Tuesday, May 5, 2015

[Review] Game of Thrones 5.4, "Sons of the Harpy"

So...dashing. And. according to a friend, if you squint I kinda look like him. So...dashing.
So what's up in the world of Ice & Fire, because I don't have a clue (maybe George has written another short story on his blog about awards). I'm way too excited about the Vanity Fair photoshoot revealing tantalizing glimpses of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I'm all giddy. Well, as giddy as you can get when you've reached the venerable age of forty (dammit). In fact, I completely forgot it's a new week, and thus a new episode of Game of Thrones. I've seen it now, though, because I did obviously not completely forget, so here is my opinion on the fourth episode of a season that so far, doesn't tug at my heart strings all too much - and certainly not the way the image of X-Wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron, in a posture reminiscent of glorified WW2 propaganda posters, almost makes me want to shed a tear of joy. But now: Harpies, not starfighter pilots!

Scene 1:
Water. Boat. Man exiting boat. Gets wet feet. Carries fish basket. Gets hit in face. By Ser Jorah Mormont. That was kind of a funny opening to the episode. We hear Tyrion struggle, gagged and bound. The dark of night. Tyrion looking around, wondering what the heck is going on. Pretty cool scene, to be honest. Tyrion's plot surely moves fast compared to the book. Nice transition to a much larger boat, on different waters. Might be confusing for non-readers. Especially since Dorne looks more like Essos. Eh, not my problem.

Scene 2:
Jaime and Dorne on their way to Dorne. It is really hard to like this scene, when it has nothing to do with the book. Maybe Jaime goes to Dorne to rescue Myrcella in The Winds of Winter, but that just makes it irritating that I learned it here first. Maybe that's the plot George has in mind - Jaime can't help Brienne save Sansa or Arya, but she can help him save Myrcella. The scene is basically a talky scene of the type that reminds you this is a TV-show. Lots of exposition. Still, two excellent actors. Also: Jaime wants Tyrion dead?! Whaaat? Talky talky. Bronn's "give him my regards" was a nice link back to the Red Wedding.

Scene 3:
Small Council. Mace Tyrell is his usual uselessly self. Still missing a number of characters. The council is just three people, except for Cersei herself. Cersei tells Mace he has to go to the Iron Bank, on Braavos. She is moving him out of the playing field, and Mace has no clue (or at least, doesn't seem to have it). But I do note that Ser Meryn Trant joins him, so we'll see Meryn die soon enough at the hands of Arya. Mercy, indeed. Talky talky. A setup scene. Qyburn's mocking smile steals the scene.

Scene 4:
Cersei and the High Sparrow. More talky talky. Again, two excellent actors elevate the scene, but I can't remember the High Sparrow being this pious and meek? Another setup scene, and yup, the High Sparrow gets his acolytes armed. Great decision, Cersei. Talky talky.

Scene 5:
A montage of the Sparrows (or was that begging brothers, I can't recall) going on a rampage through King's Landing, with close-up shots of Lancel Lannister as he get the seven-pointed star cut into his forehead. Yay, action! These sparrows or whatever they call themselves are very devout and violent. I like the music added to the scenes, with a dark choir adding a religious tone to the proceedings. Lancel and his boys capture Ser Loras Tyrell, because he's gay. While I find this part of the story follows the book's pretty good, I am not sure I like Loras getting captured like this; I suppose this means that his rumored assault on Dragonstone isn't vital to the plot of the novels, which in turn is frustrating as I've spent the last ten years wondering what is going on with Loras and Dragonstone. Bah.

Scene 6:
Margaery convinces Tommen to ask Queen Cersei to free her brother Loras.

Scene 7:
Cersei tells Tommen that it is the High Sparrow who has Loras, not her; important scene to establish that the faith - now militant - is its own faction, thus setting the viewers up for the latter half of the season, where the sparrows increase their power even as Cersei's own power diminishes.

Scene 8:
Tommen arrives on the steps of the Great Sept but is stopped. People down in the streets yell naughty things at Tommen ("abomination", "filthy bastard" and more) and he decides to step down. He is clearly afraid. He can clearly not be Joffrey's brother. Or a Lannister at all. How did Joff and Tom become so unbelievably different? I know, they are as different in the books. The sparrows are already powerful enough to dare hinder the freaking KING of the SEVEN KINGDOMS. Wow,

Scene 9:
Tommen tells Margaery he can't free Loras. Margaery gets upset and turns away from Tommen. Almost as if she doesn't really like him after all. No, I prefer the Margaery of the books as said before. This one there's no mystery to. Just another scheming bitch.

Scene 10:
The Wall. Stannis and Selyse talk. Talky talky. Selyse walks off. Melisandre appears. Again, that icky soap opera TV feeling.

Scene 11:
Jon and Sam talk talky talk. Exposition. Setup. A weird quill. Jon pouting. Not to my surprise. Gloomy. Melisandre arrives, bent on intruding on every scene at the Wall it seems. Melisandre asks Jon to come with Stannis to the south. Jon knows much more about Winterfell, so it would be wise if he joined to chase the "rats". He wonders if she's going to show him visions in the fire, but instead she shows him her boobs, lol.  Not that I mind. But, for the sake of the story, I'd actually prefer a scene where she looks in the fire and sees "Snow". But Jon is able - for once - to keep to his vows. Uh. Rather Melisandre than Ygritte. Ygritte is so high maintenance.
I like how Jon is becoming more and more Neddish by the episode. Execution last week, rigid in his honor this week. Next week: Jon on the block? Melisandre appears to know something. "You know nothing, Jon Snow." What casual viewer has a chance to catch the implication here if said viewer has spent a year not watching Game of Thrones?

Scene 12:
Stannis and his daughter, Shireen, talk talky talk. However, both do a splendid job in this sweet scene. Yes! A sweet scene, in Game of Thrones. They are few, but feel poignant when they do show up. Look at Stannis trying to be a nice comforting father, almost not able to even lay a hand upon his own daughter. But in his own way, we see him have genuine affection for sweet Shireen. Great lighting in this scene. And I have a feeling this scene, based on the dialogue, will feel all the more poignant because it sounds to me that we will see Shireen sacrificed to Melisandre's flames. If this happens, Stannis will definitely be a villain after this scene. Boy does Stephen Dillane say a lot in this scene. Totally not in the books, this was nonetheless a scene I think added more than distracted.

Scene 13:
Sansa lighting candles by Lyanna Stark's statue in the Winterfell crypts..wow, this is so weird. Lots of backstory, again through dialogue, between Sansa and Littlefinger. I wonder how many casual viewers care at all, wondering why they spend a long talky scene talking about a character who is dead. It must feel like it doesn't add to the story. Still, for a book fan, it's nice hearing this stuff (the tourney of Harrenhal, people) - but I think the backstory of Jon Snow's origins, of Rhaegar and Lyanna, come to late to make impact - we've basically not seen anything about this since the first episode or two of season one. Littlefinger tells Sansa he has to go to King's Landing. I'm sure it's because they just need him out of the way so Sansa can have a rough time without anyone helping her. It feels artificial and unbelievable (that Littlefinger bothers to go south to King's Landing at Cersei's command), as uncharacteristic of the books as Sansa simply offering herself up to a marriage with Ramsay Bolton.  No matter how much Sansa and Littlefinger try to tell me that this is a plot I can believe in, I just don't. It's weakly written, in my opinion, though they did try to salvage this plot line somehow. "The North will be yours, believe me," Littlefinger says. When did all this happen in the books again? Man. The actors don't elevate the scene like some of the others do, either, in my opinion. I just don't like it.

