All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
5.3 High Sparrow
I forgot how meaty of an episode this is. Yup, that’s absolutely a pun on the flayed men of House Bolton. The opening theme starts and we can welcome Michael McElhatton’s ROOSE BOLTON to the main credits. Brace yourselves- we’re in for a Bolton-ful season. This season is where Roosey Goosey really hits his stride. I’ve always been more of a Bad Guy Supporter. With the absence of Tywin Lannister, it’s natural for us to be in search of the next great villain, one with a receding hairline that’s quietly terrifying with a great voice, and Roose fills that gap a little too naturally- especially considering he’s been in the background quietly stirring the pot since Season 2.
That being said, I still think he’s one of the most underutilized characters and actors on the show. I’d say top three. Talk about small parts that make a big impact. He commands pretty much every scene that he’s in with the smallest of gestures and inflections. I’ve whined about Indira Varma getting stuck as Ellaria, but the truth is that McElhatton as Roose Bolton is the more puzzling. We go from “OOH I HATE THIS GUY” at the end of Season 3 (arguably the most violent and tragic event of the entire series), then “Wait, where did Red Wedding guy go?” in Season 4, “Holy shit, this guy” in Season 5, and “Wait, why?” in Season 6.
Everyone’s always like “Wah wah wah, Ramsay” but I’m not a huge fan of Ramsay just based in how obvious he is as a villain. I appreciate the build-up to the character of Roose, then how he just stands there in later scenes and you just hate him, knowing his part in the Red Wedding. It’s genuinely a scary thing to think about what act Roose has up his sleeve after that and he’s entirely untrustworthy. Not untrustworthy in the way Ramsay would just fly off the handle, but in the sense that you never quite know who he’s chatting with in his spare time and who he’s really making deals with. He’s like a good mix of Tywin and Littlefinger and Varys- the mindset of those last two, but with the grace and resonance of our favorite Golden Lion.
The episode starts in the House of Black and White with shots around the House that I don’t remember, including stone faces, a heart on fire (cough- Stannis’ sigil, Red God), Arya cleaning, and Jaqan feeding a cup of brother-water-muck to an unnamed fellow who then just keels over and dies. Arya’s complaining that she hasn’t gotten to do anything but sweep and Jaqan’s like “but all men must serve” and it’s like the Karate Kid as he’s trying to teach her discipline through household chores. This scene is fairly unremarkable except that we get our first shot of the Waif who comes in to clean up after Arya.
King’s Landing- Tommen and Margaery are heading to the sept and Cersei can hear the people clamoring for Margaery- her time as queen is pretty much over and the people are all for it! They quickly consummate the marriage and Tommen is already prepared to go again. He wants to break the world record for most sex in a night. It could be post sex or happiness of finally getting to be queen, but Margaery does seem genuinely happy here and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be- she’s queen, she’s got a husband with great stamina and doesn’t really care about anything, least of all torturing small animals. She can basically do whatever she wants. It’s the most she’s let her guard down with anyone that’s not Olenna.
Margaery incepts post sex Tommen with the idea that Cersei will never see Tommen as a man and will always view him as her lion cub. It works quickly, because in the next scene, Tommen is asking Cersei if she misses Casterly Rock and asks her to return. She hunts down Margaery who is bragging about her four-times-a-night crusade and is absolutely enjoying holding her role as queen far above Cersei’s head. Cersei offers her help with anything she needs and Margaery semi-accepts but is more into taking the opportunity to show Cersei that she’s more popular, younger, prettier, and has Tommen eating out of her hand.
Note Margaery’s appearance here, which directly mimicks Cersei. She’s got her hair pulled back like Cersei. It might be a morning robe, but her dress is one that seems more of the King’s Landing/Cersei style and less Highgarden’s. It’s tighter than Cersei’s and lower in the front- King’s Landing has a new queen.
THE DREADFORT WINTERFELL- well, that’s a bigger courtyard than I remember. The Boltons are redecorating with some flayed bodies (it’s rumored that they kept the skins of their enemies as cloaks and also hung them around their dining hall! FUN) and like, if this were the habit of one of my vassal houses that often led rebellions against me, I’d probably just wipe them out instead of asking them to stop. I blame the Starks for letting them keep a lot of their traditions and giving them a ton of second, third, and fourth chances. Fucking honor. Good part on the production team for making us acutely aware of how fond the Boltons are of torture in five seconds.
Roose is reprimanding Ramsay, who he sent to collect some taxes from Lord Cerwyn. Lord Cerwyn spat and promised he was loyal only to the Starks and so Ramsay flayed him, his wife, and his brother. Roose knows that Ramsay’s tactics will make his house more unpopular than it already is, which he can’t afford since Tywin is now dead and his approval of Roose’s position as Warden was unchallenged. Futher, his deal wasn’t with Cersei or Jaime and they have no reason to help him if he needs it. And what’s more, House Bolton simply doesn’t have the numbers to defend themselves against the other Northern houses without help. Roose has a plan to lock in the Northern support in a manner stronger than terrorizing others, but marriage. Ramsay’s marriage in fact. Ramsay’s marriage to Sansa, by way of Littlefinger. It’s pretty ingenious on Roose’s part, who is just setting a foundation for House Bolton all on his own and without Tywin Lannister-he locks in an alliance with the Riverlands by marrying a Frey (no one told him to do that!), got a boat of silver, legitimizes a son who is old enough to marry off to the last Stark heir…
Sansa rides up to Moat Cailin and it only takes her a few minutes to realize that Littlefinger is taking her North and that his “marriage proposal” was actually for her to marry a Bolton. Sansa thinks its Roose but it’s actually Ramsay and I suspect Littlefinger’s plan was to… marry off Sansa and then kill off Roose and Ramsay and then marry Sansa himself so he can have the North..? Maybe. Anyway, Littlefinger is a straight up fool if he thought Ramsay was a lock as Roose’s heir. Let it be known that he didn’t legitimize Ramsay for any other reason other than to have a Stark in his family. There was absolutely no way Roose was going to leave House Bolton in the hands of his son that he sees he can’t control. Similar to Tywin, Roose uses the “YOU’RE MY SON” speech when he wants something, but he never really means it.
Anyway. Littlefinger stands uncomfortably close at a weird angle to Sansa and pretty much deals out a ton of abusive relationship red flags- he tells her he’s the only person that truly cares for her, she belongs at home where her family was, it’s her responsibility, he’ll help her get what she really wants (vengeance!)… it’s like Gaslighting 101 with this guy.
A few feet up, Brienne and Pod spy, and Pod chastises her for calling Tyrion “the Imp” as he’s still pretty loyal to the guy. We get to learn a lot more about Pod this season. He was originally a squire for a knight who stole a ham, but since his last name is Payne (a loyal family to the Lannisters that includes the person who beheaded Ned, Ser Ilyn Payne), Tywin decided a punishment in disguise would be to be a squire for his son Tyrion. Pod never saw it as a punishment as Tyrion was a kind person- just as he doesn’t see being Brienne’s squire to be such a terrible thing as she’s a great fighter and beat the Hound. He also views her snapping as her way of teaching him. He’s a glass-half-full kind of guy and Brienne finally takes a bit of liking to him and offers to teach him how to fight and how to ride a horse- the essentials! Since Brienne got to ask about Pod, Pod gets to ask about Brienne. It turns out that Brienne has always been called ugly, ever since she was a young girl. At a ball, boys fought tooth and nail to dance with her and it turns out it was one big joke on her, but Renly stepped forward and danced with her for the rest of the night- from that night on, Brienne was loyal to him. Brienne drops a “Nothing is more hateful than failing to protect the one you love”- and oh boy, is that resonant throughout this entire series. Brienne again vows to kill Stannis for what he did to Renly-
AND BOOM, cut to Stannis up at Castle Black visiting LORD COMMANDER JON SNOW. Jon has taken on Olly as his steward just as Jeor Mormont did with him. Jon acknowledges that being Jon Stark is all he has ever wanted but will remain at Castle Black even if that means turning down the Stark name, Winterfell, the North, and vengeance. I don’t think this is just Jon being obligated to his words and duties, but it’s because he finally has found a purpose and his true calling with the Night’s Watch. He’s also finally settled into his identity as Jon Snow. It’s like a college graduate who gets their first job and they can apply everything they’ve learned to their work. Stannis immediately grows cold towards Jon and Jon turns him back with refusing to supply Stannis’ men when he needs the resources for his own men… and Tormund! Jon won’t execute the Wildlings since he would rather use their numbers against the White Walkers, but it’s still at that point where no one really believes him on that and they’re still a bit salty about that Wall episode.
