Monday, April 27, 2015

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: High Sparrow

"I've heard that it's best to keep your enemies close."
"Whoever said that didn't have many enemies."
Hmm. Imagine that in the film adaptation of Mario Puzo's Godfather novel instead of Michael Corleone being the one to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, Francis Ford Coppola filmed the scene with Clemenza as the assassin. Now in the short term maybe it doesn't matter that much but looking past the immediate such a change would alter many character developments and motivations as well as the larger story themes and threads. Some of this might be for the good but then again perhaps not. I felt that kind of way after watching Sunday's episode. I'm not sure if all the changes worked. However, given that the showrunners have run out of published material for some characters they may have had no choice but to alter events while presumably still trying to tie things into George R.R. Martin's ending. They know the ending and we don't. There are small butterfly changes which are adding up to increasingly huge differences between text and screen. I will write more about that after the season. Multiple book storylines were shot in the back of the head and dumped in the river in last night's episode. Again, I urge you to read the books. Anyhow. We have a creepy open in the House of Black and White where Arya watches as Jaqen H'ghar gives a man a drink. Arya is impatient to get on with the business of becoming a world class assassin instead of just sweeping up but Jaqen reminds her she's not ready for that yet. That drink Jaqen gave the man was apparently poison as the fellow drops dead. Jaqen says everyone must serve the one god, death. Another young woman is apparently jealous of Arya's precocity and attacks her with a riding crop(?) wanting to know who she is. 

Arya reaches for her sword Needle and is about to put holes in this fool but Jaqen intervenes (rather suspiciously quickly-did he order the other girl to do this?) and peevishly reminds Arya that although she is supposed to be no one she still has the name, clothes, gear and sword of Arya Stark. Arya throws everything away in the canals with the notable exception of Needle, which she hides. This is important. Needle was made by the Winterfell blacksmith and was a gift from her brother Jon. It's her last link to her previous life. She can't get rid of it. In King's Landing the wedding between Margaery and Tommen takes place. The couple do what newlyweds typically do. Tommen lost his virginity but it's pretty obvious this wasn't Margaery's first time at the rodeo. She uses a little reverse psychology plus the allure of her Highgarden to suggest to Tommen that (1) Cersei would be happier back at Casterly Rock and (2) Tommen doesn't need Cersei around any more. When Cersei gets wind of this she goes to see Margaery, who is sharing details of her wedding night sexcapades with her ladies in waiting. With feminine guile and indirectness, Margaery points out that she, not Cersei is the Queen and that Cersei is old, a drunk, a dowager and will be a grandmother soon. Atypically Cersei does not rise to the bait but merely smiles and says that if there is anything Margaery ever needs, Cersei would be happy to help. She need only ask. Hmm.
Winterfell has been re-opened under new management. Bolton management. Theon watches as the skinned bodies of recalcitrant northern lords and their families are raised for all to see. This is Ramsay's doing, something for which his father chastises him. Roose says that the Boltons do not have enough men to forestall a northern revolt,  a certainty if Ramsay continues his reign of terror. Without Tywin Lannister backing them up the Boltons need legitimacy as much as anything to defend their gains. And that legitimacy will be gained by a Ramsay marriage to Sansa Stark. This was brokered by Littlefinger of course. Littlefinger has taken Sansa to Moat Cailin, the entrance point to the North. He says that Sansa has been a bystander who has watched as events have turned against her family. Marrying Ramsay Bolton will give her an opportunity to shape events and take vengeance. Sansa is not exactly thrilled to marry into the family which destroyed her own and have as a father-in-law the man who murdered her brother but still agrees. From afar Brienne and Podrick watch and exchange origin stories. Brienne has figured out where Sansa and Littlefinger are heading. She offers to train Podrick. At Winterfell Sansa curtsies to Roose and his kin while Ramsay gives flowery entreaties. Ramsay's previous mistress Myranda is not happy about this turn of events. Remember she has helped Ramsay torture, rape and murder.  Littlefinger and Ramsay talk. Littlefinger claims he hasn't heard much about Ramsay, which seems extremely unlikely. Roose interrupts and dismisses Ramsay.

