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!
5.4 Sons of the Harpy
From here on out, the “Previously on Game of Thrones” tends to cut in various scenes from Season 1, particularly any dialogue about Lyanna Stark and/or Rhaegar Targaryen, probably to remind us of the clues pertaining to Jon’s heritage and the R+L=J. (I’m only typing RLJ from here on out because fuck the Shift key.) This really hasn’t been touched since Ned’s death, so that is wise on their part. We also start getting some heavy hint dropping within the episodes themselves, so we’ll track those as well.
We’ll welcome Dorne to the opening credits, even though Dorne is wrongly mislabeled and should read Sunspear, which is the capital. It’s not like Winterfell is labelled the North! Come to think of it, the Wall should also read Castle Black. Dorne is also tossed in at the very end of the opening sequence, like “Oh hey, we forgot Dorne and uh, snakes right?” (cough, it’s a sun and a spear… Sunspear…). It doesn’t even register that it’s part of Westeros. Aside from a very blurry Shining Sea, there’s no indication that we head back to Westeros after Meereen. I’m not mad about it. I swear.
If you haven’t been paying attention to Dany’s story (and I can understand why you wouldn’t), the Sons of the Harpy are a group of vigilantes that are acting out against Dany supporters, specifically slaves and soldiers- presumably in favor or at the very least employed by the masters and the rich of Yunkai, Meereen, and that other city that I already forgot about.
I’d like to note that this episode is directed by Mark Mylod, who now serves as an executive producer on HBO’s fairly new series Succession. I just started watching THAT and it’s nearly just as tense as GOT and without all the dragons and CGI. Crazy. I recommend it if you liked the business side of Mad Men but despised all of its self-loathing and white dude “woe is meeeee” bullshit.
The episode kicks off with Jorah stealing someone’s boat (but leaving them a few coppers) so he can transport Tyrion to his beloved dragon queen. Mind you, they’ve never met and it’s been ages since Jorah was in Westeros, so Tyrion rightfully doesn’t recognize him. Tyrion’s brother Jaime sails right past the Isle of Tarth, Brienne’s home, which is supposed to remind us that he is a good person. He’s off to Dorne on a merchant ship with Bronn. Bronn is confused as to why there’s no pomp and circumstance to their travels- they’re not on a ship proclaiming they are the Lannisters, they need the cover of night to row to Sunspear, and just the fact they even need to row in the first place. Bronn’s got the Lannisters pegged.
Bronn doesn’t mind going back to Dorne as it’s everything he loves- they love to fight and have sex. I imagine they’d love a good Dothraki wedding! Our boy also raises an eyebrow when Jaime calls Myrcella his niece- we can chalk this up to hanging out with Tyrion and Lannister soldiers to know all the rumors and has also probably seen enough to confirm it for himself. Bronn deduces that Jaime is taking this mission on himself to make up him freeing of Tyrion to Cersei, while also trying to convince himself that he hates Tyrion and blames him for his father’s murder. There’s a visible part of Jaime that knows how Tyrion was framed and the relationship with Tywin that most likely drove Tyrion to pull the trigger- but he loves Cersei more.
Speaking of Lannisters and Cersei, she’s still hurt about Tommen’s (re: Margaery’s) suggestion to leave King’s Landing and head home to Casterly Rock. Mace Tyrell is offering to cover the debt the crown owes to the Iron Bank but that would put the Lannisters in the Tyrells pocket and we know that no body around the small council really wants that. To give Mace some more delusions of grandeur, she sends away with his very own Kingsguard under the guise of negotiations with the Iron Bank. It crosses my mind that Cersei might have ordered Meryn Trant to kill Mace along the way. I wouldn’t put it past her.
Cersei’s received Littlefinger’s scroll already because ravens can fly really fast (in just one cut scene in the last episode) but she’s too busy entertaining the High Sparrow. He refuses a glass of wine, but unlike her brother Jaime when Roose Bolton refused a drink, she doesn’t see this as a suspicious decline. Cersei is still playing pious and offers to bring back the Faith Militant to protect and spread the Light of the Seven. (If you recall from our Sept of Balor rewatch, the Faith Militant was a violent group of fanatics who stoned and tortured and terrorized the common folk to force the religion on the sinners.) Cersei’s last line to the High Sparrow prior to this montage is that she knows of a sinner “surrounded by gold and privilege,” and the implication is that Cersei is willing to go to extreme lengths in order to get what she wants and to send a message.
And we immediately know who the target is. To demonstrate how extreme they are, we’re treated to a montage, similar to Season 1 when Joff was ordering Robert’s bastard children to be found. The Faith Militant is smashing barrels of wine, whipping prostitutes, emptying the brothels, beating the poor, and destroying gambling tables. And this montage is cut with Faith Militant carving their seven-pointed star into each other’s foreheads- they really believe in their actions. It’s a little something that can’t take off. The last bit of this montage finds Olyvar, Littlefinger’s male prostitute, fleeing from some members of the Faith Militant in the middle of beating two men for having sex with each other, while chanting “boy fucker” and “cocksucker” at them.
