Some humanisation of Stannis!
This week’s episode, The Sons of the Harpy, certainly had its ups and downs. So let’s discuss the lower points before moving onto the arguably better aspects. Firstly, the Sand Snakes. What a load of monkey poo. The Sand Snakes are the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, with various women. In the books, there are eight in total, so you can see why Benioff and Weiss have cut that down a bit, which is fair enough. Naturally, they are pretty pissed off about Oberyn’s death, as is Ellaria Sand. I mentioned before about how Ellaria is partially seeming to take the role of Arianne Martell, who is Doran’s daughter and overall great character, sadly. So why was it a bad scene? Believe it or not, this is largely due to TV-stuff as opposed to “that didn’t happen in the book-stuff”. Book Sand Snakes are still bent on revenge, and filled with anger, so no real problem there. The problem was that their introductory scene was so bland that it was cringey. I think a mixture of bad acting and bad writing is to blame – the Sand Snakes themselves just seem extremely wooden, especially Obara and her bloody exposition. Yes, we understand; you’re the ‘tough one’. And Tyene is a mummy’s girl. Brilliant. Established. Game of Thrones is chocka-full of monologues – some of which are brilliant (Jaime in the bathtub) and some…are not so. This was certainly one of the latter. Ellaria too. She was great in Season 4, but seems to just be so awkward this season. Such a shame – the Martell’s are my personal favourite house, due to the likes of Oberyn, Doran and Arianne. Here’s hoping that we see more Doran action in the next few episodes to redeem this. This is perhaps one of the worst scenes in the series far (though not quite as bad as Yara’s rescue mission of Theon in S4 and Ramsay’s plot armour).
Moving on, to somewhere in the middle. We got to see another side to Margarey. Away with the façade of purity and kindness, is this her true face? It was certainly interesting to see the type of king that Tommen is – a bit of a wet wipe. Knock Joffrey all you want, but he would have sorted those religious fanatics good. Their whole ideology, combined with their violent approach, makes the seemingly docile High Sparrow even more terrifying. They represent the Faith Militant – an army that serve the Gods. We discussed last week how big religion is in Westeros, so if it were to come down to crown vs religion, I think we would see a close fight on our hands. Of course, Cersei describing a sinner hid behind gold…could very easily describe her too, couldn’t it?
Before we look at the closing scene in the episode, I think it’s important to note how often Rhaegar Targaryen was mentioned this episode, leading many fans to believe the truth behind a certain theory surrounding this character. By now, you should know all about how Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister), sparking Robert’s Rebellion. It all began at a tourney in Harrenhal. As Littlefinger explained whilst Sansa was in the Winterfell crypts, Rhaegar won the tourney. However, instead of presenting the traditional flower to his wife, Elia Martell (you raped her, murdered her etc.), he gave it to Lyanna Stark (who was with Robert Baratheon). Cue gasps. Rhaegar then kidnapped and raped Lyanna….that is, if you ask a supporter of the Baratheons and North. If you ask a Targaryen supporter, they will tell that Lyanna willingly ran off with Rhaegar; indeed, Barristan himself, a good friend of Rhaegar’s, states how he would go into the town disguised as a bard and sung to the poor folk. Here’s where the theory kicks in. As this is all just a theory, there are no spoilers, but if you want to bypass this anyway JUST IN CASE then please skip down until after the next image.
I might well have mentioned this before, but there is a huge fan theory that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark are Jon Snow’s real parents, making Jon a Targaryen. There a numerous reasons and nods to this, but I’ll just go over the most basic. Firstly, as Stannis points out in this episode, Ned Stark was extremely honourable (to a fault), so it seems extremely unlikely that he would be unfaithful to his wife and sleep with another women. Secondly, after the Battle of the Trident, in which Robert kills Rhaegar, Ned travels to Dorne to a place called the Tower of Joy. After killing what remains of Aerys’ Kingsguard (excluding Barristan and Jaime), Ned enters the tower to find his sister, Lyanna, dying in a bed of blood. She keeps saying “promise me, Ned. Promise me.” In his point of view chapters, Ned never reveals what he was made to promise, but many fans believe that Lyanna gave birth to Jon and died. Ned promised not to tell anyone the baby was hers because Robert would have had Jon killed. Hence, Ned, sacrificing his honour, pretends Jon in his. There is a wonderful extract in the book detailing the events at the Tower of Joy, which can be watched/listened to here.
