Game of Thrones has never been a show characterized by slow-pacing but this week’s episode ramped-up things in a big way. More than just an episode with two or three episode’s worth of plot points in it, High Sparrow felt like a major turning point for the greater politics of Westeros. As the power of the Lannisters wanes, the Starks are poised to rise higher than ever before.
Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 3, ‘High Sparrow’ Review
Warning – Spoilers Ahead
The episode started strong with a look at Arya’s training within the House of Black and White. Maisie Williams nailed her scenes this week. In particular, I thought she did a superb job of conveying her heartwrenching decision to hold onto her past. As a book-reader, the subterranean set-design here felt spot-on and very faithful to Martin’s description of it. I loved the detail in the sculptures of the different gods and the distinct air of mystery about the place – it feels like we’re scratching the surface of something we haven’t yet been exposed to before – and that was genuinely thrilling to see.
Dany’s plotline was absent this week but elsewhere in Essos we got to spend some time with Varys and Tyrion as they made a brief stop in Volantis. It was our first experience with Volantis and it was nice to see the unique flavor the city brought to the table. Peter Dinklage has done a great job conveying how the traumatic events of the previous season have affected Tyrion’s sense-of-self and it was interesting to watch some of this emotional-baggage surface through his apprehensiveness towards whores.
The return of Jorah Mormont was a delightful-if-ambiguous note on which to end the episode but I’m certain that, wherever he intends to take Tyrion, it’s a journey sure to be punctuated by the potential for some hilarious dialogue.
Sansa’s plotline also covered quite a bit of ground this week with not only her final destination of Winterfall but also Littlefinger’s plot to marry her off to the recently-legitimized Ramsay Bolton coming into focus. It’s a very drastic change from the source material but one that opens some interesting avenues for the series to explore.
It was fascinating to watch two characters as ruthless and manipulative as Roose and Baelish interact and I can’t help but wonder if Baelish plans to execute his own ‘Red Wedding’ in a bid to gain the support of the northerners still loyal to the Starks.
It was also cool to get a feel for the histories of Brienne and Podrick this week. The brief-scene between the two filled out our understand of the characters and helped set out what appears to be their broader story-arc this season. There is little Brienne can do to hurt the shadow that murdered Renly – but the man who cast it is another story.
Last week saw Jon elected to the post of Lord Commander, this week we got to see what kind of leader he is. Kit Harington is doing a pretty good job of conveying the shift in Jon’s character that comes with the burden of leadership and I liked the subtle details in his dialogue exchanges with Stannis that reflected the change in status between the two. It was also nice to see Davos finally get some dialogue after four episodes of him doing little else but stand in the background looking loyal.
Though, as a book-fan, I noted the small-but-irritating changes to the dialogue concerning the execution of Janos Slynt – it was delighted to see Stannis’ nod of approval make the cut. It’s such a small gesture, but it says so much about the changing-relationship between the him and Jon – and its implications on the future of The Night’s Watch.
Last week saw Cersei assume her role as the head of Lannister power. However, this week demonstrated that she might have done so only to be fade into irrelevance in the shadow of the newly-crowned Queen Margaery. Everywhere she looks, she sees her allies beginning to favor the Rose over the Lion – and that’s what made her new alliance with the titular High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) such an interesting but necessary move.
At this point, Cersei is willing to do anything to hold onto her power and – particularly given the resurgence that religion in the Seven Kingdoms seems to be making this season – that’s the kind of attitude that’s sure to leave unforeseen consequences in its wake.
Though George R. R. Martin still has a (minimum) two books left until he finishes the series, Game of Thrones is rumored to be wrapping up by 2017. This disparity has led some fans to worry the show may rush through major plot points of the final two books – to the series’ detriment. High Sparrow provides a case for why this acceleration may not be a bad thing.