Monday, April 27, 2015

Game of Thrones 5.3, "High Sparrow"

Right, I'm a bit strapped for time again these days, hence the lack of a new re-read post, but it is coming like winter.. perhaps a bit sooner than that. Anyway, we're in the third week already of Game of Thrones' fifth season. I reviewed the two previous episodes scene by scene, this time around - again, because of that time factor - I'm just going to try and do this quickly so that I may read the next chapter of A Feast with Dragons, which, according to my calculations, will be another chapter from the fourth novel in the series, and will be the first POV featuring none other than Cersei Lannister herself. But before that, the High Sparrow. Speaking of Cersei, the fifth season is kind of Cersei's season isn't it? Seems that Lena Headey's getting the best story material to work with, and she's doing such a great job with it too. All right, Episode 5.3 right after the clicky thingy below.

I admit I am getting quite tired of the series intro. Yes, the song is good. Da-da-DUM-DUM da-da DUM-DUM, but it takes so long. Yes, looking for new details is one way to cope with it - seeing if Winterfell still burns, whether another location has been added to the map - but yeah. Anyway, that was pointless and does not affect the final score, of course.

Scene 1:
House of Black and White: I like the set design a lot. It doesn't look exactly how I envisioned it when reading the book, but it captures the essence of the House perfectly - gloomy, somewhat sacrosanct, and the music here as Arya watches someone drink a cup of poison or whatever it is Jaqen gives him, is suitably creepy and shows us that this is a place where there is only one god - the god of death. Arya is nonplussed, however, bugging Jaqen about getting to do something else than swiping the floors, to which Jaqen of course says, "Valar dohaeris" - "All men must serve", which is part of her training. First she must learn to let go of her own needs, by serving. It also ties in to the backstory Martin created with the slavery and stuff. For all the exposition Martin has given us, the Faceless Men remain a bit of a mystery and that's cool. Still think it was a smart choice to have Jaqen back, he's a favorite, and he plays the role well, even though he doesn't really have the looks of a temple priest. Good, spooky scene. 8.5

Scene 2:
Cersei in her litter through King's Landing streets toward the Great Sept. I note that everybody's crying "Margaery", which helps sell the conflicting emotions in Cersei; yes, her son is getting married, but crap, he's getting married to Margaery.
The marriage of Tommen and Margaery is the shortest wedding in the history of the show, and before we know it the royal couple have...coupled...and the writing is solid, with Tommen young and virile and eager, yet is partly a child (asking if she wants cake, for example); still don't like how different TV Margaery is from the books; I prefer the book version, simple as that. Also think Natalie Dormer, while a solid actress in her own right, is miscast, but I'm aware that most fans think she's hot and fantastic and all that - I think Margaery should be more of a classical beauty, someone stunning (but again, I'm aware some people think so). The scene is heavily leaning toward the soap opera genre the show often operates in (as does the books), and it shows us how Marge is already well busy manipulating Tommen against his mother. Not a memorable scene, but not bad either. I'm still waiting (and hoping) for the outlawing of beets. 5

Scene 3:
Tommen and Cersei walk the battlements of the Red Keep (which isn't very red unless my eyes deceive me) and Tommen is already trying to tell his mom to pack her bags and go home to Casterly Rock. 5.5

Scene 4:
Margaery and her friends are having a chat and giggling; sounds like Marge is telling her friends about the sexual escapades with Tommen - as Cersei enters, and the mood gets bitchslapped out of the room. The two women / rivals have a chat, where their words don't match their feelings, thus creating a double layer of meaning to the scene, which is cool. Marge is already more daring in her attitude toward Cersei, while Cersei seems a little out of her league actually, but I'm sure people see this differently; the facial expressions and acting must do the work of telling us what really is going on between the two women: their words are empty platitudes. Fair enough scene, but they could have made it more intense. 5.8

Scene 5:
Winterfell is being rebuilt; Theon sees flayed men dangling from nooses, a visual link to the two boys he had hanged back in season two or whenever. Roose and Ramsay have a chat inside the hall of Winterfell. Great actors, great use of lighting to accentuate the wickedness of the Boltons; Greyjoy stands by listening. Roose tells Ramsay he has found the perfect girl for marriage; when the next shot is of Sansa, we know that she's in trouble - big trouble, Theon would argue. So while this is a talky scene just like the previous scenes, I like this one much better because it has more punch; darker, more interesting.  8

Scene 6:
Sansa and Petyr stop on a crest to watch Moat Cailin. This is just weird. A Stark actually seeing the borders of her homeland again? Sansa has finally figured out that Petyr is marrying her off to Roose Bolton. In a scene that I find unconvincing (because of the writing, not the actors), Sansa goes from realizing she is marrying the son of her brother's murderer to accepting her fate because Littlefinger says it will be cool. "I will die before I go there!" she whimpers. Petyr's speech just doesn't ring true, in my opinion. He speaks of not running and that this will be a chance to avenge her family, but is that enough for Sansa to go, "M'okay, let's do this!"? I don't know. But what I'm complaining about? They are advancing the plot at the speed of light compared to Martin! 5

