Episode 4 - Sons of the Harpy
14 May 2015
Synopsis: Stannis affirms his love for Shireen. Melissandre tries to persuade Jon to come to Winterfell. Baelish returns to King's Landing. Cersei arms the Sparrows and they arrest Loras. Tommen is unable to free him. Jaime and Bronn land in Dorne and kill some guards. Ellaria plots to kill Myrcella. Tyrion recognises Ser Jorah and mocks his plans. The Sons of the Harpy coordinate an attack on the Unsullied.
The Good: My favourite moment in the episode was Jaime using his metal hand to stop the killing blow. It really wasn't clear in that moment how he was to escape death and never has a moment felt more Martinian (as in George RR) as someone used their handicap to their advantage.
There were plenty of other good moments. Like Jaime spotting Tarth, Tyrion annoying Jorah into un-gagging him, Jon begging for recruits, Mace Tyrell's attempts at comedy or Hizdahr zo Loraq's eloquent case for the fighting pits. But...
The Bad: I think this episode was the victim of some bad choices. Last week felt packed with incident and story development. This was more repetitious and poorly structured. Tyrion's scene with Jorah was basically a recap of Mormont's story. Melissandre flashed her chest just to ask Jon to come to Winterfell (as Stannis did last week). We got two moments when Bronn didn't say that he knows Jaime and Cersei are together. None of these were terrible moments but the wheels were spinning a little.
My real issue was with the three fight scenes. I imagine the Sparrow and Harpy attacks were deliberately placed in the same episode for contrast but added to Jaime's fight and they lost some of their novelty. The Sparrow story feels too rushed. The High Sparrow has so far come across as genuine in his desire to do good. Yet his followers seem enthusiastic about violence including murder which is surely inconsistent? The fact that some guards turned their back on these attacks, apparently informed about the new policy, but the King's guards were eager to retaliate was odd too. I definitely felt sorry for Tommen but it's difficult to feel fully invested without more information. Again not a huge criticism but it felt like pieces were being deliberatley withheld.
The Harpy-Unsullied showdown had to follow that and expand on it to seem more epic. Yet I was disappointed. I appreciate the effort to finally show us Ser Barristan in action and present the scale of the problem Dany faces. But the actual choreography left me cold. In a small space it would seem logical for the Unsullied to lock shields like a phalanx and use their superior discipline. But instead they dived into hand-to-hand combat like fools. Greyworm and Barristan then rescued one another from certain deaths in the most predictable way possible and both (seemingly) escaped death. I feel a simpler attack could have delivered more emotive results.
In terms of repetition we also had Shireen asking Stannis if he was ashamed of her. He responded by launching into a story. Then later Ellaria asks one of the Sand Snakes for her support and she too responds by beginning a story. I know it's a TV cliche but it felt lazy and frankly unconvincing coming from Obara who seems a woman of action rather than monologues.
The Unknown: An episode late Baelish gives Sansa the plan I asked for last week. I'm glad she asked sensible questions in response. He's definitely consistent. Yet again he outlines his entire scheme in public where he could be overheard.
Jon turns down Melissandre on the grounds that he still loves Ygritte. Has his "father no sons" vow gone out of the window now? Or is he choosing women to sleep with who he thinks exercise birth control? Her prescience of Ygritte's favourite phrase was a clever way to indicate her supernatural gifts.
We got two stories about Rhaegar Targaryen which is interesting. It's kind of amusing because most TV viewers only now, 44 episodes later, get the full story of what Robert and Ned were talking about in the same crypt in the first episode. I always appreciate historical details and this, I guess, is helping set up some revelations about someone (cough* Jon Snow cough*) down the line.
I really like the humanity which sweet Shireen provides Stannis' character. The detail that he passed Greyscale on to her is typically tragic. But I can't help but feel that Shireen is a sacrificial lamb being prepared for our sympathies. Unless the scene was designed to make us like Stannis I can't see any other purpose for it. I'm not looking forward to the horror of the scene when Melissandre asks him to choose between his destiny and his daughter.
Best Moment: Jaime turns the tables.
Conclusion: Because of the way Game of Thrones is constructed with the producers having to pick which scenes fit together best I suppose episodes like this are somewhat inevitable. It's a shame but no big deal in the long run.
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