Article originally written for Seat42F.
“The Sons of the Harpy” are just one of the dangers faced in this week’s GAME OF THRONES on HBO. King’s Landing seems to dissolve further into chaos, with the leadership of the city in doubt. Mereen is in a very similar situation because of the group in this episode’s title. Strong families in the North and South make plans to strike towards the unstable middle, but who will win remains far from certain.
Let’s start with Mereen, which is where the hour ends. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) continues to resist reopening the fighting pits, no matter how strongly Hizdahr (Joel Fry) argues for it. As a consequence, “The Sons of the Harpy” continue to slaughter her men, possibly taking out Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) in the final scene.
One can’t help but wonder if Hizdahr is working for the enemy. It may just be coincidence that he argues for one of the things that the Harpys want just before the attack, but in GAME OF THRONES, it’s hard to know where loyalties lie.
Whether Hizdahr is connected to the bad guys or not, I don’t know if Daenerys should give in. Many governments, that of the current United States included, have a policy against negotiating with terrorists. If Daenerys allows these tactics to work on her now, how soon before they use them again to force her into something else? If Grey Worm and Barristan are dead, though, which is unclear, she has little protection left to her and she may need to do something to stay on the throne.
One reason we have reason to hope Barristan is alive is because he is a storied, long-lived fighter, evidenced in the story Little Finger (Aidan Gillen) tells Sansa (Sophie Turner) in the crypts. Barristan is a bit player in the tale, which is used to remind Sansa of her lineage and how she must be strong, whether marrying a man she hates, or taking over as Wardeness of the North if Stannis (Stephen Dillane) arrives to retake Winterfell. But it reminds us that Barristan is around for much of the chaos earlier, and came out strong. He may do so again.
Daenerys may soon have more help in the form of Jorah (Iain Glen) and / or Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who are on their way to her. She has reason to distrust both and may not take kindly to their arrival, but they both want to assist the queen. She could use more allies, and hopefully she will be reasonable enough to listen to them and what they have to offer.
Pivoting to the North, Stannis prepares to march to Winterfell, but before he does, he shares a very sweet moment with his daughter, Shireen (Kerry Ingram). Scarred and detested by her mother, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), Shireen has every reason in the world to be down on herself. Yet, in “The Sons of the Harpy,” she makes a connection to her dad, who does show his affection for her. Stannis is a busy man with a lot to think about, but the fact that he takes a little time out for his child says a lot about him, his often stoic disposition aside.
Stannis is staying with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and The Night’s Watch presently. Jon is still refusing to help Stannis, as The Night’s Watch is not supposed to get involved with the affairs of the seven kingdoms, being above family alliances. He is tested, though, when he has to ask the Boltons, among others, for help in recruitment even though they killed his family. He is also tempted by a naked Melisandre (Carice van Houten), but resists. Can Jon stay strong and do what needs to be done to carry the mantle he has assumed?
I say yes because Jon is Ned Stark’s son. He may not be Ned’s biological child, a fact teased in Littlefinger’s story, which just may have quietly revealed Jon’s parentage for those paying attention (or not; all we have for now are rumors), but he was raised by Ned and that means a lot. He follows in Ned’s noble footsteps, putting duty above all else.
Those in King’s Landing are pretty much the opposite. Cersie (Lena Headey) finds a way to regain control when she sends Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) away to deal with a financial issue and empowers the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) to raise an army and arrest Loras (Finn Jones), spurring Margaery (Natalie Dormer) to leave in anger when weak King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) can’t free her brother. But Cersei has sins greater than Loras, and I can’t help but feel that the High Sparrow’s men will not care that she is the king’s mother when it comes time to charge her. She is playing with fire here.
This is a time when King’s Landing needs to be united. In Dorne, Ellaria (Indira Varma) and the Sand Snakes (The Almighty Johnsons’ Keisha Castle-Hughes, Mia and Me’s Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, and Silk’s Jessica Henwick) are planning to start a war with King’s Landing. Their time table is moved up when they learn Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has arrived to take away their leverage. The thing is, I don’t know if there will be anyone left in the capital for them to fight, given the uneasy state of things.
There are many great scenes in “The Sons of the Harpy.” I particularly like the interchanges between Jon and Sam (John Bradley), Jamie and Bronn (Jerome Flynn), and Tyrion and Jorah. All these moving parts are hard to balance, but GAMES OF THRONES does. With so many interconnecting players, though, it’s impossible to figure out where things will end up, especially as the show departs further and further from the source material, rushing through the existing material, skipping huge chunks, and making bold changes. The only thing for certain is that the story will be feature enjoyable messes.
GAME OF THRONES airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.