Righty right. That last scene. I’ve expressed before my feelings towards Emelia Clark’s ok-ish acting (though she has gotten better), but on top of that, Daenerys has very little idea of how exactly to rule. Can you fault her? Kind of. She had queen-hood thrust on her quite literally in the form of Drogo’s penis. After his death, she makes it her mission to liberate the slave cities in the aptly named Slaver’s Bay. But, ultimately, she has no idea what she is doing. Her people are too many to feed, and she has a massive uprising in the city. She completely underestimates her enemy – an enemy at her front door. Which resulted in the climax of this week’s episode. The Sons of the Harpy are a rebellion group that seems to be comprised of ex-slave Masters and even some ex-slaves, who do not want to live in Dany’s new world. Whilst the final scene of this episode did provide us with some fancy sword fighting, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the outcome. The Unsullied are supposed to be the greatest warriors…well, ever. With such strict discipline, they become master fighters. Even when outnumbered like they were in this episode, they still kick-bum. Arguably, fighting with a spear in such a confined place may be what led to their downfall, but I still think that they should have had a better chance than they did. But then again, they lack ‘real’ combat experience – all they know is training. Whilst the Sons of the Harpy are made up of civilians, some of these may well have been pit-fighters, explaining their skill in battle. Nevertheless, what went down will certainly leave a certain khaleesi most angry. Most angry indeed! This brings us on to Barristan Selmy. Barristan the Bold is one of the greatest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. He has so many bad-ass accolades to his name, such as the time he singlehandedly snuck into a fortress after Aerys was kidnapped and rescued him. His skill and mentality reflect that of a typical Arthurian knight. Finally, we got to see him fight. Obviously now he is an old man, and was wearing very little armour, but he still held his own. Whilst his (and Grey Worm’s) fate is left unknown (unless you watch the preview for the next episode, in which it I spoiled in the first five seconds…), I think we can all agree that he fought brilliantly. They are both still very much alive in the books, however, so keep your little fingers crossed!
This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
It’s taken three and a half seasons, but there it was: arguably the biggest reveal in the series so far. The mystery that started it all: Jon Arryn’s death. A quick recap: Jon Arryn was the Lord of the Vale (the area where Sansa is now), and Warden of the West. He was Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon’s foster father, and was the spark behind Robert’s Rebellion – after Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King, murdered Ned’s brother and father, he demanded that young Eddard be turned over too…because, you know, justice and all that. Jon Arryn declined, and thus the rebellion began. When it ended, as we all know, Robert Baratheon sat on the Iron Throne, and Jon Arryn was his Hand.
Fast forward a good few years, and Jon dies suddenly and mysteriously. Robert rides to Winterfell, and Game of Throne s begins. Cast your minds back to the very first episode. Ned was originally going to decline Robert’s offer, until Catelyn receives a coded letter from her sister, Lysa (Jon’s widow) stating that the Lannister’s murdered Jon. This changes detective Ned’s mind – he wants to find out the truth, and protect Robert. His investigation is the basis for most of the King’s Landing scenes in season one, which ends with his execution after discovering truth about Cersei and Jaime. But the mystery behind Jon’s death was never solved, and although many fans may have forgotten about it, just remember that it was the catalyst that started everything!
So here we are. In case you missed it, Lysa Tully/Arryn/Baelish poisoned Jon under the instructions of Littlefinger. There was probably very little love in the marriage – Jon Arryn was quite a bit older – but would anyone have expected the grieving wife? To cover her back (again, under Littlefinger’s instructions) she wrote the letter to Cat blaming the Lannister’s, who due to their past and nature seemed like the obvious suspects. So, if you needed any more reason to dislike Lysa and her sickly child, just remember that that whole thing with Tyrion’s trial is season one was a farce and she knew it. So this leads us into some new territory – what is Petyr Baelish’s game (of Thrones) plan? He has been the mastermind behind it all: Jon Arryn’s death, eliminating Ned (“I did warn you not to trust me), possibly Joffrey’s death, the alliance with the Tyrells. But why? “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” He’s an ambitious so-and-so, and wants the world. This is the first time we have really seen one of the key players, apart from maybe Tywin, of the Game revealed. Eeek! Also, Sansa is now going by the name of Alayne Stone, so that no one knows who she is. Stone is the Vale’s equivalent to Snow or Sand as a surname: it is a bastard’s name. Lysa revealed her inner insanity, and proposed a marriage between Sansa and Robin, her little putrid cousin. Pretty normal stuff, all in all.
