TV Review: Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 3 “High Sparrow” (USA, 2015)

got high sparrow

Now that we have passed the first two episodes and caught up with the working storylines for this season “High Sparrow” was perfectly placed to shake things up a bit, and it did so with a very eventful episode that gave us one very satisfying death, one very shocking betrothal, one new and important character, and one wedding that didn’t end in bloodshed.

By far the most satisfying moment in the season so far took place on The Wall, where Jon Snow now serves as Lord Commander. Baby-killer and all-round terrible coward Janos Slynt has long been a pretentious prick in everyone’s side so watching him defy an order from his new boss was as thrilling as the repercussions his arrogance had for him. “He who passes the sentence must swing the sword” were words from Ned Stark which rang true here, as Jon, slightly smug and glad he would get to rid himself of a pest, beheaded Slynt in the season’s third public execution. Adding to the satisfaction of the sequence was Ser Alliser Thorne proudly letting his sworn brothers do away with Slynt, moving aside and proudly betraying the coward.

Stannis’ presence on the wall continues to bring hope to us viewers that it’s still possible to see the Stark House avenged through noble and vengeful means. His plans to march on House Bolton and take back the north help spark that fist-pumping glory we felt when Rob was plowing through his enemies. With everywhere else remaining vague in terms of good and bad (even Cersei feels less and less like a ‘villain’ now), it’s good to have a conflict that has a clear line, at least clear as far as Stannis’ perspective goes. Littlefinger has made that line a bit complicated with his latest, surprising scheme.

In the biggest development so far this season, we find out that Littlefinger has struck a deal with House Bolton and plans to marry Sansa to Ramsay. There’s a number of interesting angles here and it’s possibly the most well-advised departure from the books that the show has made so far. The deviations from the books are becoming more frequent, and the showrunners are handling it all incredibly well.

Sansa’s presence with House Bolton raises the stacks considerably where a Stannis and Jon versus Bolton conflict is concerned, it also brings Theon/Reek back into the picture and brings new possibilities to his story line (maybe a redemption arc with Sansa?). Also, was that Ramsay’s psycho girlfriend we saw death staring Sansa? The doors this new development may open can lead to some pretty terrifying and/or exciting things and I’m hoping the show wastes no time in exploring those.

The other Stark girl, Arya, enjoys a bit of a calmer arc now as she settles into her new role at The House of Black and White in Braavos. After fearing for her safety for so long, it’s nice to see her with an old friend who is undoubtedly going to set her on a completely new path.

Following Margery official ascension to Queen via a happy-go-lucky, sex-crazed King Tommen, she now seems to have more confidence when she passively aggressively toys with Cersei. The two having a restrained back and forth full of implications was an incredibly strong scene and shows great skill from both Natalie Dormer and Lena Heady. Cersei may have lost another chunk of her power and influence with this situation but the introduction of a new player in King’s Landing.

If Lancel Lannister’s return in episode 1 didn’t hammer home the strong religious current of season 5, then this episode certainly did, with the introduction of the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) a humble but pious man who holds great influence over the increasingly widespread ‘sparrows’. It seems he serves a similar role in the show Qyburn. Although not as sycophantic as the show’s mad scientist, the High Sparrow seems open enough to Cersei to allow her to channel his influence and use it for her own gain. Religion is a major part of politics, especially in a world like Game of Thrones, and I’m guessing that this season will largely be based around Cersei’s manipulation of those politics. Her and High Sparrow are going to make for an interesting dynamic.

The other major development here, aside from a nice character moment from Brienne and her new task, is saved for the closing moments of “High Sparrow”. Tyrion and Varys stray from their linear path and stumble into a brothel where they witness a prostitute that looks like Dany entertaining guests, amongst other working girls. The key thing here is someone who doesn’t belong; Ser Jorah Mormont. Somewhere between Tyrion being wishy-washy with a girl and him urinating off a ledge, Jorah recognised the famed imp and kidnapped him with plans to “take [him] to the queen” – and we all know that it isn’t Cersei Jorah seeks favour from.

“High Sparrow” continues the very well balanced and rich storytelling that has made Season 5 a winner so far. The most noticeable and notable part of the season so far has been the deviations from the source material, and they are all being handled incredibly well. I have high hopes that this season, despite the possibility of not having anything as major as The Red Wedding or The Mountain VS The Red Viper, could very well be the best one yet.

Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights

– Jon executes Janos Slynt
– Cersei and Margery conflict getting more intense
– Littlefinger’s plan revealed
– Jorah back in the picture
– Arya keeping needle

Game of Thrones airs in Australia on Showcase, Foxtel every Monday at 11am with a second screening at 7:30pm