Chekhov's Gunman


GAME OF THRONES Season 5 Episode 4 Review, “Sons of the Harpy”

game of thrones season 5 episode 4 sons of the harpy obara

This review is from the point of view of someone who hasn’t read the books. I bet you looked forward to the school Book Fair, too, didn’t yah, nerd?

Is Game of Thrones teaching us to be afraid of birds?

I’m serious. One of the few threads that connects the disparate storylines of Game of Thrones is a committed and almost militant hatred of birds. Both of the dangerous, unstable cults that have popped up this season are named after birds. The absentee Bran Stark’s dreams were plagued with images of a three-eyed crow. When Tyrion discusses Ser Jorah’s traitor status, he mentions “passing notes to Varys’ birds.” Call me crazy if you must call. Call me a bird racist (I do sort of despise Hitchcock’s The Birds). But if you keep looking for Game of Thrones’ seething hatred of everything that flies, you will not be able to unsee it.

You are welcome.

Now to the review. As per usual, I will take the episode character by character and crown this week’s winner at the very end.

Bran’d This Week (Those Who Couldn’t Make It)

–Bran. Always and forever Bran.

–Brienne and Podrick. Always amiss when these two can’t find their way into an episode.

–Ramsay, Roose, and Reek. Despite there being scenes that take place at Winterfell this week, none of the sad, male R’s could make it.

–Varys needs to find someone to find Tyrion for him so he can get back to the action ASAP. I already miss him.

–Arya Stark has gone missing this week and was likely killed for hiding her sword in a rock.

Ser Jorah Sings “Row Row Row Your Dwarf”

Ser Jorah Mormont is not a clever man. In fact, in the grand scheme of skills and attributes, it doesn’t seem like he has many adjectives to his name at all. Even amongst Dany’s entourage, he was always sort of “a man.” His defining role was his unflinching loyalty, except for, you know, all of that betrayal.

But desperate men in desperate times call for desperate measures, and so Tyrion has been kidnapped and is being brought to Daenerys as a trophy? Or a peace offering? Or like when you piss off your girlfriend and make her pancakes or something? Jorah hasn’t exactly thought out this plan and it definitely shows. Tyrion is being forcefully brought to a place he was already going on a diplomatic mission, like if you were kidnapped and taken to the Starbucks to which you were already headed.

Tyrion and Jorah will likely hit Meereen in a couple of episodes, and that’s when this saggy Tyrion plot will finally tighten up a little bit and be more than a BBC travelogue with an unusual number of whore houses.

Jon Snow Could Use a Megaphone

I think I have discovered the real secret to my continued lack of interest in Jon Snow: the dude never speaks at a normal volume. I feel as if I can count on two hands the number of times he has used his outside voice. All of his scenes are inside and delivered in harsh tones that seem to come directly from the neckbeard. To have a character whisper at a specific moment is to draw in the audience and force them to pay attention. To be a character that whispers near-constantly is to be obnoxious and hard to understand.

Anyway, this week, after receiving no immediate fallout from cutting a dude’s head off yesterday, Jon becomes a target for Melisandre, Stannis’s priestess and Mother of Shadowbabies. Melisandre has long been one of the show’s biggest mysteries, and likely its least explored as well. Though she has little of her backstory or motivations filled in, the secrets she carries have never been as frustrating as some of the show’s other big question marks. She has always simply claimed allegiance to Stannis, and this has just been largely accepted, at least by me. But now we see that her true motivations might be much less straightforward than one might originally believe.

I am loving this rising conflict in the North so far this season. There are so many question marks, and Game of Thrones makes no clear indication as to who might win if these forces come to blows. And it certainly stakes no claim as to who might survive. Even you filthy readers can’t be too sure about any of this anymore.

But if there’s one thing that hasn’t worked for me on the show, it’s the romance between Jon Snow and Ygritte, so the shadow of her form hanging over the life of Jon Snow sounds about as arduous as watching their romance unfold on a weekly basis. I absolutely believe he wouldn’t be too keen on mating with Melisandre on his office desk (it would be so cold), but I just hope this Ygritte thread isn’t going to hang around for too terribly long.

