Friday, May 1, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E3)

Season 5, Episode 3: "High Sparrow"

Last Week's Rankings: "The House of Black and White"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


1.   Manipulation Tactics
More than any one character, the real winner of Episode 3, "High Sparrow," is the creative use of rhetoric being employed to manipulate others. We saw it three times this week--Margaery implanting seeds within Tommen to get Cersei the hell away from King's Landing, Littlefinger somehow convincing Sansa to marry the sadistic son of the guy who slaughtered half of her family, and Davos using an alternate interpretation of the Night's Watch Oath to get Jon Snow to help Stannis' goal of taking back the North. In all three cases, it could be argued that the manipulated characters--Tommen, Sansa, and Jon Snow--would be directly going against their best interests if they do what's being requested. But that's the power of great rhetoric: it's convincing. 

It's also interesting to wonder about the manipulation motivations. With Davos and Jon Snow (does anyone go by their full name more than this guy?), it's obvious--Stannis needs Jon's help for military action. With Margaery and Tommen, it's probably obvious--Margaery wants Cersei out of her hair so she can consolidate her power as queen. Though I do wonder if there's more to it than that. 

The case of Littlefinger and Sansa is more complicated. On the surface, it seems Littlefinger wants his little fingers in as many cookie jars of power as he can get. He already controls the Eyrie through his marriage to Lysa, through Sansa (who is his legal niece now) he would have a controlling interest in Winterfell, he allied with Lady Olena Tyrell in the murder of Joffrey, and he still owns the best brothel in King's Landing (clearly the ringer on his resume). Littlefinger's always been playing the long game, and the chess board is finally starting to diagram his strategy. 

2.   Character Origin Speeches
One of the real highlights of Game of Thrones are the rare occasions when a heretofore misunderstood character gives a long soliloquy about how they got the way they are. We saw it in Season 1, when Tyrion explained why he prefers whores by telling Bronn the story of his first marriage, and we saw it twice in Season 2, with Jamie telling Brienne about how he really came to be the Kingslayer, and Varys telling Tyrion about his true motivations whilst unpacking his nemesis from a dirt-filled box. 

This week, it was nice for Brienne to get her moment in the spotlight. And as with the others, her story is indeed a tragic one. 

3.   King Tommen’s Sex Life

Presented without comment: 

4.   Brothels

After an uncharacteristic total lack of nudity in last week's episode, we got two scenes set in brothels this week, including one with a completely unnecessary--yet always appreciated!--parade of breasts. Somewhere, two HBO accountants just fist-bumped.  

5.   Roose Bolton’s Wife

Has she even spoken a single line of dialogue yet? I love her constantly just standing there, smiling, basically acting as a human trophy to show that Roose Bolton won Westeros' contest for Best Soulless Asshole. 


Honorable Mention: Arya’s appropriation of The Hound’s favorite vocabulary word. 

It was great to hear her just let the "C-word" fly the moment someone hit her. 


1.   Janos Slynt

After Sam ridiculed him last week for cowering in the corner during the Battle of Castle Black ("In a puddle of his own making"), it was clear the show had gotten what it wanted out of the version of Janos with a still-attached head. 

Now let's pause for a moment to acknowledge one of the show's first real moments of karmic justice! After Janos betrayed the trust of Ned Stark in Season 1, leading to Ned's death, Tyrion exiled him to The Wall, where he ends up losing his head at the hands and sword of Ned's son. (Maybe.)

2.   Cersei’s Relevance Problem

Other than her shockingly sane and calm conversation with the titular High Sparrow, this was not a good week for Cersei, and she didn't even have to attend a Small Council meeting. In just one brief scene with Margaery and her harem of unsubtle gigglers, Cersei found her importance and title in the worst jeopardy they've ever been. And that was after the best Zing! ever:

The paranoid and cornered iteration of Cersei is about to go on the rampage, and I can't wait. 

3.   Sansa Stark’s Marriage Prospects, Continued…

This has been a continuing trend for Sansa. First, she was betrothed to Joffrey, official three-time "Most Evil Person in Westeros" Champion, as well as the man who murdered her father. Now, she's suddenly betrothed to Ramsay Bolton, the newly crowned "Most Evil Person in Westeros," and son of the man who murdered her brother. In between, she was creepily fawned over by Littlefinger, forcibly married to Tyrion, and harbored a highly misguided crush on dandy Loras Tyrell. Now that, my friends, is what we call a hot streak!

4.   Jon Snow’s Ned Stark Moment

One of the most telling moments of the episode was when Stannis tells Jon that he's just as honorable as his father, Jon says he can imagine no higher praise, and Stannis quickly snaps back, "I didn't mean it as a compliment. Honor got your father killed." And just a few minutes later, for the second episode in a row, we see one of our heroes publicly execute someone for disobeying their rule of law. 

It's hard, in that moment, not to immediately recall the first episode of the series, and our first real encounter with the Stark family, when Ned beheads a member of the Night's Watch for deserting. "He who passes the sentence should swing the blade," Ned says. And so Jon did. 

Will this end up mattering? Hard to say. It could just be that Janos died because he was a sniveling little bitch. But we've been conditioned to see Ned-isms as dangerous, and Stannis just reminded us minutes earlier that honor can get you killed in Westeros. 

5.   Tyrion’s Sex Life

If the most legendary appetite for whoring in the Seven Kingdoms has been extinguished, we truly are on the road to hell. 

Honorable Mention: Weddings. Before this week, Game of Thrones had given us five weddings: The Red Wedding and Joffrey's assassination were all-time classic scenes, Tyrion's wedding to Sansa was hilarious, and Daenerys' wedding to Khal Drogo at least gave us the immortal "A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair" quote. True, Robb Stark's secret wedding to Talisa wasn't particularly memorable, but still, we as show-watchers had come to expect great things out of royal weddings! So it's sad that not only was Tommen and Margaery's wedding uneventful, but it was barely even a scene at all. More just a narrative reason to get us to Tommen's great moment of sexual non-prowess. 

If and when Sansa actually does marry Ramsay Bolton, I expect better. 

Confirmed Kills: 1 (Janos Slynt's severed head)

Season Death Tally: 9


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