The clear narrative strand running through the fifth season of HBO’s fantasy epic is that of power. We have seen it shift dramatically through individual characters, and even through families, but now the emphasis is upon something much greater; nations.
The Title: ‘The Sons of the Harpy’
What Does It Mean?
Our introduction to the aforementioned group came earlier this season and it is extremely apparent that they intend to cause Daenerys some serious issues in Meereen. Fewer rulers in David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ show are straddling a finer line than Khalessi at current; she is dealing with large hostility in her kingdom as the local residents – the people she freed from slavery – begin to resent her decisions, plus these masked extremists most certainly have an agenda which is placing not only her control in jeopardy, but also her army.
Keen to see some sort of order cemented, Hizdhar zo Loraq continues to petition Dany and asks her to reconsider her choice to close the fighting pits.
As he proclaimed in the first episode, these battle zones are an integral part of Meereen’s culture and by denying the freefolk such a right is to dishonour their nation outright. It also enables the chance for commoners to have a moment’s glory which could be beneficial to her as victors can become keen to partake in warring of a wider kind. Meanwhile, the Sons of the Harpy are scheming a ruthless and calculated plan and they gather en masse to storm the city’s streets.
Most Shocking Moment:
Thus far, all four episodes of Season 5 have concluded with a thunderclap; a moment leaving the spectator stunned and desperate for the forthcoming week to hurry up, but tonight’s encounter closed on a truly crowning – and indeed nail-biting – cliffhanger which leaves two critical fates hanging in the balance.
The titular group kickstart a murderous rampage through the narrow, cobbled streets of the city; infiltrating the Second Sons and leaving their blood-sodden bodies out for the crows. Their killing is not a mindless act of terror, rather a sinister trap for Dany’s most faithful allies; the Unsullied.
Clearly the Sons of the Harpy’s biggest obstacle to overthrow Khalessi’s reign is her noble and highly obedient army (bar the singular soldier who met his maker after killing the imprisoned masked man if you recall…) and in order for them to be eliminated, they must be isolated.
After being cruelling tricked by a seemingly mourning widow, Grey Worm and his armoured brothers storm a slight alleyway and quickly realise they have marched straight into an ambush.
A truly rousing fight commences; blades are wielded, spears are spun and daggers are plunged. The body count becomes unrecordable as battle rages on – it’s actually the longest fight sequences in Game of Thrones since the show returned – and a large percentage of those fallen are indeed Dany’s men. Hearing the clattering of swords and ear-piercing wails of agony, Barristan Selmy; one of the truest voices of wisdom upon the Queen’s small council, reaches for his iron and charges into the warzone.
He and Grey Worm do a fine job of eliminating some of the Sons but both take fateful damage; the most decorated swordsman in the land takes down a good dozen but even he cannot defy the number of swords swinging in his direction. The episode closes with a mountain of claret-stained bodies filling the tiny alleyway, with two of them being key players in the Mother of Dragon’s campaign to take the Iron Throne.
Suspicions say that one of them will survive the ordeal, but this looks set to be the first major departure from George R.R. Martin’s source material – something the showrunners wholeheartedly promised – meaning Dany’s story arc and indeed the remainder of the season journeys across truly uncharted waters.
Those in King’s Landing have a more venomous snake than those from Dorne to worry about right now. Slithering through the plush gardens, across the King’s quarters and into the family’s fractured heart is the angelic-faced Queen Margaery. After belittling her new Queen Mother Cersei following her wed to King Tommen, she is now deeply engaged in her plan to shatter the Capital from the inside.
The Sparrows – now seemingly at an alliance with Cersei – burst through the city snatching ‘sinners’ from “Littlefinger”s brothel and other areas of debauchery, but their end game is Loras Tyrell who is arrested during a combat lesson. Clearly enraged that her beloved brother has been thrown in the dungeons, Margaery bursts in on her King and begins a bitter spew about his mother and her wicked ways; exclaiming that she should already be in Casterly Rock.
Fewer people in Westeros are more manipulative than Cersei herself, but the new Queen is quickly catching her up and knows exactly what needs to be done in order to have the city for herself: control the innocently minded ruler; someone so uncontrollably out of his depth.
Ordering him to have Loras freed, Tommen charges in on Cersei who with a sly smirk informs him to speak with the High Sparrow – he is the King of the Seven after all and Mummy can’t fight his battles. However when faced with hostile Sparrow brothers who refuse to disturb their leader as he prays, the King cannot agree to violence in order to get what he – well, his wife – desires. Upon hearing this news, the Tyrell beauty opts to head to Highgarden to visit her grandmother.
That’s bound to stir things up even more…
Best Overall Moment:
There were a number of great reveals during The Sons of the Harpy; some of the best being the route upon the Narrow Sea in which Ser Jorah is travelling and back in the North. Jorah isn’t taking Tyrion back to his sister, rather East towards the Queen he unlawfully wronged for so long. “What a waste of a good kidnapping” the Lannister mocks as his gag is removed and the plan is presented.
His nominal wife Sansa too has some serious life choices ahead of her as Baelish reveals he is leaving for King’s Landing and that she will become the rightful heir to Winterfell providing she doesn’t end up as another footnote in the Stark family; a hard challenge around the Boltons.
However, the finest moment did not reveal a core plot strand, rather a deeper side to a complex and unpredictable character; Stannis Baratheon. Seemingly irritated that his disfigured daughter bounds in and proclaims she is bored when he is quite obviously trying to concentrate, young Shireen asks the rightful heir a cutting question: is he ashamed of her? The response is both surprising and entirely poignant.
The Would-be-King retells a tale in which he purchases his young child a doll from a Dornish trader; clearly meant to be an assassination attempt rather than a goodwill offering. She develops Greyscale which if untreated by the best of the best, would have taken her life as quickly as a flash, or as sinisterly as she would age enough to realise what is being taken from her.
Stannis showcases his love and admiration for Shireen by working tirelessly and employing the finest doctors and medics to keep her alive and proclaims he is proud of his beautiful daughter; the one true princess. She meets the usually cold and calculated brother of Robert with a warm embrace which clearly makes him feel awkward, but soon he crosses his arms across her and holds her tenderly.
To see this level of humanity – perhaps even a kink in Stannis’ icy armour – is a true turning point for his characterisation; a progression and layering many could have never imagined witnessing. It’s a small moment, but one of great beauty and importance.
As we near ever-closer to the halfway point of this impeccable fifth season, narrative paths are expertly expanding and enabling new routes for many to venture. The Sons of the Harpy is a dizzying hour which concludes with palm-sweating brilliance which will lead high-strung intensity into next week.
The Sand Snakes have gathered now, and we will almost certainly watch their descent on the capital begin next time.