Game of Thrones 504 recap/ review
The Sons of the Harpy
Recaps contain spoilers from “Game of Thrones” and its source literature.
After a couple uneventful episodes, “Game of Thrones” advanced several storylines last week and set up the next episode, this week’s “The Sons of the Harpy,” for a crackling pace. Beginning right after the cliffhanger ending in “High Sparrow,” Jorah punches a sailor unconscious on a shoreline and carelessly tosses his prisoner, Tyrion Lannister, into the sailor’s vessel, assuming it as his own now. The camera pans over the sea, transitioning to the deck of the ship ferrying Tyrion’s brother, Jaime, who can see the Dornish shore for the mission he planned in “The House of Black and White.” Jaime visits his travelling companion, Bronn, below deck. The sellsword wants to know why a one-handed, wealthy man with an army (such as Jaime) isn’t instead leading said army of two-handed soldiers into battle. “I don’t want to start a war.” Considering this plotline doesn’t exist in the literature (at least not yet), following Jaime and Bronn in Dorne should prove equally unpredictable for all viewers. The scene concludes with Bronn shamelessly asking Jaime to give Tyrion his regards if he ever sees his younger brother again. It’s good to know Tyrion still has a few people looking out for him.
We then see the only Lannister sib not on the open sea, Cersei. After Mace Tyrell makes a fool of himself in a small council meeting, Cersei ignores his stupid ramblings and charges him with a visit to the Iron Bank of Braavos with Meryn Trant to ask for a loan for the crown. That’s one Tyrell out of King’s Landing. She excuses herself from the meeting to meet with the High Sparrow, who declines Cersei’s wine to keep his mind sharp and because he doesn’t care for the taste. Cersei and the High Sparrow agree the Faith Militant should return from centuries of dormancy, saying she can get the king’s approval before stating that there’s “a very great sinner in our midst, shielded by gold and privilege.” The High Sparrow hopes the gods will justly judge him.
The High Sparrow takes this immediately to heart as the reborn Faith Militant march on the city in the next scene, breaking casks of wine and ale with axes. As the fanatic monks continue their tornado of violent, murderous piousness throughout the city (including Littlefinger’s brothel), shots of the Militant carving the mark of the Seven into Lancel Lannister’s forehead are intercut within the montage sequence. As two knights spar, Lancel leads some followers to arrest one of the knights, Ser Loras Tyrell, for his crimes against the gods (being gay). This bleeds into Loras’ sister, Queen Margaery, interrupting King Tommen’s meal in the castle. She correctly points out that Cersei more-than-likely put the High Sparrow up to this and asks the King to retrieve his “brother by law.” Two Tyrells now disappear from Cersei’s radar. Is this a “Plan B” after her inability to control Margaery through Tommen?
The camera stays with Tommen as he asks his mother to free Ser Loras. Cersei feigns innocence and says that she has no power over the Faith Militant and that he should begin with them instead of her. Somehow, she manages to drink wine in this scene after the fanatics emptied all the alcohol. I suppose she is the Queen Mother, after all. The camera remains with Tommen for a third scene as the King and his guards ascend the stairs to the Sept in order retrieve Loras. The monks block his path, forbidding it. The knights tell their King they have no problems with cutting down the monks if they receive the order. This shocks the boy King, having never ordered a death in his life. Shouts of “bastard” and “abomination” begin to stir in the crowd and Tommen stands down, ordering his men to back off in order to avoid violence. In his fourth and final scene in a row, the King returns to Queen Margaery and tells her he failed because he wanted to avoid violence. She excuses herself to remain with her family, House Tyrell, in their troubling time.
At the Wall, King Stannis and Queen Selyse look down at the Castle Black courtyard as Jon trains with the men. Selyse doesn’t think much of Jon for being the bastard of “a tavern slut” and Ned Stark before chiding herself for not bearing a son. Stannis states the circumstances surrounding Jon’s parentage wasn’t Ned’s “way” as Selyse transfers the blame of not bearing a son over to their daughter, Shireen, who looks on the courtyard alone from a stairway across from her parents. Melisandre then enters to correct Selyse’s shame, stating that Shireen has the blood of the King and that the Lord of Light cares little about the girl’s greyscale scars. As Selyse exits, the red woman speaks with Stannis to make sure he brings her with him to Winterfell, reminding him of her absence during his defeat at Blackwater Bay. He assures her that he won’t make the same mistake again, saying he “needs” her. “You only need faith,” she replies. “…what do you need?” Stannis asks. The camera pans down to Jon fighting in the courtyard when she states that she only needs to serve her lord. A heavy-handed hint? Has she merely used Stannis all along as a vessel to get to the Wall?
