Game of Thrones 5.4: “Sons of the Harpy” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Game of Thrones, including a minor character death, are present in this review


Given the subject of its title, it’s inevitable that this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “Sons of the Harpy”, would be spilling some blood. This was a particularly violent episode for most sides of the conflict this week, off-set by some rather shadowy decisions that some of the Starks had to make.

Fortunately, the episode also allowed us to catch up with some characters that were absent last week, namely Jaime and Daenerys. It also gave us an unusually emotional scene with Stannis, who had his most poignant interaction with his daughter yet at The Wall this week. Granted, “Sons of the Harpy” didn’t quite stand with the past couple of weeks’ episodes, but it still had plenty of good things to offer.

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Naturally, despite her lack of actual power, Cersei is still managing to stir up plenty of trouble this week, begging the question of why Tommen and Margaery still haven’t booted her ass back to Casterly Rock. Cersei hatches a plot with the High Sparrow to enact a new die-hard religious order in King’s Landing, sending Mace Tyrell away on a convenient excuse to settle royal debts in Braavos, so that he’s unaware of the arrest of Loras Tyrell for his homosexuality being an affront to the gods, an act that naturally enrages Margaery. Tommen is completely unaware of the situation, and confronts his mother about it when Margaery gets in his face about her brother’s arrest, but even then, Tommen still doesn’t seem to solve anything.

Look, Tommen’s a far better king than the late, thoroughly un-great Joffrey ever was, if for no other reason than he’s not a comically overblown asshole. It’s becoming evident that he’s no more competent a ruler however, since he has the opposite problem; He’s a complete pansy. This is particularly evident when Cersei turns his heritage against him, with the new Faith Militant antagonizing him as both a bastard and a product of incest. Ok, he is that, but Tommen not having the stomach to order his army to behead these jerks where they stood felt like a face-palming moment, as was the point where he slinks back to Margaery, and says that he can’t free Loras without violence, so Loras has to stay in prison for now. Cue facepalm. Yes, it’s no doubt an intentional facepalm moment, but it begs the question of why the Iron Throne is all that respected in King’s Landing, since whoever sits on it seems routinely unfit to lead for one reason or another. It appears that anyone who claims the throne would be an improvement over the dunder-headed Lannister children!

Still, this makes for some more intriguing scheming by Cersei, even if she’s begging to be drawn and quartered the second that someone alert and confident gets power in King’s Landing. It’s only a matter of time.

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At least another Lannister got better material, as Jaime and Bronn manage to make it to Dorne. Speaking of, Dorne has finally become part of the show’s intro sequence as of this episode, which is satisfying to see, even if it doesn’t seem to address the specific city, and just the region. Oh well. Anyway, Jaime and Bronn get in a pretty brutal (and cool!) fight with some Dornish guards, and Jaime finally gives some insight into his secret motives. Apparently, he feels guilty about his part in his father’s death, and wants to redeem himself by taking back Myrcella, without starting a war with Dorne, as sending an army would spark.

Despite Jaime’s efforts to be covert however, he’s quickly found out by the Sand Snakes, the bastard daughters of the late Oberyn Martell. Ellaria visits the trio, seeking their help when the crown prince would do nothing about his brother’s death in the fight against The Mountain last season. After violently killing the ship captain that spilled the beans about Jaime, the women stand ready for a fight. It’s too bad that this awesome scene wasn’t longer, but it looks like we’ll be getting some great material with the Sand Snakes and Ellaria over the next several weeks!

Over with the Starks, Sansa got more great material this week, as Littlefinger reveals more of his plan, after some background on Sansa’s barely-mentioned aunt, who hasn’t really been brought up since Season One. Apparently, Rhaegar Targaryen allegedly kidnapped and raped Sansa’s aunt, after leaving his own wife, which is interesting, since Rhaegar is talked about as a kindly minstrel who abhorred violence to Daenerys later in the episode. Clearly, something is fishy about the death of Sansa’s aunt.

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Still, Littlefinger’s plot is actually kind of ingenious, and made for a great reveal. Littlefinger has deduced that, since Stannis is at The Wall and moving to take the North, he will overwhelm the Boltons without much trouble, and will see no issue with appointing Sansa as Wardeness of the North. It makes sense, especially since Stannis already extended the offer to put Jon Snow in charge of Winterfell. It seems like a pretty clear-cut plan all around, though given this series, it’s bound to put Sansa in a tight spot in some other way, especially if Ramsey gets wind of what’s going on.

As for Jon, he gets propositioned by Melisandre, and almost appears ready to capitulate! Thankfully, Jon resists the Woman in Red, telling her that he still loves the dead Ygritte. That’s probably good, since it prevents another bloodthirsty demon spawn from erupting at The Wall. Still, Melisandre’s cryptic echo of Ygritte’s catchphrase, “You know nothing, Jon Snow” certainly felt suspicious. Jon notices the uncanny mention of the phrase too. Does this mean that Melisandre can contact the spirit of Ygritte somehow? Has she already? Will this be the knife to twist in getting dominion over Jon, and thus, The Wall? One thing is for sure, the Jon material, once again, stood among the best story elements of this week’s episode!

In fact, The Wall in general continues to shine, with Stannis also recounting to Shireen about how he saved her life from Greyscale, rather than letting her die, or sending her off to be with the Stone Men. Stannis saved Shireen because she is his daughter, and the rightful princess, and thus, there’s no way that he could be ashamed of her appearance. This is probably the most sympathetic that we’ve seen Stannis, and it made for an emotional highlight in what was largely an especially violent offering for Game of Thrones this week.

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Lastly, we get some interesting scenes in Essos, though Daenerys gets a bit more screentime. Sure enough though, Jorah is attempting to take Tyrion to meet Daenerys, though not necessarily under good circumstances. Apparently, Tyrion is to be offered as a gift, which will hopefully restore Daenerys’ favour of Jorah, though as Tyrion points out, the plan is likely to backfire, and have the opposite effect. Once again, The Imp seems to have supernatural luck, though one has to wonder what Varys is doing after noticing that Tyrion has been snatched out of a brothel, with Varys conspicuously sitting out this week’s episode.

As for Daenerys, she’s once again pestered about re-opening the fighting pits, but this seemed like small potatoes compared to the other events in Meereen. The Sons of the Harpy enact a violent attack on the Unsullied, leading Grey Worm’s platoon into an ambush. This ends the episode on an especially violent bloodbath, with an awesome action sequence unfolding that sees Grey Worm cutting down a bunch of the resistance members, even after taking a knife in the side. Barristan even jumps into the fray, ultimately sacrificing himself to give Grey Worm a fighting chance. Grey Worm appears to be the last man standing, collapsing alongside the dead Barristan, right as the episode ends. Something tells me that Barristan’s death will be the least infuriating death this season too…

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“Sons of the Harpy” didn’t ultimately feature its title subjects until the very end, which makes this episode’s title feel a tad odd, but they are responsible for a pretty pressing cliffhanger at the end of the episode. The story material felt a little more rushed and jumbled this week overall, not flowing quite as well as it did in the past couple of episodes, though there were still some really great character moments, along with a healthier helping of awesome, brutal action. Dorne’s increasing bearing on the series is also cause for excitement, with Oberyn’s death looking like it’s going to be answered for in a big way real soon.

Game of Thrones felt a bit rushed in some places this week, but it nonetheless featured some great character moments, and plenty of enjoyably brutal action, particularly as Dorne's bearing on the series continues to increase.
Standout scenes at The Wall yet again
Badass introduction to the Sand Snakes
Plenty of satisfying, violent action
Some scenes felt a bit rushed
Tommen needs to grow a spine