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Looking Back: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Five, Episode 3: “High Sparrow” Review


(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows)

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Game of Thrones Season 5, episode 2, “The House of Black and White,” pushed several storylines forward and made some noteworthy changes from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. “High Sparrow,” focuses on these changes as Jon Snow struggles with his new leadership within the Night’s Watch; Cersei meets the High Sparrow; Arya grows impatient doing menial tasks in the House of Black and White, and Tyrion searches for more comfortable surroundings on a long trip with Varys.

Not much happens in the scenes spent with Arya this week. We are reminded of the ‘Many Face God’ -and watch Arya throw away most of her old life into the river. “There is only one God, a girl knows his name and all men know his gift,” Jaqen tells her. She has, however, hid Needle amongst rocks, proving that while she may be determined to prove she’s up to the challenge of becoming a faceless, she’s still unwilling to completely let go of her past; something I doubt will change moving forward. Arya’s scenes are no doubt leading to something, and this could be a crucial step for her personal journey. As it stands, she is consumed with rage, especially for someone so young – and letting go of the past, is a solution to letting go of her anger – but it would be great if the show could speed things up as appose to wasting time showing her doing mundane tasks. If Arya would be removed from the series today, it wouldn’t change the overall picture of things since she’s so disconnected from the rest of the world, and that is problematic for someone who has quickly become a fan favourite.

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“High Sparrow” is a game-changing episode

Wedding bells are ringing once again on Game of Thrones: “The High Sparrow” brings forth our first wedding of the season, a rather simple and uneventful ceremony when compared to the lavish Purple Wedding and deadly Red Weeding of seasons past. After losing her former husband on their wedding day, Margaery is back on the altar, this time with the late King Joffrey’s youngest brother, Tommen. Wedding nuptials don’t usually come with happy endings and I doubt this will be an exception, especially given the level of hate between the new bride and her mother in law. Marriage for alliance has been at the forefront of the series since the very first episode when Robert asks Ned to allow Sansa to marry Joffrey. And while forging these alliances promises fortune, security and greater power, they also emphasize one simple fact: an entire generation of the Great House’s eligible bachelors and future first-ladies become pawns in a never-ending game that only seems to bring more misery than happiness to all involved. It’s safe to say Margery is the black widow of the series, but even as the Queen, she isn’t safe from those piercing dagger eyes of Cersei. And with Tommen now subtly trying to push his mom to go to Castely Rock, the Queen Mother knows her place in King’s Landing isn’t guaranteed to last. But neither is this new alliance which will surely be short-lived. In the first and only flashback of the series thus far, a young Cersei is given her prophecy by a witch and told that “gold will be their crowns and gold will be their shrouds”, which implies that she will live to see her three children die. With Joffrey already six feet under, things aren’t looking good for either Tommen or Mycella. Will either of them make it out of season five alive? More importantly, who is the person prophesied to take over her position of power? Cersei believes (and with reason) it is Margaery, but I have my own theories. As it stands, Margery may seem to have the upper hand, but truthfully, she doesn’t hold any power until she’s delivered a child, something she quickly works on resolving.

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No longer a bastard, Ramsay Bolton continues his treacherous reign as a new Lord, visible first with the gruesome display of several bodies flayed, collected and brought back home. House Bolton is infamous for their particularly frowned upon method of torture and execution, which involves the use of a blade to remove several layers of the victim’s skin, exposing nerve and muscle tissue. The Boltons supposedly gave up this practice after bending the knee to House Stark, but now that they have control of the North, they’ve resumed their centuries-old practice. Roose Bolton meanwhile, makes an astute observation: The Boltons don’t have enough men to hold the North, and if the other Houses rise up against them, they will surely lose. House Bolton thrives on its reputation for extreme cruelty. Ramsay is a sadist, but his father cautions him against going too far. His pack with Twin Lannister no longer holds since Tywin is dead, and so now he’s looking for another way to secure their power over Winterfell. “The best way to forge a lasting alliance isn’t by peeling a man’s skin off”, Roose tells his son, “the best way is by marriage, and as it happens I’ve found the perfect girl to solidify our hold on the north.”

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Sansa returns to Winterfell thanks to Little Finger, only to Sansa’s horror, she learns of Peter’s plan to marry her off to Ramsay and thus forge an alliance with the House of Bolton. Unwilling to go, Little Finger tries his best to persuade, warning her that if she doesn’t act now, she’ll be running her whole life – and continue to be a bystander to tragedy. Peter Baelish is right in challenging Sansa to stop being a bystander and to stop running; After all, there’s no justice in the world of Game of Thrones, unless someone is willing to step up and do the dirty work.

Ironically, Little Finger’s plan may actually be Sansa’s best option. The biggest objection fans may have to the Sansa/Ramsay wedding is tied to not wanting to see a repeat of Sansa’s storyline from season four. Do we really want to see her rise back into power by becoming the victim of an arranged marriage? However, if Sansa marries Ramsay that would put her in a position to exact her revenge on Roose Bolton, responsible for the murders of her brother and, indirectly, her mother. Ramsay like Joffrey may be crazy, but unlike Joffrey, he might just have a kinder heart for his soon-to-be-wife. Not only is he taken back by Sansa’s beauty, but he’s willing to do everything in his power to not disappoint his father. Roose already seems blind to the possibility that inviting Sansa into his new home to wed his son invites danger. The Stark family’s reputation remains strong in the North; something is seen when an old woman reminds Sansa that “The North Remembers.” But put aside any speculation on how well Ramsay may or may not treat Sansa, there is also a wildcard roaming about – and I’m of course speaking about Theon Greyjoy. Ironically, Little Finger’s plan may actually lead to his very own demise, and could also help Sansa take back the North in honour of the Stark family.

