Already seen Episode 3? Keep reading at the end for some additional, spoiler-filled notes.
“Who are you?” Arya Stark is questioned in Episode 3 of Game of Thrones Season 5. Her interrogator is nameless – as you’d expect of anyone inside the House of Black and White – which gives her a power over Ned’s daughter. For her, the name Stark carries all kinds of connotations. Murders. Losses. Betrayals. That’s the challenge facing all the people who have made it this far in Game of Thrones: trying to overcome their own history, to make the past a foreign country. Because they don’t do things differently there – they killed people then too.
Stannis is quick to remind Jon Snow of that, offering him once more the chance to cease being a bastard and become Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell. Snow already made his choice last week not to rewrite his past – but really, he made it years ago, when he first said the Night’s Watch oath, a promise to sever all ties with his old identity, not unlike those Faceless Men of Braavos.
Over in the North, meanwhile, we finally catch up with the repugnant Boltons, who assume control of Winterfell themselves. Iwan Rheon’s Ramsay smiles like he’s never tortured anyone before, but Theon is the most interesting one to watch: he cowers at the sight of familiar faces, almost as if, deep down, ‘Reek’ still knows who he is and realises they might recognise him. “The North remembers,” one housekeeper says, with a knowing stare.
As the newly elected leader of the Watch, Jon is busy trying to forget so that he can establish his rule – despite the inevitable opposition from Ser Alliser Thorne and his supporters. “My father told me to keep my enemies close,” Snow says to Stannis, before dealing with all this rebellion in true Stark fashion. Stannis looks on, approvingly. Names may change, the one true king realises – along with his loyal sidekick Davos (quick shootout to Liam Cunningham and his beard) – but that doesn’t mean people do.
It’s an attitude that Tyrion wears on his sleeve, as he and Varys stop off en route to Meereen. Half drunk and unconcerned about anyone potentially recognising him, the hilarious Peter Dinklage swaggers out of his box on wheels with the arrogance of a Lannister – if not the name. Tyrion and Varys: The Sitcom takes a turn for the dark here, as another character with their own bitter history enters the fray, but that balance between carrying around your baggage and leaving it behind is oddly echoed in the women lingering in the brothel’s background. Here, it turns out, the most popular women are those dressed as Daenerys; the legend of the Mother of Dragons is so powerful that it displaces even a prostitute’s identity.
Over in King’s Landing, everyone’s favourite Queen Mother is still battling against her new royal title. “What do we call you now?” taunts Margaery Tyrell, smirking and dropping innuendoes about sex with Tommen every chance she gets. The note-perfect Lena Headey and Natalie Dormer snipe at each other with hilariously polite expressions, but Cersei knows that her Lannister heritage makes her ancient and redundant. So when she spies an opportunity to meet the leader of the Sparrows, she jumps at it.
Jonathan Pryce’s High Sparrow is a fascinating new addition to the ensemble, standing about with no shoes on. Pryce makes him the most mild-mannered person we’ve met in Westeros so far, but his lack of an identity also makes him the most dangerous: Where did he come from? Who are his alliances with? And what does he want? Without knowing these, how can Cersei (or anyone else) ever hope to manipulate him?
It’s the same weapon that makes Varys and Littlefinger so powerful, able to slip between houses and pawns and position themselves where they like. While High Sparrow gives his name to Episode 3’s title, it’s the latter who turns out to dominate the hour, as he and Sansa continue their journey to carry out his latest scheme. A moving scene with Brienne and Pod gives us some back-story that makes them both more sympathetic; the kind of personal information that the ever-enigmatic Littlefinger tries to avoid divulging. Even Aidan Gillen’s wandering accent could be a ploy to throw us off-balance. And so, as he pulls the strings, Sansa is faced with a horrible challenge: one that, like Arya, requires her to let sleeping dogs lie and get on with the job of surviving.
“There’s no justice in the world unless we make it,” Baelish teaches her, as the dark-haired Sophie Turner looks increasingly hard-edged. “You loved your family. Avenge them.”
It’s clear from this week’s glimpse of Arya’s training that it’ll be a long time until she becomes truly Faceless. The question is: what will the other Stark daughter do? Try to change too, or hold on to old grudges? As much as we cheer on Arya’s quest, you secretly hope that her sister will do the opposite.
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Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– We were practically shouting at the screen for Arya not to throw Needle away, so it’s nice to see her hide it under the rocks outside the House of Black and White. While it’s cool to see her become a bad-ass, we don’t really want her to change that much. (Although three pebbles covering a hole in a wall is hardly worthy of Jaqen H’gar.)
– Who was that guy who died in the House of Black and White? Another person with no identity or name. Which just makes that whole place more fascinating.
– Given how young Tommen is in the original books, seeing a sex scene between him and Margaery is really quite disturbing, even in his new, older on-screen incarnation. That said, her constant digs at Cersei over their highly disturbing love life are hilarious.
– “The church and the state are two pillars,” argues Cersei, trying to ally with the High Sparrow. As if that’s going to work. Does she not understand what a radical religious movement is? (We love that she jailed the High Septon, though. What a prevue.)
– It’s good to know that Ser Alliser isn’t leaving The Wall any time soon: Owen Teale’s face is one of the best things about Game of Thrones. His quick step aside to let Jon Snow seize Janos Slynt for refusing to obey his order to travel East to the Night’s Watch ruin suggests he might yet fall in line and follow Snow. After all, that beheading he dealt out to Slynt certainly put paid to Kit Harington’s baby-faced image.
– More Liam Cunningham please.
– Poor Sansa. First Joffrey. Then Tyrion. Now Ramsay Bolton? That girl has the worst luck with marriages ever. The fact that we’ve already seen him be such a loathsome, violent cockroach makes the whole thing really quite horrific – and even more impressive that Sansa is willing to grin and bear it. (Although it’s nice to see her back at Winterfell. And hell, just to see Winterfell again.)
– “Winter is coming.” Bonus points to Jon Snow.
– What’s Littlefinger’s game in all this? Is he working with Roose or not? And what are his messages to Cersei saying? (Shout-out to Qyburn – the wonderfully wriggly Anton Lesser – and the apparently still-alive Clegane in his lab.)
– Does Theon still remember who he is or not? And why was he hiding from Sansa? If the serving staff are telling Sansa they still remember, do they recognise Theon?
– Jorah Mormont! Lord of the Friend Zone. We were only thinking how much we missed him during Dany’s council meetings last week. Given he was spying for Varys on the Mother of Dragons, it’s no surprise that he should spot them in the bar – but kidnapping Tyrion while he was standing on the wall peeing into the wind? What’s his plan now? Woo his beloved with a dwarf in a sack, like some kind of crazed Santa Claus? Whatever it is, it’s a welcome return to Game of Thrones’ good old cliffhangers. In a season of tiny twists and small political steps, this is as close to the Red Wedding as we’ve got for now.
– Imagine a reverse Red Wedding where all the North folk rise up against the Boltons.
Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO