Sadists, cat-fights, religious zealots. Fun for all the family with this week's installment of Game of Thrones.
By the end of this week’s episode (titled High Sparrow), we have finally caught up with all of the characters who, somewhat miraculously, survived the fourth season, though there are still a few new characters left to meet. The episode also sees the start of a major deviation from the books, and potentially the show’s first peek at storylines beyond those published by George R.R. Martin.
We start with Arya (Maisie Williams), who has been allowed entry into the House of Black and White and is now trying to become a Faceless Man. We get to see some fantastically coarse language from the young Stark girl, before a touching scene where she faces a dilemma about leaving her past life behind. The Arya sections of this week’s episode really sum her up as a character: full of hot air and bravado, but at her core a very sweet, poignant character, who is essentially just a lost little girl.
In King’s Landing, the relationship between Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and King Tommen (Dean Charles-Chapman) develops, in a manner that is perhaps a little uncomfortable to really think about (he’s, like, 14, and she’s . . . eww). Cersei (Lena Heady), meanwhile, is starting to lose her grip on her son and the power that he brings, quickly being usurped by her younger, Tyrell competitor. Their interaction, incidentally, provided this week’s best line (it seems unfair to give them all to Tyrion and Varys), as their rivalry grows fiercer.
A new character is introduced this week, with seasoned British actor Jonathan Pryce stepping into the mad, dangerous world of Westerosi politics as the High Sparrow, the leader of a group of religious fanatics, who have already started administering their own brand of justice on those deemed to be sinners. Somehow, King’s Landing has become an even more deadly place. Pryce does well, bringing a mixture of humility and unwavering righteousness to create a character who will without doubt play an important part through the rest of the season.
In the north, at the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) settles in as the new Lord Commander, not necessarily doing much in terms of plot advancement, but definitely providing the most gratifying scene of the episode. Just a little bit south of the Wall, resident Westerosi psychopath Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) sets up shop at Winterfell, terrifying the local populace and mutilating some people, while preparing for a shocking, horrifying plot development.
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Pod (Daniel Portman) continue their pursuit of Sansa (Sophie Turner), with Pod’s dorky-cuteness reaching previously unimagined heights. This week also sees Gwendoline Christie’s turn at the powerful monologue, and she does well, really selling her character’s pain and painting a quite moving picture.
Finally, we get more of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), who, as well as having more top-notch dialogue, actually get to do things this episode, arriving in the city of Volantis. They go to a brothel (oh, HBO), we meet a surprise character, some spoilery things happen and we get a nice cliff-hanger to end the episode. As always with Game of Thrones, most of the characters don’t really do much, with various storylines needing careful set-up, and none of them ever getting huge amounts of screen-time. Nonetheless, the show provides a nice balance of largely pointless but thoroughly engaging dialogue, and just enough action per episode to keep tensions up and the story moving. Roll on next week.
Game of Thrones is broadcast on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm