HBO's Game of Thrones has become well known for its utterly shocking moments that catches fans completely by surprise, although there haven't really been many jaw-dropping moments in the first two episodes of Season 5. Tonight's episode, "High Sparrow", continues this same trend, even though there are a few surprising scenes, none are entirely shocking. Before we continue, be known that there will be plenty of SPOILERS if you didn't watch "High Sparrow" live on HBO tonight, so read on at your own risk.
Tonight's episode opens inside the House of Black and White, where Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is seen sweeping the floors, which isn't exactly the type of "training" she had in mind when she left Westeros to track down Jaquen H'gar (Tom Wlaschiha). She watches as Jaquen takes a bowl of water and gives it to a man, who drinks it, as Arya lets Jaquen know that she didn't come here to sweep floors, and she came because he said she could be his apprentice and that he'd teach her how to become a Faceless Man. Jaquen replies by saying that all men must serve, especially Faceless Men. When Arya retorts that she wants to serve, Jaquen says she only wants to serve herself, while the Faceless Men serve the Many-Faced God, and that "the Girl must become no one." When she asks which is the Many-Faced God, Jaquen says there is only one true God, but also that she already knows this. When Jaquen leaves, Arya notices the man who Jaquen gave that mystical water to is lying on the ground, apparently dead, when two more Faceless Men come in to dispose of his body. It's a really slow and meandering scene, but we next go back to Westeros, for yet another royal wedding.
It's King Tommen's (Dean-Charles Chapman) wedding day in King's Landing, as we see him exchanging his vows with the new Queen, Margeary Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Tommen's mother, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is seen putting on a good face, appearing to be happy for her son, but there is an apprehensiveness in her behavior, perhaps because she now knows she truly doesn't have any power anymore, she is just the Queen Mother. We then see the end of Tommoen and Margaery consummating their wedding, with an eager and excited Tommen proclaiming that this is all he wants to do, "all day, every day." Tommen dampers the mood a bit when he mentions that he would not be king and he would not be married to "the most beautiful woman in the world" if his brother Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) had not died. When Margaery says it's not his fault, and he shouldn't feel guilty, but Tommen says that he doesn't feel guilty, and that's what's odd. Cheer up, kid. At least you survived your own wedding...
At any rate, it seems quite clear that Margaery quickly has young Tommen wrapped around her little finger, and it seems she may be trying to drive a wedge between Tommen and his mother Cersei. She says that Cersei is like a lioness watching over her cub, but Tommen replies that he is a man now. Margaery adds that, with all Cersei has had to endure, she will never let Tommen out of her sight, a statement that gives Tommen much pause. You may recall that, in the season premiere, Margaery made a slightly ominous statement about Cersei, which hinted that she may be hatching some sort of plan to get her out of the capitol. How that plan will unfold remains to be seen, but it's become quite clear that Margaery is a master manipulator, which will likely benefit her greatly in her marriage to the impressionable Tommen.
The next scene shows Tommen and Cersei taking a walk together, where Cersei comments on how pretty Margaery is, although she can't quite tell is she's intelligent or not. Tommen then asks Cersei if she misses Casterly Rock, and that he wants his mother to be happy, asking if she's be happier in Casterly Rock. It's abundantly clear that Margaery's influence over Tommen is quite strong, and while Tommen doesn't straight up send her mother back home, Cersei seems to know that her son, and, largely, Margaery, wants her out of the picture. After taking a stroll with her son, Cersei pays Margaery a visit, where she is seen telling her friends about her sexual escapades with Tommen. After Margaery makes a subtle crack about not having wine for her, since it's too early for them, Cersei says that if there's anything Margaery needs, she should let Cersei know, and that Tommen seems quite taken with her. Margaery makes another subtle reference to her sex life, but before Cersei leaves, Margaery asks what the proper way to address Cersei now, Queen Mother or Dowager Queen? She adds that the Queen Mother will be the Queen Grandmother soon, before Cersei fiercely insists that Margaery come to her for anything she needs. Margaery's friends can all be heard laughing as a troubled Cersei walks away. In the previous scene, she said there was nothing for her in Casterly Rock, but it's becoming quite evident that there isn't much for her in King's Landing either.
We then head to Winterfell, where, for the first time all season, we finally see Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), who is still a shell of the man he once was, after Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) literally took his manhood. He doesn't speak at all in this episode, but he finds himself staring that the charred corpses of a few unlucky souls who were burned alive. Ramsay is having dinner with his father Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), who says that they don't have enough men to hold the North if the other houses rise up against them. When Ramsay says that their pact with the Lannister's should protect them, Roose says that he had a pact with Tywin Lannister, who was killed in the Season 4 finale by his on son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Roose says that the Lannisters have never sent their army this far North, and they won't do so for the Bolton's. Roose adds that they have become a great house by forging alliances, and the best way to form an alliance is through marriage. Roose says that it's high time Ramsay marries, and he has found the perfect bride to "solidify their hold on the North." Who could this mystery woman be? None other than Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner)!
