Game of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 3 Review: “High Sparrow”

(Beware, spoilers below – scroll down if you want the skip the recap!)

This week on Game of Thrones we enter The House of Black and White, and we start the episode there as Arya cleans the floors whilst she watches Jacquen go about his work. She asks him that she has been sweeping the floor for days and wants to know when she can finally become a Faceless Man. He gives her cryptic clues and says she can only start when she becomes no-one.

In King’s Landing Cersei listens as the public celebrate the marriage of Margaery and Tommen. The crowd seem to love their new queen and so does Tommen. After they consummate the marriage she calls him the sweetest and they talk happily with one another. She talks about Cersei and prods the fact that she’sΒ a very protective mother. On the ramparts Tommen talks with his mother and keeps mentioning that she should go away to Casterly Rock. As expected, this leads to a passive-agressive confrontation between the two queens.

At Winterfell Reek is shuffling about the courtyard as he sees mutilated bodies hung up. The Botlon lord tells Ramsay that they’re having trouble holding the North and they need to stop ruling with terror. He says that they need to marry in order to maintain the alliance and he’s found the perfect girl. Poor, poor Sansa. She realises what Littlefinger has planned and she is furious. Sansa refuses to go but he tells her that she has the opportunity to stop being a bystander and to avenge her family instead. If she wants to turn around, she can – but it’s clear she won’t. High above Brienne and Pod are watching and she knows where they’re headed. As they journey she asks how he ended up squiring for Tyrion. He tells her his story and says he’s proud to be her squire. She apologises and agrees to start teaching him how to fight. Pod asks her about Renly and she tells him about her first ball where all the boys were flattering her. However she works out that they’re putting up a front and was about to start crying until Renly danced with her. Brienne still holds guilt for not being able to save Renly, and is determined to avenge his death.

Speaking of Stannis, he goes to visit the new Lord Commander, Jon. He turns down the offer and recommends that he send Ser Allister away. Ser Davos talks to Jon and says that as long as the Boltons rule the North the North will suffer. In The House of Black and White Arya is sitting alone when a girl comes in and asks her who she is. She replies but only gets hit in return until Jacquen asks how no-one could have Arya Stark’s things. Bit by bit she trows her things away until all this is left is Needle. She buries it under some rocks and then goes back to sleeping. Jacquen leads her down a door where the girl she saw earlier is washing a dead body.

At Winterfell Sansa finally arrives and she is welcomed. An old serving woman tells her that the North Remembers. Even further North Jon is managing his brothers. Ser Allister is given an honorable position and when Janus disobeys Jon, the latter promptly executes him. In the whorehouse the Sparrows find the High Septa and punish him by making him walk naked through the streets. He goes to complain to the Council with a request that she punish their leader the High Sparrow. She goes to find him and sees him serving food to the poor. Cersei tells him that the High Septa is currently in a dungeon and that both Religion and the Crown must protect one another. Down in Qyburn’s workshop she gives him a letter to send to Littlefinger – and when she leaves a body shudders under the sheets.

Littlefinger talks to Roose and Ramsay Bolton in the North at Ramsay is suspicious about what Littlefinger is up to. He’s read the latter’s message because with Tywin gone the Bolton’s position is more precarious. As their caravan approaches Volatis Tyrion is going mad and he orders to be let out. Tyrion watches as a woman preaches in the street. He snarkily comments on her speech until she looks up and makes eye contact. The duo go to a brothel where Ser Jorah also happens to be. Tyrion chats up a prostitute but when he leads her away he finds he can’t do it. As he goes to pee Ser Jorah comes up behind him and kidnaps him to take to Dany.

The House of Black and White is a significant point of intrigue for the books, so it’s saying something that this episode managed to fill itself up with plots that contended for the viewers interest. Both Faye Marsay and Rila Fukushima make compelling entrances this episode as both The Waif and a Red Priestess. Their rolesΒ promise more in the future, especially given how this season is moving forward and giving many of the characters more assertive roles than in the books. Sansa’s changed role bears promise of such a compelling developmentΒ and given how dastardly we know the little Bolton boy to be it’s clear in which ways her character might progress. However she’s not quite there yet and Sophie Turner did a lovely job this episode of still being torn between the old Sansa and the woman she’ll have to grow into if she’s going to survive. It’ll be an interesting transition. Jon has also always been a tricky character on the show and Season Five has made headway into showing why he’s such a hot contender when it comes to the resolution of the whole saga. Dany might be an obvious choice but his decision with Janus (a contrastΒ to Mance’s death) demonstrates his heightened resolve whilst bringing us back full circle to the Eddard Stark references made by Stannis at the beginning of the episode. Jon might be a lot of great things, but this is the first time he has to show he can rally the masses. Whilst this might also suggest that Jon will manage to hang on in there, this is Game of Thrones. Nothing is certain.

The decision to make the characters older makes sense when we see Tommen and Margaery interact this episode. The two actors have easy charm which makes their marriage convey the right amount of innocence and happiness – as it should. Can you imagine how it might have seemed if Tommen was still a little child? Creepy. Right. The show is all about it’s generational dynamics as one of the most touching moments for me was with Brienne and Pod. One of the more underrated characters her monologue not only reminded us all just how much we missed Renly but also about why her and Pod need to stick around. The show might be all about the shuffle of power players but her and Pod represent the pawns that are just trying to stay afloat. Brienne was one of the few that managed to stick her middle finger up and break the cycle; her telling Pod she couldn’t knight him but could teach him how to fight builds on what she’s been a part of her whole life, the idea that she didn’t didn’t want to stick to the status quo. Pod understands, of course he does. If anyone survives this season of Game of Thrones – please, let it be those two.

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