Game of Thrones 5.03 “High Sparrow”

The time has come to pay attention to where you’re going, Sansa. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

Game of Thrones turned into Game of Tug-O-War this week in “High Sparrow,” and a few unfortunate characters found themselves being pulled in two distinctly different directions. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) turns up at Moat Cailin, a literal crossroads, with two options: return home to Winterfell, marry Ramsay Snow, and stop being a bystander, or continue running, hide away in a tower, and fail to live up to her family's name. Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen), as he’s prone to do, tells Sansa exactly what she needs to hear in order for her to do exactly what he wants:

There’s no justice in the world. Not unless we make it. You loved your family; avenge them.

The terrain on Sansa’s path to revenge was always going to be tough, but adding Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) to the equation erects an obstacle that will be difficult to conquer. Speaking of erect, King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) officially wed Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer), and the new pair celebrated with an immediate consummation. Despite this, Tommen is still seen as a boy, as evidenced by the way both Margaery and Cersei (Lena Headey) try to control him.

Arya (Maisie Williams) may have finally been granted admission to The House of Black and White, but she won’t learn anything until she can shed her identity and become No One. Yet in spite of all of the awfulness being a Stark has brought upon her, she finds herself unable to don a completely new persona.

Between the voyage across the Narrow Sea and now the journey towards Meereen, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) has experienced the inside of enough boxes for one lifetime, so when he demands to get out and stretch his legs, Varys (Conleth Hill) understandingly obliges – chances of recognition be damned. Perhaps Varys would have been wise to be a bit more cautious, because after a brief trip to the bathroom, Tyrion finds himself not only recognized, but tied up and gagged by none other than the wayward Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). He tells Tyrion he’s taking his new hostage to the queen, but with so many women in charge, we’re left wondering where exactly he’ll be brought.

On to this week’s Riser of the Week!

Riser of the Week: Margaery Tyrell

Margaery continues to kill with kindness. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

I’m generally wary of trusting anyone in Game of Thrones, and it’s easy to distrust Margaery, but after spitting one-liner after one-liner this episode and getting Tommen to eat out of her hand, I’m hoping she continues to wheel and deal. Tommen is Margaery’s third king-husband, and he’s clearly the easiest one to mold. Renly, while clearly a beloved king, had zero interest in Margaery, except for her surname. And Joffrey, well, yeah.

The one hurdle still left for Margaery to jump is Cersei, and a plan has already been put in motion to get her pesky mother-in-law out of King’s Landing and into faraway Casterly Rock. Margaery needs to remind herself that Cersei will do anything for her children, and being that Tommen is all she has right now, she’ll never leave him. And in case you had any remaining doubt, Cersei’s badass walk away from Margaery and her gaggling girlfriends accompanied with ominous music all but seals the deal that these two are on the fast track towards the quite possibly the best fight of all time. Just think of all the snarky insults!

Honorable Mention: King Tommen, who literally did some rising this week.

Faller of the Week: Janos Slynt

You deserved this the second you slapped around Sansa in Season 2, you coward. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

Between the deaths of Ned, Catelyn, Robb, Renly, and Oberyn, if you had told me you’d lost all faith in ever seeing a good guy win and a bad guy lose, I wouldn’t have blamed you. Last week, we got our first glimpse of a good guy coming out on top when Jon Snow rose to the top of the Night’s Watch, and this week, we gleefully saw the eternally-slimy Janos Slynt lose his head. Cowardly right through his final moments, Janos was Westeros’s version of Peter Pettigrew – had he turned into a rat, would you really have been surprised? In a show with more beheadings than seasons, it was nice to finally see someone who deserved the receiving end of the blade.

Honorable Mention: Sansa Stark, for maybe placing a little too much trust in Littlefinger.

Backstory of the Week: Religion in Westeros

Cersei (Lena Headey) is instantly enamored with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). Photo: Macall B. Polay/courtesy HBO

Keeping track of the various religions in Game of Thrones can be confusing, and this episode brought them all into the forefront, so it’s the perfect time to go over them all.

