agenda, and maybe he doesn’t. But it’s hard to believe that someone who has manipulated his hand so skillfully doesn’t have a plan for what happens after he systematically takes down the throne.
Hostage taking may scare the noble families stuck in the city, but while ‘the many’ may not now fear ‘the few’, an army such as Stannis’, Dany’s or even that of the Bolton’s (if they see the throne vulnerable) wouldn’t have too much difficulty taking the city by force. Furthermore, I’d still be surprised if we get a full-blown revolution in King’s Landing, but this is still a huge move that I can’t wait to see play out on screen.
Talking of things playing out in front of our eyes, the gloomy predictions for Jon’s trip to Hardhome seem ever more accurate, with Ser Alliser aware of the opportunity being presented to him, and Aemon Targaryen having now met his end. The looks on the face of almost every brother of the Nights Watch as Jon unchained Tormund weren’t all that supportive either.
Staying in the same location, there was a large focus on Sam this week, as he and Gilly consummated their relationship in a manner rather more romantic than the show’s norm, while Sam grew in confidence to stand up to two delinquent ‘watchmen’. You’d have to assume he has a part to play in the season’s big moments with this build-up, complete with talk of ‘not being a fighter’ and ‘taking care of Little Sam’, but then again, it’s not Game of Thrones if our expectations aren’t well and truly trashed, so who knows?
Moving steadily southwards, and Stannis’ decision to march on Winterfell isn’t really paying off. With his army diminishing in the snow, could he take up Melisandre’s request? It would seem like the sort of character building from which there’s no return, similar to Theon’s actions in season 2. Of course, he’s already acted questionably thus far – from the shadow that killed Renly, to Gendry, to Mance and a few bits in between – but killing his own daughter would truly be a line crossed. It would be fascinating to see him commit such an act and go on to win the throne, if only for the polarizing effect it would have on the viewing audience.
To Winterfell, and following her brutal attack, Sansa’s peril shows no sign of abating. Last week’s final scene sparked a lot of controversy, but I’m going to take the scene at face value, simply because my views on the topic are too complex to summarise here. In ‘The Gift’, it would appear that we’re now seeing a Sansa both stronger and weaker in spirit in equal measure. Sophie Turner’s delivery as she commanded yet begged Theon to save her by lighting the distress candle mirrored Alfie Allen’s own work as Theon over the years – displaying multiple states and emotions at once, while still remaining true to the character.
Here, Sansa still had the fight and guile that she’s displayed since her escape from King’s Landing, yet she was visibly affected by the torment inflicted on her. As frustrating as it is to see Theon fall back on being Reek and betray Sansa’s plan to Ramsey, it’s true to the character’s current state; he’s previously cast aside his real sister as she offered him a physical, tangible route to escape, so it wouldn’t have sat right to see him simply ‘snap out’ of being Reek now. That’s not to say it didn’t make him think though.
We were given two quick scenes in Dorne this week, the second being the more intriguing. As many noticed last week, Bronn was cut by Tyene Sand’s poison dagger during their fight, yet here she chose to save him by giving him the antidote. While that, along with her actions towards him, may just be part of her individual characterisation, the fact that neither Obara nor Nymeria stopped her suggests that they might have more of a plan than we thought (unless of course it isn’t the antidote, and they’re very dangerous characters indeed).
Finally to Mereen, and the big Jorah reveal we’ve been building up to. The preceding scenes of him and Dany were strong, but the fight scene coupled with her disdain for the unnecessary violence, and the look on his face when he heard her announced, made it a contender for the best scene of the week. Seeing how his gift of Tyrion pays off adds yet another great cliffhanger to this episode.