The next scene shows Sansa, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and their men approaching Moat Cailin on horseback, which takes Sansa by surprise. When Sansa asks where Littlefinger is taking her, he says simply, "Home." Sansa starts to put it all together, adding that the marriage proposal wasn't for him, but for her to marry Ramsay Bolton. Sansa is quite disgusted with Littlefinger, saying that the Bolton's serve the Lannisters, which Littlefinger replies with, "For now." Littlefinger adds that her place is in the North, and that she is a Stark. When Sansa protests that she will not marry Roose Bolton, Littlefinger reveals that she is actually set to marry is son, Ramsay. Littlefinger then offers a powerful speech, stating that he won't force Sansa to do anything, but that he wants her to stop running, and that she should use this opportunity to avenge her family's death. Sansa looks as conflicted as she ever has before, but she ends up returning to her horse and continuing her journey with Littlefinger, which brings a sly smile to his face.
Far on a cliff above Sansa and Littlefinger, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman) are watching them as this duo continues to follow them. Pod tells Brienne how he first came to be Tyrion's squire. A knight he squired for during the War of the Five Kings was caught stealing a ham, and he was hung for it. While Podrick was fit to be hanged as well, Tywin heard his family name was Payne, pardoned him and sent him to King's Landing to squire for Tyrion. Brienne apologizes for being so nasty to him, and then says that he will train him and teach him how to fight and ride a horse properly. Brienne then shares a story about her past as well, telling Pod that her father held a ball for her, inviting dozens of young lords to Tarth to find a proper suitor for her. Brienne says she's never been so happy, until the boys all started to laugh, revealing it was all a big joke. She realized that she was the ugliest girl in the world, but Renly Baratheon took her in his arms. While Brienne knew that Renly liked men, he danced with her because he was kind and didn't want to see her hurt. Renly saved her that day, and every day until he died, but Brienne says she couldn't save him in return, revealing her true mission is to avenge Renly's death, to kill the shadow that killed Renly, which had the face of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). While she can't kill the shadow, Stannis is only a man, and a man can be killed. This whole sequence gets a bit long-winded, but at least we now know what Brienne's long-term plans truly are.
We then visit The Wall, where Stannis, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) approach Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who was elected Lord Commander of the Night's Watch in last week's episode. Jon then reveals that he has to refuse Stannis' offer to become Warden of the North, and given the official name of Jon Stark. Snow says his place is on The Wall, and that he swore a sacred oath to the Night's Watch. While Stannis realizes that Snow can't be persuaded, Snow asks how long Stannis and his men plan on staying, since the Night's Watch can't continue to feed Stannis' men indefinitely. Stannis reveals he plans to leave for Winterfell within a fortnight, i.e. two weeks. Stannis also says he leaves the Wildlings' fate to him, since they won't fight for Stannis. Before he leaves, though, Stannis suggests that Snow send Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) to EastWatch, since Alliser is now an enemy of Jon's. While Stannis leaves, Davos stays behind, saying Stannis sees something in Jon, and that perhaps the best way Jon can serve the realm isn't in a "frozen castle" at the edge of the world. Before leaving, Davos says as long as the Bolton's rule the North, the North will suffer. What's intriguing is that both Sansa and Littlefinger are currently heading for Winterfell, and Stannis will be heading there soon as well, so it's possible that this city could be the site of the show's next great battle as Stannis pushes on in his quest to sit on the Iron Throne.
We then go back to the House of Black and White, where a mysterious woman (whose character name is never revealed), approaches Arya, repeatedly asking "Who are you?" Each time Arya replies "No one," this woman hits Arya, which pisses her off to the point where she is about to grab her sword Needle, when Jaquen enters. The woman simply states they are only playing The Game of Faces, but Jaquen says she's not ready for that yet. Arya defiantly states that she is ready to become a Faceless Man. In his overly-elaborate way, Jaquen says that she is surrounded by Arya Stark's things, hinting that she needs to shed all remnants of her former life before she can begin her quest to become a Faceless Man. We then see Arya dressed in a black frock, as she dumps all of her clothes into the sea, along with the coin Jaquen gave her. When it comes time to throw her sword into the river, she can't quite bring herself to do so, hiding it underneath a pile of stones. Then Arya goes back to sweeping the floor, when yet another man is being carted into a mysterious room, although the door has been left open. Jaquen approaches and leads her inside, to a room where mystery woman awaits and the unconscious man is lying on a stone table. Mystery Woman starts undressing this man, as Arya helps her do so before they give this man a makeshift sponge bath. Why? I have no idea.
