Monday, May 4, 2015

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Sons of the Harpy

This episode walked right up to the edge of fan fiction. However it also made the strongest hints yet to a fan favorite theory which GRRM has not confirmed but is pretty much accepted as gospel among his fans. I liked this episode a lot more than I thought I would. One of the things which GRRM has done in his books and that the showrunners have done with their version is to show that different people can have wildly different interpretations of the same events, even to the point that different conflicting realities are constructed. It's the fantasy version of Rashomon. How do you know what you think you know? More on that in minute. First let's start with everyone's favorite lonesome loser Jorah Mormont. He steals a boat and sails off with Tyrion. Groaning thru his bonds Tyrion finally convinces Jorah to take the gag out of his mouth. The first thing Tyrion asks for is wine but of course receives none. But a sober Tyrion is an even sharper Tyrion than normal. When Jorah tells Tyrion that they're going to see Daenerys, even though Jorah hasn't identified himself Tyrion quickly figures who Jorah is from his accent and family crests. Tyrion also remembers that Jorah was a spy and deduces almost instantly that Jorah must be on the outs with Daenerys. Unfortunately Tyrion isn't smart enough to keep his thoughts or scorn to himself. Jorah belts him one. I guess unrequited love can make a fellow pretty mean. Mace Tyrell, the pompous in-over-his-head Master of Coin, informs the Small Council that the Iron Bank is calling in 10% of the debt that the Crown owes to it. He says the Crown can only afford 1/2 of that but that the Tyrells could make up the difference. Cersei declines the offer but suggests orders Tyrell to go overseas to work on terms with the Iron Bank. To ensure that he goes she sends Ser Meryn Trant as "protection". 

We start to see that just as you should never count your chickens before they hatch it's not very wise to laugh at lionesses when you're on the same side of the cage as they are. The meek Cersei of last week is gone. She goes to see the High Sparrow. Cersei pretends dismay that the war has seen the robbing, raping and murder of septons and sisters. She gives permission to the Church to arm itself again both to protect itself against such crimes and to root out sinners. And by the way Cersei happens to know where a few high placed sinners might be hiding. The High Sparrow says all sinners are equal in God's eyes.

The newly reconstituted Faith Militant organization attacks sinners (gamblers, drinkers and fornicators) across King's Landing. They don't care who you are. They seem to take special pleasure in taking down rich people or gay people. As Loras, Queen Margaery's (cleavage alert!) brother happens to be both, things don't look good for him when he's arrested and imprisoned. A less fortunate gay man was either castrated or killed when caught in a Littlefinger owned brothel. Margaery is furious with this turn of events and demands Tommen act. Tommen is clueless. He has trouble standing up to Margaery's anger. He certainly doesn't want to lose access to her good thing. He runs to Cersei to order her to release Loras. But Cersei calmly points out that she didn't arrest Loras. She suggests that Tommen visit the High Sparrow. Tommen does just that but is prevented from seeing the High Sparrow by the Faith Militant who rudely point out that it's the High Sparrow's prayer time. No visitors. Not even kings. This is a serious power play here. The Kingsguard and soldiers on one side and the Faith Militant on the other are ready to hold court in the street. But Tommen backs down. Tommen also hears the catcalls about his non-forking family tree. When Tommen tries to explain his decision to Margaery she all but calls him a punk-a$$ b**** . She talks about going home and says she's sending word to the Queen of Thorns. Margaery is as much disappointed in as she is angry at Tommen. Up North Selyse notices that Stannis has taken an almost paternal interest in Jon Snow. Selyse blames herself for giving Stannis only a crippled daughter. Apparently people in Westeros haven't figured out how chromosomes work and who determines a child's sex. Selyse also rags on Jon, calling him a bastard son of a tavern slut. Stannis questions that, pointing out that adultery was not consistent with Ned Stark's character. 