Ok, enough of that. What else did we see… Well, there has been some debate as to what the whole Cersei/Margery scene was about, as they seemed very civil with each other. But I think they both know what the other is playing at. But did you notice that Cersei also spoke with Oberyn (was nice to see him in a quieter, less sexy environment) and her father? With regards to the former, she discussed her daughter, Myrcella – a topic that she has hardly touched on. Showing some humanity perhaps? And with her father, she discussed her marriage to Loras – a subject which usually has her all up in flames. And what do Margery, Oberyn and Tywin have in common? They’re all linked to Tyrion’s trial. Oberyn and Tywin are judges, and the third is Margery’s bumbling father, Mace. In my opinion, Cersei is trying to score sympathy, empathy and friend requests from those who hold Tyrion’s fate. You sneaky mummy! We also learnt that the Lannister’s seemingly infinite supply of money is running out, with more references to how scary and powerful the Iron Bank of Braavos is. The Lannister’s running out of money epitomises one of the most consistent themes: power resides where people think it resides. So you can bet your hat that Tywin will do his upmost to keep this little dry spell a secret!
As mentioned before, all of the Wall and beyond scenes in these last couple of episodes have been original show-only stuff, and as a result have some book fans a tad irate. But in my opinion these scenes have been great to further flesh out certain characters: we see how devoted Bran is to his quest when he decides not to inform Jon of his presence. We see Jon’s devotion to the Watch, eliminating his former Brothers out of both vengeance and caution. And we see gentle Hodor (involuntarily) kill Locke, who if you remember wanted to kill Bran on Roose Bolton’s orders, therefore strengthening the Bolton domain over the North. Whilst overall I enjoyed this final scene, I did have some issues. In fact, it was all a very large case of deus ex machina. Firstly, the only indication Locke had of Bran’s whereabouts was that he may have gone to the Wall to see his brother. Locke arrives, and Bran isn’t there…but it just so happens that he has been captured by the very ex-Brothers that Jon now wants to go and eliminate. Bran could have literally been anywhere in the world, and whilst I understand that this is a plot device, it seems a bit lazy how easy Locke’s little hunt was. In the same figurative paint stroke, Karl’s (Burn Gorman) death also seemed very happenstance – it just so happened that one of Craster’s wives was in the hut…and it just so happened that Karl then turned his attention to her, for some reason, forgetting about his armed opponent. Maybe he thought that Jon would fight with honour and not stab him through the back, but I don’t know. Just seemed a little bit lazy on the writing side of things. Well, that wraps up that little sub-plot, ending with Jon lighting what is probably the biggest fire the north has ever seen! Wait, didn’t someone else want to do that? Oh raspberries! That’s exactly what Mance was going to do to signal to Tormund et al to attack Castle Black! Has Jon made a big faux pas, or is this all part of his plan? Or maybe this was just an oversight and I’m looking too much into it…? Tune in next time!
On a side note, this episode also slightly reinforced a certain ‘tinfoil’ theory concocted by the A Song of Ice and Fire fans. In the show so far, only a few Kingsguard members have been referred to by name. Excluding Jaime, others you may have heard are Mandon Moore and Meryn Trant. Ser Mandon was the scallywag whom Pod impaled on the Blackwater after he tried to kill Tyrion. Ser
Meryn is the one that fought Syrio Forel (Arya’s
‘dance’ teacher) and frequently beat Sansa. Why is this relevant? Well, this particular theory states that Meryn Trant didn’t actually kill Syrio – Syrio managed to escape (or killed Ser Meryn and is ‘wearing’ his face). The idea behind this stems from the fact that Syrio was supposedly the First Sword of Braavos…you would think that cruel, boastful Ser Meryn would gloat about defeating this great warrior, wouldn’t you? Additionally, in “First of His Name”, the Hound states that a child could beat Meryn Trant. This may just be Sandor Clegane having a jolly jape, but perhaps there is truth it in. Who knows? Perhaps Syrio did indeed escape and he is still
alive? One extension of this theory is that Syrio was a Faceless Man – the same Faceless Man that was Jaqen H’ghar, the super cool assassin that helped Arya out in Harrenhal in season two. This is all crazy speculation…the kind that happens when readers are left for years between book releases, but it’s pretty cool, no?
Also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s name was like…first in the opening credits, but Jaime only appeared in the background of one scene. That was weird.