Scene 14:
More water! Another boat. Jaime and Bronne rowing to the shore of Dorne. At dawn, they sit in the dunes eating snake. They are attacked by Dornish. Action! Yay. But not before they do some talkin', of course. First, as they eat, then, as they wander from the beach. Some good dialogue between them, but it doesn't sparkle and shine the way I had hoped to (considering the characters in question are Jaime and Bronn). It gets better when they meet the Dornish riders, Jerome Flynn is great here as Bronn. The fight is good, nicely choreographed, Bronn is a badass, far better than we've ever seen Jaime be before he lost his swordhand. It looks so easy to thrust a sword through a man's body (the shot of Jaime burying his blade in the last of the riders) - that was unconvincing I have to admit. Jaime wants to bury the riders to avoid any more problems (with people finding the bodies and going after them), and so Bronn has to dig them graves. Kind of funny.

Scene 15:
Elia Martell rides to a pavilion set up somewhere out in nowhere. Her daughters await, and we get our first look at the Sand Snakes! They have learned that Jaime Lannister is in Dorne. Poor captain, buried so neatly in the sand and they did it with their bare hands (I don't see any shovels, I mean). And those scorpions. Ew. Why do they only name "Nym" and "Obara" and not Tyene? Lots of good dialogue straight from the novel. BUT. I was not convinced. These characters felt out of place, caricature-like, and over-the-top when Obara throws that spear straight onto the buried man's head. They had the looks down, though. Where is Arianne? I miss her, actually. I like Arianne more than the Sand Snakes. I have to agree with the writers that keeping Elia Martell and make her the avenging paramour is a good idea, since she was present when Oberyn got killed.

Scene 16:
Ser Jorah removes Tyrion's gags, and the moment the dwarf is allowed to talk, the episode becomes that much better. My favorite scene of the episode. It's funny, they actually are aboard a boat on water making it look more real (as opposed to the scenes aboard the ship with Jaime and Bronn). Tyrion uses his wits to figure out both who his captor is, and what he is doing and why. All the while, Jorah is quiet, just listening to Tyrion blathering on. And then he goes and hits him. I laughed.

Scene 17:
Beautiful, beautiful Daenerys. I like that dress. Ser Barristan speaks of Rhaegar. So they have decided to finally give this character his due, what with the Littlefinger/Sansa scene as well. Again I wonder whether the casual viewers can follow this stuff. Nice, little scene. Solid acting.

Scene 18:
Dany's throne room. Audience. Hizdar Lok Mokalok is trying to convince Dany to open the fighting pits. As he speaks, we get images of Harpies preparing to assault the population of Meereen. Now here's a narrative technique they should use more often to make the talky scenes more interesting! Instead of Sansa and Littlefinger standing in the dark reciting their lines, how about shots from the past, showing us Lyanna Stark, Rhaegar, Elia Martell, the tourney?

Scene 19:
Long fight in closed quarters - Unsullied versus Harpies (who shouldn't really be that good, considering how well trained the Unsullied are how untrained the Harpies must be) - this makes it all a little unconvincing. But I understand they needed some action here to round up the episode after so much talking scenes. Barristan goes to investigate the trouble in the streets and ends up fighting alongside Grey Worm against the seemingly endless swarm of Harpies. Like those masks! Oh, and there we are. Barristan and Grey Worm dying. Or one of them, at least. Or none of them? That was an irritating ending! What? They are both alive in the books at this point in the story, and we've had no real foreshadowing of any of their deaths, have we? The editing here kind of sucks, some of the shots needed more trimming. So Barristan got stabbed in the back, but was saved from getting his throat slit by Grey Worm. The greatest knight of Westeros, slain by a masked, untrained citizen (unless I'm mistaken about the Harpies' identities? I can't really remember). Still, nice to see someone not getting his/her throat slit. And Grey Worm, too, seems to have survived the slaughter. I don't know exactly why, but this scene didn't really do it for me. I wasn't invested, for some reason; I didn't believe in it.
My guess:
They both live on.

I feel this is the weakest episode of the season, let's see when I add the scores to a final rating:

Final Score: 6,57

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