He also doesn't blame Selyse. Melisandre (cleavage alert!) questions Stannis about marching on Winterfell. She wants to know if he is taking her this time. He is. Shireen visits her father. Stannis is a hard man but he has a soft spot for his daughter as most fathers do. Shireen knows that her mother Selyse doesn't like her very much and didn't want to bring her along. She questions if Stannis feels the same way. Stannis assures her that he doesn't. It turns out that Stannis blames himself for the greyscale disease which afflicts his daughter. Although he was urged to get rid of her he refused to do so and instead did everything in his power to save her life. He loves her. With Sam acting as secretary Jon is signing letters to various northern lords urgently asking for men and supplies for the Night's Watch. He balks at sending a letter to Roose Bolton (that whole "he stabbed Robb Stark in the heart" thing again-did Roose take out an ad in Evil SOB Monthly Digest boasting of this?) but when Sam reminds him of the Night's Watch responsibilities, Jon signs the letter. Melisandre enters and explains she wants to speak to Jon alone. She asks Jon again to come to Winterfell, telling him there is something powerful inside him. He refuses. At that point Melisandre opens up to Jon. Literally. She's wearing a robe and nothing else. She places Jon's hands on her chest and a slightly warmer spot. She talks of the power of sex and love and how God has sanctified man and woman. Why don't more evangelicals recruit like this? I think more people would see the light. Melisandre is laying on more than hands. Jon is tempted. But he declines. Again. Not only did he swear an oath. But he's also still in love with the late Ygritte. Leaving, Melisandre looks Jon dead in the eye and uses Ygritte's famous catch phrase. Creepy.
At Winterfell Sansa is lighting candles in the crypts just like her Dad used to do. She lights one in the statue of Lyanna Stark, who was involved in the events which precipitated the rebellion which overthrew the Targaryen rule. Littlefinger finds Sansa. He's leaving, to Sansa's apparent dismay. Littlefinger anticipates that Stannis will march on Winterfell and take it. At that point Sansa, as the last known surviving Stark, could become Wardeness of the the North. Should this not happen then well Sansa will be married to the new ruling family of the North and in a good position to manipulate Ramsay. Sansa doubts this but Littlefinger is dismissive of her worries. Of course he won't be the one sleeping with Ramsay Bolton or having a father-in-law who murdered your mother and brother so it's easy for him to be tranquil. Littlefinger does take the opportunity to kiss Sansa on the lips. Littlefinger also tells the story of how Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, having won a tournament, gave the prize not to his wife but to Lyanna Stark. Sansa angrily interjects that Rhaegar later kidnapped and raped Lyanna. Littlefinger doesn't say anything to this. Jaime and Bronn have arrived in Dorne. Out of politeness Bronn has accepted Jaime's explanation that they're going to rescue Jaime's "niece" but still thinks a different approach might have been better. Dornish border patrol apprehends the duo but Bronn and Jaime kill them all once it's apparent that their cover story doesn't work. However Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes (Oberyn's illegitimate daughters) already know that Jaime is in country. They all want revenge for Oberyn's death. If Prince Doran won't act, they will.

In Meereen, Ser Barristan tells Daenerys about her brother Rhaegar's kindness and his habit of walking the streets as a poet and singer. If he  earned anything from his songs he gave them to other singers. Hizdahr visits Daenerys again to request the fighting pits be reopened. He thinks the fighting pits are something that the classes have in common. The sport could act as a diversion from political activities. Speaking of diversions, the Second Sons are caught unawares in a marketplace where they're relaxing. The Sons of The Harpy butcher them. The Unsullied come to their assistance but are misdirected into an alleyway ambush. As any Greek Hoplite could tell you, a seven foot spear is an awesome weapon on the battlefield. But as any Roman Legionary could tell you, a short sword is a better weapon for getting close and personal with someone. And as Nathan Bedford Forrest would have told you, getting there fustest with the mostest is usually a formula for success. The Unsullied (including Grey Worm) are outnumbered by about ten to one. They don't quite have the room they need to effectively lock shields and wield their long spears. But they're Unsullied. They don't die easy. A brutal street fight occurs. No mercy is asked, and none is given. The Unsullied have mostly been overcome by the superior numbers. Grey Worm is a bad$$. Like Tolkien's hero Hurin, Grey Worm is standing alone, wounded but still in the fight, when Ser Barristan arrives on the scene. He doesn't hesitate. He pulls out his trusty longsword and starts slicing and dicing Sons of the Harpy just like that ginsu knife on late night TV. Rumble old man rumble!!! But it's not enough. Barristan is grievously wounded, as is Grey Worm. They collapse together. They've killed all the Sons of the Harpy but judging by next week's previews it looks like at least one of them (Ser Barristan?) may have departed this thing we call life. Electric word life, it means forever and that's a mighty long time...

What I liked
  • It is a fact that before GRRM gave permission to Benioff and Weiss to adapt his book he wanted their take on who they thought Jon Snow's mother is. Evidently he liked the answer. GRRM has not yet published the definitive answer on who Jon Snow's mother is but as tonight's episode asked via Stannis, was Ned the kind of man who would cheat on his wife? Why did Barristan think of Rhaegar as a good man? This is HUGE.
  • The fight between the Unsullied and The Sons of the Harpy. Barristan and Grey Worm impressed.
  • The scene with Stannis and Shireen was pretty powerful for both characters. There are a lot of different kinds of bravery. Not all of them involve fighting or killing.
  • Tyrion's ability to very quickly deduce both his captor's identity and motivations would have felt forced from any other character. But he's Tyrion so it was perfect for him.
  • Cersei's showing that she is still a player in the game. Getting Mace Tyrell out of town was essential.
  • The High Sparrow remaining calm. Remember that he had mentioned that people often hear things he didn't say.
  • I like that Littlefinger's motivations for marrying off Sansa to Ramsay Bolton remain opaque to reader and viewer alike. Littlefinger is not a Stannis fan because otherwise he would have helped Ned place Stannis on the throne. So what is Littlefinger's game? I don't know. And that's a good thing. Is he really clueless about Ramsay?

What I didn't like
  • I was underwhelmed by the introduction of the Sand Snakes. They felt over the top.
  • The Bronn: Jaime storyline also didn't do much for me. We know already that Bronn is a dangerous fighter and that Jaime no longer is. Ho-hum.
*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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