We remain with Jon, now in his quarters as Sam presents him with documents to sign regarding lords sending future brothers to the wall. Jon doesn’t want to sign the paper from Roose Bolton for obvious reasons, but Sam spells out that Bolton reigns as Warden of the North and that the Watch needs men and supplies. “We can’t watch the Wall with fifty men,” Sam says before Jon agrees to sign the sheet. Just as Sam leaves, Melisandre conveniently arrives, ignoring him and focusing only on the Lord Commander. She asks Jon to ride with them on Winterfell. “Don’t you want to chase the rats out of it?” Jon declines as a brother of the Night’s Watch before she invites him to see something. He suspects she’ll present him with a “vision in the fire,” but she instead suggests “life,” and opens her robe to reveal her nude form to Jon. He touches her body and looks with a hint of lust in his eye. “There’s power in you. You resist it and that’s your mistake. Embrace it.” She persists, telling him there’s power in their joining—including the power to cast shadows. He ultimately maintains his declination, citing his undying love for Ygritte. Melisandre then excuses herself, but not before she stops in the doorway and terrifies the Lord Commander, repeating Ygritte’s affectionate phrase, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
In Stannis’ quarters, Shireen knocks and enters. He asks if she’s lonely, but she says she’s only bored. He begins to apologize for taking a child to Castle Black, but she interrupts him to say that she likes it there. She apologizes for Selyse not wanting to bring her, but Stannis assures her the Queen “shouldn’t have said that.” She then asks her father point blank if he’s ashamed of her. Stannis then rises to tell her a story equally heartbreaking and heartwarming, concerning a doll that wore a dress in Baratheon colors which he bought from a Dornish trader when she was born because new fathers are “easy targets.” He still remembers how much she loved it as a baby and pressed it to her cheek. Unfortunately, the trader presumably covered the doll with the greyscale that later infected her because he had to call in every maester in the seven kingdoms to rescue her from a horrifying fate. He calls her “Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon,” and shows the love and affection Selyse withholds. As neither Stannis nor Shireen are point-of-view characters in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” witnessing this father and daughter share a rare, quality moment was a welcome first for all viewers.
As Sansa picks up a feather before the tomb of her aunt, Lyanna Stark, Littlefinger creeps up behind her. Is this feather another nod toward Bran’s presence in Winterfell after a raven earlier landed next to Reek in “High Sparrow?” The Three-Eyed Raven promised Bran in “The Children” last season that the Stark warg “will fly.” He tells Sansa about the one time he saw Lyanna— at a great tournament in Harrenhal as a boy living and travelling with House Tully. “Everyone was there,” Littlefinger recalls, stating the Mad King, Ned, Robert Baratheon, and Lyanna all attended. Lyanna and Robert were betrothed. He remembers seeing the spectacle of all sorts of legends at the tournament, especially Rhaegar Targaryen upsetting the favorited Ser Barristan Selmy in the joust to win it all. The crowd cheered for the Targaryen heir until it silenced when he passed on naming his wife, Elia Martell, as “The Queen of Love and Beauty” and instead handed a coveted bouquet to Lyanna Stark. “How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar Targaryen chose your aunt?” Sansa then cites how Rhaegar then “kidnapped and raped her.” They walk away as he announces Cersei called him to King’s Landing. He tells her that Stannis will march south and begin by taking Winterfell, and then will call her “Wardeness of the North.” He’s betting on Stannis to rescue her from the Boltons, but tells her that she can easily manipulate Ramsey if Stannis fails. Roose frightens her, but Littlefinger assures her that he’ll return before very long. He promises her the North and she expects to be married again upon his return.
Bronn rows a boat containing Jaime to the Dornish shore under cover of night. Jaime wakes up on the shore the next morning to his companion throwing a knife right next to his head, spearing a predatory snake in the head—a foreshadow of things to come? As they eat the snake for breakfast, they talk about death and how they might die. They begin trekking when Bronn points out that no matter how much Jaime bribed the captain of the ship they took, he will surely have sold them out by now. They come upon four Dornish guards and engage in combat after they refuse to surrender their weapons. They escape as Bronn kills three, and Jaime one. Jaime has Bronn bury the bodies so that they keep that war prevented. The camera stays on the coast of Dorne, following a shrouded rider that stops to meet with three others. The rider reveals herself to be Ellaria Sand when a young woman greets her as “mama.” Ellaria acknowledges the other two young women (one of which is Oscar-nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes) and states they will have to fight because Prince Doran will not. She begins laying out how Myrcella is at the center of her plan to start a war with the Lannisters. One of the “Sand Snakes” cracks her whip to knock over a small barrel containing a gagged human head covered with scorpions. It is the ship’s captain who has already given up Jaime and Bronn. Ellaria quickly surmises they’ll have to beat Jaime to get to Myrcella and asks the three women if they will stand with her or follow Doran’s way. Each of them agree to stand with Ellaria in their own, drawn out, unique fashion.