Scene 7
Moat Cailin again, from a different angle - a very steep, tall cliff. Brienne and Pod are watching the fortress. Next they sit resting. Pod polishes her shoes. Brienne is still a Tart. Pod is given some backstory, which is kind of about time for a character who's been in many, many scenes for three seasons. I like that it comes here, though; suddenly Pod goes from being a funny bumbling squire with great sexual prowess to a person with a history. Brienne tells Pod she's sorry to be such a bitch, but Pod tells her he is proud to be her squire, which is nice. Brienne promises to train Pod so he can become a knight. Whoa! Will we see Ser Podrick Payne in the future? The next headsman of King's Landing mayhap?
A quiet, nice scene that allows time for character building and reminding the audience of Brienne's story-line and how she ended up serving Renly. Two fantastic actors to boot. 8.2

Scene 8:
Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon have a meeting; solid stuff. Great set design, great use of light, Jon declines Stannis' offer to become Jon Stark. The funny thing is that Jon is precisely the type of stubborn character that Stannis appreciates, yet Stannis needs Jon to be a little less stubborn. Good lines. The scene also sets up the story to come: Stannis is going to war with the Boltons. He's going to march on Winterfell. We are also given a somewhat subtle hint that people in the Watch don't agree with Jon's policies re: the wildlings. "Whoever said that didn't have many enemies" - line of the week, I think. Davos is nice here. 8.5

Scene 9
Arya and the waif. The waif is just great in this scene. Wonder who that is? I've got to check the wiki. "Ow! Cunt!" - second line of the week, lol. Jaqen interrupts, telling the waif Arya is not ready for the "game of faces", which is an expression I don't think comes from the books. Jaqen is less amiable here than he was back at Harrenhal; some of his coolness has been replaced with a sterner, more teacher-like, approach which of course is logical but I don't feel it jives all the way. First he was this cool warrior-wizard kind of character, now he's someone...I mean no one... they should've tried and kept him a little more like the character he was back in season two, is what I'm trying to say. Arya is told to remove all the items that make her Arya, and so she goes outside to throw away all her stuff. Cue sad music and Arya not being able to let go of Needle, and hiding it instead. Straight from the books, which I appreciate. Something has to be from the books as well, no? Despite my misgivings of making Jaqen the (not so) Kindly Man, the scenes here in the House of Black and White are nonetheless strong. 9

Scene 10
Back in the House, Arya is sweeping the floors again. Ominous sounds which remind me of the Others' music (the music played in scenes set in the far North). She moves to go see something, is interrupted by Jaqen (who is always standing quite close to her for some reason). Arya sees the waif preparing a corpse and helps washing it. Yup, she's learning all that there is to know about death, I suppose. But isn't it a little weird how fast Jaqen is? First Arya is alone in the hall and then WHAMO he's next to her. Freaky. Arya wonders what they do to the corpses after they have been cleaned but gets no answer. That's a mystery for next week, then, 7

Scene 11
Another scene that mirrors an earlier scene - this time from the very first episode of the show; Sansa and Petyr arrive in Winterfell, where Roose and Ramsay await; reminding viewers of the arrival of Robert, with Ned waiting, way back when. Though I'm not sure casual viewers will make the connection. Still appreciate they have this cinematic approach to the show, which will be rewarding for viewers upon binge-watching the living shit out of the blu-rays or whatever is used to watch films when the show is done. Ramsay is great in this scene, blink and you'll miss him, don't blink and his expressions say so much. The old woman who tells Sansa "the North remembers" - okay, almost goosebumps. That's Lady Dustin, then, I presume? Nice scene. And SO weird to have Sansa back in Winterfell! This is too weird and I am not sure my brain can handle this information. I don't feel like the books have been setting her up for this (what with Jeyne Poole being married to Ramsay) at all, so this is most likely the most extreme departure from the books so far. I can live with it. I must. But it makes me wonder what Sansa's real, end-game is. Man, is this really happening? Sansa in Winterfell? They keep to the tone of the novels, at least - this is no joyoys homecoming; it's dark and ominous - you hardly have time to even consider the fact that Sansa in a way is so lucky to be home again after so long. Aw. 7.5 [Booknerd Score: 1.49]

Scene 12
Night's Watch mess hall; now Jon is sitting on the big chair. Cool. Maester Aemon is not well - very blunt foreshadowing of Aemon and Sam leaving for Oldtown. Gingers apparently dig the best latrines. Jon tells Alliser he's the First Ranger now. Cool enough. Slynt is given command of Greyguard, a ruin. Janos won't have it of course and cue --> beheading and another visual and thematic link back to the beginning of the story, with Jon executing Janos echoing Ned executing Will in the first episode of season one. I really hope the general audience catch these small details, they enrich the experience. "You can stick your orders up your bastard's ass", Slynt says, and you can see on Janos' face that he expects people to stand up for him, but even Alliser just gives him a look; love that acting from everyone involved, without words we can see and understand why nobody helps Janos. Good stuff, and hews close to the source material which is always a good thing. They say they need to change stuff to make the story work on the screen -- but why is it that the scenes that are the most like the book versions always are the best?
Coward Janos pleads for mercy, admits to being afraid, great acting, and Jon goes through with it anyway, showing that he's the Lord fricking Commander of the Night's Watch. Stannis watches, and you can see that he agrees with Jon's decision, and it also tells him that Jon won't bend; just like himself. Wait a minute, is STANNIS Jon's true father? :-D  9

