'Game of Thrones' Recap: 'The Sons of the Harpy,' Sand Snakes and Shortsighted Schemes

Last week's episode of "Game of Thrones" ended with an imp-napping, Jorah snatching Tyrion out of an Essos brothel as part of his grand apology tour. Part of me wishes "High Sparrow" helmer Mark Mylod would have left Jorah's identity hidden, so we'd have spent a week wondering and worrying if Tyrion--after all his traveling by box--would be sent back to King's Landing and his bloodthirsty siblings. But we know Jorah's alliances (and heart) lie only with the Mother of Dragons.

Apology tours are a bit of a theme this week. And each one is ill-planned with potentially grave consequences. As Tyrion points out before Jorah swaps a knock-out blow for his bedtime wine, the disgraced knight's return to Meereen might mean death or glory to either himself or his capture. Then of course there's the other Lannister brother's boat-based apology tour.

Still desperately scrounging for the lost love of Cersei, Jaime forges forth on one of the most asinine quests Westeros has ever seen. He's going into enemy territory to kidnap a princess, and he's doing so aboard a merchant ship where the captain knows his real identity. As Bronn gently points out, Lannister gold doesn't permanently buy loyalty -- a lesson Cersei also seems sure to learn. But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, let's take a moment to relish in the reunion of Jaime and Bronn A.K.A. "Giver of No Fucks." When silently scolding the Kingslayer over lame lies ("sharks!" "my niece"), Bronn throws down a side-eye that could only be rivaled by Cersei herself. No wonder Jaime likes Bronn!

"We don’t need an army to start a war."

After a showy -- and at times deliciously silly -- sword fight between Jaime, Bronn and some poor Dorne soldiers, we meet the long-teased Sand Snakes! So, even if Jaime's plan to win back Cersei by returning with Myrcella safe and sound would work, it's about to get a whole lot harder. I'm still mourning the loss Oberyn Martell and of the panache, excitement and sex appeal he brought to the show. But if losing him means we get three new, fearsome, female and vaguely Spanish assassin characters, I could be okay with it. Already, I adore Obara from her curled tip boots to the blood-drenched end of her spear. Whatever showdown is setting up: BRING. IT. ON.

Now, let's return to the mess of King's Landing that is Cersei's making. We've discussed before how the twin Lannisters were never much for plotting long-term, and man is Cersei proving that right now. From her first appearance this ep, it's clear she's moving against Margaery. In the small council meeting, Cersei offers a snake oils salesman smile as she sends Margaery's father Mace off on a journey with Lannister-loyal Meryn Trant. It's a threat, but one that is not even brought to the new Queen's attention just yet. For now, Margaery is far more fixated on the fate of her brother, arrested by those violent zealots of the High Sparrow.

As soon as you see a naked gay brothel patron crying for mercy in the hands of the Sparrows, you know Cersei's scheme. By arming this cult, she's setup a way to imprison Loras Tyrell. She can't very well marry him and be shipped off to Highgarden when he's under lock and key. And Cersei can act like it's not even her fault, which she did flawlessly when a perplexed King Tommen came calling. But best of all, she's ruffled the ever-cool Margaery, who went storming in on her "sweet king" and forgot to feign an ardent love for her mother-in-law.

"Perhaps the gods need a sword of their own."

Cersei won the battle, but not the war. Margaery is regrouping, withholding sex from Tommen, and calling in the heavy artillery that is the Tyrell matriarch. Last time Olenna didn't like how a Lannister behaved, she murdered him brutally and publically. Of course, Cersei doesn't understand that--just like she doesn't understand the dangers of giving an army to the High Sparrow. When this meek-seeming man sat with Cersei, he rejected her offer of wine, a big symbol for Cersei's choices. It's a omen that this alliance won't work the way Cersei expects. Then to hammer that point home, the first image we're shown of the Sparrows' sweep is their newly minted army smashing barrels of wine to bits. It may as well be Lannister blood, right?

The thing is, Cersei doesn't understand faith, or its power. She sent Tommen to the sept, not realizing he could have been killed, not aware that he's being mocked as an abomination in the streets. In an attempt to keep her son near to her, she is setting up an army that could be the source of King's Landing's next coup d'état! Fans of the series have been chomping at the bit for Cersei to see a comeuppance. And it looks like season five is giving her a noose of her own making to hang herself.

