Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss dropped a huge episode in new Game of Thrones writer Dave Hill’s lap when he was chosen for “Sons of the Harpy,” didn’t they? I’m going to consider it a friendly sort of hazing, because while it was a brutal episode for several characters, it was a juicy episode for the new guy.
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section will contain spoilers! If you haven’t read the books yet, please check out our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
We pick up tonight where we left off: the inauspicious beginning of the Tyrion and Jorah Boat Show. Jorah maintains a shred of honor by throwing a few coins at the man whose boat he’s hijacking before the men begin their journey. With Tyrion still tied up, they disappear into the night, and there’s no sign that Varys knows his roadshow pal has been stolen.
Two men travel on the water elsewhere- Jaime and Bronn are headed south via ship. As they pass an island, the captain helpfully identifies it as Tarth for the Kingslayer and you know Brienne is in his thoughts. Below decks, Bronn has serious qualms about the entire trip, and makes it clear he knows damn well Myrcella isn’t Jaime’s niece.
Bronn asks the sensible question of why not just use the armies he has available to him to save the princess, but Jaime isn’t interested in starting a war with Dorne. This is also a mission of penance, we can see- he freed Tyrion, who then killed their father. Bronn sends his regards to his old friend Tyrion should Jaime encounter him again, and Jaime grimly says he will, and he’ll kill his brother next time he sees him. (Leave it to the Lannisters to ruin a perfectly nice expression like ‘sending your regards.’ Drama queens, all of them.)
In King’s Landing, the (very) Small Council convenes and Cersei decides that the matter of the crown’s debt to the Iron Bank must be handled. Mace Tyrell is assigned to travel to Braavos to negotiate better terms with the bankers. He’s even given his own Kingsguard to go with him- Ser Meryn Trant.
Meryn Trant, in Braavos. I think we know where this is going, but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to it with giddy pleasure.
Cersei meets with the new High Septon- the High Sparrow actually- and decides to bring back a defunct group within the church called the Faith Militant, the armed aspect of the holy men. She informs the High Sparrow that there are sinners among the nobles, and her motives for granting these fanatics such power become quickly clear.
The Faith Militant trash the marketplace in King’s Landing, even as we see Lancel Lannister getting some unfortunate facial modification done. The warrior sparrows hit Littlefinger’s brothel, attack the people enjoying themselves and particularly torment a rich man who is there visiting a male prostitute. Olyvar witnesses this and escapes.
The seven-pointed star on his face completed, Lancel is now officially one of the creepiest warrior guys and joins them as they aim for the true target of Cersei’s plan: Loras. Loras is arrested for his “unnatural” actions (aka having sex with men).
Margaery goes at once to Tommen, who is adorably clueless as usual. She’s frustrated by his inability to see what his mother is up to, and failure to see the tensions at all. With her pleading, the young king decides to see his mother about freeing his brother-in-law.
When questioned about what has happened, Cersei defers to the powers of the church, as she intended of course. Tommen resolves to see the High Sparrow to demand Loras be released, but he’s blocked on the steps of the great sept by members of the Faith Militant.
Unnerved by insults from the public and the fanatics’ refusals to budge, Tommen leaves, afraid of violence breaking out. Angry with him, Margaery takes her leave of Tommen and says she’s going to write to her grandmother Olenna about the situation. (Yes! Olenna name-drop! Please be back soon.)
Watching the men of the Night’s Watch spar, Stannis and Selyse briefly talk about Jon Snow with Stannis saying “Perhaps” and that that “wasn’t Ned Stark’s way” regarding the idea of Ned conceiving Jon with some random woman. Hmmm. The couple switch to talk of their own daughter- and lack of sons- before Melisandre arrives and dismisses Selyse.
The red priestess is concerned she’ll be left behind when Stannis rides south, as she was for the Blackwater battle. This time, she won’t be.
Jon Snow is learning that leadership is 80% paperwork, and is in his office signing letters asking for more men from lords- even one to Roose Bolton that Sam forces him to see the logic of. The Night’s Watch is down to only 50 men and has to be practical.
Melisandre turns up to interrupt the tedium and drive Sam out for a little awkward alone time with Jon. She churns out some Melisandre-esque nonsense about life versus death and the Lord of Light, urging him to feel her heartbeat which for some reason entails him needing to grope her breast.
I’m not a doctor but I think this method is suspect. Also she probably didn’t have to get that naked to accomplish it.
Jon looks thunderstruck until he comes to his senses, remembers his vows and remembers Ygritte. He resists Melisandre’s seduction, and the priestess departs with a pointed, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Shireen and Stannis share a touching moment as he reminisces about her as a baby, and how he gave her a doll that turned out to be what transmitted greyscale to her face, and how he sought healers everywhere to cure her. (Stone Men reference #2 this season!) Stannis may often fail at displaying emotion but there is no question of how much he loves his daughter.
In the crypts of Winterfell, Sansa visits with her dead relatives, including the tomb of her aunt Lyanna. She even finds the feather that was left with Lyanna’s statue by King Robert in season one. (This season is filled with call-backs to season one, I love it.) Littlefinger joins Sansa and regales her with the tale of the Harrenhal tourney: the infamous day when Rhaegar Targaryen defeated Ser Barristan in the joust and gave Lyanna the crown of flowers instead of his own wife, Elia Martell.
Littlefinger has come by to tell Sansa he’s departing for King’s Landing, and he confirms the plan: Stannis should take Winterfell before aiming for the capital. He believes Stannis will kill Ramsay, save Sansa and appoint her Wardeness of the North. And should Stannis somehow fail, well, Sansa can use her charm to control Ramsay Bolton. I’m not sure about this plan still and neither is Sansa.
