“The gods have a plan for us all”
Light on action but huge on character reveals, this episode of Game of Thrones was never meant to break the internet like last week’s ‘The Door’, but it was expected to be a bit more put together.
The High Sparrow has made his biggest move yet, and his slow play at taking the city for the Faith Militant is revealed with that cheeky smirk down to Jaime as he stands above the masses, on the right hand side of the king. After hearing the news that Margery will take her walk of shame, the Lannister siblings (eh… lovers?) constructed a shaky alliance with the Tyrells to storm the church and rescue the Tyrell siblings. As they come marching in, all ready to fight and shed some Sparrow blood, another move is made without foreknowledge. Margery and the High Sparrow have reached an agreement to join the church and state and to seemingly bolster the two pillars holding up society. To the people below, this seems like a gateway to a better city with the High Sparrow using his position to help the people he so desperately cares about. Yet, with that small, shit-eating smirk of triumph, we know that as much as he would like us to believe he is above that sort of thing, the High Sparrow cares about himself more than he wants to let on. Jamie approaches the situation with the intent to end the Sparrow’s life yet the preacher knows that if he dies this day, he will achieve more sway over the people in death than he could ever in life. By dying for his beliefs and as a figure for the people, martyrdom will further justify his past action and rally his followers against the Lannisters. Yet, by revealing his plan to not have Margery walk for her atonement, he shows that even he does not want to die just yet. He knows how to control people through a different approach than what they are used to, for example, his puppeteering of young King Tommen. Even when Tommen lashes out, the High Sparrow meets his more ‘Joffery-like’ qualities with calmness and measured tones, unlike Cersei and Robert Baratheon’s more emotional and pride filled responses.
The less understandable piece to this political puzzle is Margery herself, as her motives are extremely ill defined for aligning with the church. If she is using him for more power, why would she leave Loras to their mercy when all along she has had his interests at heart? Yet, if she truly has accepted the church, it feels very rushed, considering she was valiantly opposed to them last time she met with her brother. We do have four more episodes this season to see this latest reveal unravel and so hopefully the writers can lead us through this quagmire at King’s Landing because as it currently stands, the story is losing me because it needs an emotional anchor point. There is no side I can take in this fight and while that is not something I need to be enthralled by a narrative, it would bolster the plot to have a position which provides thematic and story potential. Currently, the only positive aspect arising from these events is that Jamie is on his way to the Riverlands to assist Walder Frey in his fight against the Blackfish (book readers know why this is potentially more awesome than just the reunion between him and Brienne, cool as that already is).
Speaking of our favourite mass murdering, horny king, he re-enters the story after having a few seasons off to bask in the glow of killing a mother, her son and his unborn child all in one night, to remind everyone what a real asshole he truly is. His speech tonight reminds us of the events of the Red Wedding, who was involved and what the stakes are currently in his battle with Catelyn Stark’s uncle. It seems Littlefinger was telling Sansa the truth about the situation and old faces re-enter the fray the show continues its march towards its endgame.
No satisfying resolution is complete without reflecting on the past and Bran is the perfect figure to help us peer back through the window of time as the new Three-Eyed Raven. He is currently downloading all the history of Westeros and we get flashes to the important events of the past five seasons, along with cries of “Burn them all!” from the Mad King himself. There has been speculation that Bran may have played a part in Aerys’ descent into madness, especially after what he did to poor Wyllas last week and considering the show does not have a conclusive version of these events yet, this is an interesting little glimpse to keep up wanting more. Another reveal stemming all the way back to season one is the return of Benjen Stark. If you do not remember him, he is Ned’s brother and Jon Snow’s uncle, the one he wanted to find during the early days at The Wall and one of the reasons he ventured beyond it in the first place. He is back (and his return is also another reveal for book readers, aligning with a popular fan theory about old reliable Coldhands) and bringing the news that Bran will play an important part south of The Wall when the White Walkers begin their war.
The other Stark child clinging to their family this week is Ayra as she decides to leave behind the life of an assassin once and for all as she fails to kill her given target. As she watches the performance, Arya is once again reminded of everything she has left behind and as she sees the younger actress mouth along to the script, she realises deep down that she wants to fight for her own beliefs, not the blind will of the Faceless Men. Arya’s story over the past two years in Braavos has been a battle between wanting her to succeed in becoming an assassin, because we love seeing someone achieve their goals, and wanting her to leave, because then she would be Arya Stark again. The narrative possibilities of her triumph would mean she would be stuck following orders for the rest of her life, a thoroughly unsatisfying conclusion to her tale. Throughout her stay in Braavos, her sword Needle has been an anchor in the back of the audience’s minds (at least the people who remembered it) and the show used this to prove Arya could never let go of her past self, no matter how much she tried. As she stands talking to Lady Crane, the woman she has been ordered to kill, dressed as Cersei Lannister, a woman she has sworn to kill, she discovers her true self. Having seen the recent history of Westeros played out before her twice in two days, Arya finally accepts that she will never be content to sit idly by while people who hurt and killed her family go on living without any retribution. The similarities the show draws between her and Cersei reveal how this trip away from home has helped Arya to grow, as she begins to understand that the names on a kill list represent people who have families and lives, not just something to strike off and forget about. As her current arc comes to a close with what will hopefully be a cool face off with The Waif, Arya sheds her assassin façade and embraces the woman she has become.
As this season passes its halfway point, we are reminded that there is more going on in the world than we remember. As the maps begins to shrink, and the story continues to thrust characters back into each other’s orbit, the façades these people use every day will be tested as their true resolves are brought to the surface.
- The trip to the Tarly household held nothing that interesting, other than the fact we have another Valyrian steel sword in the hands of one of the three people who have killed a White Walker.
- Olenna Tyrell is wasted this week. As the woman who killed Joffery and got away with it, I do not buy her simply giving up after being so easily beaten. The Queen of Thorns is more than a commenter of events and I was disappointed to see her have no impact on the fate of her grandchildren.
- Daenerys’ segment this week left the episode on a bit of a lack of energy as it was basically the same thing we have seen over and over again, only this time she is on the back of a dragon, something we have already seen.
- On another note, it will take them 1000 ships to get to Westeros. I wonder how they will get those…
- It has been two episodes in a row without Ramsay “Sack of Crap” Bolton and it makes me very worried for Rickon’s safety.