“If the gods are real, why haven’t they punished me?”
“The already have” is the reply Ray the Septon gives to Sandor Clegane, who is indeed alive and well and living amongst a gathering of peaceful religious folk. His revival is shown in a rare Game of Thrones cold open to reveal the fact before the opening credits give it away by having Rory McCann pop up in them once again. The cold open and the happy tone of the scene are uncommon sights in the show, a reminder of a bygone area of the first season. I recently went back to watch a scene from the first episode where all the Starks are together and smiling without a care in the world, before the news of Jon Arryn’s death destroys their peace. This is a strange but fitting parallel to Sandor’s place in the world, at his return to the show, as he tries to begin anew. He is a part of a community, helping his fellow man build a place of worship and connecting with another human. Ian McShane does a great job, playing a dedicated soldier turned Septon when he realised the horrors of his life. The similarities between Ray and the High Sparrow are clear and the differences even more so. While the High Sparrow was a rich socialite until he realised the destructive way of life and decided to change for his own betterment, the Septon was a loyal soldier simply following orders until he could not take it anymore and decided he could not take part in any more murders. The High Sparrow has taken control over a city and is hungry for power, no matter how humble he appears, he cannot escape the life he used to lead. He had riches and influence and he is seeking those same things through more righteous ways. The Septon that helped Sandor back to full health has others best interests at heart and offers the ex-soldier a new way of coping with the world. Yet, as the banner-less soldiers slaughter the village, Sandor picks up the axe and is forced to return to the one thing he excelled at.
The woman who left him to die has excelled at staying alive no matter her circumstances and yet she is taken by surprise as the Waif stabs her in the chest. Arya escapes by jumping off a bridge in the conclusion to a thrilling action sequence that sets up next week’s showdown (hopefully). As she stumbles through the city holding her bleeding stomach, Arya finally realises what she is up against and that the followers of the Many-Faced God are indeed that, masters of many faces.
Ser Daavos is the opposite of the assassins of the House of Black and White, he is exactly who he says he is and this week he uses this sincerity to help Jon and Sansa recruit soldiers for their army. While Jon has always had a knack for rousing speeches aimed at stirring an army to fight with him, he is not that skilled when it comes to negotiating with other leaders and this is where Daavos comes in handy. Sansa doubts his ability to assist Jon and even though they only gained sixty-two soldiers from House Mormont, Daavos proves his worth when talking to Lyanna Mormont. The audience sides with Sansa and Jon because we have witnessed the hardships they have endured and know they are in the right but to the outside world, neither of them are Starks. They have grown up in a castle under the name but to suddenly turn up, demanding what is not rightfully theirs in terms of namesake, makes joining their campaign not as attractive, especially against the might of the Bolton army. Daavos, however, is an ordinary man who has earned his place on the right hand side of a king, and now he is using this position to help Jon. He approaches Lyanna from the perspective of a lowborn man to remind her of who they are fighting for. The dead are coming and the people who need protection are the ones who are not in any position to fight.
Margery’s position has not changed as much as we thought after she ‘found’ religion last week. We finally have a sort of justification for her actions as she lets Olenna know whose side she is playing for with a sketch of a rose, the Tyrell house emblem. The High Sparrow and the Faith Militant seem to be holding her hostage, Septa Unella following her every move and making it impossible to let The Queen of Thorns know her agenda. Once again, the figures in charge are not the ones pulling the strings as Tommen is the puppet of at least three other figures. King’s Landing once again faces turmoil due to the Lannister’s inability to put aside their ego to save their city.
Speaking of ego, the battle between a rock and a hard place begins this week as Jamie arrives to aid the utterly vile pair of Frey’s. Without Ramsay ‘Cock-head’ Bolton appearing, it feels nice to have someone to utterly root against. Brynden Tulley and Jamie Lannister begin their interaction by calling each other by the names given to them by the populace, Blackfish and Kingslayer respectively. This serves as a reminder that they both want to succeed in this siege because of the pressures placed upon them by their legacies. The famous figures throughout Westeros history, both ancient and recent, are defined by their most public action, as the plays Arya watched for the last two episodes demonstrate.
Whether they are attempting to regain a family name, escaping the fate a faceless god has cursed them with, biding their time to regain control over their life or re-entering their life of murder after trying so hard to give it up, the characters of Game of Thrones are constantly attempting to take control of their legacies. It is the nature of their world that makes it a hard fight to win.