Roose is suspicious of Littlefinger and his reasons for delivering Sansa to the Boltons. Roose tells Littlefinger that Littlefinger is taking a big chance by going against the Lannisters. Littlefinger looks around Winterfell and reminds Roose of his own risky betrayal of the Starks. Big risks = big rewards. Still distrustful, Roose hands Littlefinger a message from Cersei, who had thought Littlefinger was in the Vale. Littlefinger notices the message has been opened, but Roose shrugs. Roose also demands to read any reply. A serving woman leads Sansa to her room (as if she needed guidance in her own home) but before leaving tells her "The North remembers!".
In King's Landing the High Septon (Westeros' equivalent of the pope) is engaging in some blasphemous sex games with prostitutes when the Sparrows (the religious fundamentalist group) break in and just ruin his day. They whip him naked thru the street. The disgraced High Septon goes to Cersei and the Small Council to demand action. However they are displeased with the spectacle of a so-called holy man being caught cavorting with hookers. Cersei goes to see the leader of the Sparrows, the High Sparrow. She is impressed to see that this man practices what he preaches as he walks barefoot and ministers to the sick and poor. As with Ned Stark, Cersei respects rectitude provided she can find a way to use it. She also notices that the High Sparrow isn't afraid of her. She explains to him that the crown and the church feed off of each other's legitimacy. Having one of them called into question harms the other. So Cersei threw the High Septon into prison instead of killing or imprisoning the High Sparrow. When Cersei goes to Qyburn to have him send a message to Littlefinger we see that something large is tied to Qyburn's examination table. It makes no sound but it moves.

At the Wall, Jon again formally declines Stannis' offer of Winterfell and asks him when he's leaving. Stannis is impressed with Jon's Ned Stark inspired tenacity and honor but doubts it's for the best. Davos tells Jon that oath or no oath the Boltons are not good for the North. Jon should remember his responsibility to all of the realm, not just the Night's Watch. As Lord Commander Jon raises Alliser Thorne to First Ranger. He also orders Janos Slynt to go take control of Greyguard, a ruined castle. Janos tells Jon no and fervently explains where Jon can insert his order. Jon explains that this was an order, not an offer and gives Janos a chance to reconsider. When Janos still refuses, Jon has him taken outside. Just like dear old Dad would have done, Jon personally executes Janos. Janos died whimpering and crying. In Volantis, Tyrion finally convinces Varys to let him out for some rest and recreation. They see a Red Priestess who seems to recognize Tyrion. Disquieted they retreat to a brothel where Tyrion discovers to his horror that he's not interested in having sex. Whether this is the result of too much wine, grief over Shae, a bout of erectile dysfunction or worse, an attack of morality, is not explained because out of nowhere Lord Friendzone himself, aka Jorah Mormont, appears and kidnaps Tyrion. Jorah intends to take Tyrion to Daenerys and use this gift to get into her smallclothes good graces.

What I liked
  • Michael McElhatton continues to impress as Roose Bolton. Unlike his crazy son Roose is always under control, but there's something off and cold about him. However he has a very commanding presence. When he talks you listen.
  • Jon Snow coming into his own as Lord Commander. It's also important to remember that Janos Slynt betrayed Ned Stark and helped to murder him, something of which Jon would have been very much aware.
  • Cersei's refusal to respond to Margaery's antagonisms.
  • Arya's inability to throw away Needle. 
  • Identity was very important in tonight's episode. Arya is being forced to throw hers away. Sansa's is only important to the Boltons as a symbol. As with Joffrey Sansa will have to hide her true feelings. Jon is finding his. Theon has seemingly lost his forever.
  • Does an oath have to be upheld no matter what? That's an ongoing question in this series. 
  • Stannis' grim and wholly unselfconscious sense of humor as exhibited in the quote at the top of the post. He has his moments.
What I didn't like
  • If Sansa believes that she has a choice, there's no way she would agree to marry into the families that murdered her mother and brother. Her proposed father in-law stabbed her brother through the heart and her mother-in-law is a Frey. What's next Ramsay dies and Sansa marries one of the Freys?
  • The Brienne: Podrick adventures felt shoehorned in the episode.
  • The Vale and The North are different kingdoms which are far apart. It would take ages for a rider to get from one to another. And as Littlefinger didn't tell anyone where he was going how would anyone at the Vale know to send the message to Winterfell?
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events or have seen future leaked episodes please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....
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