Game of Thrones' recap: 'The Sons of the Harpy'


  • Courtesy of HBO
  • CRACK THAT WHIP: Jessica Henwick as one of the Sand Snakes.

Mobs of violent men roam the streets in two nations on this week’s episode, “The Sons of the Harpy,” and have obvious parallels. Both the Sons of the Harpy in Mereen and the Faith Militant in King’s Landing wear symbols on their faces, with the former wearing gold masks and the latter carving seven-pointed stars in their foreheads to show their religious fervor.
Both run rampant in cities under female rule, with Danaerys the unquestioned queen of Mereen and Tommen under the sway of either his wife or mother, which varies from week to week. While they both have different agendas, they both also come across as male-dominated insurgencies lashing out against political structures under female control.

Cersei certainly thinks the Faith Militant is under her influence and part of a long plan. First, she sends Mace Tyrell to Braavos to negotiate better terms for the kingdom’s debts to the Iron Bank. That’s her stated reason, at least: more likely, she just wants the Tyrell patriarch out of the way. Then she meets with the High Sparrow and suggests they revive a church tradition called the Faith Militant, which arms the devout to enforce the gods’ laws. “Perhaps the gods need a sword of their own,” Cersei says, and later adds, “What would you say if I told you of a great sinner amid our very midst, shielding by gold and privilege?”

She could be referring to any number of people, including herself, but apparently she’s referring Margaery’s gay brother, Loras, whom the Faith Militant arrest. And Loras is lucky: in one of their raids on the brothel, the Militant kill two gay men. The bigotry is almost as shocking as the violence.

Margaery complains to King Tommen and suggests Cersei’s involvement in the arrest. “Aren’t you and mother getting along?” Tommen asks. I like Dean-Charles Chapman in the role, but they also could have cast a baby lamb as Tommen for similar effect. Cersei protests to her son that only the High Sparrow can free Loras, and when he goes to see the holy man, the Faith Militant block the way. Rather than kill people in the street, Tommen backs down. With Loras in jail, Margaery moves out of the King’s quarters, leaving Tommen really disappointed.

Meanwhile, Jamie and Bronn are en route to Dorne to rescue Tommen’s sister Myrcella. Bronn remarks that, “The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight,” which could be the pitch for an HBO spinoff series. They also talk about Tyrion, and Jamie says softly, “He murdered my father. If I ever see him again, I’ll cut him in two.”

While traveling with Bronn, Jamie loves playing the “I’ve just got one hand card” whenever hard labor is required. But his accident comes in, uh, handy when the pair get accosted by four Dornish swordsmen. Jamie doesn’t fare well in his first real left-handed duel and his getting his ass kicked. Then Jamie accidentally catches his opponent’s sword in his gold hand and stabs him. The editing’s a little jarring, but the cinematography of the Dornish dunes is great.

Jamie and Bronn meant to sneak into Dorne undetected, but they’ve been found out. Seemingly a few dunes away, we see rebellious Ellaria meet her three daughters with the late Oberyn (who, you’ll recall, died defending Tyrion in last season’s trial by combat). They’re called “The Sand Snakes” and include whip-cracking Nymeria (Jessica Henwick), dagger wielding Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) and spear-throwing Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who talks about her father’s signature weapon. Turns out they caught the sea captain who delivered Jamie and have him buried up to his neck in the sand, his head in bucket of scorpions. They intuit that Jamie wants to rescue Myrcella, and want to kill or kidnap the latter for revenge before the former gets the chance. I hope this threesome sticks around after such a build-up.

On the Wall, we see a surprisingly touching example of fatherhood on a show filled with crappy and/or murderous dads. Stannis’s wife Selyse, looking at their deformed daughter Shireen, remarks, “I should have given you a son.” Shireen may have picked up on this conversation, later asking him, “Are you ashamed of me, father?” Stannis may be kind of a tool, but bless him if he doesn’t given a great answer about how he refused to surrender her to the sickness, and says, “You’re the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.” Take that, Tywin Lannister. Arguably, his refusal to give in could be a sign of his inflexible pride, but it has good results here.

Like Stannis, Jon Snow has an extremely rigid sense of honor and duty. When signing requests for the houses of Westeros to send more men to the wall, he even sends one to Roose Bolton, despite the fact that he killed Jon’s brother Robb. Jon has chosen the Night Watch over his family, but still has a different lingering loyalty. Melisandre comes to see him to request that he join Stannis in an attack on Winterfell, and says, “There’s only one war, life against death,” and tries to seduce him as a sign of what life offers. Jon painfully rebuffs her, confessing that he’s still in love but doesn’t name Ygritte. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” Melisandre says, somehow echoing Ygritte’s catch-phrase.

Meanwhile, at Winterfell, Littlefinger finds Sansa in the catacombs and tells her he’s going to King’s Landing. As this departs from the books, I have to ask: Is he crazy? Why would he leave Sansa alone with the Bolton’s? Why would he risk Cersei’s wrath in King’s Landing (if that’s his real destination)? I’m not sure where this is leading.

But he predicts that Sansa will be Wardeness of the North, if she wants it: either Stannis will defeat the Boltons and install her in place, or she can dominate Ramsay: “You will take this Bolton boy, Ramsay, and make him yours … The North will be yours.” I hope his prediction proves true and Sansa takes charge — apart from backing up Littlefinger at the end of last season, she’s had almost no agency through the whole show.

Speaking of lacking agency, the kidnapped Tyrion has been unceremoniously dumped in the small sailboat Jorah stole (although Jorah did leave money with the guy he stole it from). Even gagged, Tyrion can out-talk anyone on the show (I think he even sings with his mouth obstructed), and Jorah removes the gag. Tyrion, from hearing Jorah’s voice and seeing his clothes, determines who he is and how he’s fallen from Dany’s favor with deductions worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Jorah’s punches him to shut him up.

Dany doesn’t do much this week, although she listens to Ser Barristan Selmy reminisce about Rhaegar Targaryen, the brother she never knew, and hears another pitch for reopening Mereen’s fighting pits.

Meanwhile, the Sons of the Harpy kill some guys in a ruse to draw out the Unsullied. Grey Worm and his cohorts are outnumbered and fight to the last, which looks to be Grey Worm himself, until Ser Barristan shows up and fights back like a knight of old. It’s a great fight scene — better than the earlier one in Dorne, honestly — and ends with a gravely wounded Grey Worm and Selmy prevailing, but collapsing. Did they die? Tune in next week.


Offstage this week: Arya and Brienne — although there was an implicit nod to the latter when Jamie’s merchant ship sailed past Tarth, Brienne’s home. Perhaps Jamie was thinking about sense of honor while he’s on his quest. Bronn even acknowledges that their on an archetypal adventure: “Two knights, off to rescue a princess — sounds like a good song to me.”

So everyone knows that Tommen and Myrcella are children of incest, right? Bronn refers to her as “your niece” with practically audible quotation marks when talking to Jamie. Bystanders call Tommen names like “abomination” when he’s confronting the Faith Militant. This plot thread might not be going away.

I like the snowflakes drifting in the courtyard at Castle Black, a sign that winter is you-know-what.

There’s a lot of talk this week about Rhaegar Targaryen. Heir to the Mad King’s throne, he kidnapped Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister, about a generation before the events of the show, launching the rebellion that deposed the Targaryens and played King Robert on the throne. There’s a big theory about him with a connection to Jon Snow and may be important later. Put in a pin that.

It occurred to me that, given that Anakin Skywalker hates sand and Indiana Jones hates snakes, George Lucas would really hate the Sand Snakes.

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