On the Narrow Sea
Tonight’s hour features a pair of dynamic duos taking to the high seas, the first of which is a rather unhappy one. After Jorah steals a small boat to spirit Tyrion away to the waiting Queen, we soon find out just which Queen that is. Cersei, right? That’s what the little Lannister thinks anyway, but it’s soon revealed that Jorah will in fact be taking Tyrion to Daenerys in order to win her favor. This isn’t exactly the most heartfelt pairing we’ve seen on the show, but Tyrion’s wry humor and sharp eye prove to be too irritating for the fallen knight. Where does this pair rank on your favorite Tyrion team-ups? I’ll take Tyrion/Bronn any day.
Speaking of the former outlaw, you’ll remember that he’s accompanying Jaime Lannister as they sail past the Sapphire Isle of Tarth (with happy memories of Brienne on his mind) on the way to Dorne. The two have a nice conversation about rescuing Jaime’s “niece” and him hewing Tyrion in two if he ever sees him again, despite the fondness each of them has for the dwarf. Their repartee continues as they row ashore to assail the sands of Dorne. Unfortunately for them, four Dornish mounted warriors spot them and engage in battle, and though Jaime is still struggling with his one-handed swordsmanship, that golden glove of his still manages to come in … handy. I rather like this pairing and I hope to see more witty banter and swordplay in weeks to come.
Meanwhile, the Sand Snakes are waiting to greet Ellaria to find out if they should prepare for war. They also reveal that they’re aware of Jamie’s arrival in the country, which complicates the plan to use Myrcella
Lannister Baratheon for leverage. Each of the sisters must make a choice: Peace with Doran, or war alongside Ellaria. I believe this is the audience’s first real introduction to the Sand Snakes. It was a brief but revealing look at the sisters, but what did you think? Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we learn a little bit more about them in the episodes ahead.
And now we get to a fun bit of exposition. After Cersei sends her Master of Coin Lord Tyrell (along with watchdog Ser Meryn Trant) to the Iron Bank to smooth things over, she meets up with the High Sparrow to talk of wine and war. In response to the burning of septs, rape of Silent Sisters, and murder of holy men in the streets, Cersei decides to reinstate the Faith Militant. This armed and armored division of the Faith of the Seven, comprised of Warrior’s Sons and Poor Fellows, has not been seen since King Maegor the Cruel outlawed their order, so Cersei’s move is kind of a big deal. But was it a wise one?
The Faith Militant soon begin smashing up wine and ale barrels, destroying statues/false idols in the market, and storming through Littlefinger’s whorehouses. And though the Poor Fellows normally wear star badges to show their faith, this iteration has that symbol carved into their foreheads, including the newly devout Lancel Lannister. Oh, and that “great sinner” Cersei offered up? None other than Loras Tyrell. I’m sure noone will be upset by that, right?
Margaery is, of course, incensed at her brother’s imprisonment and uses the opportunity to further manipulate her kingly husband and turn him against his equally manipulative mother. But when Tommen’s bloodlust proves nonexistent, his disappointed wife heads home to consult with her thorny grandmother.
Here’s a great place to stop and address a few things. First, how do we feel about Cersei’s activation of the Faith Militant? While it’s certainly one way for her to retain a grasp on power in King’s Landing, she may have bitten off more than she can chew, even for a lioness. And secondly, how fares King Tommen these days? He’s getting his first real taste of conflict and resistance with the High Sparrow and his followers, who shout such endearing epithets as “Bastard!” and “Abomination!” at him in the streets. And on top of that, he’s got two powerful women pulling him in opposite directions over the throne. Some days it’s just not good to be the king.
Back in the North, Selyse is busy expressing her disapproval of Jon Snow, and disappointment in her deformed daughter. Suffice it to say that Stannis is not exactly in lockstep with his wife in this regard. The Red Lady, however, has the elder Baratheon wrapped around her shadowy finger. As they prepare for the assault on Winterfell, Melisandre has something extra special to attend to.