Scene 13
The High Septon is a pervert (so what else is new in the world of religion). Fortunately, there are others more faithful, like Lancel Lannister, and they take him out and have him walk naked through the streets and getting his ass whipped. Funny, and foreshadowing a certain other character's walk of shame. 7

Scene 14
The High Septon goes to complain in the Small Council. He tries to explain that he was at the brothel preaching or whatever, which is funny, and Pycelle saying that a man must be allowed to have his privacy (which is funnier, if you remember the scene he had with know, the dead whore). I do wish that the council was more like the book's council. Where's coughing Swyft? Aurane Waters? 

Scene 15
Cersei goes off to find the High Sparrow, a far more penitent man than the High Septon. This is so not going to backfire on you, Cers. The High Sparrow is immediately shown as a very, very pious man, strongly acted, a perfect foil for Lena's character. They are just talking but the scene has a certain power to it; a chemistry that elevates it,. If I had to nitpick, there should be more background noise, lol. She tells him the High Septon wants the High Sparrow executed; the High Sparrow doesn't seem to care all that much, but the point is that Cersei wants to arm him and his zealots - pretending to be pious (which is funny), Cersei manages to make a deal with the Sparrow (though the scene does not state this explicitly). 8.5

Scene 16
Cersei sends a message to Littlefinger. Qyburn is making progress. We see the body of Ser Gregor Clegane act up rather violently. Like in the books, the scene gives off a Frankensteinish vibe. 7

Scene 17
Sansa walking through the Winterfell courtyard; Theon spots her, and hides his face from her. Setting us up for interaction between the two. Will he rescue her to redeem himself? Petyr and Ramsay watch her from a wooden walkway; Roose interrupts them. Ramsay's creepy smile is back, y'all. Roose and Petyr walk and talk, there's exposition that surely must be show-only - that her marriage to Tyrion doesn't count anymore because Tywin is dead, not sure I got that right - more political stuff is being talked about, so that we can understand stuff, and then Petyr gets the message from Cersei which was sent only one scene ago. That's fast, considering the war-torn lands between Winterfell and the capital. Roose wonders why Littlefinger is gambling with his position, but Littlefinger says he's a gambling man (so, either we believe it at face value..or we think back to the scene where he stood eyeing the Iron Throne).  8

Scene 18
Nice shot of Volantis there, though at first I thought I was seeing King's Landing. Varys and Tyrion are still in a wheelhouse, and Tyrion is getting crazy. "I have to get out of this wheelhouse!" is probably a meme already. Love the banter, love the humor. The establishing shot of the bridge is excellent. Finally Tyrion gets his way and can leave the wheelhouse, only to end up in very crammed narrow streets, lol. Some exposition on slavery in Volantis, what with the tattoos on the slaves and all. There's a red priestess holding a sermon on the streets, Tyrion watches it. We are reminded of Thoros of Myr (where the hell is he, anyway); the Stone Men are mentioned (so the spreading of grayscale is a thing - and this is another spoiler). The red priestess gives Tyrion a very spooky stare and we can but wonder why she does this? What the heck.  9

Scene 19
Varys and Tyrion find a brothel; someone rubs his head for good luck; more dialogue from the books = good! A Daenerys-look-alike protstitute catches Tyrion's attention, but he has caught the attention of a certain other customer in the place, Ser Jorah Mormont himself. I'm surprised to see they know exactly what Dany looks like, down to the braids and the dress. Well, except for the ass-showing part of that dress. "Where are you going?" Varys asks. "I need to talk to someone with hair," Tyrion responds. I chuckled. Another contender for best line of the week. The Tyrion of old seems to come to the fore a little; even saying he always pays his debts. After chatting with a prostitute he goes to piss off the edge of .. not the world this time, but a bridge (I'm sure they are still on that bridge), and Jorah shows up and kidnaps him. 9


Final Score: 7.5

Until our paths cross again!


  1. A Dream of Spring (Season 7 Finale); Shireen sits the iron throne (after a series of other short lived kings/queens), ruling the ruin Westeros has become after a long winter and battle with the others. Podrick Payne is the Lord commander of her Kingsguard. Tyrion is hand. Her rule is notable for the establishment of public schools for the small folk, funded by taxes collected by Sparrow hawks.

  2. LF talking to Ramsay was not convincing. LF says he hasn't heard much about him. Give me a break. the show runners are explaining to us that LF could possibly released Sansa for marriage to this monster because he hasn't heard all the rumors. For someone as wired in as LF - I don't really buy it. But they had to get this marriage going somehow. I'd rather LF have a secret plan to murder both Boltons before the marriage, eliciting enough support from the rest of the North to overwhelm the confused Bolton army.

  3. I think they were saying that since the marriage was never consummated it is not valid.