review

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Does this count as a spoiler?

Without a doubt, this was the episode that made you feel sorry for the kings. Quite a lot has happened so far this season (and we’re only four episodes in) but the story has been primarily focussed on reminding us who that character are, and why we should care – especially as the story is changing so drastically now. The previous seasons have followed a rather linear path regarding the War of the Five kings, but with that over in Season Three, Season Four became a wrap-up of the story; now, Westeros and Essos are becoming more prominent and being forced to react to the changes that have happened so far.

Oh, and boat travel – there has been a lot of that this season, but that kind of fits in with the new direction of the story.

To that end, ‘Sons of the Harpy’ introduces some new characters in the form of the Sand Snakes –  the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell. These badass characters from the books are diluted slightly, in part because their first introduction has to be very heavily steeped in exposition. We are introduced to them through Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s paramour from Season Four, who was seen in an early episode presenting her ideas for war to Prince Doran. Now, she has assembled the Sand Snakes in the desert to explain her plans to start a war behind his back.

In the books, this plan is put together over the course of several chapters, through the point of view of another daughter of Oberyn who is in line to Dornish throne, but still wants to get revenge for the death of her father. While cutting her (as they appear to have done) works for streamlining again, you’re likely to be less invested in their plan, and forcing the Sand Snakes to launch into long speeches about who they are and why they care comes across as very disjointed and strange.

On the other hand, Cersei – while not doing a lot especially – has had enough screen-time this season for her own plots to come across as interesting and intriguing. She has already done her best to sweet-talk the High Sparrow, but now she makes the play to rearm the ancient Faith Militant in the hopes of having an additional army under her command. We get a sweet scene of them then embarking on a crusade across King’s Landing doing their best to bring an end to any sinning in the city. The scene itself is scarily reminiscent of the first episode of Season Two, in which all of King Robert’s bastards were hunted down and killed in one way or another. It appears as a Pandora’s Box of sorts, and it makes you feel more than sympathetic for poor king Tommen, who’s supposed to be in charge and now forced to pick up the pieces.

On the other side of the world, we have King Stannis. Without wanting to talk about his main scene for too long (for spoilers sake), it is by far his most human he has ever appeared, and his tear-jerking scene ranks up amongst some of the best in the series history.

Jon, however, has one of the most awkward. He has done a lot so far, and in one brief scene he is “tempted” by Melisandre. Of course, she’s as subtle usual, so it just becomes a test of Jon Snow’s vows, and his love for the deceased Ygritte.

Sansa and Littlefinger have some more time together, although this episode was more Littlefinger’s than Sansa’s. The two of them talk in the Catacombs of Winterfell, and spend time discussing her aunt, Lyanna. Littlfinger discusses the story of the Tournament of Harrenhal for the first time in the series, and with the inclusion of a single comment Stannis about Ned Stark’s honour, we might be taking drastic steps towards a much loved fan theory (R+L=J). Littlefinger spends his time conspiring with Roose and Sansa, in turn, although it still isn’t clear what he’s up to.

Jaime and Bronn have some great scenes together, as they make their way into Dorne. Bronn appears very doubtful of their success, while Jaime appears hopeful but also lost in the events of the previous season. It appears that he has taken the death of his father very badly, and totally blames Tyrion. The two have great chemistry still, and the blunt comments of Bronn bounce off Jaime’s “honourable” stance on things.

On the subject of Tyrion, he continues to do his best to get one up on Jorah Mormont, his captor from the previous episode. Their scenes are tense and interesting, especially given the change from the books that Tyrion was actively seeking out Dany in the first place. Now he can do his best to openly mock Jorah for the utter stupidity of his plan, as he believes Jorah will still be executed for returning to her.

Which isn’t hard to believe, as Dany did her absolute best to throw away any remaining good will in the city. As previously mentioned, I have given up on Dany and as far as I’m concerned her cause is lost. That was before this episode, when she again takes advise from Sir Barriston about loving the people and supporting their traditions, and goes ahead and refuses to do either of those things in the very next scene.

Also, she may have gotten a great character killed, simply by brutally forcing an entire city of people to give up on their own age-old traditions, simply because she doesn’t agree with them.

In summary, this was a very mixed episode. While I’m not fuming entirely for the stupidity of Dany this time (mainly because I shut down whenever she turns to avoid getting angry), it also wasn’t utterly lighting me on fire with excitement. There was a lot to like, as there were some nice character moments which tease at more interesting things to come, but there are lengthy stages where the action is high, but the content is low.

 
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