In the office of the High Commander, Jon is signing requests for troops and supplies to aid the Night’s Watch. Jon bristles at sending the murderous Bolton a request, but Sam stays practical on the matter. As Sam leaves, Melisandre enters with a request for Jon to journey with them to Winterfell in order to use his intimate knowledge of the place. Speaking of intimate, she offers up her special sexy power to Jon in order to cast murder shadows. Jon refuses her, and not just because it will royally piss Stannis off, but because of his vows. The real question is, could you resist the Red Lady’s charms? Be honest, now.
Speaking of Stannis, there’s a very sweet scene that reveals the rare weak point in his personal armor. It seems that the source of Shireen’s greyscale is from a Dornish trader’s doll, a ploy meant as an assassination attempt. Only Stannis’ ceaseless efforts to find a cure kept Shireen alive. It’s a bit of a throwaway story, but in an episode where our main characters felt called upon to deliver some exposition from the past, this was a very sweet instance.
Still in the North (but not that far north), Sansa is paying her respects to her aunt Lyanna Stark in Winterfell’s crypt. Littlefinger arrives to tell her the story of the time he watched legendary men (Rhaegar Targaryen, Ser Arthur Dayne, Robert Baratheon, etc) at a jousting tournament at Harrenhal, an event that led to Rhaegar declaring his infatuation with Lyanna … and launched Robert’s Rebellion. It’s just a mere glimpse of the backstory present in George R.R. Martin’s world, but an incredibly important and pivotal moment in that history, since it catalyzed the events leading up to this point in our story. There are also some interesting theories of parentage resulting from Rhaegar’s kidnapping of Lyanna, but I’ll leave that chestnut alone for the time being. Feel free to chat about it in the comments.
Equally interesting, Littlefinger tells Sansa he’s off to business in King’s Landing, leaving her behind in Winterfell to await Stannis’ arrival and the epic battle that’s sure to come. Will Sansa survive to become Wardenness of the North once the Boltons are defeated? Or will Stannis fall, forcing Sansa to stand by her betrothed?
If you’re disturbed by Littlefinger’s variation on Rhaegar’s character, then perhaps Barristan Selmy’s version is more your speed. The old knight entertains Daenerys with a story about her brother, one that highlights his musical side and his popularity with the people. Unfortunately, this step back in time is interrupted by royal business. Hizdhar zo Loraq continues to petition Daenerys and implores her to start the games up again to give the commoners a chance to win glory.
Meanwhile, the Sons of the Harpy gather en masse, storming through the streets to kill the men of the Second Sons and to lay a murderous trap for the Unsullied. Daenerys’ men are slaughtered in the streets and alleys. Grey Worm takes down a fair number of the Sons of the Harpy but is left on his own against a circle of the masked assassins. Luckily, Barristan arrives in time to assist. The most decorated swordsman in the land kills at least a half dozen of the Sons of the Harpy before succumbing to their blades. Grey Worm kills the last of them before collapsing next to the fallen Barristan.
These would be hard deaths to take indeed, not just for Daenerys but for the audience as well. Do we think either of them survive to the next episode? And if not, how should we expect Daenerys to react? Part of me thinks that all of the exposition in “The Sons of the Harpy” was meant to delight “ASoIaF” readers and to bring newcomers into the story just a bit more. And yet another part of me thinks that this episode was another transition point for the showrunners to say, “Everything up until this point has been in the books, but don’t expect us to stick to that particular script going forward.” The fates of Grey Worm and Barristan on the TV show will prove to be an interesting barometer for which direction it’s actually going. Perhaps, interestingly, it’s mostly uncharted waters from here on out.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Bronn: “The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight.” Jaime: “You should be happy to go back.”
Maester Pycelle: “The Small Council grows smaller and smaller.” Cersei: “Not small enough.”
Lancel: “Ser Loras, you have broken the law of gods and men.” Loras: “Who are you?” Lancel: “Justice.”
Melissandre: “There’s only one war: life against death.”
Melissandre: “The dead don’t need lovers, only the living.”
Melissandre: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Littlefinger: “Let’s go somewhere the dead can’t hear us.”
Bronn: “I’ve had an exciting life; I want my death to be boring.”
Jamie: “Corpses raise questions, questions raise armies. We’re not here to start a war.”
Tyrion: “What a waste of a good kidnapping.”