Season 5, Episode 4: "Sons of the Harpy"
Last Week's Rankings: "High Sparrow"
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. The Jaime & Bronn Road Trip
2. Rhaegar Targaryen
In the 44-episode history of Game of Thrones, we've really only heard about four characters who were dead before the show began: John Arryn (the former Hand of the King whose death kicked off the events of the first episode), The Mad King Aerys Targaryen (father of Daenerys, killed by Jaime), Lyanna Stark (sister to Ned, formerly betrothed to Robert Baratheon), and Rhaegar Targaryen (older brother of Daenerys).
We actually heard about Rhaegar twice this week, one story (told by Littlefinger) about how his desire for Lyanna caused a countless number of deaths, and one story (told by Ser Barristan) about how beloved he was by the people. We have every reason to believe both stories are true, as well as every reason to believe that their presence serves a greater purpose than mere entertainment and scene filler. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are building the character of someone who's been dead for around 20 years, and there's going to be an important reason for it.
3. The People of Dorne
In the words of Bronn, "The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight." If that's the case, why did we have to wait four seasons to meet these people?!? I picture an HBO exec hearing those words and immediately demanding at least three scenes per episode now take place in Dorne.
I have no idea how or why she's winning, and she actually lost this week at getting Jon Snow to jump her bones. But Jon Snow knows nothing, and despite empirical evidence, it just feels like Melisandre is getting shit done. As with the way Littlefinger operates, if no one knows you're winning, no one's interested in dethroning you.
5. The Legend of Ser Barristan
Ever since Ser Barristan was dismissed from the Kingsguard in Season 1 (when he boasted, "Even now, I could cut through the five of you like carving a cake!"), we've been hearing the legend of Ser Barristan's skills in the art of combat. Eventually, we had to see him in action, and we finally did this week. The legend did not disappoint, as we watched a man in his sixties take on eight Sons of the Harpy at once and nearly win.
1. The Reality of Ser Barristan
Unfortunately, the problem with "nearly" winning an eight-on-one fight is it means you lost. Ser Barristan looked great taking on The Sons of the Harpy by himself, right up until the moment they killed him.
2. Book Readers
For four years, book readers have had the ultimate Game of Thrones trump card, via the knowledge of what would happen next. That's how we ended up with stories like this one, where a teacher would threaten his unruly class with the reveal of who will die next.
But with the Season 4 deaths of Mance Rayder and Ser Barristan Selmy--deaths which did not occur in the novels--book readers have officially lost the ace up their collective sleeves. Now they're slumming with the rest of us, victim of the week to week wait to see who lives and who gets got.
3. House Tyrell
Last week, I wrote that "the paranoid and cornered iteration of Cersei is about to go on the rampage, and I can't wait." Well, I didn't have to wait long! One week later, Cersei practically took House Tyrell entirely off the King's Landing chess board in a single day. First, she sent jolly old Mace off to Braavos, accompanied by Ser Meryn Trant (who, we're to assume, has probably been tasked with killing Mace on the journey). Then, for her encore, she had Loras imprisoned for his sexual proclivities, which drove such a massive wedge into Tommen and Margaery's sex-bed-in that Margaery is fleeing back to Highgarden.
Cersei is playing with a level of karmic wildfire that will almost certainly blow up in her face very soon. She's never been one to weigh long-term consequences against the instant gratification of sticking it to her enemies, and this is no different. But it's a blast to watch.
4. The Legend of The Unsullied
We've spent two seasons hearing what badasses these guys are, and now they're getting slaughtered in the streets by a bunch of rich dudes with knives and masks? Grantland's Jason Concepcion explained how The Unsullied's fighting style and choice of weapon (a spear) aren't ideal for street fights, but still. It doesn't seem like they should be quite so easy to kill, nor should Grey Worm be the only guy that can hold his own in a scrap.
5. King Tommen's Power
On the one hand, it's pretty impressive that Tommen had the maturity and understanding of the moment to walk away when he was prevented access to the High Sparrow. I mean, can you imagine how Joffrey would have handled that situation??
But on the other hand… how many aspects of leadership would you really trust Tommen with at this point? Is he the Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, or just some kid who sits in an uncomfortable iron chair, letting his mom and wife tell him what to do?
It's hard to say what fate awaits him. Game of Thrones has shown us that you'll die for all sorts of reasons, but just being kind of worthless hasn't been one of them. Yet.
Honorable Mention: Brothels
After being such a fun location in the early seasons of the show that a new word was literally created to describe their function, now they're apparently the most dangerous place you can go. Just in the this season's four episodes, we saw a gruesome throat-slitting at the Meereen brothel, the High Septon was dragged naked out of the King's Landing brothel to be flogged in the streets, Tyrion got kidnapped at the Volantis brothel, and then we went back to the King's Landing brothel this week for a straight-up massacre. It's just terrible when people can't pay for sex in peace. #WesterosProblems
Confirmed Kills: 40 (I think)
It was a bit tricky reaching a number this week, as we saw the Sparrows wreak havoc on Littlefinger's brothel (with a lot of screams that may or may not have resulted from fatalities), and then the Sons of the Harpy and The Unsullied went at it, with a body count that was very difficult to keep track of.
But 40 is my best guess, with the following breakdown: Ser Barristan Selmy, 20 Sons of the Harpy, 8 Unsullied, 4 Dornish Soldiers, 3 Former Slaves of Meereen, 2 Customers of Littlefinger's Brothel, 1 Pentosi Ship Captain, and 1 Snake.
Season Death Tally: 49