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Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 4 "The Sons of the Harpy" Follow-Up For Non Readers

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 4 “The Sons of the Harpy” Follow-Up For Non Readers

Welcome to the weekly followup for non-readers. As the name of the series implies, this post is meant for you if you haven’t read the A Song of Ice and Fire series and/or wish to learn an extra thing or two that the show couldn’t find time to adapt.

The spoiler scope is obviously “nothing past the last episode”, so feel free to read on, I will do my best to keep your experience spoiler-free.

TL;DR: Feel like a reader, stay a non-reader – Scene-by-scene followup with quirky headlines – “It made more sense in the books”

Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away


I have to ask… how exactly were you serving your queen in a whorehouse, half a world away?
Tyrion Lannister, presenting his typical behaviour in a hostage situation

Seems like that was a faux cliffhanger. Those of you who were afraid Jorah was taking Tyrion to Cersei can rest assured, Tyrion is still going east. Varys is MIA as he should be, as in the books he doesn’t even accompany Tyrion to Volantis.

Cutting on time and cast, we’ve lost the journey with Griff and Young Griff, two characters pivotal to the story in the books, but seemingly absent from the show. Put with Tyrion on a boat sailing down the river Rhonye by Illyrio Mopatis, these two characters begin their own narrative after Jorah kidnaps Tyrion. Due to their obscene importance to the plot, I’m not revealing any more details about them until I am absolutely sure that their role is taken over by someone else.

Snakes… Why did it have to be snakes?


That still doesn’t explain what you’re doing here
Bronn of Blackwater, trying to make any sense of the changes to the Dorne plot

For anyone not getting the snake imagery yet, the three sisters are called Sand Snakes because A) in Dorne, the bastards get a surname “Sand”, just like in the North Ramsay and Jon were/are “Snow”, and B) because their father, Oberyn Martell, was nicknamed “the Red Viper of Dorne” due to his alleged usage of poison in duels. The snake theme has been shoved down our throat in every other scene, crawling even into the opening sequence. It’s worth noting that the symbol of Dorne is not a snake, but Sunspear, a combination of the spear of house Martell and the sun of the Rhonyar. I guess the show just wanted to emphasize the animal theme.

The books list eight Sand Snakes, most of them all from different mothers. For a good idea on how long-lasting Oberyn’s relationship to Ellaria was, she was the mother to his three youngest daughters, all probably written out from the show. Considering how Tyene referred to her as “mama”, she might be her mother in the TV continuity. Despite coming from various ethnical and social backgrounds, all Sand Snakes have Oberyn’s eyes.

Obara Sand is the eldest. Born to an Oldtown whore, she grew up to be a strong, cynical, hot-tempered woman in her thirties. Her backstory, however cringeworthily delivered, describes her pretty well. She is the one who approaches Doran in the Water Gardens – the show gave that role to Ellaria to lead the viewers with a known character. The problem here is that her character was – from a lack of better word – copypasted onto her sisters. In the books, Nymeria Sand, daughter of a Volanti noblewoman, is referred to as “Lady Nym” and even though she’s eager to plot an assassination of the Lannisters, she definitely isn’t a fighter. Her (in TV) whip used to be one of the accessories of book Obara. Same goes for Tyene – the third Sand Snake, daughter to a septa, was a seemingly sweet, innocent girl, but with a vast knowledge of poisons. Unfortunately what was three separate, distinct, entertaining characters, turned into generic, similar, poorly acted caricatures. I might be a little bit harsh with this assessment, but considering the show will give the Sand Snakes more screen time than they had in the books, we can hope for things to change.

It’s hard to say for sure where the show will take this plotline since Jaime’s presence is heralding a complete rewrite of the story, but his bromance with Bronn seems capable of carrying this story on its own. Just like switching Obara with Ellaria allowed the viewers to meet Doran with a known character, Jaime’s journey to Dorne helps connecting this part of the world to the main story. And that was something that many people felt has been lost in the books.

Oh, and in case you’ve missed the reference, Tarth, the Sapphire Island that Jaime’s ship passed on his way to Dorne, is the place Brienne comes from.

