Well, Lovejoy wasn’t with us very long, was he?
Ian McShane’s much-anticipated GOT debut is over almost as soon as it begins, but he arrives with some fanfare by way of (GOT’s first ever?) cold open, playing a constantly, slightly irritatingly smiling Septon – nobody can be that happy all the time, especially in the hell on earth that is Westeros – who runs some sort of religious commune of suspiciously clean and healthy-looking extras, with very special guest the good/bad old Hound hanging around looking hangdog as ever.
Yes, having established its reputation early on as a show unafraid to kill folk off, GOT has spent this season bringing them back instead. And yes, I know we never actually saw the Hound die, and a tv death without a body isn’t a death at all, but still. If GOT were as brave as it wants to be, the Hound would’ve died on that hillside where Arya left him, so I guess it’s not. Which means that no matter how bad Arya’s injuries are this week, she’ll be fine for this season at least; there’s a very good chance that Lady Stoneheart may appear after all; and who knows, Dead Septon Lovejoy might well pop back to life of a sort too, if the writers are in the mood.
We shall see.
Meantime, as the Hound – his perpetual bad mood not in any way improved by yet another narrow escape from death – and his axe head off across the countryside, Margaery is treading very carefully around a religious leader of very different style. The High Sparrow smiles too much as well, but the menace underlying every word is palpable: “I only pray your grandmother follows your lead….you must teach her the new way as she taught you the old or I fear for her safety. Body and soul.”
It’s been some time since we saw the real Margaery, but that quick, unmistakeable flash in her eyes and the Tyrell Rose she presses into her grandmother’s hand tell us the real Margaery is still in there, still brilliant, and, oh thank heaven, still playing to win. Never mind the blinkered Daenerys, absent from this week’s episode, and entirely unmissed, or the increasingly desperate Cersei, reduced to rubble by the imperious, magnificent Olenna; Margaery is a queen I can root for, and both Natalie Dormer and Diana Rigg’s performances are wonderful.
Of course, the delicately-plotted politics of Kings Landing are miles away, both in nature and geography, from Jon and Sansa’s more inelegant attempts to gather up support in the North. Great-uncle Brynden – a canny, indomitable old soldier Olenna would get on famously with – makes quick work of both the Freys’ callow threats and Jaime’s more considered attempts to resolve the siege at Riverrun, but Jon and Sansa aren’t quite as formidable or as clever as the Blackfish, as yet, bless them. Their blundering efforts to butter up the joyously tiny and blunt Lady Mormont are both funny and endearing – Jon’s desperate expression when he turns to Sansa, all “what do we say now?” is adorable – and while Davos’s earnest, empathetic way with young Princesses (poor Shireen) gets them out of that particular jam, House Glover isn’t so easily swayed. Tormund and the Giant keeping the Wildlings on board is great, but, in an episode all about getting ready for the big fight, both Sansa and I think we need more troops. Getting involved with Littlefinger again to get them, though? Oh, Sansa. Trusting Baelish didn’t work out for your dad, it didn’t work out for your mum, and it didn’t work out for you last time you tried it, either. Let’s hope Brienne and her sword come back soon; you’re going to need them.