Back in Winterfell, Arya and Littlefinger arrive, where Roose introduces Sansa to his son Ramsay. An older woman shows Sansa to her chambers, and welcomes her home, ominously adding "The North Remembers" before leaving. We then go back to The Wall, where Jon Snow is presiding over his first Night's Watch meeting as Lord Commander, appointing a "ginger"named Brian to be in charge of building new latrine pit. Jon then names Alliser First Ranger, and gives Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) command of Greyguard, a fort which is in shambles, but Snow orders him to restore it. Janos tests the power of Snow, telling him to keep his ruin. Snow curtly says that was a command, not an offer, but Janos gets even more irritated, as Snow orders his men to take Janos outside, and his squire to fetch his sword. While Alliser appears to be standing in the way of the men to take Janos outside, he eventually steps aside, hinting that Alliser may not be as much of an enemy to Jon as once believed. The petulant Janos keeps whining, going on about his important friends at the capitol, but his true, cowardly colors are shown once again, when Jon takes his sword out, he whimpers and cries, begging Snow for mercy, stating he will go to Greyguard, and that he's always been afraid. But his pleas fall of deaf ears, and Janos is beheaded, as we see Stannis giving Snow a nod of approval.
We then head to a brothel, where the High Septon is deciding which of the seven prostitutes in front of him he wants to have. Before he can take them to bed, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) bursts in. As you may recall from the season premiere, is part of a religious group known as the Sparrows, and Lancel tells the High Septon that he is a sinner and he must be punished, forcing him out of the brothel, leading him outside, fully naked, as they all tell him he's a sinner and whip his bare body. The High Septon then appears (fully clothed, thankfully) before the small council, asking them to arrest these Sparrows for their assault on him, and to execute their leader, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). We then see Cersei visiting the High Sparrow in person. The High Sparrow tells Cersei that he believes Cersei is there to arrest him for the incident with the High Septon. Cersei tells him that the Septon now resides in the Red Keep dungeon, saying that faith is one of the pillars that holds their society together. Cersei never seemed to be a woman of religion, with her incestuous ways, but it seems that she holds this High Sparrow in surprisingly high regard. Perhaps she knows that her days of power are waning, and she's trying to make an alliance with anyone she can.
Cersei then visits Qyburn (Anton Lesser), asking him to send a message to Littlefinger, asking how his experiments are going. Suddenly, what is believed to be a corpse lying underneath a sheet violently starts shaking. Has Qyburn found a way to bring the dead back to life? Hopefully we'll find out more about these experiments in the next few episodes. Back in Winterfell, Sansa walks past Theon Greyjoy, but he hides his face so she won't notice him, as we see Littlefinger and Ramsay discussing Sansa. Littlefinger says he's grown quite fond of her, while Ramsay reassures him that he'll never harm her. Roose emerges and wants to speak with Littlefinger alone. Roose wonders of Littlefinger is prepared for the consequences when the Lannisters find out Sansa is marrying Ramsay, although Littlefinger reassures him that the Lannister name does not mean what it used to. Ramsay then gives Littlefinger a message from Cersei, which makes Roose question the deal they made. Littlefinger then states that the Eyrie is now his, and the last time the Eyrier and the North formed an alliance, they took down the greatest dynasty in Westeros history.
The episode ends with Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill) continuing their ride to Meereen, although Tyrion appears to be losing his mind, after spending this entire time locked up in this cart. He demands to be let out and walk around, since they are thousands of miles from Westeros and Cersei can't touch him. Both Tyrion and Varys start walking around a bustling village. It is there where we meet another new character, a Red Priestess (Rila Fukushima), who is preaching to the masses. As she keeps preaching about the Dragon Queen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who is sadly not seen at all in this episode, Tyrion seems quite taken by her, as she starts staring at him. When they go to a brothel, they find one prostitute that is dressed up exactly like Danenerys Targaryen, when we surprisingly see a downtrodden Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who we haven't seen since the Season 4 finale. When Tyrion chats up a prostitute, she wants to take him upstairs, but Tyrion becomes oddly distraught, unable to go through with it, likely because of the guilt he still carries for killing Shae in the Season 4 finale last year. As Tyrion starts drunkenly urinating, Jorah Mormont comes up from behind, ties him up and says he's taking Tyrion to see the Queen!
All in all, it's a pretty damn good episode, but nothing jaw-dropping or spectacular. The last few episodes are truly setting up bigger events to come later on this season, but that comes at the expense of truly thrilling moments fans expect from the show. In relate news, we also have a new trailer for next week's episode "The Sons of the Harpy", airing Sunday, May 3 on HBO. What do you think about this week's episode? Let us know your thoughts below, or reach out to me on Twitter @GallagherMW.