UK VOD TV review: Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 4 (Sons of the Harpy)
Ivan Radford | On 05, May 2015
Already seen Episode 4? Read on at the bottom for some spoiler-filled analysis.
“Aren’t you and mother getting along?”
The sniping between Margaery and Cersei, with their forced smiles and death stares, has been an undoubted highlight of Game of Thrones Season 5 so far. That’s partly because of their wit and bile, but also because it’s been one of the only real outbursts of conflict: after the trauma of previous seasons, there’s been a lot of conversation, but not much action. So you can almost forgive poor Tommen’s innocent question to his wife – at least, until you arrive at the end of Episode 4. Make no mistake: it’s all kicking off now.
That was the thrill of Episode 3’s climax: the kidnapping of Tyrion proved that even the most loveable character from George RR Martin’s books wasn’t safe, as Jorah Mormont came charging in from out of the friend zone. We’ve missed him a lot this run, especially with Daenerys’ wobbly decision-making, and he wastes no time in knocking out another guy to steal his boat and sail off with his tiny prize. The fact that Tyrion was heading to Meereen anyway, making Jorah’s big play completely redundant, only makes us feel sorrier for him. Good old Jorah. At least he’s taking action.
But Mormont’s not the only one picking up weapons: in King’s Landing, Cersei continues her desperate plans to maintain control over the city. After befriending the High Sparrow last week, she comes up with the bright idea of arming the faith militant for the first time in years, because when you have a religious uprising on your hands, the best thing to do is gift them an army. Lena Headey swans about, as if she’s triumphant, but it’s Jonathan Pryce’s simple stares and genial smiles that make you nervous. She’s focused on getting her own back on Margaery, but High Sparrow, you suspect, is thinking much bigger.
The decision of whether to take up arms hits The Wall too, as Stannis once again implores Jon Snow to ride for Winterfell and take it from the Boltons. If Cersei is driven by personal revenge, Snow’s determination to honour his vows and resist petty payback marks him out a rare sort in the Seven Kingdoms – especially when Melisandre (the wonderful Carice van Houten) tries to use her priestess wares upon him. With that bizarre blend of evangelism and seduction, she could start her own self-help franchise.
From the reluctant to the reckless, Episode 4’s biggest treat lies in seeing Jaime and Bronn back together again. Stabbing, slicing, chopping. All the swordy verbs get an airing this week, as Jerome Flynn cements his bad-ass status on the shores of Dorne. The one-handed Lannister may still be able to dispatch bad guys, but it’s their conversation that makes the couple’s chemistry so entertaining. Lying to troops about their arrival, Jaime tries – and fails – to blame it on sharks. “They are no sharks in Dorne,” comes the militant reply. “Dolphins, maybe,” offers Bronn. He should get a spin-off series of his own.
Our favourite bromance, of course, is all set for a collision with the sisterly trio from hell: the Sand Snakes. After teasing them for weeks, we finally see Tyene, Nym, Obara, the three daughters of Ellaria. Keisha Castle-Hughes’ Obara impresses the most, offering a glimpse of her ability to spear-head an attack. Five seasons in, we know all too well that anyone could get a dagger to the throat these days – the fact that blood is finally being spilled means that their showdown is only episodes away.
With all this violence breaking out, the leaders who keep their hands clean are the ones who stand out the most. Daenerys, whose endless debates with her council only seem to make her seem less convincing as a queen, spends her time listening to Barristan Selmy’s anecdotes of his time with Rhaegar Targaryen, who used to sing in the streets. As noble as Selmy is – and as powerful in battle as he once was – you suspect that a dose of Jorah and Tyrion would do her judgement some good.
“All men must die, but not all get to die in glory,” one advisor tells her, as he campaigns for the opening of the pits at the start of fighting week. But she might not have to open the pits for the fights to start, as the Sons of the Harpy earn this episode’s title through some impressive swordplay. (The sight of their gold masks, flashing as they’re splattered in blood, makes for a terrifyingly well choreographed sight: a skirmish in a corridor almost rivals the spectacle and threat of the battle of Blackwater.)
Sophie Turner’s Sansa, meanwhile, looks impressively determined as she carries out Littlefinger’s plan to marry Bolton, but still shows signs of nerves with Baelish in private. “Even the most dangerous men can be manoeuvred. You’ve learned to manoeuvre from the best,” Aidan Gillen assures her, in what might as well be an Australian accent. But neither of them have seen what Bolton did to Theon. Turner’s brief drop of her composed mask only emphasises her similarity to Tommen, also wed to someone of influence with only a slight grasp on what they can do.
“Do you have any affection for me at all?” asks Margaery, as she manipulates her young husband with a curl of a smile. No, Tommen, you’re mother and wife aren’t getting along. In fact, no one is. But now, they’re starting to do something about it.
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Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– “All men must die, but not all get to die in glory.” Hands up who thought that would ever apply to Grey Worm? Certainly not him, which makes his departure at the hands of the Sons all the more powerful. Jacob Anderson has been superb as the unsullied leader, speaking in Low Valyrian like the made-up language was his mother tongue, while still bringing a stoic charm to his fledgling romance with Dany’s right-hand woman. His talent with a blade even matched that of Barristan, who got to display some of his much-praised battle skills in the final corridor showdown. His glory days were long ago, though – and his passing leaves Dany with big gaps in her inner circle. Can Tyrion and Jorah fill them?
– “He murdered my father. If I see him, I’ll cut him in two.” Jaime’s bromance with Bronn may be blooming, but he seems to have no more love for his actual brother. Either way, his metal hand is Dr. No levels of awesome.
– “Aren’t you and mother getting along?” The arrest of Loras is hardly cause for sympathy among viewers, but the sight of blood spilled on the King’s Landing streets is certainly ominous – you can’t expect the armed religious cult to follow Cersei’s orders for long, especially when her puppet king comes to her, cap in hand, asking for mercy on his wife’s brother. Stuff is about to go down, yo.
– “You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.” We’ve written before about the importance of family names and choosing whether to honour them or move on from them. As children literally or metaphorically kill of ties with their parents, Stannis is doing the opposite; his commitment this week to looking after his daughter turns him into a far more likeable potential king. Maybe this whole Lord of Light thing isn’t so bad after all.
– No wonder Baelish is backing Stannis in the fight to come. His plan? Stannis defeats the Boltons, probably with the help of Jon Snow, and Sansa – in the event of Ramsay’s death – becomes Wardeness of the North. “The north will be yours,” he assures her. You almost believe him.
– “You know nothing Jon Snow.” Holy frozen bananas, what just happened? Carice van Houten’s red-headed farewell to Jon just turned our favourite saying into something terrifying. How does she know Ygritte used to say it? And will it sway Kit Harington’s baby-faced commander into doing her will? After all, she did take her clothes off, which usually does the trick. (The Gospel of Light, according to Melisandre: 1. Preach about the one true God. 2. Naked time!)
– Unleashing scorpions on a man’s head while he’s buried in the ground like it ain’t no thing? With a whip? The Sand Sisters are our new favourite.
– We’ve changed our minds. This whole Lord of Light thing is definitely a bad thing.
Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO