04 “Sons of the Harpy” (Game of Thrones season 5) [SPOILERS]


game of thrones season 5

When the first four episodes of this series of Game of Thrones were leaked online, I made a conscious decision not to binge them all.

I’d like to be able to claim that it’s out of some great commitment to copyright and respect for the law. But to be honest, I just didn’t think I could cope with a three-to-four-week wait between episodes four and five. I’m impatient like that, and the wait for season five itself was bad enough.

Was I vindicated in my decision? This episode ought to show us.

In the capital, Cersei arms the high sparrow’s religious fanatics as part of her bid to solidify her control — and take revenge on Margaery. In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn set out to find Marcella, but their arrival does not go unnoticed. At the Wall, Stannis is about to march on Winterfell, as his daughter wonders where her place is. In Wintefell, Sansa comes to terms with her new future. And in Meereen, Jorah Mormont takes Tyrion towards the Mother of Dragons, whilst the insurgency of the Sons of the Harpy steps darkly up a notch.

So, Cersei’s run of bad decisions continues. Seeking to control the king and isolate Margaery, she sends Mace Tyrell away to treat with the Iron Bank of Braavos, whilst giving the High Sparrow an army in the form of the Faith Militant. An army who raid Littlefinger’s brothel, and arrest Loras Tyrell for his “sins”.

It works, for now, in that it drives a wedge between the furious Margaery and a King Tommen unable to set her brother free. But given the cat calls of “bastard” and “abomination” when Tommen tries to confront the High Sparrow suggest that there is widespread knowledge of Tommen’s real parentage. And Lancel Lannister, with a newly cut emblem of the Faith Militant on his forehead, knows exactly Cersei’s tastes.

This is going to backfire on her spectacularly.

Jaime’s two man invasion of Dorne, meanwhile, is underway. He and Bronn pitch up on a merchant ship, landing under cover of darkness, with Bronn pointing out that Jaime is not the smartest choice for the mission. It doesn’t take long for them to come under attack from a patrol, who they kill without a great deal of difficulty.

But the Sand Snakes, the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, know of their arrival. Whipped up to a fury by the grief mad Elleria Sand, they resolve to kill Jaime Lannister before anyone else even knows he’s in the country.

It’s profoundly odd seeing Sansa back at Winterfell, particularly in the crypt. She’s changed a lot since she was last there, but even so she doesn’t seem too keen at being left without Littlefinger. But there’s something else: the story that he tells Sansa about her aunt Lyanna’s role in Robert’s Rebellion casts some doubt on the story of her being kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar Targeryan.

I quite like Stannis as a character. He’s grim and humourless, but sincere. The scene this episode with him and his daughter, though, adds an extra layer to his character. When his daughter Shireen asks whether he’s ashamed of her, he tells the story of when she contracted grayscale as a child, and he was told to send her away to live out what was left of her short life. But he refused, and summoned all the maesters he could find to save her. Because she’s his daughter.

If that didn’t move you, you have no heart.

And in the east, Jorah Mormont hopes that taking Tyrion to Danaerys will earn him a pardon. His logic seems a bit flawed, as Tyrion was surely a child when her family were massacred, and Jorah is still a traitor.

In Meeren itself, though, Danaerys is still trying to govern. Hizdahr zo Loraq still wants her to reopen the fighting pits, as it’s the traditional start of the fighting season, but she still sees it as barbarism. Meanwhile Baristan Selmy takes a walk through the city, and comes across a group of the Sons of the Harpy attacking Grey Worm’s unsullied. He steps into the slaughter, but when all of the Harpies are dead, only the grievously wounded duo left alive. Hopefully alive.

So there we go. I have to say, that’s an absolute gut punch to end on. Ser Baristan hasn’t been a frontbench character, but he’s enough of a fixture that the sight of him charging into the fray, only to be cut down is as heartbreaking as Stannis’ love for his daughter.

The other thing I notice is the number of mentions Rhaegar gets. Ser Baristan tells tales of him loving singing and hating killing, and Littlefinger casts doubt on the accepted story. There is a well reheased theory about Rhaegar and Lyanna, which the series seems to be moving towards. And I wonder if we might even be shown Rhaegar himself, in some flashback to come.

Closing thoughts:

  • Jaime wants to avoid starting a war with Dorne. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled when he and Bronn kidnap his daughter niece from under their noses.
  • The dusty feather which Sansa picks up from the floor by her aunt’s tomb is the same one that King Robert laid in the statue’s hand in the first episode.
  • I can’t tell whether the battle at the end was overdone, or whether the Unsullied were slaughtered across the city.
  • I rewatched some of the series’ early episodes recently. They’ve really toned down the sex since then.
  • I do wish that Game of Thrones wouldn’t tease us with Prince Julian Bashir Doran, and then go several episodes with nothing.
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