by Matthew Thompson
I think the most intriguing aspect of “High Sparrow” is the collision course it is setting up for all the Northern storylines. For a couple of weeks, I’ve wondered aloud where Sansa and Littlefinger were headed. My guess was they’d get entangled in the Northern plots. Not that I deserve much credit for this prediction, where else could they be going besides off on their own in the Riverlands somewhere? It was just the most logical conclusion. Brienne and Pod follow behind sure to get mixed up in all of this too. Adding an extra layer to Brienne’s journey is the conversation she has with Pod this episode. It’s a strong scene that sheds light on her history with Renly and reiterates her lust for revenge against Stannis.
Meanwhile Stannis is still planning to move on Winterfell. I was happy to see his offer to Jon come up again. The scenes at The Wall last week were my favorite, but they skipped from Stannis’ offer to Jon becoming Lord Commander too quickly. So the fact that Stannis’ offer still lingers in both parties’ thoughts this week is a plus. This also helped create a small scene that really stood out to me between Davos and Jon. I thought the way Davos cleverly turns the vows of the Night’s Watch over and uses them to try to convince Jon to leave them behind was quite clever. At the very least, Jon’s role in the inevitable conflict at Winterfell is certainly still in play.
All these plots converging is an exciting prospect, yet I remain a bit wary of how Sansa and Littlefinger have been injected into it all. I’d like to assume there is a grander plan at work here from Littlefinger’s perspective because handing Sansa over to Ramsay just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It also runs the risk of turning Sansa into a victim again. While her progression as a character has been a little rushed, I felt her time since Lysa’s death was meant to portray someone learning to play the game. So I’m hoping this isn’t a step in the wrong direction for her. You don’t want to bring all these characters together just for the sake of it or because of a desire for contraction in a show that finds itself spread out too much at times. You want it to make sense. But Littlefinger is nothing if not a schemer, so I hope there is more to this than meets the eye. In a perfect world, Sansa would be playing a part in this plan as well (their conversation near Moat Cailin makes this seem less likely though). We will just have to wait and see.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on Game of Thrones’ latest beheading. Jon continues to have the season’s strongest overall storyline and this episode sees him flexes his muscles as the new Lord Commander. While beheadings can often backfire on people in this series (and who knows this one still might), this one works well for a number of reasons. First it is just plain satisfying for viewers because Janos Slynt is such a jackass. Jon is also generally unflinching in his decision. This conviction makes it easier to have confidence in his decision. You can feel the connection to the scene with Ned and a Night’s Watch deserter in the pilot too. Finally I liked how it is paired with making Thorne First Ranger. This move shows that his actions towards Slynt aren’t merely some form of petty revenge. By giving Thorne that position, he shows he’s willing to look past personal differences to do what is best for the Watch which helps make Slynt’s execution look better in the eyes of his men. Oh and that nod from Stannis was just perfect.
Despite all the intrigue in the North, the highlight of this week’s Game of Thrones for me was the continuation of Arya’s storyline in Braavos. I love the look inside The House of Black and White. It appears almost exactly how I’d imagined it, if maybe a bit more cramped here. The standout scene is the one that finds Arya on the pier trying to shed her old identity. It is trying to give up Needle that breaks her. Kudos to Maisie Williams who does an incredible job showing the anguish this is causing her character. Of course, I was also happy to see that Needle will live to “stick someone with the pointy end” another day as Arya hides it away in some rocks nearby.
A few more things:
- Scene of the Week: I’ve made a habit of pointing these out in the main text so far this season, so yeah… that Arya one I just talked about!
- Some great scenes in King’s Landing this week. Another Royal Wedding. Margaery threw some hilarious jabs at Cersei. The introduction of the High Sparrow. Been really impressed with Lena Headey this season.
- Jorah stealing Tyrion at the end made for a great cliffhanger. I also found the Red Priestess’ mention of Greyscale noteworthy as it was a topic of discussion just last week with Shireen as well.
- I really liked this line from the Jon/Davos exchange: “Now I’m not a learned man, but the best way to help the most people might not be to sit in a frozen castle at the edge of the world.”
- I thought the overhead shots of Moat Cailin and Volantis looked excellent!
- Sorry reviews have been a bit late and shorter than last year. I just haven’t had as much time lately!
I think “High Sparrow” was probably the best episode of the season so far. With most all of the major characters reintroduced in the first two episodes, this one got to dig in a bit more. And I tend to prefer when the show focuses more on fewer storylines as it makes each feel a bit meatier. Throw in the interconnectedness of the Northern plots and this one felt more honed in than the first couple of Season 5. Of course there was just some great material here too which is most important of all. What did you think of the latest episode? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!