We’re now four episodes into season five, and these plots are becoming more tightly wound than the rope on Tyrion’s wrists.
Cersei is weaving a web of deceit so dense that no one, even her arch nemesis Margaery, is slipping through. Cersei flattered Mace Tyrell hard enough that he’s now personally visiting the Iron Bank to discuss refinance options, with Ser Meryn Trant as his personal kingsguard. Either something awful will be happening to Mace pretty soon, or she was just trying to get him out of King’s Landing long enough to imprison his son for being gay. Oh wait, no, I’m sorry, she didn’t arrest Loras Tyrell. The newly reformed Faith Militant did. Rather, the newly reformed Faith Militant of which Cersei ordered reformation. My mistake, and Tommen’s. Poor little Tommen. Even with a mother like Cersei he doesn’t know how to maneuver the rocky paths of bitchy queendom. Margaery launched some pretty sick burns at Cersei’s expense last week, only to have Cersei retaliate by plotting a scheme that leaves her blameless. And Tommen is caught in the middle, totally clueless and obeying whatever orders his mother or wife give him.
Even still, I think Cersei will have some retribution coming her way soon. When Tommen showed up to the sept to discuss releasing Loras with the High Sparrow, the king’s subjects were shouting some pretty nasty things his way. Things like “bastard” and “born of sin” and “abomination.” Poor little clueless Tommen likely has no idea how he was conceived, even if Cersei and Jaime’s secret is common knowledge to everyone else. If the Faith Militant are into punishing sin, surely Cersei’s sins will catch up to her. A whole lot of people are aware of those sins, but no one has used that knowledge against her yet. When it does come out, which it inevitably must, I imagine it will be a delightful comeuppance that she, in her ivory and barbed wire tower, will never see coming.
It’s hard to tell, but Littlefinger must have a part to play in Loras’ arrest. Shortly before Cersei met with the High Sparrow to discuss a new Faith Militant, there was a shot of a raven’s scroll. Even after very careful examination, the only words that can be made out are “to be of further” and “my establishment,” followed by a very blurry “Baelish.” Oh, and it also has the bird broach he wears stamped on it. There are few other phrases I can think of that start with “to be of further” and don’t end with “assistance.” And the Faith Militant raided his aforementioned establishment to kill a guy, who just happened to be enjoying delights of the carnal variety with another guy.
So what does he get out of all of this, except for the further trust of Cersei? Maybe her trust is all he needs, since we know now that he’s heading off to King’s Landing to prep for the arrival, and takeover, of and by Stannis Baratheon. He knows Stannis will be squaring off against the Boltons in Winterfell soon enough, which is why he brought Sansa back to her home: he wants her to become the Wardeness of the North. Sansa is worried to be left there without him, for obvious reasons (read: the Boltons are nuts.) But he assures her that even the most dangerous men can be outmaneuvered, and she’s “learned to maneuver from the very best.” Not a truer statement has been made on this show. Except maybe that all men must die.
Something worth mentioning during this part of the episode is the story about Sansa’s aunt and Ned Stark’s sister, Lyanna Stark, and her “relationship” with Daenerys’ other older brother, Rhaegar Targaryen. I may not have read A Song of Ice and Fire, but the internet is dark and full of conspiracies, so I do know of a prevalent fan theory claiming that Lyanna and Rhaegar are the actual parents of Jon Snow. There are several strong pieces of evidence in this episode that support that theory: the telling of Lyanna’s rape at the hands of Rhaegar, Stannis saying that Ned’s sleeping with a “tavern slut” wasn’t his style, and Sansa picking up a feather next to Lyanna’s memorial. Could that be a crow feather?
I haven’t been following Game of Thrones long enough to know what other kinds of fan theories came or went, but I have watched enough Mad Men to know that Matthew Weiner just loves to dangle theories in fans’ faces, let the fans salivate over them, and then do absolutely nothing with them. I don’t know if David Benioff or D.B. Weiss are the master trolls that Weiner is, but this is a fun development nonetheless.
Rhaegar Targaryen was mentioned another time in this episode, which cast a very different light upon the would-be rapist. Ser Barristan delighted Dany to the times when he would accompany Rhaegar to sing in the streets for money, just because Rhaegar loved to sing. I’m not sure that anecdote had much more to serve in the episode other than solidifying the presence of that fan theory and bidding Barristan a fond farewell, because shortly after that lovely tale, Barriston battled a huge group of Sons of the Harpy and didn’t win. Greyworm tried to bolster Barriston’s efforts, but ultimately Barriston definitely died and Greyworm was at least severely wounded.
