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Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 3, ‘The High Sparrow,’ Brings Gods and Monsters

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 Episode 3, 'The High Sparrow,' Brings Gods and Monsters

PREVIOUSLY: Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 2 ‘ The House of Black and White’: Dorne and Dragons!

Post-“Game” Analysis

In a world with a multitude of religions, it’s a bit surprising that the wars in Westeros have been fought more over land and title than any particular god. In our world, religion has been the cause of strife and war for millennia, but only now does it seem like faith is going to be an actual factor in the on-goings of “Game of Thrones,” rather than simply an interesting detail that George R.R. Martin included to create this world. Sure, we’ve been privy to intricate details of The Faith of the Seven, the Old Gods with their Heart Trees of the North and the Lord of Light, R’hollor. But, until now, those were never more than traditions. Did we as viewers ever really believe that Melisandre’s spells were actually working in this reality? Were the deaths of Joffrey and Robb the result of Stannis burning magical leeches, or just a natural consequence of war? It’s looking more like the former, now that we see how far magic and power are tied to the gods. In the third episode, titled “The High Sparrow,” religion and politics began to mix in ways that will lead to more intertwining among the two in the future.

Most Poised to Take the Throne?

Skipping the same tedious lead up to other “GoT” weddings, this episode hopped right into the marriage of King Tommen of House Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. Now that she’s Queen, yet again, Margaery doesn’t hesitate to use her powers of manipulation, beginning right in the bridal bed, where she assures Tommen that being called Queen feels “so strange” with a thick layer of sarcasm the poor boy can’t read. But Tommen’s ignorance is something to be adored with a head cocked to the side and a drawn out “Awww.” The fact that he asked Margaery if he hurt her and then said, “This is all I want to do all day for the rest of our lives,” reiterates the fact that Tommen is just a horny little teenager, and ripe for Margaery to make his head turn either way she pleases. Her first move: get Cersei out of King’s Landing, which she ingrains in Tommen’s head by suggesting that the old shrew is never going to leave her little boy alone. Now that he’s a man, Tommen naturally wants none of that.

When she hears Tommen’s really super unslick suggestion that she head back to Casterly Rock, Cersei heads to the source, and approaches Margaery sitting with her ladies. But the strange thing was that Cersei didn’t confront her or sneakily berate her in their usual falsely sweet téte-â-téte manner. Instead, she looks sincerely interested in Margaery’s well-being, instructing her to ask for anything she needs and giving off an air of genuine concern. Is Cersei just getting really good at hiding her contempt? Or since the death of Joffrey and the threat to Myrcella’s life, is she actually afraid for Tommen? She probably assumes that Margaery isn’t necessarily out to kill her teenage husband, so is Cersei perhaps trying to gain her confidence? Even Margaery looked thrown off by Cersei’s lack of snarky banter and caring words. The ominous music change as she walked away suggested trickery, but the question of Cersei’s sincerity is still up in the air.

Becoming No One

Arya continued to sweep away at the House of Black and White, where the collision of varying religions was all the more evident. Jaqen H’ghar insists that the men and women there bow at the feet of the “Many-Faced God,” yet Arya sees statues representing The Stranger (Faith of the Seven), the Drowned God of Pyke and the Weirwood Face (the Old Gods). Though Arya doesn’t know exactly what all the sweeping has to do with the apparent death-assistance business the House of Black and White has going on, or who or what the Many-Faced God represents, she’s eager to continue her training, even if that means becoming “no one,” which requires her to toss all of her possessions. She easily tosses her clothing and her money, but can’t bring herself to toss Needle, the sword gifted to her by Jon Snow. Hiding it in the stones, it appears she’s still hanging on to her old life as a Stark after all.

Most Magical Moment

Did anyone else jump out of their seats when the corpse lying behind Qyburn shook? What is that creepy bastard up to?

For the Book Nerds (May Contain Spoilers from “A Song of Ice and Fire”)

The zombie jumping behind Qyburn may have an identity after all. In the book, after the battle between Oberyn Martell and “The Mountain,” Gregor Clegane, Cersei allows Qyburn to take a not-yet-dead Mountain down to his cell to perform experiments upon. Oberyn’s poison is indeed killing the knight, but not before Qyburn can get to work on somehow building an “undefeatable champion” for Cersei. Clearly they don’t have a Westerosi equivalent of Mary Shelley, because thanks to her we all know in this world that playing Dr. Frankenstein is a bad idea. At this point, thinking oneself a creator might prove dangerous. 

Great Moments in Feminism

The relationship between Pod and Brienne is thankfully growing into a friendship we can all root for. Like he did with Tyrion, Pod has a way of warming people’s cold hearts (and also making them kind of feel bad for him and want to help him.) Brienne finally agreed to teach Pod how to fight, and considering that she’s pretty great at it herself, Pod was thankful to have such an accomplished teacher. Their agreement also led Brienne to disclose the story of how she became loyal to Renly Baratheon. Though the story is slightly altered from that of the novel, the gist is basically the same: The Lord of Tarth threw a ball to present Brienne as an eligible bride and many young men fawned over her and begged her to dance. She soon realized that it was a trick, that the boys were laughing at her behind her back and declaring her the ugliest girl in the world.

That’s when Renly stepped in. “They’re nasty little shits,” he said. “And nasty little shits aren’t worth crying over.” Though many presumed that Brienne’s loyalty to Renly was out of some girlish infatuation, as it’s suggested in the novels, it’s a nice change to the series that her devotion instead stems from an act of friendship, and that she was totally aware of his sexual preference. “He didn’t love me, he didn’t want me. He danced with me because he didn’t want to see me hurt. He saved me from being a joke.” The story makes Brienne’s sadness over her failure to protect him all the more painful to watch, but provided us as viewers with some more insight into her protective nature.