Finally, and just as it was implied, Loras is surrounded in the training pit and taken prisoner for his sins. In just a few hours, Cersei has taken away Margaery’s father and brother in return for Margaery’s control over Tommen. It’s a display of power and Cersei now has the Faith Militant behind her.
Margaery demands to know why he was arrested and Tommen, poor thing, has no idea what’s been going on. Tommen’s still under the impression that she and Cersei get along and Margaery calls him “my sweet, sweet king,” which both recognizes how young Tommen is while simultaneously calling him a dumbass. Tommen promises Margaery he’ll handle it, but goes to Cersei with a quavering voice, making demands.
Dude, you da king. You could have just gone to the Faith Militant yourself. (Or wait- does he have to come of age first?) It’s a strong contrast to Joff who would just yell and demand things, meanwhile Tommen still thinks he has to ask for permission first. “Mummy, may I behead this man?” is a funny thought. Cersei is able to convince Tommen that she had nothing to do with the High Sparrow’s actions, so he goes to the sept. The Faith Militant refuses to let him in so the Kingsguard asks for a command to fight them and Tommen can’t stand the idea of blood! Not only that, but the Faith Militant has already started to convert some of the poor folk and they start screaming some random phrases at him: Bastard! Born of sin! Abomination! FILTHY bastard! Tommen nopes the sept and Margaery basically calls him a coward and refuses to be in his presence until it’s handled.
Up at Castle Black and in RLJ Hint Number One, as Stannis is keenly watching Jon and Selyse can’t figure out why he’s interested in the bastard son of Ned Stark and some tavern slut. Stannis says “Perhaps, but that wasn’t Ned Stark’s way.” Let’s think about this- Stannis, being Robert’s younger brother, is extremely familiar with how Ned might have conducted himself and further, he would have known Ned’s actions during Robert’s Rebellion. I wouldn’t put it past Stannis to be- at the very least- suspicious that Jon was not Ned’s. Maybe not to the point of his actual parentage, but enough to know that Ned was not his father. Anyway, this can be chalked up to a throwaway line, because Selyse starts bemoaning how she never birthed Stannis a son. Melisandre says none of it matters, since Shireen has Stannis’ blood… and that’s… that’s all that matters. We’ve seen Mel take Gendry’s Baratheon blood in the name of Stannis. We’ll just leave it at that. Stannis plans to march on Winterfell soon and Mel asks if he’ll pull a reverse-Blackwater, this time leaving Davos behind and taking her with the army.
Sam’s written up some letters to request more men from random houses around Westeros and he’s gleefully reading out their names- Lord Ashford, Mayzen, Wibberly, Lady Caulfield- before he rolls his eyes and hurriedly puts down a letter to Lord Bolton. Jon refuses because obvious Red Wedding reasons, and Sam gently reminds him that Jon is neutral and that Roose is a close and powerful resource for men and supplies. Jon begrudgingly signs the letter before being visited by Mel, who shoos Sam out of the room. She requests he ride to Winterfell with Stannis, as his knowledge of the land would be useful, but he refuses as he’s already fighting a war. Mel agrees and says there’s only one war- between life and death and-
Are we SURE she didn’t see the White Walkers!? ARE WE? Like what the fuck. Anyway, she strips down, presumably to seduce Jon the way she did Gendry- but Jon refuses! He turns her down, still hurting from Ygritte’s death. Mel pushes him further saying the dead have no use for lovers and Jon kindly reminds her that he’s still alive-
And oh shit. I just had another thought. About this line specifically. Aw. Oh. My heart is hurting. Ok, now I’m crying. I’ll bring it up when we get to that moment in Season 7.
Spurned, Mel leaves and tells Jon that he knows nothing- Ygritte’s favorite line- and SPOOKY. OooOOOooOOoh.
Shireen tries to bond with her father by asking if he’s ashamed of her and Stannis says no- he’s ashamed of himself. He purchased a doll for baby Shireen, which she pressed to her cheek and contracted the greyscale. Doctors told him that she would die and have the world taken away from her, and it was advised that Stannis send her away before others were contaminated. Instead, Stannis refused to give up and called every doctor in the Realm until she was cured. Shireen never belonged in Valyria, because she was Princess Shireen of House Baratheon and his daughter- and it’s an entirely different vibe from then Tywin and Roose growl “You’re my son!” The music swells up, Shireen’s eyes shine with pride, and Stannis even hugs her. He really means all of this- Shireen is his daughter and meant for a higher purpose… whatever… purpose that may be.
RLJ Hint Number 2 comes from Winterfell, as Sansa lights a candle for Lyanna Stark’s statue. She finds the feather Robert left in its hand in Season 1 and remarks to Littlefinger that Ned never spoke about Lyanna but would light candles for her often. Littlefinger met her once at Lord Whent’s tournament when she was already engaged to Robert. The last match of the tournament was Barristan Selmy against Rhaegar. Upon winning the tournament, Rhaegar rode past his wife, Elia Martell, to give Lyanna roses.
