*BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD*
Any writer worth his salt will attest to the fact that exposition is a careful art. This week, Game of Thrones in its episode ‘The Sons of the Harpy,’ goes back to its expository roots of Season 1, and yet most of it is never too heavy-handed but instead, serves to further the context and the world in which these fascinating characters reside.
And although this week’s episode provided more thrills and surprises than any this season, it was the exposition that provided for an exciting foreshadowing for what may be a confirmation of a popular fan theory.
R+L = J ?
Rhaegar Targaryen has been an enigmatic figure in the books, as well as on the show. Whereas in the books, he remains a figure of polarizing opinions, Game of Thrones has chosen to keep the former prince of Dragonstone painted in the ink of Robert Baratheon’s fiery reproaches. It is therefore very surprising and palpably exciting to see Rhaegar’s name coming up quite a lot in this week’s episode.
Up in the north, Sansa finds herself getting a lesson in history as Littlefinger, her creepy/sneaky father/companion figure recants the infamous tourney at Harrenhall when she visits the crypts under Winterfell (I so wanted a flashback of the tourney), a tourney that started a war that killed tens of thousands across Westeros.
Across the Narrow Sea, we have Ser Barristen Selmy *sob* reminiscing about Rheagar and his harp, about how he would sing beautifully from the ruins of Summerhall to the markets of Flea Bottom.
And finally, the clincher from Stannis Baratheon, the one true king of Westeros who remarks that bedding a tavern wench was not Ned Stark’s way, as he looks on at Jon Snow training new recruits. That, and well Melisandre saying that there is power in Snow’s blood.
R+L=J has always been the most compelling, and strongest fan theory in A Song of Ice and Fire. And considering the fact that Martin has commented that fans are often right about their theories, it would seem that there is some truth in this theory, which is why the producers are going ahead with it, measuredly, if not explicitly. That said however, I fail to see how the whole picture will be revealed, to us and to Jon Snow, most of all.
This, because if that is so, there remains no one in Westeros to tell Snow the truth about his birth, not unless they somehow get Howland Reed into the picture, as he was the only survivor along with Ned Stark when they laid siege to the Tower of Joy where Lyanna was held captive by Rhaegar (Promise me, Ned!).
Or, it could all be a bluff, a red herring to turn our attention away from what is actually about to happen. Snow may or may not be the lovechild of Lyanna and Rhaegar but, either way I’m pretty stoked about the path the show is taking, even though it will potentially spoil the books.
I admit I wasn’t too encouraged by the arrival of Stannis at the wall, primarily because ever since the events of Blackwater, all he did was mope around for not having many friends or money (After what he does to his friends, can anyone be blamed?). But, ever since his recue act, Stannis and even Jon Snow, have had a lot to do every episode which makes for quite an interesting viewing. And although he didn’t have much to do in terms of plot, his small scene with his daughter, Shireen revealed for a fraction of a minute, the father beneath that hard shell of a military commander.
Speaking of Snow, it is understandable that he’s at odds with his vows and his duties as Lord Commander as he grudging requests for reinforcements from Roose Bolton. What is not understandable is why in seven hells would Melisandre try to seduce Jon Snow. Still, to see Snow’s face pale after Melisandre echoing Ygritte was quite a hoot and kudos to him for resisting. The Lord of Light knows that no good comes from bedding the Red Priestess from Asshai (Remember Gendry?)
Surprisingly, this for me was the most problematic scenery this week. Yes, Cersei did arm the Faith Militant and yes, the Sparrow going all berserk was great to watch on screen (Especially Ser Loras’s arrest scene), but unlike in the books, there is no proper reasoning or introduction as to why Cersei did so. Which is why, the entire anarchy of the Faith Militant seems very rushed, and even forced.
And although this week ensured us of more fireworks to come between the Queen Mother and Margery (Plus, the potential appearance of Lady Olenna next week), it was still a bit of a lit-down.
I remember a time when non-book readers would wonder why Ser Jaime was one of the favourite characters of many A Song of Ice and Fire readers. Thankfully, the show has done a brilliant job of portraying the flawed honour of a man that Jamie is. His journey to Dorne is more than just a rescue act, but is instead above all, a shot at redemption, an attempt at redeeming himself after he condemned his own father to die the moment he released his brother. Considering that in the books, Jamie and Bronn never travel to Dorne, the show is doing a great job in setting up Jamie’s storyline, although I pray dearly that he doesn’t go the way of Arys Oakheart.
Close by, it would seem that the show has chosen Ellaria Sand to be the screen version of Arianne Martell (An unforgivable omission) to seek revenge for the death of Oberyn, by using Myrcella as bait. ‘It doesn’t take an army to start a war,’ she says, which is true of course, and considering the fact that she has three of the Sand Snakes, Obara, Nymeria and Tyene for company, it would seem you would only need three. That said however, the introduction of the Sand Snakes was, shall I say, too filmi for my taste.
The guerrilla war between Dany and the Sons of the Harpy heats up this week as the Unsullied, the finest soldiers in the world find themselves besieged by a multitude of Harpies in the streets of Meereen. And although it serves the best action sequence of the season yet, the biggest moment of the episode and shall I say the biggest surprise (for book readers and non-book readers alike) was the death of Ser Barristen the Bold. Yes, the episode did end on a cliffhanger , but considering the preview of next week’s episode, the sun has set on his gallant life. Also, I find it hard to understand why soldiers as good as the Unsullied are butchered by these militants like pigs, even as they are outnumbered. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that they are trained for open warfare and not, for policing a city.
This week served up some nice battle sequences in Meereen and in Dorne, where Jaime finally found his golden hand to be worth rejoicing about. No Arya, Brienne, Theon or Boltons this week and although, Tyrion and Jorah did make an appearance (Their verbal volleys quite charming, I daresay), their scene was hardly consequential.
Game of Thrones keeps up the good work this week. And yes, as many are already complaining, the pace this time around is slow, perhaps even deliberately (I mean, c’mon. How can anyone top Joffrey’s death and Tyrion’s arrest last season?). But personally, I think there is a big payoff coming towards the latter end of the season. And I can’t wait for it to come sooner.
Until next week, Hodor!