HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 3: “The High Sparrow”

This week’s divisive episode departs significantly from the books, meaning readers have a choice to make about Game of Thrones: keep playing or take yourself off the board to wait for more novels.

Personally, I enjoy both incarnations of Martin’s materials and recognize that each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. Tonight’s big changes from A Dance with Dragons put a significant number of new players together and into harm’s way in the coming weeks, while in another region of the world, we seem to get confirmation that a big character from the fifth novel will not be making an appearance. There are a lot of interesting implications to chew on.

Also in this hour: All hail Queen Margaery. Again. First of Her Name and Ruler of Disgruntled Daughter-in-Laws everywhere.

Spoiler alert: Major episode spoilers for the currently aired season. Spoilers for the currently published George R. R. Martin novels are discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. We highly suggest not discussing spoilers for leaked episodes or early preview chapters, but if you must, white it out. Have courtesy for the patient among us who are waiting for next week’s airing or waiting and waiting (and waiting) for The Winds of Winter. Play nice. Thanks.

You can take the pimp out of King’s Landing, but you’ll never take King’s Landing out of the pimp.

Damn you, Littlefinger.

The arranged marriage Littlefinger brokered for Sansa overwhelms me with so many different feelings. First was shock, of course, as this is a big change from the books wherein Littlefinger provided a known fake Arya Stark to wed Ramsay Bolton in a plot to help the Boltons hold the North. So now I wonder what will change in The Winds of Winter as we last saw Book-Baelish planning to marry Book-Sansa to an Arryn heir. And then openly declare herself as Sansa Stark and reclaim Winterfell.

TV-Baelish admits the same endgame: for Sansa to reclaim Winterfell.

Just so.

And yet my next reaction to Littlefinger’s news is like Sansa’s: absolute revulsion.

“Oh, Sansa, I’m not marrying you to the man who stabbed your brother in the heart and helped pull off one of the most devastating bloodbaths in fiction. I’m marrying you to his son!”

Um… this guy?

Yeah. I’d rather marry Roose. He’s a lot of bad things, but stupid and sadistic aren’t among them.

Littlefinger surely knows that Ramsay is a psychopath. Maybe not in explicit detail, but he must know more. So I’m just not really buying his “Avenge them, Sansa,” motivational speech. And knowing what I do from the books, Sansa had best develop her taste for ale because she is going to need it. I’m really scared for her and not looking forward to watching weeks’ worth of her unhappiest marriage yet, nor the potential for new torments at the hands of Ramsay’s jealous, ferret-faced girlfriend.

But maybe, just maybe this new Darth Sansa will make justice for her slaughtered family. I have to hold out some hope that we will see a Stark victorious over someone. Why bother building her up as a power player—rather weakly, but still—only to have her become a caged little bird again? What does Littlefinger have to ultimately gain by having Sansa reclaim Winterfell—since it seems clear he knows that the Boltons’ hold on the North is tenuous? As Lord Protector of the Vale, wouldn’t he be in line to marry Sansa should something unfortunate happen to Ramsay? Because that weighty kiss on Sansa’s forehead makes me think he’d like nothing more, and not just for the jump in power. Ugh. Crawl back to your creepy subreddit, Petyr.

While one Stark must be told to remember that she’s a Stark, another must be told to forget. Maybe Littlefinger is always right in the end: nothing will change the fact that Starks are always Starks.

It’s strange to think of Jaqen H’ghar as a priest of sorts, no? In his oversized spa robe and doling out mercy to temple visitors, you almost forget that he’s a master assassin. I got a little chill when he told Arya “There is only one god. A girl knows his name. And all men know his gift.” I loved how the music echoed the words, the same words we heard Syrio Forel tell Arya during their first dancing lesson in season one. Might we see his face again? I hope not, in a way. But I wouldn’t complain if we did.

Arya’s hate is seared into her heart by this point, and I wouldn’t expect it to be easy for her to put aside her personal vengeance to become a Faceless Man. But she wouldn’t be Arya without her nightly prayer and her Needle. She went through so much trouble to get it back, there’s no way she should just toss it aside. Arya, I think, is meant for more than just being an assassin, but what that might be remains to be seen. In the present, I’m enjoying her filthy mouth and her lessons in becoming no one.

The last surviving Stark (in this season) is… still acting like a Stark as he settles into the role of Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. He has a ton of honor (as we saw last week) and delivers his own sentences. Pack your knives and go home, Janos Slynt. This is more the strong Jon Snow I loved in the books. Somewhere in Volantis, Tyrion must’ve felt a mysterious wave of glee.

Game of Thrones The High Sparrow

And what of Sansa’s first husband? He’s slightly less drunk and way more stir-crazy. Looks like he’s on a fast track to meet Dany, who is already making quite an impression on him with his first-hand witnessing of her fame among the slaves and Red Priestesses of Volantis. And the whores. Tyrion in a brothel after the death of Shae is pitiable.

As much as I love Varys and his highly amusing eyerolling, I’m also excited to see Peter Dinklage share some scenes with new people.

 

Final thoughts:

  • My, how Tommen has grown. It seems like last season he was only interested in Ser Pounce, but now he’s only interested in… Ser Pounce. It kinda grossed me out to hear the panting, really. Blech. But Margaery sure knows how to wrap her teenage king around her finger. My first order of business would be to ship Cersei off to Casterly Rock ASAP, too.
  • Line of the night (tie): “I wish we had some wine for you. It’s a bit early in the day for us.” or “Judging from the king’s enthusiasm, the Queen Mother will be a Queen Grandmother soon.” Pass me my fan. Between her runway looks and her tongue, Margaery must watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. So shady.
  • For an episode called “The High Sparrow,” we didn’t really see a lot of him. Jonathan Pryce is a fine actor who was so heartbreaking in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil that I still feel good will towards him, even when he’s playing a religious hardass. Cersei really has no idea what she’s doing, does she?
  • Speaking of bad choices by Cersei: How much did Qyburn’s scene remind you of a similar one in Takashi Miike’s Audition? Egads, what a freak!
  • I wonder if every brothel in Volantis has their own “Dragon Queen,” or just the ones Ser Jorah sulks in?
  • Sansa at Winterfell puts her in direct contact with Theon and also within a few days’ march of Stannis’ approaching army. Might Theon redeem himself and help get her out of Winterfell before too much harm comes to her? Or will Ramsay have more torture in store for him? (I’m thinking of a sickening bedding here.)
  • Brienne’s sad story of why she was so devoted to Renly had me reaching for a box of tissues. The good/naive ones always die, indeed. How can Brienne get close enough to Stannis to kill him? I think the second to last episode this season will see lots of stories converging at Winterfell. Can’t wait!

Next week: The episode is called “The Sons of the Harpy” because we haven’t spent enough time watching Dany not deal with them. Joy.

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing. Send her a raven through Twitter.

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