This recap contains SPOILERS! Please don't read unless you're caught up to this episode of Season 5! Also, please refrain from book spoilers in the comments!
A common complaint concerning the first three episodes of Season 5 has been the lack of true character movement. Yes, Sansa Stark has traveled all the way from the Vale to Winterfell in just a few episodes, but that plot is still in its early stages.
Jon has been elected Lord Commander, and he's even made his first controversial order. But he's yet to face a conflict that makes us fear for his character's destiny — not since last season. Jaime faces his first life-or-death event since the end of Season 3.
I could go on, but you see my point. Until this episode, our characters (from the good to the Cersei) have been sitting down with their legs crossed, plotting, planning, and feeling the brunt of consequences brought on by a more eventful Season 4.
Now, almost every character has been flung into a state of a peril. Jaime and Bronne are on a grand adventure against dangerous warriors who know they're coming (Bronne points this out by saying Jaime's plan is pretty terrible). Margaery and Tommen, who were on a victory lap last episode, are now in full confrontation with an unexpected faction of religious fanatics brought on by Cersei. Sansa is stranded in Winterfell with her enemies now that Littlefinger is gone (he clearly does not know the atrocities of Ramsay Snow-Bolton) as Stannis's army marches south.
And the episode concludes with one of the most dynamic characters losing possibly two of her most trusted men, unraveling the Meereenese knot as us book readers call it. The Sons of the Harpy pose a true, tangible threat now, as was foretold by the death of the symbolically named Unsullied, White Rat.
It's a subtle thing, but the few scenes with Jorah and Tyrion are quite telling in this episode. In fact, "Sons of the Harpy" opens with Jorah "stealing" a boat from an innocent man in Volantis. He pays him for the boat, as we see, which begs the question, "Why be violent when you could have just bought the boat?"
Tyrion essentially asks the same question in their next scene. Their goals are aligned as they're both headed for Meereen, and you can argue that Jorah even believes him. Regardless, Jorah is done taking chances, and he's not afraid to shut the dwarf up with a quick burst of that violence (turns out Tyrion can only sleep with wine and right hooks).
Tommen also faces this same dilemma when tasked with free Ser Loras from the Faith Militant. When he confronts Cersei, she claims that they have the same goal (which we know they don't). As it turns out, King Tommen is being manipulated by both women in his life, and shoutings of his "bastard" origins contrasted with his aversion to violence at the sept make it clear that Tommen is not yet the strong leader Margaery treats him as, or at least expects from him.
That was a fast transition for these characters, who were so happy and content just one episode ago. And it's all because of Cersei's new alliance with the High Sparrow, who has now been named High Septon (curious, then, why Tommen refers to him as High Sparrow instead of High Septon).
As we see, Cersei's plan has been to isolate Margaery from her family. She has sent Mace Tyrell on a journey to the Iron Bank of Braavos with Ser Meryn Trant in order to negotiate debt payments. We can almost certainly expect a run in with Arya Stark—er—no one.
And Loras has been seized by the Faith Militant, a combination of Sparrows and other servants of the seven united by the High Sparrow to carry out "the will of the gods" in King's Landing. Religion has always been a guiding force for many characters, so it's been clear to us since Season 1 that King's Landing is a wicked place. These scenes were quite hard to watch, as Faith Militant with their branded foreheads wickedly enacted their "justice" on characters for acts many viewers would not consider immoral.
I find it remarkably strange that Cersei has armed the Faith Militant (a notoriously dangerous group, as the High Sparrow eludes early in the episode). One of its members is Lancel Lannister, who knows all of Cersei's sinister perversions and treasons. And we know that she's well aware of Lancel's transformation due to their meeting in episode 1 of this season.
The only explanation is that Cersei doesn't believe anyone would believe Lancel if he went public with this knowledge, but that's a huge risk for her all things considered. As Tywin Lannister once pointed out, you're not as smart as you think you are.
As promised, Jaime and Bronne's adventure to Dorne is playing out as an exciting song we tend to hear in the seven kingdoms. Their matching is certainly more entertaining than what is delivered in the books, and we even gained some new insight into Jaime's state of mind following his death.
It's shocking how shocking it is to hear Jaime say he intends to kill Tyrion for what he's done. Granted, it makes perfect sense according to Jaime's character and obvious affection for his father. But is it truly powerful enough to erode Jaime's love for his brother?
I would posit that Tywin's death hit Jaime on multiple levels. For one thing, it caused a major rift in his relationship with Cersei, his true love. But we also saw in episode 1 how Jaime truly fears for his life now that his father is no longer around to protect everyone from their many enemies. For the first time in his life, Jaime has to confront the fact that he is a father, and the stag now stops with him. He has been thrust into his father's role far too early in his eyes, and Tyrion is the cause of this.
I buy that the ship captain betrayed Jaime to the Sand Snakes (Bronne even points out that Jaime is hated in this part of the world, no doubt due to the Lannister's role in Elia Martell's death). But I find it strange that the Sand Snakes repaid the man with such a gruesome death. Though I suppose that's simply a device for introducing us to how deadly these warriors can be.
