Well, Throners, last week’s episode was a doozy, an excellent doozy, and this week’s “Sons of the Harpy” is somehow even better. Mark Mylod is killing it! All of the Emmys for Mark Mylod. This episode is written by Dave Hill, and it’s excellent — a good mix of political scheming, shading in of backstory via remembrance, and those GoT mic drop lines we’ve come to know and love. Once again this is an action-packed ep, and there’s a wonderful sense of style to all of the senseless killing, which is technically why we watch this show, right? But in all seriousness, this week illuminates much of the inner mental, emotional workings of some of our more stoic characters, and as gears are cranking on what is surely a war to come, many of these characters are having to lay their cards on the table, and stand up for what they believe in.
“Sons of the Harpy” picks up right where “The High Sparrow” left off — with Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) dumping a hog-tied Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) into a boat and making off with him. Though they tried to make it rather obtuse about what “queen” he was taking him to, it’s clearly only Daenerys that the besotted Mormont serves. When Tyrion figures this out, he falls to pieces laughing, as that’s exactly where he was headed, for “gold, glory, oh, and hate.” Though the knight is being rather tight-lipped, Tyrion quickly puts together who Mormont is, and susses out that the knight was banished by Daenerys for selling secrets and spying. This puts Mormont over the edge and he knocks Tyrion out. So touchy!
The other seafaring Lannister brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is aboard a merchant’s ship with Tyrion’s former road dog, Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Bronn might put on an act like he’s just a another sellsword, but he’s pretty clever when it comes down to it, and is rightly suspicious of Jaime’s need to go retrieve his “niece” Myrcella. But Jaime plays that he’s in the dog house with his sister for Tyrion’s escape, though he claims he’ll “split him in two and give him your regards” if he ever encounters his brother again.
Bronn predicts a lot of fighting, and possibly not enough fucking (“fighting and fucking,” the Dornish national pastime) on their trip, and he’s right. They sneak in via rowboat, and as soon as he airs his theory that the Pentosi boat captain probably sold them out, they’re beset by four Dornish soldiers on horseback. Bronn initially surrenders, claiming to be shipwrecked merchants, but as soon as he’s putting his sword in the sand per soldier’s orders, he throws a dagger right in the guy’s face, and commences a bloody, sandy ass-kicking. He even tosses one Jaime’s way, mentioning he’d be slow enough for the one-handed knight. Jaime is getting worked, up and down a steep sand dune, but at a critical moment, he reaches up to stop a sword blow with his metal hand, which offers him the opportunity to skewer the dude. And his weakness has become his strength.
While they’ve won this round, Bronn’s completely right about that Pentosi captain too, though. Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) rides up to a beachside tent where the MUTHAFUCKIN SAND SNAKES (YASSS!!! Finally some Sand Snake action!), Oberyn’s band of badass bastard girl children, are waiting to inform her that they’ve heard Jaime Lannister’s in town to #bringbackourgirl Myrcella. And how do they know this? With an awesome flick of her bullwhip, Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) reveals said captain, buried up to his neck in sand and scorpions. Knowing that Myrcella is the only leveraging power they have to avenge Oberyn’s death and torment Cersei, Ellaria asks if they are with her in starting a war. The Snakes all agree, with Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes) chucking a spear at the captain’s head with lethal accuracy just to show just how deadly serious she is about revenge and warmongering.
The whole Dorne sequence is just fantastic, it feels decidedly like a classic late ‘60s/’70s Western, particularly the banter between Bronn and Jaime (someone put Jerome Flynn in a Western, immediately), as well as the verve and vibrancy of the cinematic style by Mylod. The sandy beach landscape and dunes offer plenty of opportunity for Dutch angles, and it’s clear that Mylod doesn’t hesitate to put his camera in unusual places, low or high to capture things from a different perspective. There’s also an almost Hong Kong action pace (fast fast slow) to the combat and overall tempo of the scenes. Maybe it’s just nice to be out of the cold, grey, wet, war-ridden Westeros, but Dorne is a blast of sunshiney, blood-soaked fun.
Speaking of Westeros, in King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) is running wild with power after aligning herself with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). She sends Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) off to renegotiate the terms of their loan with the Iron Bank of Braavos, sending Ser Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) with him for “security” (why do I get the feeling that buffoonish Mace is going to meet an untimely “accidental” end with Trant in tow?). To even further stick it to the Tyrells, she informs her new friend that there’s a sinner in their midst, “shielded by gold and privilege” (um, is that not everyone she knows?) The Sparrows tear apart King’s Landing, and Baelish’s brothel, again, looking for Cersei’s former betrothed, Loras (Finn Jones) and throw him in jail, for all his gay “sinning.”
Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is livid of course, and flips out to Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) — poor kid, how’s he supposed to manage these two crazy queens? — but Tommen ultimately stands down to the violent, unpredictable Sparrows (the catcalls of “bastard” and “abomination” don’t help), and his mom, who’s gotten religious zealots to do her dirty work. If Tommen ever wants to get laid again, he’s going to have to get his brother-in-law out of jail right quick.
Over in Castle Black, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is also trying to manage a nutty broad, specifically Melisandre (Carice Van Houten), who barges into his paperwork session (yes, he has to request men, goods, etc. from Roose Bolton and boy, is he pissed about it) to convince him to come to Winterfell with him for the sacking. Jon declines, so she tries another tactic, talking to him about what’s really worth fighting for, which is, apparently, her boobs. Jon amazingly, stays resolute in the face of her seduction, saying he’s still in love with Ygritte (awww) and Melisandre storms off with a well-placed “you know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Another aww moment in Castle Black comes when Princess Shireen (Kerry Ingram) asks her dad Stannis (Stephen Dillane) if he’s ashamed of her. The poor girl’s evil mom simply refers to her as “deformity” and tells her she didn’t want her to come with them (Stannis’ dad-like feelings for Jon aren’t helping the fact that she still feels she should have given him a son, those fetus jars notwithstanding). Stannis tells Shireen the story of her Greyscale, which was transmitted to her via a doll from a Dornish merchant. Rather than send her off to die with the Stone Men, Stannis summoned every maester and healer in the land and saved her, because she is “the princess Shireen of House Baratheon and you are my daughter.” Stannis, you’re a total softie now aren’t you? But it’s good to see the stoic Stannis actually express some emotion, and particularly toward his spunky daughter.
Baelish (Aiden Gillen) finds Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) lighting a candle for her deceased aunt Lyanna Stark in the catacombs below Winterfell. The two reminisce about Lyanna, the sort of Helen of Troy of Westeros, her kidnapping by Rhaegar Targaryen inspiring the usurping of Robert’s Rebellion. Littlefinger remembers seeing the great beauty at a tournament where Rhaegar and his road dog Barristan Selmy competed. Rhaegar rode right past his own wife Elia Martell to lay roses in Lyanna’s lap. Scandal!
Littlefinger also tells Sansa that he’s leaving for King’s Landing, having been summoned by Cersei (what the H is going on with those two??). He matter of factly informs Sansa that it’s time for her to put on her big girl pants, make Ramsay her bitch, and take the title Wardeness of the North when Stannis inevitably deposes the Boltons (let’s hope everything goes according to plan…). He assures her she’s got this and that she’s learned from the best. Go forth and maneuver, Lady Stark!
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is also being treated to tales of her brother Rhaegar from his former knight Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney). Apparently he used to go out and sing in the streets with his people. All this Rhaegar talk just leaves me jonesin for a prequel. Kidnapping, singing, warring, jousting, let’s get some Rhaegar and Lyanna action going! I suggest Chris Hemsworth for Rhaegar (he can pull off those flowing silver locks) and Alicia Vikander for Lyanna. Let’s do this HBO!
It’s a sweet moment for Dany and Barristan, and soon she has to go listen to that guy argue for the fighting pits again. You see it’s the traditional opening day and right now… tradition is all they have holding them together. It’s way too late though, as at this moment, the Sons of the Harpy have already set a murderous plan in motion, stalking the paths of Meereen, masked and armed, slashing throats left and right. The Unsullied rush to stop them, and that bad, collaborating prostitute points them right into an ambush in a dark hallway. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) is among them, and while he fights valiantly, he takes a dagger to the side, and is wildly outnumbered. Barristan Selmy hears the bells ringing and rushes toward where people are running away and finds Grey Worm. His knight instincts kick in and the old man wrecks a couple dozen Harpies with his sword, saving Grey Worm, if momentarily. Sadly, they are only two, and Selmy takes several lethal knife blows to the body. Though Grey Worm saves Selmy from a Sons of Harpy throat slashing, the two collapse to the ground, Selmy most definitely expired (Grey Worm: unclear) The bells continue to ring, the eerie alarm continuing even when the chaos and violence comes to rest, leaving only silent carnage behind.
What did you think of this episode? Pretty amazing, no? The final combat scenes were truly impressive, especially compared to the equally impressive, but also very different combat scenes from Dorne. It’s also a good example of the ruthlessness of “Game of Thrones” — characters reveal themselves and their backstories and then are savagely butchered, Barristan Selmy this week. RIP Selmy, you were one of the good ones. Season 5 is in full swing, and playing at the absolute top of its game in “Sons of the Harpy.” We can’t wait to see what comes next.