TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 5: High Sparrow

High Sparrow by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Warning: Spoilers!

Who is the High Sparrow? He’s the leader of the ‘militant faithful’ a group of religious fanatics in King’s Landing. Played by Jonathan Pryce (they’re almost starting to run out of famous actors who haven’t been on Game of Thrones) he is a great addition to the show (and if it follows the books an important one for Cersei’s storyline). Here his Sparrows (including Lancel Lannister) attack the High Septon (basically the chief priest) while he relaxes in a brothel and publicly shame him for his unchaste lifestyle. He complains to the Cersei-led small council, but Cersei decides the High Sparrow could be a valuable ally and makes him the new High Septon.

Cersei badly needs a victory, as Margaery has firmly got her claws into Tommen after their wedding night (the scene where Margaery jokes repeatedly about the new king’s enthusiasm in the bedroom is hilarious) and has begun turning him against his mother, suggesting the young king send her back to the Lannister’s home of Casterly rock. The powerplay between Cersei and Margaery has been a highlight of the past few seasons – and it seems Margaery is getting closer to tearing the Queen Mother down – but Cersei is going without a fight.

After refusing Stannis’ offer to become Jon Stark, Jon Snow asserts his authority as lord commander and after toying with Alliser Thorne, surprisingly makes him the new First Ranger (perhaps hoping to allay their mutual antagonism) and then deals with an insubordinate Janos Slynt by beheading him in Castle Black’s courtyard. This is a major part of Jon’s story in the books as he grapples with becoming Lord Commander, and is an act that here clearly wins the respect of his fellow brothers (and an approving Stannis – the two clearly have similar ideals about justice).

The character moments aren’t just reserved for Jon, as Arya gets a key scene where she discards her possessions and her identity as Arya Stark to rise up in the House of Black and White, but can’t bring herself to discard her beloved sword needle. Maisie Williams acting is rarely anything less than excellent, and here is a stand-out performance from her. Another great performance comes from Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth, who has a touching conversation with Podrick as she elaborates how she met Lord Renly, who saved her from the ridicule of other young lords when she was a girl, and how she wants to kill Stannis to avenge Renly’s murder. Brienne and Pod are still the best double-act this series has to offer. Tyrion finally gets some good material, as his trauma from last year’s finale is felt as Tyrion realises he can’t bring himself to use whores anymore (presumably due to Shae). His arc ends on a cliffhanger as he is kidnapped by Jorah (Iain Glen) who says he will bring Tyrion to the Queen.

A major change from the books is also revealed in this episode, as Littlefinger’s plan to wed Sansa to Ramsay Bolton becomes apparent. Sansa reluctantly agrees as it is her chance to avenge her mother and brother, but Littlefinger clearly doesn’t know Ramsay that well or i doubt he’d leave Sansa in his clutches. Seeing Littlefinger and Roose Bolton, two of the most devious schemers in Westeros, interact was entertaining, and i’ll be watching events at Winterfell with interest in the coming weeks.

Overall, some great character moments and plot revelations give the series some much needed momentum going forward, the best episode of the opening three.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Next Time: Jaime arrives in Dorne, Ellaria recruits Oberyn’s daughters in her quest for revenge and the Sons of the Harpy make their move against Daenerys…

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