Sunday, May 10, 2015

Game of Thrones (S5E04): "The Sons of The Harpy"

Episode 4 of Season 5 of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "The Sons of the Harpy." This episode (S5E04) continues the build up of multiple plots as we move closer and closer to the midway point of the 10-episode season and further establishes what we noted last week: the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is diverging from the books, even as we are rapidly approaching points in several characters' timelines which have not been revealed in the books that have been released so far.

I am not alone in realizing that the main theme of this episode is parenting and the influence of familial ties on individual behavior. There are numerous examples of this, starting with Jaime Lannister and Ser Bronn setting off for Dorne in a boat. "Why are we doing this?" Bronn asks. "She's my niece," says Jaime. "Your niece?" says Bronn, with a raised eyebrow. (The subtext is very obvious here, even Bronn knows that Myrcella Barratheon is Jaime's daughter, as well as his niece, but Jaime doesn't acknowledge that fact, even as he sets on a dangerous quest to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the Dornish. We see more examples of familial ties when Ser Oberyn Martell's four daughters, generaly known to book readers like myself as the "Sand Snakes." (Because Oberyn never married Ellaria Sand, her daughters and the others are all illegitimate, which is why they have the surname Sand, it's the Dornish equivalent of "Snow" in The North.) We are introduced to the Sand Snakes as they are torturing the captain of the ship that Jaime sailed into Dorne on and all of them agree to go along with Ellaria's plan to punish the Lannisters by killing Myrcella in revenge for Oberyn's horrible death in (S4E08) "The Mountain and the Viper."

Familial ties also rear their head in Margaery Tyrell's reaction to the Faith Militant capturing her brother Ser Loras for his notorious homosexuality. The depiction of Ser Loras is controversial among fans of the books because in the series they have basically made his gayness the main thing show watchers know about him while in the books it was made clear that he was gay (and in love with Renly Barratheon) but that he was also one of the best-looking men in Westeros, as well as one of the best with a sword. Neither of these latter two attributes are played up much in the show's depiction of Loras. I would not be surprised if he becomes one of the characters who while still alive in the books may be killed off this season in the show.

There were other important developments besides the focus on family and parents.
It was great to see that there was so much focus on telling the story of Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany's oldest brother) and Lyanna Stark (Catelyn's sister). Rhaegar not only comes up in the crypts of Winterfell when Sansa and Littlefinger are speaking, he also comes up when Ser Barristan is reminiscing with Dany. This tends to lead to a lot of speculation online that the producers are going to make explicit, a theory about Jon Snow's parentage. Namely, that the baby Eddard Stark brought back from the war (that grew up to be Jon Snow) was the lovechild of Rhaegar and Lyanna. This would mean that Jon has noble blood from both of his parents, not from the man whom he assumed was his father all his life. It's this noble blood that attracts Melissandre to make sexual advances which he rebuffs by saying that he is still in love with another. "You know nothing, Jon Snow" says Melissandre, eerily channeling Ygritte, Jon's former Wildling lover.

The conversation between Lord Baelish and Sansa Stark at Winterfell was a key moment in the episode, because it gave the audience the story about Rhaegar and Lyanna and it also showed how the story was viewed from the Stark side ("he raped her!") while Littlefinger just looked pensive (There are intimations that Lyanna Stark willingly ran off to be with Rhaegar, even though he was married to Elia Martell (sister to Oberyn and Doran) at the time, and her baby (who may or may not be Jon Snow) was conceived in love, not hate.

The best parts of the episode were:
  • The best line of the show was given by Ser Bronn when he said "The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and f--k, f--k and fight." Although a very close second goes to Cersei Lannister when Maester Pycelle comments that the Small Council (the powerful executive committee which basically helps the Hand of the King rule the Seven Kingdoms) is getting smaller and smaller with the departure of the Master of Coin Lord Tyrell to Braavos to negotiate with the Iron Bank and the absence of Ser Kevan Lannister. "Not small enough!" says The Queen Mother on her way out the door.
  • The speed with which Tyrion figured out exactly who had kidnapped him from the few clues lying around the boat was impressive, and highlights just how clear it is he is the smartest Lannister, by far.
  • The fight between the Sons of the Harpy and the Unsullied was very exciting, especially when we saw that Grey Worm was among the group being ambushed and became even more suspenseful when Ser Barristan joined the fray and despite being seemingly overwhelmed by superior numbers seemed to be making headway, only to take what looked like fatal blows in the end.
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  • There was quite a whiff  of sexploitation in the graphic depictions of Faith Militant's violent and vicious behavior in Littlefinger's whorehouse, especially towards the men they found there having sex with other men.
Grade: 9/10.

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