After a typical steady pace throughout three episodes into Season 5, tonight’s episode pretty much felt super-sized as every storyline delivered some political maneuvering, plotting and scheming, family bonding and a lot of action. Put simply, if you didn’t enjoy this week it might be time to walk away from the show as this was one of the series most complete start to finish episodes.
Crossing Cersei Lannister is rarely a good long-term plan specifically if you’re not smart enough to come up with a workable long-term plan. Margaery thought laying it on new King Tommen would make him whipped enough to send Cersei back home, but she didn’t count on Cersei already being on Plan H. Cersei’s conversation last week with the High Sparrow was all part of her carefully calculated revenge for Margaery daring to marry her son and try and usurp her control of the kingdom.
To that end, Cersei grants High Sparrow permission to create an armed extremist sect — The Faith Militants — that has the authority to administer justice according to the seven gods. And Margaery’s brother Loras’ sexual preference definitely isn’t in line with the laws of the seven gods earning him imprisonment — a marked improvement for the slaying of the other gay men hooking up in Littlefinger’s brothel. Margaery is livid and demands Tommen have Loras released.
The FMs refuse to let him speak to the High Sparrow and showing a kindness his brother lacked, Tommen opts not to have blood shed for the sake of his pride and tells Margaery he will speak to the High Sparrow soon. Help me out, can a king get sent to the couch or not? Poor Tommen, trapped between two Alpha Females really has no chance at making this work.
I’m finding it harder and harder not to root for Stannis Baratheon. Shireen comes by his chambers to apologize for being a disappointment thanks to her greyscale condition. Stannis tells her while every one else advised him to send her away he refused to banish her because she’s his daughter. Shireen gives him a big hug and Stannis, the lovable curmudgeon, seems unsure how to handle genuine love from someone before hugging back. This was the kind of tender father/daughter moment we haven’t seen since Ned and Arya making me all the more concerned my growing fondness for Stannis will result in him getting the head from neck removal trick.
Jon Snow learns he knows nothing … about redheads. The Knight’s Watch needs restocking of their ranks and Sam has Jon sign requests before trying to slip his final one to Roose Bolton. Jon would sooner join Stannis in killing the man who murdered his brother Rob, but Sam reminds him the Knight’s Watch needs men from all over especially from the Steward of the North.
Reluctantly signing, Jon greets Melisandre, who slinks in with her own incentive for Jon to join Stannis — a tango with the red witch. Jon, as we know, has a thing for redheads and it takes every bit of resolve for him to resist saying he’s still in love with Ygritte. Melisandre is not used to dudes telling her no thanks and walks off with a parting message of ‘You know nothing Jon Snow,’ clearly having some insight on to the significance of those words.
My new favorite pairing, Bronn and Jaime Littlefinger, make their way to Dorne. Bronn tries in vain to get Jaime to confide in him specifically with regards to his whole being in love with his sister deal and them going to rescue his daughter, not his ‘niece,’ but Jaime isn’t quite at Tyrion-levels of trust with the sell sword. After landing in Dorne, they quickly encounter a scout party as Bronn guesses the hatred for the Lannister prompted the captain who dropped them off to mention he was transporting Jaime Lannister.
While they handle the four scouts and Jaime learns an offensive use for his golden hand, Ellaria Sand and Prince Oberyn’s daughters, the Sand Snakes — Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes), Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) and Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) — learn Jaime is in Dorne sparking a race to prevent or spark a war.
Most episodes bounce back and forth so frequently between the characters that it’s hard to establish the various subplots, but Director Mark Mylod devotes a solid 8-10 minutes on each one, which offers a greater opportunity to invest in the storylines. It helped that each of them had significant advancement and not just random check-ins.
Littlefinger tells Sansa he’s returning to King’s Landing to keep up pretenses with Cersei, but Stannis is en route to Winterfell to recapture the land and make her the Wardness of Winterfell. Sansa seems intrigued and doesn’t even flinch when Littlefinger kisses her. And if Stannis falls…Sansa will just have to resort to her feminine ways to wrap Ramsay around her…finger. It’s unlike Littlefinger to not have all the angles covered and him missing Ramsay’s psychotic nature seems way out of character for him. Ser Jorah learns Tyrion was already en route to see Daenerys so his plans of getting back in her good graces may be for naught. Perhaps more importantly, Jorah learns the quickest way to keep a Lannister quiet is to knock them out.
Jorah’s return may not come at a better time though as The Sons of the Harpy are running amok and causing fits for The Unsullied. They ambush a squad of Unsullied and their sheer number gets the better of Dany’s forces. The situation becomes dire once one of the helmeted Unsullied is revealed to be Grey Worm (see also the only Unsullied we know or care about). Just as the waves of Harpies began to overwhelm him, Ser Baristan arrives for the save — only to meet another onslaught of Harpies, who stab and spear him.
Just as they prepare for the killing slash, Grey Worm kills them, but he falls down perhaps mortally wounded from his injuries as Ser Baristan appears. If Dany has indeed lost two of her council, Jorah will be needed now more than ever. There was a nice symmetry of the episode starting and ending with the acts of two very different, but equally dangerous fanatics causing chaos.
I didn’t feel like the show was spinning its wheels this season, but there was a definite sense of forward momentum with this episode. Now the cards are all out on the table, there’s some major showdowns to come with Jaime/Bronn and the Sand Snakes, The Unsullied vs . Sons of the Harpy War, Stannis’ march to Winterfell and Cersei vs. Margaery.
That doesn’t even fully account for our heroes Tyrion, Jon, Sansa and Arya. I’m probably the most excited I’ve been about all the various stories this season than any other as everyone character has something compelling at this point not just a handful. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this all shakes out.