This episode, and perhaps this whole season, really wants to drive the point home that it isn’t just those vying for the Iron Throne that are killing for a senseless cause, but there are also very militant (faith or no) groups unleashing terror on Westeros. The ripple effect started by Littlefinger in season one is propelling Game of Thrones forward. Both the Sparrows/Faith Militant and Sons of the Harpy arose from the roots of season one, particularly Jon Arryn’s death and Viserys’ greed. With the pool of Iron Throne contenders thinner than ever, these groups are complicating the efforts of some of those contenders.
Dany, at the very least, is being particularly affected. She doesn’t even know yet that she’s down one, maybe two, of her closest council members. Without the guidance of Barrister to aid her ruling over Meereen, she’ll almost be forced to accept Jorah back into her fold (no innuendo intended.) What a fun turn of events! Here I thought Jorah was going to bring Tyrion to Cersei to spite Daenerys, but in reality he’s actually taking him to exactly where Tyrion was headed in the first place! And ever clever Tyrion, running his mouth as always, figured out his captor’s identity within minutes. Of course, that got him a slap in the face, but he’s usually deserving of one of those.
Tyrion has done nothing but travel in these first four episodes, which is hardly utilizing his (and Peter Dinklage’s) talents. Here’s to hoping that in the latter part of the season he has actual purpose.
Tyrion’s name is being spoken elsewhere in the world, and not in the most thoughtful way, by Jaime and Bronn. The two have finally landed in Dorne, and Jaime has much different feelings about his brother than he did at the end of last season: “He murdered my father. If I ever see him, I’ll split him in two.” Yikes. Tyrion’s last familial ally has turned against him. It’s hard to blame Jaime, but it’s safe to say Tyrion was justified in the crossbow-to-the-chest-on-the-toilet incident.
News of Jaime’s arrival in Dorne has already made it to the ears of Ellaria and her band of Sand Snakes, otherwise known as Oberyn’s bastard daughters. Since Ellaria is the Cersei of Dorne, nothing escapes her, and she concludes rather quickly that Jaime is there to retrieve Myrcella. Ellaria will be using Myrcella as a pawn of war, as so many innocent people are used on this show. Whether it will be War with a capital W or just a fight including Jaime and Bronn and the Sand Snakes, we’ll soon find out. But Myrcella probably won’t last very long regardless.
From Sand to Snow, Stannis will stop at absolutely nothing to get Jon to go to Winterfell. I mean, really. How many times does the man have to say no? And this time he’s using Melisandre to seduce the “yes” answer out of Jon, and he says no to even her! And her boobs! It did seem that she was trying to seduce him, not necessarily to persuade him to go to Winterfell, but so that he cold impregnate her with a second shadow child to kill the Boltons, like Stannis’ shadow child killed Renly. She said that in their “joining” (choice words), they had “the power to create light, the power to cast shadows.” Tough cookies, Red Woman. Jon’s made of stronger stuff than your killer bod can tempt.
Truthfully, I always thought Melisandre was full of shit. So she birthed a shadow monster child. She’s been kind of a one trick pony ever since. But her response to his refusal (to Winiterfell, sex, and shadow babies) blew my mind. “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Certainly the biggest bombshell of this season so far.
Also, truthfully, I’ve never really liked Stannis. Somehow his claim to the throne seemed the most lackluster of the rest, even though he’s the only one that legitimately deserves it. He did, however, win me over a little with the tales of adoration for his daughter. Apparently Shireen’s greyscale is due to an infected doll sold to Stannis by a pretty mean dude, and rather than send her to live with the Stone Men, or let her die, Stannis showed his trademark persistence and found a cure for her. Okay, that is super sweet. Plus one for Stannis this week.
At this point in the season, I have to believe we’re in the midst of a long build to something big in the latter episodes, mostly because little else is being accomplished except developing and strengthening some serious tension. What this season lacks in balance (like the exquisite balance of last season), it makes up for in fortifying the remaining characters’ motives. Power drives most, love drives some, and where the two converge will be a quite a sight, however gruesome and bloody it may be.