Littlefinger asks Sansa “How many people had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?” Sansa replies that Rhaegar also kidnapped and raped Lyanna, and there’s a well timed cut to Littlefinger as he just brushes this off. That word chose is so small, yet has such a strong implication to it. Given the many different versions of the story, there are a ton of other, more violent words he could have used- but chose implies that Rhaegar made a decision between two women that were each offering him something.
Littlefinger is leaving Winterfell upon Cersei’s request, but promises to return soon- and reveals his whole plan to Sansa. He does believe that Stannis will win the war and throne from Cersei, but first wipe out the Bolton’s, clearing the way for Sansa to be named Wardeness. As the last remaining Stark, she’ll be welcomed by the North. Then, he’s take his Vale title, marry Sansa, and take all that. Worst case scenario and if the Boltons win, she marries Ramsay, becomes Wardeness through marriage, and has the North on her side anyway. He sets it up as a win-win for Sansa, but it’s really a win-win for himself.
Time out- did the War of the Five Kings ever actually end? Because there are still two kings from my count, Stannis and Balon Greyjoy. Poor Balon. We just forgot that one.
Jaime made Bronn row all the way to Dorne because he’s only got one hand! Jaime and Bronn discuss how they want to die and Bronn’s is strangely sentimental- he wants to die and old men with lots of sons fighting for his fortune. Meanwhile, Jaime wants to die in the arms of the woman he loves. So… if Jaime dies, I guess we’ll see whose arms he crawls towards. Sad. Every line about death should be taken seriously in this show, I swear.
Uh, Jaime and Bronn come across Dornish soldiers and… you know. It’s piss poor dialogue as the Dornish all beat around the bush even though they already know Bronn and Jaime aren’t from there. I guess the one saving grace is that Bronn gets to do some cool shit, like underhanding a knife into someone’s neck, before we watch Jaime have a very slow and illogically not-difficult fight with a supposedly skilled soldier.
Somewhere else in Dorne, Ellaria is riding across the beach in a beautiful shot- if only this storyline didn’t suck later on. She meets up with the Sand Snakes- Oberyn’s bastards, one of which is her daughter, armed with bad accents. Ellaria wants to declare war on the Lannisters and take Myrcella ransom, which they can’t do if Jaime is successful in his recuse mission… which, by the way, the Sand Snakes conveniently know about this because they’ve got a dude who shared a cabin with Jaime. You know, this isn’t… terrible. Yet. It’s just a slow scene and bad accents. I admit, it does go downhill from here. Why the hell isn’t Ellaria wearing something more practical to ride in? Why is she in a gown? Why are the other two Sand Snakes in flowing dresses? Obara is the only one wearing a good fighting outfit here.
People are like, why does this Sand Snake get so many lines? Obara is played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, the youngest Oscar nominee for Best Actress in 2003’s Whale Rider. Hell of a movie- I recommend it. They were probably banking on this group of women really taking off, read the reviews, and then decided to drop it in Season 6. No, really.
Sailing to Meereen, Jorah tells Tyrion he’s taking him to Dany and Tyrion susses out that it’s Jorah, who got turned away by Dany once she figured out he was helping Robert.
RLJ Hint Number 3 comes from Barristan Selmy, who regales Dany with tales of Rhaegar- we keep hearing that Rhaegar raped and tortured Lyanna, but Rhaegar didn’t like killing- he liked singing. Apparently, Barristan knew him as a gentle soul. He would go outside the castle and sing to the people. Barristan would collect money from passerbys and Rhaegar would donate it to the people on the streets.
She sends Barristan off to take a walk while Hizdar Zo Loraq pleads again for Dany to open up the fighting pits. Dany again refuses to support what’s considered a tradition. Let’s put it this way: it would be like cancelling football over here. Hizdar tries to persuade her that it would be a signal to the people that she is learning their ways, but nope. Dany doesn’t care. Her way or the highway.
Meanwhile, outside the Sons of the Harpy start slaughtering members of the Second Sons and the Unsullied. Grey Worm takes a few soldiers hunting, but he finds his group surrounded on both side by Sons of the Harpy. He gets his helmet knocked off because we need to know its him. Looking like a commoner, Barristan sneaks around to find Grey Worm after he’s been stabbed and saves his life, only for Barristan to be stabbed in the back in a very poorly edited sequence. The good news is, Barristan gets a good kill count in before he leaves us, getting sliced a few times while also taking a few masks out. It’s like a Boromir-type death and reminds us why he was Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and so well respected in his position. It’s a good death for a fan favorite character. He got his bit about Rhaegar in, he wasn’t really advising Dany (especially not in an effective way). Barristan being taken out alsoe provides us a big “Oh no! What will she do?” which prepares us for Jorah and Tyrion’s arrival. It makes us anticipate that moment and also start yelling at the TV to take them into her service. Well done, GOT. Another good episode.
Next up: 5.5 Kill the Boy