“All sinners are equal before the gods.”
If that’s true, then Cersei Lannister can breathe a little easier, knowing that she’s as damned as anyone else around her. It doesn’t mean that eternal retribution will be any less painful, however. The Seven know that King’s Landing’s Queen Mother has much to suffer for, especially after the wheels she sets in motion in season 5, episode 4 of Game of Thrones, titled Sons of the Harpy.
Until now, Cersei’s vendetta against the new queen, Margaery Tyrell, has been a non-violent one. Sure, they’ve exchanged bitter looks and worse words, but their conflict has stopped short of blood-letting. Those days are officially over, as Cersei makes moves to dig her claws deeper into the crown. She forges an alliance with the High Sparrow — the pious old man who commands a fiercely faithful following, cousin Lancel included — by reinstating “the Faith Militant,” an order that’s been on ice for the past two centuries. In essence, the order, sanctioned by King Tommen, gives the High Sparrow and his people the right to bear arms and use violent force against sinners, especially the ones whose actions are directly in violation of the Faith’s mission.
The High Sparrow’s minions take their new charge very seriously, patrolling King’s Landing and bringing blunt instruments down upon the people in their path. Those people include just about anyone and everyone in Littlefinger’s brothel, especially the homosexual patrons. Indeed, the Faith Militant arrests Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, and brother of Queen Margaery, for “breaking the laws of gods and men” — sleeping with men, in other words. The actions cause great misery for Margaery, who attempts to get her husband the king to free Loras from the Faith’s clutches. But no dice; the armed-and-ready Faith Militant stand in the way of Tommen when he attempts to see the High Sparrow, demonstrating just how dangerous they are now that they’ve been weaponized, even in the face of the king.
He somehow resists her bare naked attempt, but walks away from the encounter hearing familiar words: ‘You know nothing, Jon Snow.’
As the streets of King’s Landing run red with blood, so too does the sand of Dorne. Cersei’s brother and lover Jaime continues his quest to rescue his “niece” Myrcella from Dornish custody, traveling alongside sellsword Bronn. Their stealth mission blows wide open when they’re caught on a beach by Dornish soldiers, leading to a brutal battle that culminates in Jaime just barely killing one of the four soldiers; it’s his first kill since losing his right hand, but it might not be his last, now that the Lannister-hating, battle-hungry Dornish are aware of his presence — and no one hates the Lannisters and hungers for battle more than the Sand Snakes, the three bastard daughters of the late Oberyn Martell, seeking vengeance for their father with Oberyn’s surviving paramour Ellaria Sand as their team leader.
On the exact opposite side of Westeros, Jon Snow deals with some women problems of his own at the Wall. He continues to wrestle with his duties as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and his history with the Starks of Winterfell, especially when the red priestess Melisandre tries to seduce him into joining Stannis Baratheon’s cause. He somehow resists her bare naked attempt, but walks away from the encounter hearing familiar words: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
Meanwhile, in Winterfell, an actual Stark wrestles with her place in her family’s fallen home and history. Sansa is to be wed to Ramsay Bolton, but Petyr Baelish assures her it won’t be a permanent arrangement. He’s a betting man, he explains, and he’s betting that Stannis Baratheon will march on Winterfell and crush the Boltons — and since he needs a Stark to unify the northerners, he’ll likely name Sansa as the new Wardeness of the North. Such an outcome would be a dream scenario for Sansa, but she wouldn’t be the first Stark woman to watch her dreams turn to ash. Just consider Lyanna Stark, her late father’s sister, who was kidnapped by Rhaegar Targaryen many moons ago, effectively launching the rebellion that ended the Targaryen regime and started the war for the Iron Throne that’s raged ever since.
Assuming that’s how it went, of course. For his part, Barristan Selmy sings a very different song about Rhaegar while speaking with Daenerys in Meereen. Barristan tells her about how her late brother used to leave the Red Keep and walk among his people, singing songs and donating money to the arts and to the poor. The picture he paints is a very different one from the narrative both Littlefinger and Sansa accept as truth — but as with all things in this song of ice and fire, the truth lies somewhere in the grey area between.
Here, Game of Thrones commits a deadly sin of its own: Deviating from the source material.
Sadly, Barristan also lies somewhere — in a big, bloody pile of soldiers, including Grey Worm, commander of the Unsullied. The Sons of the Harpy, the underground resistance trying to overthrow Daenerys in Meereen, make their boldest move yet, ambushing and murdering several members of the Second Sons and the Unsullied. Enter Barristan the Bold, one of the most legendary swordsman the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Even in his twilight years, he lives up to his reputation, singlehandedly slaughtering several Sons of the Harpy. But even he is no match for their overwhelming numbers, as he’s eventually brought to his knees in the heat of battle. Just as he’s about to get his throat slashed ala Catelyn Stark, Grey Worm manages to kill Barristan’s would-be killer — but it appears to be too late, as Grey Worm collapses next to Barristan’s motionless body.
Here, Game of Thrones commits a deadly sin of its own: Deviating from the source material. Barristan Selmy remains very much alive in the books written by George R.R. Martin; indeed, he’s in a pivotal position, right at the heart of the conflict in Meereen. Does Barristan’s death on the show foreshadow his impending doom in the books? Are his days numbered? And what about Grey Worm? Is he a goner, too — and if so, what does that say about his survival odds in the books?
If Barristan and Grey Worm are truly dead and gone on the show, then Daenerys Targaryen will need more help now than ever before if she wants to keep control over Meereen. Little does she know that help is on the way, as her exiled advisor Jorah Mormont sails toward Meereen with a bound-and-gagged Tyrion in tow. But will they be received with open arms? Jorah betrayed Dany once upon a time, selling secrets to Varys and his spiders; he was ultimately cast out of Dany’s inner circle for his treason. Tyrion, on the other hand, is associated with the Lannisters, making him an enemy of House Targaryen on family name alone.
How these sinners will measure up before the gods remains to be seen, but Daenerys doesn’t have the divine luxury of judgment. She needs all the help she can get, and she would be wise to accept Tyrion and Jorah’s assistance, if ever they arrive. Then again, with each passing day she spends in Meereen, the Mother of Dragons is proving that “wisdom” might not be her strong suit.