The Old Gods: nameless deities who are tied to the earth and are gods of the forest, mountains, and streams. They are the oldest gods in Westeros and are still worshipped by Northerners, specifically the Starks. The Old Gods are represented by weirwood trees, which serve as vessels for prayer and communication.

The Seven: consists of the Father, Mother, Warrior, Maiden, Smith, Crone, and Stranger, each of whom represents a different virtue. Depending on a worshipper’s needs, specific gods are targeted and prayed to. This is the most prevalent religion practiced in Westeros, and resulted in a major storyline in this week’s episode (and the episode’s title). Just like Christianity elects a pope, followers of The Seven elect a High Septon, who in this episode, is visiting a brothel and discovered by Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon). In case you missed it when it was briefly mentioned in the premiere, Lancel is now a Sparrow, or a member of a group of radical worshippers of The Seven. The Sparrows feel as if the entire world is living in sin, and they’re looking to fix things. As most grassroots movements tend to start, the Sparrow uprising gains much popularity with the poor of King’s Landing, and as a result, a High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) is elected. Religion can be a scary thing when radicalized, and even more frightening when it’s militarized. Keep an eye on the High Sparrow and his followers; they’re around to stay.

R’hllor: also known as the Lord of Light, this deity’s origins stem from across the sea in Essos. It is not commonly practiced in Westeros, though Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is out to change that. Followers of R’hllor hold a very black-and-white view of the world, with the Lord of Light being the one true god and all the others being demons worthy of destruction. As Melisandre has made quite clear, R’hllor is fueled by fire. According to R’hllor, the struggle between good and bad will only end when Azor Ahai arrives. Azor Ahai is a messianic figure who is prophesized to wield a flaming sword called Lightbringer and will raise dragons from stone. Melisandre believes that Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is Azor Ahai reborn because of a vision she saw in the flames. Whether or not she’s right is still to be determined, but if the fan theories online are any indication, Azor Ahai could be anyone from Jon Snow to Hot Pie.

Item of the Week: Needle

Arya (Maisie Williams) would have killed Waif (Faye Marsay) with Needle had it not been for Jaqen H’ghar. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy HBO

Addiction is a problem for many people. Whether it be tobacco, adrenaline, or caffeine, people who succumb to addiction will always be looking for their next fix. Arya is addicted to sticking people with the pointy end of Needle. Had it not been for a last-second appearance by Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), Arya would have killed the waif (Faye Marsay) without a second thought. Arya told the waif she was No One, but her possessions said otherwise. If she planned on fully committing to becoming a Faceless Man, Arya needed to get rid of all traces of her past life. Most of her stuff was unimportant to Arya, and she had no problem throwing it in the ocean. But Needle was different. Here’s what was going through her head, from A Feast for Crows:

In her hand, Needle seemed to whisper to her. Stick them with the pointy end, it said, and don't tell Sansa! Mikken's mark was on the blade. It's just a sword. If she needed a sword there were a hundred under the temple. Needle was too small to be a proper sword; it was hardly more than a toy. She'd been a stupid little girl when Jon had it made for her. “It's just a sword,” she said aloud this time….but it wasn't. Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell's gray walls and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan's stories, the Heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the North wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow's smile. He used to mess my hair and call me “little sister”. She remembered and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.

Obligatory if you haven’t read the books, what are you waiting for message.

Maester’s Musings:

  • Qyburn (Anton Lesser) continues to expand upon his creepiness, and if anyone out there was wondering what Sid from Toy Story would be like if he grew up in Westeros, you have your answer.
  • Brienne’s (Gwendoline Christie) childhood tale of how Renly stepped up and danced with her when every other boy made fun of her was incredibly moving.
  • Pod’s (Daniel Portman) own story about how he was almost hanged for consuming a “borrowed” ham was fantastic too. Brienne and Pod are perfect together. It’ll be fun watching them trail Sansa to Winterfell.
  • Don’t forget, Stannis is planning to head to Winterfell soon. And we all know how much Brienne hates Stannis. Azor Ahai better bring Lightbringer, because Brienne will definitely be ready to throw down.

Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.

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