Game of Thrones and the Women of Westeros 5/4

“The Sons of the Harpy”, the Sparrows, and the Sand Snakes. All very dangerous in their own ways. S is a menacing letter!


I covered last week’s episode here. The credits take FINALLY give us a Dorne animation. It’s no Braavos (which we don’t even visit!), but I love the curling viper!

In a nutshell…

We open on Ser Jorah knocking a man out to steal his boat and roughly loading in a struggling, trussed up Tyrion before we cut to a bigger boat carrying Jaime. He asks the captain about a distant island and is told it’s Tarth. I don’t kid myself that ships are going to work out on this show. It’s just easier to imagine everyone dying horribly because G.R.R.M. is a merciless god, but gah! I ship Jaime and Brienne so hard, even though it’s going to give me nothing but heartache. Jaime feels the same way if the sad puppy look on his face is anything to go by. (Meanwhile, the below happened on Tumblr. Heh!)

He goes down the the hold where Bronn is tossing knives around and whining about the accommodations and the fact that they’re going to the best place for “fucking and fighting” and are probably only going to get time for one. Jaime just wants to sneak in undetected and steal his niece. Bronn and I both are all “Your niece?”

Bronn speculates Jaime’s doing all this to get in good with his sister/lover after freeing Tyrion. Jaime doesn’t confirm nor deny, but regrets freeing Tyrion since he killed their father. “If I ever see him again, I’ll split him in two.”

Are you not hearing this man, Cersei? You’re gunning for trouble, here!

We go to Westeros for a small council meeting. The kingdom needs money. Mace Tyrell offers to front the money and “the crown would pay us back in time or I’d have words with my daughter.” Aw! I find his silliness strangely adorable, but Cersei doesn’t crack a smile and suggests he go to the Iron Bank of Braavos with Ser Meryn guarding him (or assassinating him? Because this always happens the minute you like someone for a change!). He’s dumb enough to go. Cersei’s off to meet with her newest and oldest friends: The High Sparrow and wine. She pretends to be horrified at the atrocities against The Seven in Westeros and offers him an army to aid his cause and even tips him off on a sinner to punish, shielded by gold and privilege.

Then we see her angle: send Mace away and arrest his son for gaiety to get leverage over Margaery. I don’t think she’d approve of the other actions. The Sparrow’s new force takes, like destroying all those barrels of perfectly good booze. Cersei! You’re only hurting yourself! The palace guards turn a blind eye to all the destruction in the square and the wenches and johns (or jons in Westeros?) in Littlefinger’s brothel being beaten. We cut back and forth to Lancel getting the mark of the sparrow carved into his forehead. It’s all creepy as hell even before they arrest poor Ser Loras!

Margaery goes to Tommen, who is adorably clueless about everything. He confronts his mother and she pretends it was all fanatics going rogue, that Tommen has to go to the Sparrow. He tries, but the other Sparrows block his entrance. His guards offer to kill them, but Tommen’s too afraid of violence.

He slinks back to the palace to “find another way” as some of the people yell that he’s a bastard and an abomination. Aw! I mean, it’s technically true, but it’s not poor, sweet Tommen’s fault! He finds Margaery and she’s not pleased, obviously, and wants to write to Grandma Olenna on this. Yessssssss!!!!! I hope she comes for a visit!

At The Wall, Stannis is watching Jon train while Selyse complains about his obvious fondness for him, thinking this is all because she couldn’t give him a son. “I gave you nothing but weakness and deformity,” she says, eyeing poor, sweet, awesome Shireen. Melisandre comes along and chides her, saying the true king’s blood runs through Shireen’s veins and Selyse pouts herself off, leaving Mel to talk about their upcoming trip to Winterfell, hoping Stannis will stick by her advice over Davos and, like, burn more innocent people or something.

At The Wall Offices, Inc., Jon is signing letters Sam wrote, requesting more men for the Watch until Sam puts one to Roose Bolton in front of him. He refuses to sign, but Sam points out that Roose is the current Warden of the North and that they need men (even if he is the absolute worst!). Jon signs angrily and Sam lets himself out just as Mel comes in. She wants Jon to come to Winterfell, but Jon’s committed to the Watch and not taking part in the wars. “There’s only one war; life against death.” She shows us and Jon her boobs and offers to “make life” with him. He resists because he still loves his dead girlfriend, Ygritte, and probably also because Mel is so creepy! She leaves him with “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Hey! That’s not your line! Still, it’s nice to hear it again.

Shireen comes to Stannis’s quarters to play with knick knacks. She’s bored, but says she likes it at The Wall, at least more than being left behind, which is what Selyse told her she wanted to do. She asks Stannis if he’s also ashamed of her. I sniffle. Stannis recounts how she got her greyscale. It was because he bought a doll for her when she was born, which may have been infected on purpose. He was told to send her away, but he called in every maester and apothecary he could to stop it and save her life because she is the Princess and his daughter and belongs with him. She hugs him and he’s all “what is this humahhhn emotion?” before awkwardly hugging back. I never imagined Stannis would be party to a heartwarming moment.

We then go to Winterfell, where Sansa is hanging in the tombs because she’s all goth these days, lighting a candle for her Aunt Lyanna, who she notes her father avoided talking about when Littlefinger finds her. Hmm. Littlefinger tells her about the tournament before the uprising, when Rhaegar Targaryen won and gave his favor to Lyanna, then Robert’s fiancee, over Ellia Martell, his own wife. “How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?” Sansa points out that he also kidnapped and raped her. Littlefinger changes the subject (Hmm), telling Sansa he’s going back to King’s Landing. Good luck. I hope you like your brothel’s change in direction. I bet The Sparrows are offering free personality tests there by now.

Sansa doesn’t want to be left there, but Littlefinger assures her Stannis will be coming to take Winterfell and will get the North behind him. He thinks he’s the best bet for Sansa’s chance to be named Wardeness of the North and reclaim her family’s legacy. If that doesn’t happen, Littlefinger thinks she has a shot at winding Ramsay around her finger, since he’s taught her to maneuver so well. Meanwhile, I have no idea what Littlefinger’s personal angle is right now. Which outcome does he actually want because you know he’s not after anything but his own personal gain. Anyway, he kisses her and promises “The North will be yours.” Sansa doesn’t seem impressed. “I expect I’ll be a married woman by the time you return.”

Jaime and Bronn have snuck off the ship and onto a Dornish beach, where Bronn nearly takes Jaime’s eye out while killing a snake for breakfast. They talk about how they’d prefer to die. Bronn wants something boring to offset his “exciting life.” Jaime wants his “in the arms of the one I love.” Bronn asks if she wants the same thing. Jaime doesn’t answer, nor elaborate on who this loved one is. I’m not even sure that he knows anymore, with his conflicting feelings for Brienne.

They get moving and Bronn wonders if the ship’s captain might have tipped someone off about them. It seems a reasonable assumption when four Dornish guards ride up. They try to hide, but their footprints betray them. Bronn tries to brazen it out, claiming they were shipwrecked, before finally tossing a knife in one’s neck. He kills two others and a horse, and leaves the last for Jaime. It’s not going well for Jaime with one hand until he almost accidentally gets his golden hand in on the action. He has Bronn bury the corpses to cover their tracks. I guess his new hand doesn’t come with a shovel function.

Then we follow Ellaria to a desert tent where we FINALLY meet the Sand Snakes (Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria, at least. I’m wondering if the others will appear now), Oberyn’s bastard daughters. Ellaria is still ticked off at Doran for not getting revenge and Nymeria reveals things are even worse — the ship captain, who has indeed betrayed Jaime and Bronn, buried up to his neck and covered in scorpions, but still alive. Ellaria wants them to act before Jaime takes Myrcella, their “only chance for revenge,” away. Tyene is with her, but Nym doesn’t answer. Obara monologues about first meeting her father, when he made her choose between tears and a spear as her weapon. “I made my choice long ago,” she says, spearing the captain’s head to make her point. Seriously? Didn’t he just give you crucial info?

Somewhere off the coast of wherever, Tyrion’s torturing Jorah with what sounds like “The Rains of Castamere” under his gag. Last time we and Tyrion were left to wonder which queen Jorah was taking him to. It’s either Cersei for the money and to come out of exile from Westeros or Daenerys to regain favor. I’m sure we all knew it was the latter because the the other perk would be Dany falling into his arms… in his imagination because come on, Ser Friendzone!

Anyway, Jorah’s had enough and pulls off the gag. Tyrion’s first question is who Jorah is, then if there’s wine. He does get it out of Jorah that he’s taking him to Dany rather than his sister, which Tyrion finds a hilarious “waste of a good kidnapping,” since he was going that way, anyhow. He looks over Jorah and his belongings and figures out who he is, that he was serving Dany, and why he was sent away. “You think Daenerys will execute me and pardon you? I’d say the reverse is just as likely.” Jorah clocks him.

