Three episodes in and we’ve already got a hint of a major event happening this season, everybody is heading to Winterfell (well not everybody, but a vast majority of characters) which should provide us with some great bloody moments hopefully next week (fingers crossed). Like last week’s episode title House of Black and White this episode also didn’t have much of a focus on its namesake High Sparrow however the lack of screen time on the Sparrows does create an foreboding uneasiness as if they are going to suddenly spring into action.
This week we finally get a look inside the House of Black and White and much like Arya us viewers have no idea what is going on as the interior is congregated by different statues of different deities and people keep dying. Moreover ‘Jaqen’ is as vague as ever still preaching that ‘a girl must become no one’ Arya believes that she is ready and tries to stress this to him and another dweller however ‘Jaqen’ replies ‘A man wonders how is it that no one came to be surrounded by Arya Starks things’. There is then a cut to Arya throwing her belongings out to sea, thus shedding her identity however she can’t bring herself to throw Needle into the water and the non-diegetic soundtrack surges in to reflect her sentimental attachment to the sword (perhaps her only link back to Winterfell). Therefore she decides to bury it under a pile of stones, one could then say that she is still not ready to become a Faceless Man as she is still clinging onto the past and her life as Arya Stark. Personally I have no idea what is going on with this storyline but I still very much enjoy it as there is a strange air of mystery that hovers around this league of assassins which adds another layer of intrigue to an already enthralling show.
The North takes centre stage as the Bolton’s rebuild the once great Winterfell, Sansa arrives to fulfil a nasty marriage alliance to the despicable Ramsay, Brienne and Podrick are still on a mission to protect the stark girl and Stannis plans to head down from the wall towards Winterfell. With all these characters looking to converge on Winterfell there is no doubt going to be some blood spilt and this episode practically serves to build up tension by telling us that all of these characters are on their way to the former residence of the Starks.
One thing that surprised me this episode was Sansa, upon hearing about their reason for heading back to Winterfell which is for her to marry Ramsay Bolton (the son of the man that killed her father) she wept and proclaimed that ‘I will die before I go there’. However, the sly Peytr Baelish convinces her that this would be the perfect place to avenge her family. Upon arriving at Winterfell Sansa looks as if she is a lamb going to slaughter (perhaps that’s exactly what she is) and nervously fidgets conversely upon greeting Roose Bolton she transforms into a charming and smiling figure, which clearly indicates that she is playing a game and has finally stopped being a snivelling bystander and is perhaps going to do something totally out of her nature which surely is going to be great to watch.
Brienne and Podrick share their stories of how the came to serve Tyrion and Renly, out of the two I sympathised with Brienne’s story the most. As a young woman her father organised a ball and for the first time she felt special and pretty which is all she had ever desired due to her large and slightly unfeminine disposition. However the boys at the ball called her ‘Brienne the beauty’ but as a mean joke which she discovered, upset she decided to run away but a sympathetic Renly danced with her and told her ‘don’t let them see your tears’. She then iterates to Podrick that Renly saved her and that ‘nothings more hateful than failing to protect the one you love’ thus indicating that she is also on a mission of revenge, this time against Stannis who she swears was the shadow that killed Renly. This conversation seemed random at the beginning but like all things in Game of Thrones it’s connected to the wider story which becomes clear that because these characters are going to meet in Winterfell perhaps we’ll see Brienne take on Stannis.