Down in Dorne, Bronn and Jaime row ashore- sorry, just Bronn as Jaime hilariously points out by raising his useless-for-boating fake hand. In the morning, Jaime dodges death by viper and over a breakfast of fried snake, the men chat about how they’d prefer to die (hmm) and how Jaime paid off the Pentoshi ship captain who brought them to Dorne.
Then they run into a Dornish patrol on horseback. Seeing that they’re failing to talk their way out of trouble (because Bronn has sketchy bastard written all over him, let’s be real), Bronn and Jaime launch an attack. The combination of Jaime’s fake hand, Bronn’s humor, and ruthless strategy take care of that situation.
Not far away, Ellaria returns from her unsatisfying appointment with Prince Doran to meet with the Sand Snakes, who are toying with a man buried in the sand up to his neck. Ellaria’s still determined to use Myrcella against the Lannisters for vengeance, to cause a war, and wants Tyene, Nymeria and Obara on her side.
As it turns out, the Sand Snakes have acquired that Pentoshi ship captain that Jaime wasn’t worried about- the captain tried to sell out Jaime and the Snakes scooped him up. That’s him in the sand. Now they know that Jaime is on his way to rescue his niece. (Daughter. Does anyone believe that piece of fiction anymore?)
Obara recalls how Oberyn came to her when she was a child and had her choose between the spear of the Martells and her mother’s tears. She chooses the spear again, and war against the Lannisters. The point is driven home literally when her spear finishes that talkative ship captain.
We return now to the Jorah and Tyrion Boat Show where, much to Tyrion’s amusement, he discovers his captor is taking him to Daenerys Targaryen. He works out Jorah’s identity and his intention to present Tyrion to Dany as a gift after assessing his sigils and his seeming exile. Tyrion also recalls Jorah’s spying from his days on Joffrey’s Small Council. Not enjoying his traveling companion’s chatter and wit as much as Varys did, Jorah clocks him.
Alone atop her pyramid again, Daenerys is joined by Ser Barristan. The knight shares with her a happy memory of her brother Rhaegar, of how he would sing in the streets in King’s Landing, earn money like other musicians and how much Rhaegar loved it. She’d been led to believe he was someone who preferred killing, but this is another side to her brother who died so long ago.
But there is business to attend to- Hizdahr zo Loraq is petitioning for the fighting pits to be reopened. The sport unifies the wealthy and poor, the ex-slaves and the nobility, he argues, but Daenerys is resistant to the idea of the violent pits.
As they debate the issue, the Sons of the Harpy are attacking on the streets of Meereen. Dany’s soldiers are cut down as they relax in the city. The woman who lay with White Rat the Unsullied when he was murdered is there again as these men are killed. As the Unsullied rush into the fray, she points the way to tell them where the Sons of the Harpy have run.
It’s a trap. The unit of Unsullied face off against the Sons of the Harpy in a dim building. In the fighting, one Unsullied’s helm is knocked off and we see it’s Grey Worm. The Unsullied are outnumbered and soon they’re dying.
In the streets, Barristan Selmy finds people screaming and running from the violence. He dives into the crowd to find the source of the trouble.
The battle between the Unsullied and the Sons of the Harpy is tipped in the Sons’ favor. More Sons seem to be pouring in all the time. Grey Worm is stabbed several times, and it looks like all is lost- he’s surrounded and alone.
Then a Son is cut down, and behind him appears Barristan the Bold. Ser Barristan cuts through the Sons of the Harpy, taking down many of them while Grey Worm rallies and takes down more Sons.
Eventually though, Barristan takes a hit- and then another. And then he is on his knees, with a Son of the Harpy ready to draw a blade across his throat.
The Son fails when Grey Worm spears him, saving Barristan from that last cut- and then both men fall to the ground, bleeding from countless wounds and lying very still.
Is it the end for the khaleesi’s most loyal guards?
A Tale of Two Rhaegars: The rich history of the books is one of its strengths, and that history continually informs on the present. Dany needs to know that her understanding of the world, as shaped by Viserys, was a little too black-and-white. But we all know the real significance of hearing so much about Rhaegar, the man who kidnapped Lyanna but was the good-hearted singer of Barristan’s story. We’re getting back to the roots of this story and a little basic Westerosi math: R + L. Add to that Stannis expressing doubts about Ned fathering Jon with “some tavern slut” and it seems that the show is laying out all its cards when it comes to one of ASOIAF‘s central questions.
Jaime and Bronn: They’re just fun, aren’t they? I loved the fight, from the thrown knife to the use of the fake hand. Their continuous back and forth in the dialogue. We are way off-book with this portion of the story so everything feels fresh and interesting but surprisingly not out of character.
The final fight: We’ll have to wait and see next week to confirm the characters’ fates, if they will live long past this or live at all, but I was on the edge of my seat watching Grey Worm and Ser Barristan take on the Sons of the Harpy.
Daddy-daughter bonding: Probably my favorite moment of the episode. I cried. Stephen Dillane is so amazing at putting forth that barely shown well of emotion.
Cersei vs Margaery: The battle heats up with Cersei weaponizing the church to use against Loras. I’m sure encouraging the Faith Militant to take down high-ranking nobility for sexual offenses won’t come back to bite her in the ass.
The Sand Snakes introduction scene: The scene as a whole felt uneven, jumping around with Ellaria’s demand for war and then Obara’s monologue which felt somewhat crammed in there. I like the Snakes themselves though and can’t wait to see them in action more. The whip and spear business was pretty great.
Melisandre makes a move: How do I say this politely? I laughed. And not in the “Oh, Jon’s expression is understandably funny” kind of way. It was all just so…dumb. I can understand Melisandre wanting to get closer to Jon in a power move, and there were shades of a scene from the book, but this was not a good scene as it played out onscreen.