There is no justice in this world. Not unless we make it.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Mark Mylod
Game of Thrones is a show that doesn't take any drastic measures to convince you that someone is not a villain and can never be a villain. While some villains like Cersei and Joffrey are portrayed as such from the get-go, other villains start off as well-meaning, only to commit some treacherous act and therefore pit themselves among the ranks of the show's most hated characters. After they force the High Septon to walk naked through the streets, the newly emerged Sparrows appear to be walking down the path to villainy, coming off as overzealous religious folk who take their beliefs way too far. Then again, who, if anyone, in King's Landing are we supposed to cheer on right now as heroic? Jaime? Tommen? Margaery? The point being is that although there are a series of bad characters whom we'd love to see get killed in the most gruesome, satanic way possible, a lot of the magic that makes Game of Thrones thrive is the gray matter that makes up nearly all the characters, both heroic and villainous. In the case of "High Sparrow", we get a solid taste of how the most well-meaning characters are capable of speaking and acting in ways that we're not fully used to seeing.
This is most true with Jon, who steals the show by pounding his fist of judgement and taking advantage of some of the new privileges he has as Lord Commander by beheading Janos Slynt. Remember earlier when Jon was somewhat of a coward when it came to showing no mercy and killing someone? If this was the Jon from seasons one and two, the Jon that spared Ygritte when he probably should have executed her, he likely would have spared Janos and been seen as a foolish Commander. Jon knows he can't screw this up, and there is little to no hesitation when it comes to bringing down the sword. The great thing is that this is a game-changing moment for Jon and how he approaches situations: instead of always acting like Ned, Catelyn, and Robb by showing the enemy mercy and taking them prisoner, Jon proves he has developed the guts to go the extra mile and get his hands dirty. Granted, Robb Stark killing Karstark back in season sort of mirrors what Jon just did to Janos Slynt, but unlike Robb, Jon isn't fighting a war, er, well, a war that's like the one that Robb participated in. If Jon ever hopes to be a successful Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, he's going to have to show he's willing to be vicious when the situation calls for it.
Someone else who wants to be vicious is Arya, who is still learning the ropes of how to be a Faceless Man/No One. Arya is approached by a woman known as the Waif (Faye Marsay), and she starts asking Arya who she is. When Arya doesn't give a good enough answer, the Waif starts hitting her. There's one word of dialogue in this scene that I thought fit very well with the overarching theme of this episode: Arya calling the Waif a c*nt. Okay, so Arya has never been afraid to insult others and pick a fight, but I don't believe she has ever given such a vulgar remark towards anyone, especially someone she has just met. Arya is virtually powerless at the moment, and yet, she's unwilling to look weak and vulnerable. As Arya starts to progress her way towards becoming a faceless assassin, she is fully ridding herself of everything her family tried to instill in her: values like honor and duty. That stuff is all a bunch of bullshit to Arya now. Even in a place where she could be killed at any moment, Arya refuses to take crap from anybody.
The same can't be said for Sansa, who has been taking crap since day one and is still taking crap from everyone around her. Her and Petyr Baelish arrive in Winterfell, where they are greeted by the Boltons. No one on planet Earth believes Ramsay when he acts all hospitable towards Sansa; when she marries Ramsay, we know she would be better off trying to fight the Army of the Dead with her bare hands. This is also a scene in which we are given our first taste of a problem that would plague Game of Thrones in later seasons: characters moving at lightning speed. Cersei finds out that Petyr Baelish has arrived in Winterfell, and she has Qyburn send a message to him to summon him to King's Landing. When we cut to Winterfell not long afterwards, Roose Bolton gives Cersei's message to Baelish. The raven that delivered the message must have been some kind of jet engine. If Baelish got the message next episode, I don't think anyone would mind it too much, but this fast? We're really testing the logic on this one.
Finally, let me wrap up this review by letting you all know that I did not forget about Tyrion and Varys. They've been on the road and haven't been up to much the previous two episodes, but their journey to Meereen takes a bit of a twist when Jorah Mormont resurfaces in a brothel and kidnaps Tyrion. There's no doubting that Jorah will remain forever loyal to Daenerys, although has there been any clues that he knows he is kidnapping Tyrion Lannister? Whatever, that's a tiny nitpick and doesn't really matter. The point is that Jorah is desperate to win back Daenerys' approval, and this little twist makes all the sense in the world. That wouldn't have been too exciting had Tyrion and Varys just wandered into Meereen and request to see Daenerys. It's a great way to bring Jorah Mormont back into the picture, because that would have been highly disappointing had he just ridden off and never reappeared. By the way, I wonder how Gendry is doing with all his rowing?
So showing us some characters in different lights is what works best in "High Sparrow", although it's not a perfect episode by any stretch of the imagination. Petyr Baelish getting his message at lightning speed ought to raise some eyebrows, and there are some other parts that are a little dull, such as the conversation between Brienne and Podrick about how they came to serve Tyrion and Renly, respectively. But Jon has one of his best moments in a long while with the beheading of Janos Slynt, and Arya shows us more of her growth towards becoming "No One", completely turning away from all the core values and beliefs that her family cherishes. It's the kind of prolonged character development that television can take advantage of, yet movies are unable to. What fun is it if a character stays exactly the same over a long period of time?
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