We finally see Daenerys in Meereen, bonding with Ser Barristan over her late brother, Rhaegar, who liked to go downtown and sing in the streets for money and funsies. Hey, Rhaegar and I have similar interests! (I haven’t mentioned it before, but I am the modern day equivalent of a minstrel. I don’t do it in the streets so much these days as at restaurants, but you get it.) The most interesting thing is that this is the second Rhaegar story we’ve had this episode, both seem to paint him as a good-time guy that all the ladies adored… until he kidnapped and brutalized Lyanna. Or did he?

Daario interrupts the fun to tell her Hizdahr is waiting to see her. Hizdahr still wants her to reopen the fighting pits. She still thinks it’s barbaric. He thinks it’ll get the people, high and low, behind her as it’s the only thing that unites them. Man, I can’t wait for sports that don’t involve fighting to the death come to Westeros. I think Greyworm’s got a mean squash game in him. Meanwhile, one of the Second Sons is flirting with that same prostitute who was in cahoots with the Sons of the Harpy in the opener. The SOTH and pals kill more distracted men before Greyworm and the Unsullied march into the square. That same sneaky lady of the night pretends to be traumatized and directs them into the temple.

The Sons surround them on either end and it’s brutal (and would be awesome if the right guys were winning). Greyworm is the last left standing soon. Barristan is out about town and hears the scuffling. Greyworm is fighting wounded and surrounded when Barristan comes in to show these whippersnappers that age ain’t nothin’ but a number. He takes some of the heat off Greyworm, taking out about ten men before the last Son gets him in the stomach, then… Well, see above.

I refuse to believe they’re dead until I see a funeral!

Passing The Bechdel Test

The Sandsnakes and Ellaria help us pass. The driving force is revenge for Oberyn’s death, but the game is starting a war with the Lannisters. If not for that, Mel chiding Selyse for trash talking poor Shireen would make it a squeaker.

The Women of Westeros…

Daenerys only has two small scenes and there’s not much to say about her progression as it hasn’t changed from last week. She wants a city of free people with no brutality and seems to want it to happen overnight. She was much more confident and competent as a conqueror than as a ruler and definitely more kickass to watch. Anyway, it was nice to see her smile genuinely at Barristan’s tale. I don’t think Dany’s ever heard anything simple and pleasant about anyone in her family.

Sansa is still a bit of a leaf in the wind of other men’s plans, but she does seem to be open to taking more agency. I don’t think she’ll truly miss Littlefinger, but she will miss knowing she’s safe with him. I mean, he has his downsides. He does tend to kiss her here and there and she definitely doesn’t seem into it, though tolerant of it, since it’s probably much easier to bear than King’s Landing and the constant threat of torture and death. Obviously, Stannis getting the Boltons out of Winterfell is the safest option for her. Littlefinger may think she can handle Ramsay, but I don’t think Littlefinger knows Ramsay, who’s been torturing people under the radar as an unsung bastard. Let’s just say I’m uneasy about Ramsay or his little harem having Sansa to themselves, yet I’m just a weensy bit more hopeful Sansa will handle herself.

I think Margaery is finding Tommen is not going to be the cakewalk she was picturing. He’s a sweet, well meaning, easily controlled boy, but he’s just as easily swayed by everyone else around him as by her. Even if he put her first, that doesn’t mean he has any power or any will to get anything done.

Cersei is definitely playing with fire, here. The Sparrows are condemning drinking and prostitution. How long before they start in on incest and… well, even more drinking? That crowd at the Sept seemed to be on to King Tommen’s parentage. It’s a shame because Cersei is definitely intelligent enough to get one over Margaery, she’s just lets her pettiness get in the way and, let’s face it, she’s always a little too loaded to be cagey about this. While Margaery acts sweet to gain fans among the populace and allies in the capital, Cersei keeps lashing out. Can you imagine if she didn’t hate Tyrion so much? Together, they could have secured the throne for her children, bastards or not. I mean, they’d both be horribly drunk, but competent combined.

I’m seriously not a fan of Show Ellaria right now. If she’s supposed to be taking Arianne’s part in questing for revenge, then why not give her Arianne’s intelligence and gift for political maneuvering. I won’t spoil anything for book virgins, but I’ll just say that Arianne’s plan was humane and female-friendly. Honestly, I’m pretty disappointed that we get no Arianne at all, but I’m holding out hope that Ellaria and the Snakes (best EDM band name ever) decide to take her more feminist-friendly plan.