Cersei Calls Off Her Marriage

Cersei is making a bad grab for power in King’s Landing. Seeing her youngest son as a much easier target than her last, more murder one, Cersei is trying to grab the reins of King’s Landing before someone else (namely the formly and more youthful Margaery Tyrell) takes everything away from her. In this episode alone, she both sends the queen’s father off to what must certainly be his death or kidnapping or one way ticket to a crate somewhere and places far too much trust in a very dangerous and very murder cult because they’ll fight for her and imprison people that she would like to see imprisoned (namely the brother of the formly and youthful Margaery Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, her fiancé). This will absotively posolutely not work out well for Cersei/King’s Landing/people that like boring television. The Sparrows are almost assuredly going to screw over Cersei eventually to the eventual surprise of Cersei and only Cersei.

Most tragic of all, Cersei’s scheming seems to be placing a permanent cockblock on her son Tommen, which is just not a nice thing to do to someone. Tommen refuses to respond to his mother’s unceasing crazy with violence and then his wife gets mad at him.* Margaery Tyrell and full force of the Tyrells will not take this ridiculousness lying down. Much like the convergence on Winterfell up North, it seems like the forces of both Dorne and the Tyrells will be landing on King’s Landing before too long. Cool.

*Protip for Tommen: There is no winning where a war with women is concerned (provided of course that your mother is an actual crazy person and your pretty cool wife just got her brother kidnapped by Bird Satanists)

Meereen is a Goddamn Mess

Seriously. What the hell is going on with the Dany plot this season? This this what stalling for time truly looks like? Is this Game of Thrones’ desperate attempt to twiddle its thumbs and wait for Tyrion to show up? I guess it’s working?

Maybe I just don’t find the masked campaign of revenge against the Unsullied to be all that interesting. The Unsullied are unique, well-trained combatants, yet they keep falling into the simplest traps imaginable.

I might miss Barriston Selmy on the occasions where I am inclined to remember he exists. Some dweeb with some very tempting lunch money has informed me that he is much more interesting in the books. That’s fine. On the show he’s just sort of a kickass old guy. His death was well-fought, but was also the victim of a sort of stagnating plotline. We’ve had enough episodes of these golden harpy fellas murdering people that look like Grey Worm. It is time for a second thing to happen now. Perhaps some dragon retaliation is in order for the death of one of Dany’s trusted advisors (it seems her entourage is shrinking by the day)?

Also, if Grey Worm is actually dead as a result of this fight, I will be most displeased. But perhaps his death will spur on something? Anything? I am a true blue supporter of even Dany’s most derided plots, but this is the first time that I am truly starting to lose interest.

game of thrones season 5 episode 4 sons of the harpy jamie

Jamie & Bronn 2: Jamie and Bronn Harder

Oh what fun this is truly shaping up to be. The dynamic between Jamie and Bronn is sharp and on point. This seems to be a plotline where Game of Thrones is letting itself stretch its legs and have a little bit of fun. That fight scene is already one of my favorites the show could ever produce. It’s funny, and exciting, and really sets up the tremendous underdog scenario that is Jamie and Bronn invading a foreign country.

Ellaria Gets a Posse Together

Ellaria’s posse is so cool.
Everything they are doing is cool.
I hope they keep doing it.
Obara is particularly cool.
Did you see that spearthrow?

Stannis’ Heart Grew Three Sizes That Day

I am a sucker for a good Game of Thrones monologue. The show has always been so stacked top to bottom with great actors that giving any one of them the spotlight is almost always a good choice. I have previously awarded showwinner status to both Catelyn Stark and Brienne of Tarth for their stellar monologues.

And tonight’s spotlight moment gives some much-needed levity and softness to Stannis Baratheon. Long stoic and intentionally dull, it’s nice to be reminded of why the True King can is a worthy one to follow. The only reason his speech didn’t win is that, in the days since this episode has aired, it is only the moment I have thought second-most about.

TONIGHT’S WINNER: Sansa’s Family History

The past never lets go, Sansa. Even (if not especially) the pasts we didn’t create ourselves. Sansa gets a touching and poignant history lesson from Littlefinger beneath the palace that used to be her home. “How many people could have lived if Rhaegar hadn’t chosen your aunt,” Littlefinger asserts. We don’t choose the world we are born into. We are simply thrust into them and are left to pick up the pieces ourselves.

Sometimes we are born into beloved royal families that are then taken from us. Sometimes we are born with terrible siblings that burn our faces. Sometimes we are a victim of circumstance when we are young and the greyscale stays with us for the rest of our lives. The most we can hope to do is make the best of the time we do have and whatever resources we are lucky enough to hold. Stay strong, Sansa. You may just survive if you do.

Why can’t all wheelspinning be this good?

Episode Grade: B+

Check out all of my Game of Thrones reviews here, my podcast Talking Back to the Movies here, and my Twitter feed here.


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