But back to apology touring and Castle Black, where Jon Snow's self-induced penance for his bastard existence is striving to make Ned Stark proud. But he's beginning to doubt that signing much much paperwork is the way to do that. Frankly, I don't get how Davros' speech last week didn't sell Snow on joining Stannis in recapturing Winterfell. But when logic doesn't work, how about a honeypot?

Enter Melisandre and the breasts that she somehow claims aren't magic. Once again, I feel like the show wastes too much screentime at Castle Black, where Jon Snow spends ages moping before jumping into action. But this scene seemed worth it for this exchange:

Melisandre: The dead don't need lovers.

Jon Snow: I know. But I still love her.

Melisandre: You know nothing, Jon Snow.

What does this mean?! Is it coincidence? Do fiery redheads just say this to men named Jon Snow? Or does this Lord of Light listen in one pillow talk north of the wall? It boggles the mind!

Finally, let's look to Meereen where the debate about the fight pits is turning very violent. Sons of the Harpy have slaughtered Second Sons, and ambushed the Unsullied. Of course, when civilians cried out in fear, Ser Barristan Selmy rushed into the frey, slaying these masked murderers like a boss. As soon as you saw him smiling before the cries rang out, you knew this would be Barristan the Bold's last stand, right? He won't be there if/when a Targaryen is restored to the throne. He'll never see King's Landing again. But at least he died a good man, and with his boots on. In "Game of Thrones," that's a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

With Barristan's death, we have another major loss this season. And while it seems crass to mention it, this could be good news for Jorah and Tyrion. Dany's down a trusted adviser, and she's sure to be hurting next week. Could the pair's arrival at her pyramid be perfect timing for a second chance? (Or a third, or fourth or--hey, who's counting?)

Random notes:

  • "The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight." … As opposed to every other culture on "Game of Thrones"?
  • Mace Tyrell dad jokes warm the cockles of my cold heart.
  • Every episode this season ratchets up the likelihood of Tommen regicide. And every episode he gives us reason to wish there were some other way. This time, it was his look of genuine confusion when Margaery interrupted his meal to yell about his mean ol' mum.
  • Imagine for a moment a Westeros where Sansa and Tommen could be married. They'd have been so lovely and good to each other.
  • Stannis is growing on me. First, seeing him be vulnerable in admitting his desire for Melisandre (though duh), then in comforting his daughter, he's becoming less the stone-hearted stag of Westeros. And hearing how his sentimentality nearly got his firstborn killed, I can kind of understand how he's grown so cold.
  • "We can't watch the wall with only fifty men. And we can't get more men without help from the Warden of the North!" Jon Snow's greatest enemy is truly math.
  • "I know mother didn’t want to bring me…She told me, 'I don't want to bring you.'" Bookreaders, I normally prefer to avoid spoilers. But please feel to tweet at me to tell me if/exactly how Shireen's wretched mother gets hers!
  • Sansa finally made it back to Winterfell. But we've been robbed a shot of her bittersweet return! Instead, she's introduced in the tombs. An ominous sign, topped off with a cringe-inducing kiss with her uncle Littlefinger.
  • Listening to Littlefinger spin his own tale, it's clear where he sees himself as some sort of hero or success story, the kind politicians and self-help gurus like to sell.
  • Sansa is taller than Littlefinger. That is all.
  • Jaime's gold hand sucks for rowing, shoveling and most things, but not sword-stopping!
  • "What a waste of a kidnapping…risky scheme. One might say desperate." What did Tyrion hope might happen from this conversation?
  • Please note fan theorists, this episode had several mentions of Rhaegar Targaryen. Though blamed for Robert's Rebellion for stealing Lyanna Stark, he also had a soft side, loving to sing--and possibly loving Lyanna. Could this be the setup to prove one popular fan theory right?
  • Lastly, if that Meereen massacre proves anything it's that Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) deserves an action movie vehicle yesterday.
  • For a little fun, an oldie but a goodie:

Kristy Puchko is a film critic, entertainment journalist and co-host of the movie review video podcast Popcorn and Prosecco.

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