Jaime and Bronne narrowly defeated just a handful of Dornish guards, but how can they hope to defeat Oberyn's elite daughters? Obara Martell and Lady Nym, especially.
We spend only a little time in Winterfell this episode, as Sansa visits the crypts of her aunt Lyanna Stark. It's likely strategic that the show runners are reminding us of Lyanna and Rhaegar's backstory in this episode (especially later with Selmy's story). Keep that in your back pocket.
For those who have forgotten, Lyanna Stark is Ned's sister and was betrothed to Robert Baratheon (the Usurper). Robert's Rebellion was (sort of) started when Rhaegar Targaryen (the son of the Mad King and Daenerys's older brother) kidnapped Lyanna Stark, though it is implied by some characters that they fell in love consensually. Rhaegar was eventually killed by Robert himself, and Lyanna was found dying for unknown reasons.
Anyway, Littlefinger reveals to Sansa that Cersei has sent for him (as we saw in the letter he received last episode). We still don't know why, but I predict it has something to do with Myrcella and Robin of the Vale. More importantly, Sansa is now alone in Winterfell to marry Ramsay Bolton, and Littlefinger has made it clear that his faith is in Stannis for the upcoming battle.
This episode gave a lot of sympathy to Stannis's character, showing us his undying love for his deformed daughter, Shireen. One incredible revelation brought on by this episode is the fact that greyscale can apparently be cured, but probably only for children.
Jon Snow faces his own set of perilous moments in this episode. First, he must forsake his attachments and show compatibility with Roose Bolton, his brother's murderer. Melisandre arrives and attempts to push Jon into a more dynamic role for Stannis's campaign against the Boltons, and she attempts to seduce, possibly explaining her "are you a virgin" question earlier this season.
I found it strange that Jon barely resisted at this point, especially since anyone could have walked in and caught them. Though Melisandre apparently believes they could have gotten away with it. She clearly desires joining with Jon for the same reason she did with Stannis (the shadow assassin from Game of Thrones Season 2 has been referenced twice this season probably for this reason). While she can't join with Stannis any longer because it would kill him this time, Jon is fresh for the taking.
But it isn't Jon's vows that make him reject her. Shockingly, but not really shockingly, Jon refuses out of lingering love for Ygritte. I'll admit that I got chills when Melisandre replied with Ygritte's famous, if not a bit overused, catchphrase.
There was no Arya or Brienne plot this week, but we did end on a pretty impactful note. In a shocking, but not shocking development, the Sons of the Harpy made their move against a cluster of Unsullied led by Grey Worm. Though the Unsullied are skilled warriors, they were greatly outnumbered and wiped out.
Ser Barristan Selmy, often heralded as one of the greatest warriors in the Ice and Fire world, arrived just in time to aid Grey Worm. He took out many of them, but he was ultimately stabbed repeatedly and is certainly dead at this point.
Grey Worm, on the other hand, looks like he could pull through, though you can see a pool of blood underneath him.
This was a truly shocking moment for me, because...(Book Spoiler)
Barristan is alive and well in the books and even has a POV chapter in Winds of Winter that is available online. He has a very important role that the show is clearly substituting for some other character. My guess is that the show runners simply want more drama injected into the otherwise drab Meereen plot. Also, Grey Worm is still alive in the books.
As you may have noticed, "Sons of the Harpy" was a very pivotal episodeof Game of Thrones for fans of the show who've been wanting something more from this season, and it's still setting up more shocking, but not shocking moments to come.
It was a great episode of Game of Thrones for the action scenes alone, with Jaime's near-death a highlight, along with Barristan's "Obi-Wan" sacrifice. We finally saw what the big deal is with Barristan, who has been referred to as such a great warrior. He definitely received the death he said he wanted back when Joffrey kicked him out of the Kingsguard. RIP Barry the Bold.
- The smaller council grows stronger (for Cersei and Daenerys). Also, I want to point out that Grand Maester Pycelle's lingering stare after Cersei dismissed him was quite telling.
- Though Brienne was absent, Tarth wasn't. It was interesting to see Jaime's face light up when the ship captain pointed out the Sapphire Isle to him.
- The relationship between Obara, Nym and Ellaria is quite interesting. Ellaria is not their mother, only Tyene's. Regardless, they all appear to be on the same page when it comes to avenging Oberyn Martell.
- Again, we see Hizdar zo Loraq petitioning to open the fighting pits. His argument that traditions must be upheld certainly sounds more convincing now that Daenerys has lost Selmy and perhaps even Grey Worm.
- Dorne is FINALLY in the opening credits of the show. And it's perfect.
- For some book readers and show watchers who read spoilers, this episode gave major weight to a prominent fan theory known as R+L=J. Personally, I think this is all a red herring because, come on, it's just too obvious.
- Since it was referenced in this episode, I want to believe that Tyrion and Jorah will stop by the Stone Men of Valyria on their way to Meereen, though they could easily bypass it.
- Mace Tyrell's "dad joke" was glorious.