Obara was definitely the most established of the Sand Snakes, getting a monologue and all. As for Nymeria, we only learn she’s skilled with a whip and that Tyene is especially loyal to Ellaria and calls her “Mama,” which is interesting. I suppose she’s taking on amalgam duties, much like Ellaria is, combining Tyene with one or two of the younger Sand Snakes.

Shireen didn’t say much, but I loved seeing her face during Stannis’s story, just slowly growing into a smile before she launched into that hug. You can tell Shireen hasn’t had much affection all her life, mostly due to her mother hiding her away. The few people who’ve shown her affection up to now — her Maester and Davos, mostly — have at least told her she’s smart, but this is the first time someone’s hammered in her position and the worth that carries. She’s a princess and shouldn’t be treated like a prisoner and hidden away now or then.

Not that Jon Snow isn’t the prettiest man in Westeros, but the only reason Mel has sex is to birth shadow baby assassins with royal bloodlines, so it’s interesting that she propositioned Jon so aggressively, saying she could sense power in him. I think she suspects there’s more to Jon’s parentage than Ned Stark and some unnamed “tavern slut,” as Selyse put it. By the way, I know I’m hard on Mel because Mel and her religion creep me the hell out, but that’s nothing against Carice Van Houten. She’s pulling it off. In fact, I give her props for braving the cold in Iceland with all those skimpy gowns, being heated from within by the fire god and all. I hope they keep heat lamps at the ready for her outdoor scenes.

As for Selyse, she was extra horrible this week and does not deserve a gif.

Other notes…

We are definitely skipping a few books steps with Tyrion by now. I thought, before, that they’d just have the events play out with Varys at his side to give handy exposition. Maybe Jorah has come in early to be the bridge between him and people whose names I won’t say here (but you book thumpers know). I’m a little disappointed because I really wanted more Tyrion/Varys bickering and bonding. I hope that doesn’t mean we get a long break from Varys. Maybe he’ll go back to Westeros and claim he was pursuing Tyrion and lost him, catch up with his book self. I don’t know. We’ll see where everyone lands next week.

Speaking of next week, I really want to see Greyworm and Ser Barristan in recovery and not on a pyre. I know the trailer showed Barristan on a slab, but that could be because… the meeting room is doubling as a hospital ward? You guys, I’m a little mad right now and I don’t like being mad, so I’m just going to take this week to stay in denial. Cool?

I do go on and on about my struggle to separate the show from the books and I’m okay when the changes seem like something that could entertain and surprise me, but there is nothing about these deaths that makes it better or more interesting. They still had some awesome moments to come and I don’t want those to disappear or be handed off to other characters. Maybe the actor couldn’t stay on for some reason. I can understand that. But killing off one of the cooler characters just to be shocking? Not cool. But I don’t know why I’m saying any of this as Barristan is obviously still alive and Dany is only upset in the trailer because they’re low on bandages or something. Yeah.

Religion is playing a larger role in the series as it goes and I can’t help making comparisons. If this world compares to Medieval Europe, then I guess the faith of The Seven is supposed to be Medieval Christianity and The Sparrows are like a Puritanical offshoot of that, while the Northerners with their nameless Old Gods put me in mind of the Celts. R’hllor’s followers are a bit like the Inquisitioners, I suppose, with the whole convert-or-die thing. So far, the only religion that doesn’t seem brutal and corrupt is following the Old Gods of the North/the Children of the Forest. So I guess, in the holy wars of Westeros, I’m hoping they win out when the dust settles.


I’m a little bit excited about Meryn Trant’s trip to Braavos. We know who’s waiting for him there with her little hit list! I miss Arya!

I enjoyed Stannis in this episode. He’s a cold fish and I don’t like the religion he follows, but I do respect that he doesn’t blame his wife for not bearing a son as some men in that world would, that he still has faith in Ser Davos (who I adore), and that he doesn’t care that his daughter (who I adore the most) is deformed. He assures her she’s precious to him and deserves her place at his side. If it weren’t for him playing with the fire god and Mel, burning heretics, and killing Renly, he wouldn’t be the worst king. At the very least, he has a more of a moral code than the last three kings.

As much as I’m sad to lose Varys and Tyrion, Jorah and Tyrion could be fun. I mean, Jorah is more likely to clock him than banter, but that’s just their meet-cute. One drunken night, there will be bonding over their doomed romantic ventures and bawdy drinking songs.

Oh, my God! You guys! Next week’s trailer! You guys!

Next up: “Kill the Boy

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All images from Game of Thrones are property of HBO, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff and used here for criticism and analysis only. All gifs are thanks to the tireless efforts of the anonymous gif-makers all over the internet.

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