Before he leaves, Stannis advises him to send Thorne away, as he can tell Thorne hates Jon. Davos reassures Jon that Stannis secretly admires him but that Jon and the Night’s Watch are useless at the Wall protecting the Realm from an unseen danger when there are plenty of red flags within Westeros flying amuck. Uh, specifically, those red flags have tiny flayed men on them, as the North will continue to suffer and be subject to misery if Roose Bolton continues to serve as Warden. It’s a fair point Davos makes, as he always does, as he challenges Jon’s neutral stance when he’s been given the power and leadership to make decisions that will truly serve the Seven Kingdoms. It’s yet another talk that plays a part in Jon’s decision in taking up arms with Dany in Season 7.
Back in Braavos, the Waif is instantly jealous of Arya right from their first meeting- she challenges Arya’s skills and her means of obtaining her coin. She repeatedly asks Arya who she is, slapping her, and Arya struggles with not taking it personally. Jaqan goes around the room and identifies all of Arya’s belongings which are preventing her from becoming no one. Ready to be No One, Arya tosses her clothing and possessions away into the river- but hides Needle away in a pile of rocks just outside the House. It’s all she has left of Winterfell and the theme plays quite somberly over a beautiful shot of Maisie Williams looking out over the water- it’s absolutely lovely. Just a few seconds and it’s visible that Arya still desperately wants to go home and does not want to forget who she is or where she came from. Later, Jaqan stops Arya from sweeping and leads her the Braavosi version of a coroner’s room, where she and the Waif undress the body and wash it in silence.
Up at Winterfell, Sansa and Littlefinger arrive. There’s a tense moment as Roose steps forward to greet her and Sansa offers him a curtsy and smile. Ramsay is giddy to meet his new wife and he’s a good-looking dude who politely greets her so Sansa’s happy- for now. Meanwhile, Myranda and Ramsay’s other girls look on quite angrily. Sansa is brought up to her old room and the maid tells her “Welcome home, Lady Stark. The North remembers.” The look that comes across Sophie Turner’s face is perfect here as she realizes that’s the title her mother held and that there are other people who remember the injustice that was done to her family. And it’s a great sign of hope for us as viewers to, at least for those of us who are still angry or in pain about the Red Wedding!
Too bad this Northern Conspiracy just… fades away by Season 6…
Back at Castle Black, Sam nervously relays that Maester Aemon isn’t doing well. Jon sets about his first order of business- digging a new latrine pit and there’s a moment where Thorne thinks he’ll be assigned to it but Jon’s just playing and assigns it to a ginger. As an act of good faith, Jon appoints Thorne as First Ranger, a major promotion from Master at Arms. Jon has gone against Stannis’ advice and is keeping Thorne close. The rest of the room seems to agree and it looks like Jon and Thorne might, just miiiiiight get along…
But then Jon tries to send Janos Slynt over to Greyguard, one of the not so up to date forts, which he sees as a huge insult since you know, King’s Landing and City Watch and all that. It would have been better if Jon had pointed out Janos’ position in the cupboard during the Wildling raid, but he tells Janos that it was a command not an offer. Note in this scene, it looks like Thorne was about to tell Janos to sit down- but then Thorne changes his mind. If Janos’ death can provide some dissent against Jon, he’ll take it.
Janos still refuses and Jon executes him similarly to how Robb beheaded Lord Karstark- even the same music is playing and yes, that’s the fucking Greyjoy theme. Why they chose that for these two big changes in Stark loyalty is beyond me. Anyway, this scene is incredibly reminiscent Robb’s decision to execute Karstark- you’ll recall that in Season 3, Lord Karstark’s sons were killed by Jaime Lannister, who was taken prisoner and kept alive to serve as a bargaining chip; Karstark killed two Lannister boys out of frustration and Robb chose to execute Karstark for disobeying his orders. Sound familiar? Robb and Jon are put in the same spot of choosing the loyalty of the people they command or looking like a tough leader. Like Robb, Jon chooses to be a strong leader. BUT- just like Robb’s decision to execute Karstark, it looks like Jon is favoring the enemy. Even if Slynt wasn’t Jon’s best friend, he was still a member of the Night’s Watch and that’s where Jon’s loyalty was supposed to be. It makes it look like Jon has more loyalty to his Wildling prisoners than his own men. And like Robb, this beheading marks a turning point in Jon’s command.