Game of Thrones High Sparrow Review

Part of what makes Brienne so compelling is her duality. She’s physically strong but at the same time a little timid with her emotions. The highlight this week comes in the form of Brienne’s touching backstory explaining why she decided to stand by Renly’s side, reminiscing about the time her father held a ball to find her a suitor. While the boys were kind, at first, calling her the most beautiful lady they’ve ever seen; with time the charade ended and they showed their true colors. That is, except Renly who came to her rescue and saved the last dance for her. Brienne’s mother died when she was young and as the sole heir of House Tarth, she posed a fairly promising marriage prospect for men from other noble Houses, but due to her physicality and personality, the boys continued to reject her. Renly may have had a preference for men, something Brienne was well aware of, but he was also the only man, perhaps outside her father, to defend and care for her. In this hostile environment, Brienne of Tarth journeys on, her focus to fulfill the oath she swore to Catelyn Stark and safely return the Stark girls to Winterfell. But this week, Brienne reminds us that she also swore an oath to Renly who was killed by a shadow, “a shadow with the face of Stannis Baratheon,” she tells Podrick. With Brienne now at Winterfell, and knowing Stannis is on his way, fans can expect to see Brienne finally have her chance to avenge Renly’s murder. From season to season, we witness Brienne discovering herself as much as we as an audience are discovering the character she is. Brienne may be a fierce warrior with a fearless spirit, but she is also incredibly vulnerable. Podrick has a knack for allowing Brienne to lighten up, and it is great watching her confide in him. Spending time with Podrick may just be what the Maid of Tarth needs, and maybe, just maybe, Podrick is the man right for her.

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Through loyalty and bravery, Jon Snow is the newly elected leader of the Night’s Watch, even if by the narrowest of margins. Only a few days into his leadership, he finds himself in a tricky situation and needs to consolidate his position as leader, and fast. Snow has somewhat of an advantage since Stannis Baratheon hopes Jon and his men will eventually ally themselves with him and take back the Iron Throne, but Jon will need to watch out for Ser Allister Thorne who isn’t happy about losing the election to Jon. Naming Alliser Thorne First Ranger is the best decision he could make, and a move that proves Jon can handle criticism so long as it is matched by a courage and a duty to the Wall’s cause. By executing Janos Slynt, Jon crushes any doubts about being soft and sends out a warning to anyone willing to stand in his way. In a scene that mirrors Dany executing the former slave last week, Slynt cries out for mercy, but it is little too late. The question remains, has Jon Snow made the right decision in turning down the offer from Stannis and stay clear of the politics of the Seven Kingdoms? As pointed out this week, the best way to help the people may not be by sitting around in a frozen castle at the edge of the world. As long as the Boltons rule the North, the North will suffer. Yet despite how conflicted Jon feels, his vows seem to come first.

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In a rather surprising twist, we see Cersei toiling away with religious issues. When the High Scepter of the Faith of the 7 is dragged out of a brothel, publicly shamed, and beaten, he turns to Cersei for vengeance. Cersei has never been religious, but with her allies running low, she’s desperate to align herself with anyone who she believes can help her in the long run. Unfortunately for the High Scepter, she chooses the High Sparrow instead. Jonathan Pryce is a welcome addition to the large ensemble cast. As a devout and pious man, the High Sparrow as come to King’s Landing to serve the poor, the downtrodden and the feeble – and by doing so, his believers have swarmed over the city decrying the corruption of the highest. As Cersei points out, the ‘faith’ and the ‘crown’ are the two pillars that hold the kingdom together. If one collapses, so does the other. In choosing new allies, Cersei has chosen well.

Elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms, Tyrion and Varys continue their long voyage to Vereen. Tyrion urges the imp (who is developing a drinking problem) to spend less time getting drunk, and more time focusing on their quest. Varys believes Westeros is crumbling, and Dany is the only person who can save it from falling apart. He also believes Tyrion and the Targaryen would make a formidable duo. During this time Tyrion sees a Red Priestess preach to a large group of followers believing Daenerys will free the people from bondage. After mocking their beliefs, Tyrion catches her eye, leaving her to stare openly to two interpretations; either she knows Tyrion is special and will help the Mother of Dragons become the ruler of Westeros, or, she senses his cynical remarks. Moving forward, it is the actions just outside the brothel that stand out since Ser Jorah appears out of nowhere and kidnaps Tyrion before the credits roll. What exactly is his intent in abducting Tyrion? Is he planning on bringing him back to Cersei, or will he deliver Tyrion to Daenerys?

Season five of Game of Thrones is slowly gaining momentum and with a number of new storylines across the kingdom, there’s plenty of reasons to be excited about watching it all unfold.

– Ricky D

Other thoughts:

What mysteries like in Qyburn’s chambers? Is this the body of Gregor ‘The Mountain that Rides’ Clegane under the sheet? I’m not sure I want to know.

Does anyone else think Olly can’t be trusted? It isn’t just that he put an arrow through Ygritte’s heart, but he’s always seen in the background giving Jon Snow the evil eye.

Game of Thrones, Season Five, Episode 3: “High Sparrow”
Directed by Mark Mylod
Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Featured music Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by Anette Haellmigk
Editing by Tim Porter

Originally published April 26, 2019

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