Why, Show, Why!?

As soon as they arrived at Moat Cailin, Sansa figured out that Littlefinger is leading her back to Winterfell. Not only that, but she’s set to marry Ramsey Bolton, the son of the man who turned on her family, leading to their slaughter. Naturally she is as disgusted as we are, and yet Littlefinger managed to convince her to go through with it. “I won’t force you to do anything. Say the word and I’ll turn the horses around,” he said. Isn’t that classic abuser language — suggesting it’s all her choice, but really he’s in control? He encourages her to stop being a bystander and avenge her family. But how? Does he have something in mind? Does he expect Sansa to marry Ramsay and have the Boltons slaughtered at their wedding? Actually… That might not be such a bad idea. I’m pretty sure everyone in Winterfell would be on board with it. After all, as one of the women said to Sansa, “The North remembers.”

Who’s the God of Tits and Wine?

Jon Snow is not playing around as the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but some of his brothers in black thought that they could ignore his commands. After officially rejecting Stannis’ offer to be named a Stark, Davos tried to convince Jon that the Night’s Watch isn’t as immune from the troubles facing Westeros on the whole. Davos pointed to single passage in the Night’s Watch oath, “The shield that guards the realms of men,” as an attempt to persuade Jon into caring about Stannis’ fight and the fate of the kingdom. It doesn’t seem like Jon was moved at all, but the idea has been planted in his head: perhaps the Night’s Watch doesn’t have to be as hands-off as he thought.

Later, when the coward Janos Slynt rejected his new command, insulting Jon’s authority, Jon got to show the entire Night’s Watch that he means business. Slynt’s head was laid out on an execution block, and for a moment as he cried and apologized and cried some more, we though for a moment that Jon might let him live. But then, a twitch of disgust crossed over his face, and in a swift moment Slynt’s head was gone, chopped off by Jon’s own hand. But Slynt didn’t lose his head because he rejected Jon’s leadership, or out of mere spite. Jon knew that Slynt was afraid, and would always be afraid, and that put Jon and the rest of his brothers in danger. It was in that moment, not during the election last week, that Jon Snow became their leader. Someone get this new Lord Commander a big goblet of wine.

Wit of the Week

Tyrion “must get out of this wheelhouse” Lannister was losing his damn mind on the road and convinced Varys to take a trip into the crowded streets of Volantis. Out among the people, their reaction to the slaves was an intriguing one. Even to those from Westeros, a place where numerous atrocities to human life occur on a daily basis, the idea of slavery sounded like a brutish foreign concept. In a square they stumbled across a red priestess who shared the same robes and words of Melisandre: The woman spoke of the Lord of Light, how the night is dark and full of terrors and that Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, has been sent with her fire breathing beasts to save everyone.

This is the first time that the prophecies of one “Game of Thrones” religion seems to have crossed over into another story line’s plot. Melisandre so intently believes that Stannis is the second coming of Azor Ahai, the Warrior of Fire, that she hand’t thought of the possibility that it might be someone else…someone with a bit more access to fire. With a bit of wine in him, Tyrion’s natural wit returned: “We’re going to meet the savior!? You should’ve told me. Who doesn’t want to meet the savior?” The duo stopped at a brothel where the prostitutes have begun dressing like Daenerys, but despite the offer of free services, Tyrion refuses to partake — his guilt over Shae still lingering, no doubt.

At least his humor remained: “I hope it passes. What will I do in my spare time?” But it seems Varys was right to worry about heading out into public. A moping Jorah Mormont grabbed Tyrion and declared he was taking him to the Queen. I don’t worry for Tyrion just yet, but I truly hope this dossn’t mark the end of the Tyrion-Varys match up. Their banter was really entertaining,

The Cult Leader Will See You Now

Lancel’s sparrows caught the High Septon playing a little game with prostitutes dressed as the Seven at Littlefinger’s brothel and subsequently made him take a naked walk of shame.The incident led Cersei to seek out the “High Sparrow,” the leader of the Faith of the Seven alternative sect who is sort of like a poor, Jesus-figure, opposed to the elaborate indulgences of those in power. “I tell them no one is special and they think I’m special for telling them so,” he said. Cersei indulged his viewpoints, even going so far as to offer him the High Septon’s position. But what have we learned from the history of our own world, when it comes to the excesses of those in power being infiltrated by those who preach a simpler way of life? The Protestant Reformation of Europe took centuries and cost thousands of lives. Revolutions led to beheaded monarchs and bigger wars. Even if King’s Landing welcomes the Sparrows with open arms, religious reform doesn’t come so easily.

It Is Known

Episode 3 was the best of the season so far. Which is simple to say, considering we’ve only just begun, but after two episodes of “where we left off,” the story is finally beginning to move and plots are thickening. That the series chose to begin Season 5 with Cersei’s childhood trip to a fortune teller foreshadowed that mysticism and other-worldly influence might take hold, and the examination of various belief systems this episode is a part of that. The show has always featured magic but until now, we as audience members were never really face with the idea of a “creator” in Westeros. The characters’ mentions of various gods that are foreign to our ears make for a very “our world/their world” experience, but we’re no strangers to how religious fanaticism or reform can cause destruction. We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out in Westeros.

Grade: A

READ MORE: Kill this Character, Kill the Show: Who ‘Game of Thrones” Needs Most

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