The difficulty with having so many storylines and so many characters in one TV show – even one as adept at balancing and intertwining them all as Game of Thrones – is that certain episodes will focus on the ones that aren’t your favourites. Y’know, the ones which either depress or enrage you, depending on whether they involve Arya and her quest for namelessness or that psychopath Bolton and his quest to torture both everyone he comes across and the entire viewing audience. “High Sparrow,” spending as it did so much time on both these threads, was never going to be my favorite episode as a result.
As I said last week, I’ve lost interest in Arya’s story completely and this week’s visit to the House of Black and White – or perhaps more accurately the House of Grey, given the lighting and palette used throughout these scenes – does nothing to change that, proving as it does even more dull and annoying than last week’s.
Arya sweeps the floor in some endless lesson about…. something. Don’t care. Jaqen H’ghar, gives a man some water in a very intense fashion. Is the water special or is Jaqen H’ghar just very intense? Don’t care. Arya and an exceptionally hostile young female wash bodies. Who are these bodies? Why are they there? Don’t care. At all.
The only part of this sub-plot – which takes up an inordinate amount of screen time given that nothing actually happens – which I liked was Arya hiding Needle because she can’t bear to give up this one last piece of both her father and herself. Maisie Williams, bless her, sells the hell out of that moment, breathing much-needed life and feeling into a storyline which seems determined to suck it out of her character entirely.
But at least Arya is among “friends” in Braavos – “friends” who talk in riddles and make her sweep floors and give up all her meagre possessions, but still, “friends” – unlike Sansa who, after narrowly escaping marriage to Evil Joffrey and briefly lucking out with marriage to Tyrion, is now to be wed to Ramsay “Flayin’ Alive” Bolton, because Dear GOD she’s had all of 5 minutes without being promised to some homicidal lunatic who helped kill her family, and we can’t have that, can we?
I have never despised Baelish more than in that moment when he manipulates her into thinking this is a good idea. I’d love to think Sansa will “avenge” her family, but a) that would be too good an outcome so it won’t happen and b) at what horrific cost?
Sigh. At least there’s some hope, I suppose. I mean, “the North Remembers” so maybe the servants will help her destroy the Boltons. Or maybe Brienne and Pod – whose scene on the hills above Moat Caillin is genuinely lovely and poignant – will provide the necessary assistance. Or maybe Stannis will roll on in – after all, he said he’ll be marching on Winterfell within the fortnight – and burn Ramsay at the stake. Any or all of the above would do me, but we shall see.
Speaking of Stannis, meanwhile, despite his best efforts it looks like he’ll be marching without Jon Snow. He does seem impressed with the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch – the scene where they discuss the future is wryly amusing (the non-plussed look on Stannis’s face when Jon tells him about his new steward Olly is very, very funny) but, as Daavos points out, Stannis sees something in Jon. And, after one of them has the temerity to challenge one of their new boss’s orders, so do Jon’s Brothers.
Only on GOT is summary beheading a sign of strong leadership, but as demonstrated by Jon’s father and brother before him, it does seem to be the Stark way. Like Daenerys last week, however, I don’t think Jon actually needed to go through with it, but either way, he’s definitely in charge now and I’m intrigued as to how he will use that power.
I doubt he’ll have as much fun doing it as Margaery is, though. Her magnificent manipulation of Tommen, her delightfully malicious swipes at Cersei – in Kings Landing scenes as sunny and delicious as the Braavos scenes are gloomy and dim or the Moat Caillin scenes bleak and depressing; the new Queen may not be entirely benevolent but she’s still the brightest spot in the episode. Although the High Sparrow himself is kind of fun too. And Tyrion and Varys also get in a few good lines each. Och, I liked a lot of things about this ep. But, like I said – it was never going to be my favourite.