Episode 3 - High Sparrow
30 April 2015
Synopsis: Jon deals with a rebellious Janos Slynt. Sansa agrees to go to Winterfell to marry Ramsay. Roose Bolton deals suspiciously with Little Finger. Brienne and Pod follow. Margaery marries Tommen as Cersei looks on unhappily. When the Sparrows humiliate the High Septon, Cersei sympathises with their cause. Arya throws away her clothes as she begins to become a person with no name but hides Needle. Tyrion insists that Varys let him out in Volantis and heads to a brothel. He can't bring himself to engage one and is then captured by Ser Jorah Mormont.
The Good: Another really enjoyable episode with solid character development wherever you look.
Jon's slightly surprising decision to behead Janos Slynt suggests he really does understand the responsibilities that go with his new position. He knew that Janos was testing him and would most likely beg forgiveness and buckle under. But by then it was too late. To show him mercy would have undermined his position. As Lord Commander he is now responsible for the safety of Westeros. How can he convince the Nights Watch of the awesome importance of their task if he allows them to refuse orders? He couldn't. He needs them to follow him unblinkingly. Stannis would certainly approve and thanks to Ser Davos there is a chance that Jon will step in and aid the Baratheon cause by striking a deal with the Wildlings.
But lest we think that this new alliance represents the side of good Brienne reminds us that Stannis still has to answer for Renly's murder (amongst other things). I enjoyed hearing about the origins of her love for Renly and the general fleshing out of her decision to become a Knight and wipe the smiles off mocking faces. Pod too begins to become more than comic relief and it seems like Sansa may one day turn to them for help.
Several plots moved very quickly toward new scenarios here (which is exciting). Initially I couldn't imagine Sansa agreeing to go to Winterfell to marry Ramsay (see The Bad). But Little Finger's logic was darkly brilliant. He is asking a huge amount of Sansa but he lets her think that this is somehow an empowering move. She will be at the heart of the Bolton court and in a position to betray them down the line. I could see Baelish wanting revenge himself for the murder of Catelyn as well as causing further chaos and collapse. This should add even more pathos to poor Theon's story as he tries to hide his pathetic appearence from his former sort-of-sister.
Into this intriguing mix of personalities I was reminded of the excellent work that Michael McElhatton is doing as Roose Bolton. I mean I hate Roose Bolton. I do. But at the same time I really like him. McElhatton plays him as utterly sensible and dispassionate and I really appreciated his attitude to Baelish. Unmoved by his sugary words he calmly explains that if they are to enter into an alliance then he will be reading all of Little Finger's letters from now on.
The North seems set for a wonderfully impactful showdown. Events in Volantis had a similar resonance as Ser Jorah found Tyrion in a compromising position. The journey from Pentos to Volantis was skipped over, again speeding up the story in a pleasing way. And the wrinkle that Tyrion feels he can no longer be easily intimate with a prostitute was a nice development from his heartbreaking affair with Shae.
Finally in King's Landing Margaery and Tommen wed, again quicker than I expected, making it clear that the real struggle is between the two women in the King's life. Margaery has learnt nothing from Cersei's reputation and foolishly pokes her. Cersei it would seem sees something in the Sparrows that can help her cause. Does she plan on using religious zealots as a constituency of her own to counter Margaery's popularity with the crowds? I wonder how they feel about incest?
I thought there were two really creative uses of prostitutes in this episode which helped with world building. The High Septon's sex-game with the ladies dressed as each of the Seven Gods was a lovely touch. In our world he would be the Archbishop with some Nuns. Meanwhile over in Volantis the slaves are whispering about Daenerys and hoping she will come save them too. So naturally the local brothel features a Dany-like blonde as a gimmick to collect more coins. Clever stuff.
The House of Black and White was suitably creepy / mysterious. And there was genuine emotion in seeing Arya cry once more for her departed family as she tossed her clothes into the water. She couldn't quite let go of Needle, her last connection to them and part of the skillset she won't want to lose as a faceless person.
The Bad: I think we needed more time with Sansa thinking through her options. If this episode had seen her make camp outside Moat Cailin and debated things with Baelish then I would have bought it more easily. I think she would have needed some kind of promise from him about how he would one day help her get vengeance.
The Unknown: Another mention of Greyscale and its deadly effects (from Tyrion this time). Something's brewing there. Did this Red Priestess really sense something about Varys and Tyrion? Jorah carefully says "The Queen" rather than reveal if it's Dany or Cersei he plans on taking Tyrion to. I assume it's Dany and he hopes this will win him favour with her.
Best Moment: I have to say I'm a big fan of Roose Bolton taking no crap from Baelish and demanding to read his reply to Cersei. That kind of no nonsense behaviour earns my respect. But Arya in tears was the most emotional moment.
Conclusion: I really liked this. The plots are all coming together very nicely and we got some great character moments with multiple people. Should I be worried. It's usually about now that people get butchered.
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