"Game of Thrones" Season 5, episode 3, "High Sparrow," was a tidy affair. Dorne, Jaime Lannister and Daenerys sat out the episode, leading to a really strong and focused hour. "High Sparrow" had death looming as a theme and as a reality as many characters had to confront the past while facing the future.
Warning: "Game of Thrones" Season 5 spoilers ahead.
Many Faces of Death
We get a glimpse inside the House of Black and White and Arya's first days as an apprentice in "High Sparrow." She's not pleased about having to sweep up the temple, but there's always a lesson to be learned when it comes to completing mundane tasks. Arya wants to fast-forward to the part where she's in the same position as Jaqen H'ghar, putting on faces and serving up death in a cup or with Needle. All of that needs to wait until she understands what it means to dedicate one's life to death. The headquarters of the Faceless Men feature the many incarnations of death in Westeros and Arya needs to get rid of her past to become "no one."
Arya finally gets a change of clothes after a quick Game of Faces. Arya always has to learn the hard way, but it looks she's finally getting somewhere in her apprenticeship now that her clothes and stolen money are at the bottom of the sea. She can't quite give up Needle just yet, but at least she's washing dead bodies now.
A Very Westeros Wedding
Compared to the Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding, the marriage ceremony for King Tommen and Queen Margaery was quite subdued. Margaery plays the role of queen well and it's great to see how each question and response is measured to gain Tommen's trust and shape his thoughts. Tommen is still very young and impulsive, childlike and trusting no matter whether it's Cersei or Margaery.
Cersei only cares about her children and that's especially true for the only child she has left at King's Landing. Sure, she wishes death upon Dorne if Myrcella is hurt, but her daughter is far away and the situation is out of her control. When Tommen suggests his mother return to the Lannister home in Casterly Rock, Cersei is quick to recognize the game that's being played with her son. Tommen is caught between two very powerful players.
"Game of Thrones" has always been really good at creating small moments between characters that represent the entire complexity of Westeros with just a few words. Whether it's Sansa and Littlefinger, Pod and Brienne, Jon Snow and Stannis, Ramsay Bolton and Reek or Arya and the Hound, these pairings are all fascinating to watch. Margaery and Cersei may be the best pairing yet -- although Tyrion and Varys are right up there -- as the two play a King's Landing-size game of the chess. That embrace was chilly and Margaery's jab about the wine was fantastic.
Cersei is slowly unraveling, and Margaery continues to jab and prod at her pride when discussing Tommen's enthusiasm in the bedroom and the possibility of grandchildren. The last thing Cersei needs to be reminded of is her fleeting youth.
While Cersei tangles with Margaery, she may be selling the Sparrows short. After the High Septon gets caught in the brothel -- playing a very naughty game of the Faith of the Sevens -- the Sparrows drags him out naked and publicly shames him. Cersei's amused by this and thinks she can gain a powerful ally by making the High Sparrow the new High Septon. It's a bit short-sighted and likely to backfire.
At least Qyburn is having a great time at King's Landing. His experiments are going well, if a little bit Frankenstein in nature.
A Very Unexpected Wedding
Welcome House Bolton to "Game of Thrones" Season 5. Everyone's favorite flaying family has returned and it's as psychotic and vicious as ever. Reek/Theon is positively broken as he continues to serve Ramsay. Roose remains in charge and shares some fatherly advice with his now legitimate son. He and Ramsay are talking about strategy and maybe the best way to go about things is not killing and peeling the skin off of their enemies? Shocking, I know, but sometimes that's a lesson that needs to be learned on this show.
While Roose talks about being the Warden of the North and holding on to everything they gained, it becomes apparent what it takes to keep the North. The Starks will never be forgotten and we quickly learn Littlefinger and Roose have entered into a marriage proposal for Sansa and Ramsay.
The scene where Littlefinger delivers the news of her marriage to the Boltons -- the family that betrayed her family and killed her brother -- is pure agony. Sansa has grown up considerably and is no longer a passive player on "Game of Thrones." She soon recognizes what needs to be done. Would Littlefinger want to give up such a powerful piece in his quest for power? Based on their conversation, there's always more to his schemes and it's easy to see how he is playing up the threat of the Boltons to push his own agenda. That last line about avenging them and his smirk as they ride to Moat Cailin tells viewers all they need to know about the marriage.
Sansa meets the Boltons! This is a huge departure from George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. In the novels, Ramsay is married to a fake "Arya," but Sansa is very much the real deal.
Brienne and Pod are hot on their heels and she serves as a great foil to Sansa. Brienne comes from a noble family and is the heir to House Tarth. She could have lived a life very similar to Sansa's, except for the fact that she was tall, strong and wanted to be a knight. The story of the ball was devastating, and her larger goal to avenge Renly and kill Stannis is a great parallel to Sansa's own motivations.
Pod's optimism can win anyone over, even Brienne. Maybe he'll never become Ser Pod, but becoming a great fighter like Brienne isn't a bad alternative.
The Stannis-Snow Show
Stannis sees something in Jon, but he has an interesting way of showing his affections. Stannis does have a legitimate claim to the Iron Throne and he would probably have an easier path to claiming his title if he was just a little nicer. Luckily he has Ser Davos and Melisandre at his side to help guide his cause. While Stannis is terrible, everyone hates the Boltons.
Jon is a funny Lord Commander, mixing in some comedy along with some bad news. Ser Allister Thorne is named First Ranger, which keeps one of Jon's enemies close. Janos Slynt does not take his placement well, and his disobedience costs him his head.
Unfortunate Turn For Tyrion
Tyrion finally gets to stretch his legs in Volantis, but even a trip to the brothel can't lift his spirits. We all are well aware of how much Tyrion can enjoy himself in such a place, and an uncharasteric moment for him leads to his capture. As Tyrion is busy figuring out why he's not excited about the brothel, Jorah has been watching him and waiting for the right moment.
Tyrion will meet Daenerys, but it won't be with Varys. I'm disappointed the Tyrion-Varys pairing has been split up since the characters delivered such great banter.
"Game of Thrones" And A "ASOIAF" Discussion
-- The series continues to make some dramatic departures from Martin's novels. Sansa was never anywhere near the Boltons in "ASOIAF" and I doubt this marriage lasts long. A battle is looming and it looks like the Boltons will be getting attacked from within and the North. Roose is also an adept manipulator and Littlefinger's gambit may backfire.
-- After a few detours, Tyrion and Jorah meet in Volantis. It looked like the series would quickly pave the way for Tyrion and Varys to meet Daenerys, but nothing is easy on "Game of Thrones." I don't think the show will dwell too much on Tyrion getting captured and the storyline will remain streamlined. Penny is unlikely to appear, and "Game of Thrones" will present a condensed version of the duo getting caught and sold into slavery before reaching Meereen.