Jon Snow fresh to the role of Commander of The Night’s Watch speaks with Stannis and refuses the opportunity to become a Stark due to his vows. Stannis replies ‘you’re as stubborn as your father and as honourable’, Jon takes this as a compliment but the rightful king stresses that what he said he ‘didn’t mean as praise, honour got your father killed’. Now is it me or does these words forebode that Jon will become a tragic figure like his father. Snow then gathers a meeting to plan the next actions for the brotherhood. There is a conflict between him and Janos, which the new Commander quickly solves by calling to his Steward ‘bring me my sword’. In this scene we get another great piece of Non-diegetic soundtrack as Snow saunters down through a crowd of crow’s to execute Janos. The music is filled with powerful horns alluding to Snow’s rise in power but there is also a very cyclical string section which (maybe I’m reading into it too much) made me think that mirroring Stannis’ words in an earlier scene the music also reflects that Jon is repeating the fate of his father (remember Ned did execute a Night’s Watchman who betrayed his vows). The music then suddenly stops when Janos begs for ‘Mercy’ as Jon raises his sword, the young Commander falters like he did with Ygritte back in Season 3 however he then completes the beheading as Stannis look on. This was an interesting moment in the evolution of Jon Snow as it proved that he is becoming more and more powerful.
Another interesting moment up north was Ser Davos Seaworth giving Snow some brilliant advise and stressing that the Night’s Watch could do more for Westeros than just sitting at the wall by quoting their own vows back ‘The shield that guards the realms of men’ he then goes on to say ‘As long as the Bolton’s rule the north, the north will suffer, just one man’s opinion’. This suggestion disguised as an opinion seemed to resonate with Jon as he has a strong bond to Winterfell and the North, which perhaps suggests that Snow will command the Night’s watch to help Stannis take Winterfell back after all. Now Davos seems like a very intelligent man so if this was him trying to get the Stark Bastard involved in Stannis affairs it was an exceptionally cunning way to do so.
In Warmer climes down south a small wedding (the most seemingly happy one in recent Game of Thrones history) unites Margery and Tommen. Now while Margery seems happy with the union it is still clear that she is manipulating the ‘Sweetest King whoever lived’ as after they consummate the marriage she hints at Cersei’s overbearing parenting style calling her a ‘Lioness guarding her cub’ and that in order for him to truly become a man he needs to break away from his mother. The next morning Tommen alludes to his mother that she should go back to Casterly Rock. Also Cersei visits Margery (who playfully and maliciously calls her ‘Mother’) to pledge her service to the new queen. In this scene we see Cersei behaving quite nervously which is very much out of character for the spiteful Queen regent, but is understandable due to the fact that she clearly fears that Margery is going to steal her son away from her and in turn render her powerless.
Across the sea after Tyrion asserts that ‘I am losing my mind’ he and a very reluctant Vary’s leave their wagon to wander through the dingy streets of Volantis. As they explore they come across slaves and a Red Priestess who glares at Tyrion while he mocks her (is there any significance in the moment?). After a while they end up at a brothel (Tyrion is the ‘God of Tits and Wine’ After all) where they see a whore dressed like Daenery’s which is rather amusing. Meanwhile we see Jorah look on at the whore is disgust and I myself wonder what Mormont is actually doing there and if him and Varys have perhaps arranged to meet up. Also Tyrion converses with another whore whom he probably plans to bed however when it comes to it he claims that he can’t, perhaps there is residual guilt from killing his lover Shay last season that is preventing him, after this he then wanders off to relieve his bladder. While doing so a figure moves in the background, believing it to be Vary’s Tyrion starts to talk to him but he is suddenly bound up and gagged by Jorah who then states that ‘I am taking you to the Queen’. This moment then makes me dispute a partnership between Varys and Jorah and that perhaps the once trusted advisor of Daenerys’s is using Tyrion as a bargaining chip to win favour with his beloved queen.
Other interesting moments this episode included the public shaming of the High Septon by the sparrows who found him in one of Little Fingers Brothels, Cersei conversing with the High sparrow claiming that the crown and the faith are the pillars of society and that without either things would fall and a weird moment in Qyburn’s basement. My favourite of these small moments had to be the lingering shot of Qyburn writing in his basement which should seem banal if it wasn’t for the clothed mass in the background and the fact that the character and his surroundings seemed very Dr Frankenstein. Then lo and behold the mass starts to move signally that it is alive, Qyburn then hushes it and says ‘Easy Friend’. For me this was the weirdest and creepiest thing I’ve seen on the show for a long time which made this moment and its allusion to the great gothic novel all the more brilliant.