Game of Thrones: High Sparrow Review

game-of-thrones-high-sparrow-headerI think people are starting to come around on this season of Game of Thrones. It might be because we got some killing and dragon action last week. However, it might be because people have come to realize that non-stop action like we had last season just isn’t sustainable. You can have action without blood being spilled. While it looks like we are quickly approaching the bigger budget and bigger action portion of the season, it didn’t start this week. However, the pieces keep moving into their places but they move in such unpredictable and entertaining ways, you can’t help but feel enthralled.

Spoiler Alert: Not that we really have a problem around these parts but I’d like to remind everyone that there is a strict no book discussion policy in place in the comments. Anything up to and including this episode of the TV show is fair game.

If you binge-watched last week’s episode and this week’s the finish and starts that are back-to-back are a glorious piece of storytelling. You go from Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, so on and so forth, who started a riot in Meereen (which was absent this week) and was very nearly bludgeoned to death with thrown rocks to Margaery Tyrell, a woman absolutely adored by the smallfolk of King’s Landing.

While last week ended with what seemed like the beginning of the end of Dany’s rule over Meereen, this week started with the beginning of Maggie’s rule over the Seven Kingdoms. It was quite coincidental last week when I wrote, “Tommen is too young and too passive to be able to make all the decisions himself. He seemed more than willing to effectively hand off ruling Westeros… Of course, the Tyrells are banking on that wedding to take control of Westeros themselves.”

So what happen’s this week? The Royal Wedding in which Queen Margaery Tyrell is married to a King for the third time (first to self-anointed King Renly Baratheon, then to King Joffery and now King Tommen). While she never had the chance to work her charm on Joffrey, with Tommen, it was all too easy. For a woman that’s supposed to be as clever as she is beautiful, she certainly knows how to use her assets to her advantage.

While sexing Joffrey to influence him might not have worked, without Tywin running the show, doing that to young Tommen was all too easy. Cersei now finds herself without an ally in King’s Landing now that her son has been seduced by Maggie Tyrell. After all, that’s how Cersei got to her position in the first place from a certain point of view. Now, Queen Margaery is doing the same with her son. I guess the shoe doesn’t fit so well when it’s on the other foot.

Further to the Lannister’s hold on the Seven Kingdoms seemingly coming to an end, the name Stark started to rise again in the North. I won’t go over Jon’s motivation for shunning the name Stark and remaining a Snow this week. I went over what I think is Jon’s motivation in last week’s review.

While Jon might remain a Snow, he is very much a Stark. He still holds honour close. Rather than taking Stannis’s advise and banishing Ser Alliser Thorne to the Shadow Tower or Eastwatch (I’m a terrible and forgot which of the other two manned castles was suggested), Jon took a risk by making Ser Alliser the First Ranger. Perhaps it was Jon playing a political game but it would be very Stark of him to pick the right man for the job and putting him in that position.

It was also very Stark of Jon to lop off Janos Slynt’s head himself. Ned did say something to the effect of the man who passes the sentence should also swing the sword. That didn’t do Ned or Robb any good so one has to wonder if Jon sighed the Stark family death warrant with this move. Granted, no one seemed to mind, not even Ser Alliser. Importantly, though, standing up to Stannis and holding strong on Janos’s execution were good first signs for the relatively inexperienced Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Though these are small challenges relative to what faces him as winter comes.

Farther south of the Wall, the Game get played and played hard. What we thought might be Littlefinger’s next move in the season premiere was… Well, it was his next move for power but he’s putting Sansa in the line of fire. I guess that you don’t want to put yourself in a position of danger if you want to keep playing the Game. Petyr is not one to put himself in danger but he is more than willing to manipulate other people to his end.

In this case, he arranged Sansa’s marriage with Ramsay Bolton, the legitimized bastard son of Roose Bolton, Lord Paramount and Warden of the North, Lord of the Dreadfort and Lord of Winterfell. You couldn’t help but hold your breath during the long pause between Roose Bolton’s introduction and when Sansa finally curtsied. It might have been but a few heartbeats long but that was probably the most powerful moment of the episode. Nothing was said. It was just Sophie Turner looking beyond a camera. Sometimes, simple moments are the best.

So as the woman says to Sansa, the North remembers. But the question is if the North will back her. I think that’s what Littlefinger is counting on. Like Ros said, watch out for her with him. He has himself allied with everyone in the Seven Kingdoms worth a damn. He has the armies of the Vale at his disposal while being allied with the Lannisters, Tyrells and Boltons. When the time comes, he only need worry about Stannis and Daenerys though I’m sure he can ally himself with them quickly if need be.

For now, he has the legitimacy of the Lannister and Tyrell rule backing him so he has power through legitimate means. When things in King’s Landing go sour, he has the power of the armies of the Vale (House Arryn), the North (House Bolton) and the Riverlands (House Frey through Roose Bolton’s marriage to Fat Walda). You can want to hate Littlefinger for putting Sansa in danger by setting her up with Ramsay Bolton but that would be a price of “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Oh, and Arya is in the House of Black and White. She swept the floor.

With all of the big developments in this episode, I’m not sure that I would say that I’m unfulfilled by High Sparrow. I am slightly concerned by my nagging feeling of “When are they getting to the fireworks factory.” I know that Game of Thrones isn’t all action, all the time. However, last season felt like there was something massive and noteworthy most weeks. There was that “Oh my god! I can’t believe that happened” moment on a regular basis. I think we’ve been lacking that so far this season.

Granted, there are a couple of major caveats with that statement. First, there’s been enough build-up that we know that the payoff is right around the corner and whatever comes will be massive. The kills have been set up. The first piece has to move to initiate them. The second is that these episodes have been awesome regardless. Sure, this season has started relatively tamely compared to last but that doesn’t mean that this hasn’t been awesome.

Other random points of note:

  • Either Sophie Turner is very tall or Iwan Rheon is very short. Sansa was definitely taller than Lord Ramsay Bolton.
  • Beheadings sure feel common this season.
  • So do public executions for that matter.
  • Is it just me or is it weird to see Jonathan Pryce not playing a villain? Okay, it’s Game of Thrones so who knows what to expect from the High Sparrow.
  • Also, was it just me or did it sound like Janos was soiling himself before he met his end? It wouldn’t surprise anyone so maybe I just heard what I have come to expect of the man.
  • Can you tell that I love throwing formal titles into these posts whenever I have a chance?

Next week, all hell breaks loose. Political tensions start to boil over in King’s Landing. Things in Meereen take a turn for the chaotic. Prince Oberynn’s children begin their quest for vengeance and Jaime and Bronn get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. And poor Tyrion didn’t even get mentioned in the preview. I was hoping for Varys going around Volantis yelling “Tyrion?! Tyrion?! Where are you?!” That might not being next week but the rest will be in The Sons of the Harpy.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on April 28, 2015, in TV/Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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