I’m going to keep an eye out for other Robb/Jon similarities- and I foresee the North giving Jon a hard time for bringing home “a foreign bitch.” That would really bring this full circle. Can’t expect too much though.
The Night’s Watch is divided in two- those who immediately support Jon and those who can’t see the logic in killing a man who expressed regrets at the last minute while also keeping a Wildling prisoner alive and well fed.
Back in King’s Landing and back in Littlefinger’s brothel, the High Septon has commanded a few of the ladies to dress up as the Seven Gods and selects the Stranger and the Maiden, presumably to have sex with at some later point. However, Lancel and the sparrows come in and make him perform a walk of atonement for his sins and embarrassing the Faith- it’s a light one, as he walks naked from the brothel to the Red Keep as people chant “sinner” at him. The High Septon holds himself in high regards and compares a slight against him as a slight against the Gods. Qyburn and Mace ask him what he was doing at the brothel and he’s pretty much caught in his sin. He asks Cersei to arrest their leader, the High Sparrow, and Cersei sets out to find him.
Visiting the poor for Cersei is a very different one that we saw Margaery conduct in Season 3- her nose is wrinkled and she’s clearly disgusted. She finds the High Sparrow serving broth. She takes him for a delusional old man that she would be able to manipulate- Qyburn-lite if you will. She tells the High Sparrow that the current High Septon and the example he sets is how faith gets eaten away from the inside, as she plays a devout servant of the Seven to win his favor.
We get an excuse to see the Mountain in Qyburn’s lab, as Cersei brings a message to be delivered to Littlefinger. It’s a very Frankenstein moment as there’s a lurch on his table. Nothing else to see here.
Back up at Winterfell, Theon is really trying to avoid Sansa, as Ramsay and Littlefinger watch from above. Littlefinger finds it suspicious that he’s heard little about Ramsay since he knows everything about everyone and Ramsay is playing nice while Sansa’s father figure is around. Roose is rightfully worried that marrying Sansa off to Ramsay will be seen as a sign of betrayal against Tywin, which it is- but Tywin is dead! Without Lannister support, this really is the best way to make the Northern hold stronger. Littlefinger assures Roose that since Tywin is dead, the Lannisters aren’t as powerful, and that he has no Lannister army to fear. Roose counterargues that Cersei still has friends that she sends ravens to and pulls out her note to Littlefinger, which was sent to the Vale and which Roose has already read. Roose can read right through Littlefinger and it’s clear they don’t trust each other at all. It’s a great scene of chess between two of the better-known conspirators on the show as they try to out nice and outmaneuver the other.
Outside Pentos, Tyrion is dying to get out of the wagon and is sick of looking at Varys- it’s they Tyrion/Varys road trip and their banter is some of the best on the show. I’d rank it at number 2 under Arya and the Hound. Tyrion steps off the wagon and finds himself- I forget where this scene is but it’s on that bridge/town thing. They encounter a red priestess who mentions the Stone Men aka victims of Grey Scale. She also praises the savior- the Dragon Queen, and it’s safe to assume it’s Dany that she speaks of.
Tyrion goes to find a brothel and oh- they find one. He’s got a nose for these things. There’s a Dany impersonator that’s wearing that blue dress from Season 3 but no pants and she’s the most in-demand prostitute apparently. Jorah is also in the brothel, eyeing the same prostitute and I wonder if he’s paid for this one in the past. It’s the closest he’ll probably ever get to Dany. Tyrion tells Varys that he needs to talk to someone with hair (!) and woos a prostitute.
I just noticed this prostitute and a few others have the same mark under their left eye as the priestess did. I wonder if she was a prostitute. Or is that a mark of slavery? Side characters! Bring ’em!
Tyrion goes to leave with the prostitute and discovers that he doesn’t actually want to, but he can’t figure out why. Hint- it’s because he’s still thinking about Shae. He leaves to take a whiz but Jorah kidnaps him and tells him he’s going to the Queen. It’s DRAMATIC IRONY because WE know he means DANY but TYRION thinks it’s CERSEI. HA. HA. Ha. Haaaaaa…
Ok, enough. Sorry for all the Bolton love but also… not? Up next, we have 5.4 Sons of the Harpy