Did the Daenerys Targaryen storyline on ‘Game of Thrones’ finally get interesting again? It’s been a while.
I’ve probably been unfair to this aspect of the show (which I assume also stems from the original George R.R. Martin books) in my complaining about it recently. I get what the writers are going for, which is to add some depth and complexity to the typical “pillage and conquer” story by showing us that, once all that pillaging and conquering is done, being a ruler is a much harder job that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. However, over the past season and a half, the show has gotten pretty repetitive in hammering this lesson home with little forward momentum, and I think it’s time to move on.
While episode ‘Sons of the Harpy’ doesn’t necessarily move on yet, it at the very least provides a major plot development that may disrupt Daenerys’ bid for the throne of Westeros, or perhaps push her to become the type of queen she never wanted to be.
We’ll get to that in a minute. First, we start in…
Secretly taking passage in a merchant ship, Jaime and Bronn depart in a rowboat and make their way to shore. They encounter four Dornish soldiers who don’t believe their story that their ship capsized nearby. This leads to a skirmish where, naturally, Bronn has to do most of the fighting. He takes out three soldiers but leaves one for Jaime, who has great difficulty defending himself with just his left hand. Things don’t look so great for Jaime until he desperately blocks the soldier’s sword with his metal right hand. The sword gets stuck in the hand, which gives Jaime enough opportunity to strike a deadly blow.
The best part of these scenes is the very fun repartee between Jaime and Bronn. Citing the uselessness of being one-handed, Jaime makes Bronn do all the rowing in the boat, and makes him dig graves so that the soldiers’ bodies won’t be found. Bronn busts Jaime’s chops about setting Tyrion free (Jaime claims that it was Varys who did that, but Bronn isn’t buying it) and about his relationship with Cersei.
Elsewhere in the kingdom, Oberyn’s widow Ellaria has kidnapped the captain of the boat Jaime came in on, and is already aware that he’s in Dorne planning to kidnap his “niece” (really daughter) Myrcella back. Ellaria conspires with some warrior women to use this knowledge to instigate a war between Dorne and King’s Landing.
Jorah Mormont steals a small boat and sets sail to Meereen. Tyrion annoys him into removing his gag. When he learns where they’re going, Tyrion declares, “What a waste of a good kidnapping!” He quickly uses clues around him to ascertain Jorah’s identity and current situation, re: being on the outs with Daenerys and hoping she’ll forgive him. Tired of his smart mouth, Jorah punches him in the face to shut him up.
Cersei does quite a lot of scheming and maneuvering for power in this episode. She starts by sending the new Master of Coin Mace Tyrell (the king’s new uncle) on a trip to Braavos to negotiate terms of their debt to the Iron Bank. She also sends along a knight of the Kingsguard to protect him, and I’m sure he won’t take the very first opportunity to murder Tyrell. Not at all.
Maester Pycelle grumbles that the Small Council grows smaller every day, to which she replies, “Not small enough.” Obviously, Cersei is systematically removing any obstacles in her way.
Having imprisoned the former High Septon (head of the faith in Westeros), Cersei arranges for the cult leader High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) to be elected to that position. She also grants him a small army of the faith to purge King’s Landing of sin. His men storm through the city, raiding Baelish’s brothel and arresting anyone accused of perversion – mostly gays, including Margaery’s brother Ser Loras (Cersei’s intended fiancé).
Margaery is furious when she learns that her brother has been arrested. Oblivious Tommen had no idea that happened, or even any inkling that Cersei and Margaery didn’t like each other. When he demands that his mother release Loras, she plays dumb and pretends that she had nothing to do with it. She tells Tommen that he’ll need to take it up with the High Sparrow.
Tommen attempts to do just that, but is rebuffed at the gates to the Sparrows’ temple. His Kingsguard are eager to hack and slash their way inside, but Tommen exposes his weakness and is afraid to start a conflict while crowds curse him as a “bastard” and “abomination.” He cowers away.
Jon Snow is forced to beg the heads of the kingdoms of Westeros for men to bulk up the Night’s Watch army in preparation for the coming threat from the north. Much to his disgust, this includes Roose Bolton. Doing so would appear to conflict with Stannis’ preparations to march on Winterfell and kick the Boltons out.
Still eager for Jon Snow to join their cause and claim his rightful position as heir to Winterfell, Melisandre makes a none-too-subtle play to seduce him – by stripping naked and putting his hand on her boob. Acting like a virgin again, Snow is tempted, but resists. Melisandre teases him about his love for the dead Wildling Ygritte, and appears to channel her when she tells him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Stannis has a very nice moment with his disfigured daughter Shireen, in which he tells her about the extraordinary lengths he took to save her life from the “Greyscale” disease and insists that he could never be ashamed of her. Too bad the girl’s crazy mother doesn’t feel the same way.
Baelish and Sansa visit the crypt of her (never seen) aunt Lyanna Stark. You’ll recall that Ned and King Robert spent some time here in the first season, in which they explained that Lyanna had been engaged to Robert until she was abducted by Targaryen prince Rhaegar, thus instigating Robert’s Rebellion which overthrew the Targaryen rule. (Although not yet officially confirmed, it’s widely speculated that Lyanna and Rhaegar were Jon Snow’s real parents, not Ned.)
Baelish informs Sansa that he’s leaving her behind while he returns to King’s Landing, in order to divert Cersei’s suspicions that he might be plotting against her. Baelish knows that Stannis is coming to Winterfell. He expects that if Stannis wins against the Boltons, he’ll recognize Sansa as heir to Winterfell and name her Wardeness of the North. And if the Boltons win, Sansa is still engaged to Ramsay, so it should be win-win for her in either case – except, of course, for the little detail that Ramsay is a depraved psycho.
Finally, we come back to Daenerys. Once again, she is begged to reopen the traditional fighting pit, which might help to allay some of the public unrest against her. Still, Dany refuses.
The rebel faction Sons of the Harpy create a major disturbance by tearing through the city, murdering a bunch of people. Several squads of Unsullied chase after them, only to be led into ambushes. Battles erupt, and many Unsullied are killed. Grey Worm is stabbed in the side and nearly taken out, until Ser Barristan comes to his rescue. They fend off the Harpies, but Barristan is killed and Grey Worm passes out from his injuries.
I’m sure that Grey Worm will survive, but the death of Barristan will leave a convenient open position in Daenerys’ advisory staff when Jorah returns with Tyrion.
Until the big eruption of violence at the end, this is mostly a character building episode. As far as the last part goes, I’m a little disappointed that so many Unsullied were taken out so easily. I thought they were supposed to be much more fearsome fighters than that. I understand that Daenerys needs to be shown as vulnerable, but I’m not entirely sold on the way it actually plays out. That disappointment aside, I’m back on board with the Daenerys storyline, and that’s a welcome improvement.