Another gagged prisoner annoys his captor when Tyrion bugs Jorah on their stolen ship. Jorah eventually breaks and un-gags Tyrion. Tyrion points out that they’re headed East—the wrong direction of Queen Cersei. Jorah, however, informs him they’re sailing toward the true queen, Daenerys Targaryen. Tyrion tells Jorah that he was headed that direction anyway before he correctly surmises his captor’s identity and motives. “A risky scheme…desperate,” Tyrion says before pointing out how Daenerys may just as easily pardon him and condemn Jorah. Mormont punches to Tyrion to close the scene. In Meereen, Barristan Selmy shines a completely light on Rhaegar to Daenerys and the audience. For the second time in twenty minutes, a character talks about Rhaegar Targaryen albeit in a completely different opinion. Selmy fondly remembers the man who defeated him at Harrenhal, telling the Queen how he collected change while guarding her brother when the prince sang and played the harp around the capital for the people. “Rhaegar never liked killing—he liked singing.” This sounds like a completely different man from the one Sansa and Littlefinger discussed in the crypt. Like the books, conflicting viewpoints of characters make the audience come to their own conclusion. Do you believe Barristan, who knew and protected Rhaegar? Or Littlefinger, who never met him? She excuses Barristan “to sing a song” for her when Daario interrupts to announce Hizdahr zo Loraq’s arrival. In the throne room, Hizdahr asks a staunchly reluctant Daenerys to open the fighting pits for the people’s entertainment. As Hizdahr continues pitching, director Mylod intercuts shots of the Sons of the Harpy moving freely below the city.
A few Sons sneak up in the prostitution district and kill Daenerys’ men. When the Unsullied arrive to respond, a woman directs them toward this new threat. They run into a dead end, ambushed and surrounded by the Sons of the Harpy. A bloody, violent battle begins as many of the Unsullied die in the first moments of the fight. Grey Worm remains fighting as Selmy walks through the streets and grows suspicious when he hears a bell ringing. Barristan draws his sort and heads starkly in the opposite direction of the panicked crowd. Grey Worm continues the fight, surviving a wound, as more Sons of the Harpy pop up around the city to kill Daenerys’ soldiers. A circle of impending doom closes on a kneeling Grey Worm when Barristan appears to even the fight. Barristan and Grey Worm kill every last, individual attacker before they eventually fall next to each other and seemingly die at the end. Wow! Barristan lasted longer in the books than the show. He still lives at the end of A Dance with Dragons, leading Meereen in Daenerys’ absence.
Despite an ineffective beginning, the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” quickly picked up the pace with Selmy, Grey Worm, and Slynt dying in the last two episodes. The show continues its fearless eclipsing of the books. Mylod introduced the Sand Snakes in an over-acted, drawn-out scene to better establish Dorne, but really we’re more invested in Jaime’s Dornish plight after following him for five years. Another hint of Bran’s presence appeared again when Sansa picked up a feather in the crypts below Winterfell. Two separate scenes focused on conversations regarding Rhaegar Targaryen’s character: one man said he was a cheerful singer and instrumentalist, another indicated he was a kidnapping rapist (but I never trust Littlefinger’s word). Tyrion found out that meeting up with Jorah is merely a detour to Daenerys, who met with Hizdahr about opening the fighting pits of Meereen. Stannis and Shireen shared a tender moment and Jon turned down Melisandre’s sexual advances before she frightened him with a blast from the recent past. Littlefinger left Sansa alone with Ramsey and Roose Bolton in order to continue his ruse for Cersei’s benefit. Can the oldest Stark daughter fend for herself now as a legitimate player in the game of thrones? Brienne and Pod didn’t appear as they’re presumably headed for Winterfell to interrupt Littlefinger’s carefully figured plan. Also absent was the girl formerly known as Arya, who continues her training in Braavos at the House of Black and White with a man who looks exactly like Jaqen H’ghar.