Westeros Baptist Church


My very own Kingsguard? Please…
Mace “Lord Puff Fish” Tyrell, no further commnentary needed

The Crown is indebted to numerous entities, including the Iron Bank, the Faith, the Tyrells, and even the Lannister family. Robert’s expenditures and Littlefinger’s machinations were a deadly combination for the kingdom’s budget, and the current deficit is counted in milions of golden dragons. Rebuilding the fleet, which Mace Tyrell tried to mention, occurs because in the book continuity, the Battle of the Blackwater has all the royal navy clashing with Stannis’s forces, in order to bait them into the wildfire trap. The royal navy was essentially sacrificed in Tyrion’s plan, and suffered way higher losses than Stannis has.

I did not put it in last week’s followup to avoid somewhat spoiling the future developments, but High Sparrow is now holding the High Septon office. The books present this story in a way different manner: the former High Septon was appointed by Tyrion, and was generally a good and pious man. And that (combined with political threat once he gets proof of Cersei’s crimes) is exactly why Cersei orders his assasination. High Sparrow appears later, taking over the Faith by himself, and Cersei approaches him when he’s already running the show.

The deal between Cersei and the new head of Faith is simple: in exchange for allowing reinstating the Faith Militant, High Sparrow writes off the Crown’s debt to the Faith. Which isn’t of any difficulty to him, since they’re already getting rid of all their valuables and focusing on charity. Faith Militant, absent from Westeros since the early Targaryens, was disbanded after their bloody uprising against king Maegor the Cruel. The act, known as The Conciliation, was made by Maegor’s successor, king Jaeharys, and took the Faith under the protection of the crown. Considering the history, arming the Sparrows for no apparent reason (without the debt context) seems especially reckless, but looking at the show narrative, it only further emphasizes Cersei’s vicious political strategy, going to extremes in order to undermine Margaery.

I was ready to write about this particular part in excess, but there’s a way to put it briefly: There is no persecution of homosexuals in A Song of Ice and Fire. Loras Tyrell’s sexual orientation is never relevant to the plot past the point of Renly not consummating his marriage. There is no mention of Faith Militant assaulting, beating, mutilating or interacting with gays in any way. Furthermore, the example from our own history shows that the Catholic Church was always more liberal in treating homosexuals than the civil authorities; even the infamous Spanish Inquisition revoked the death penalty for sodomy once they got the jurisdiction over it (read up on Wikipedia if you don’t believe me). This irks me a bit as even though it’s not as mendacious as the Flat Earth myth, it’s still projecting our misconceptions onto the story to “spice it up”.

If you want to read more on the history of the Faith in Westeros, check out GRVrush’s post from the last week here.

Stannis the Daddis


You know nothing, Jon Snow
Melisandre, proving that Jon’s troubles with hot redheads are far from over

This episode will be very funny to rewatch once the whole series is done. Or if you’re an avid book reader and you’ve already figured out the greatest fan theory of all time. Or if you’ve been spoiled by an overeager reader like me. Anyway, back to small trivia: Sam lists lord Smallwood – one of the Smallwoods, Thoren, as leading the rangers during the Great Ranging (season 2). When the fist of the First Men was assaulted by Wights, Thoren died to an undead bear. How cool is that?

As for Melisandre, yeah, she just said that. It came off a bit more naturally in the books – Jon lead into that passage with “I know so, my lady” – but that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to get an eerie vibe from her. Yeah, maybe in the books she didn’t strip naked to try conceiveing a new shadow assassin, but I guess we have to settle for this if we’re not getting Mance Rayder magically swapping appearances with Rattleshirt thanks to Melisandre’s magic. You heard that one correctly, at this point I feel confident enough to say that Mance Rayder does not die in the books. The swap is Melisandre’s private endeavor and is revealed in the first – and only – chapter written from her point of view. To be fair, A Dance With Dragons is very frivolous with adding new POV characters compared to the previous books, but still, taking a look inside the mind of the red priestess was a surprising experience. She’s older than she looks, that’s for certain.

I’ve already covered the issue of greyscale, so I’ll just remind you that Valyria used to be the dragon empire that the Targaryens came from. The empire fell in a catastrophe known as Doom of Valyria, and the peninsula, now an archipelago of islands, is considered a cursed and dangerous place. This is the second time we’ve heard of Stone Men (first time was last week in Volantis, from the red priestess), so this theme may come back later in the season.

And if you haven’t joined the Stannis fandom yet, now is your call. We’re merciful people. Hug the king or be destroyed.

Ghosts of the Past


A betting man would put his money on Stannis
Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, jinxing the Mannis

Repeating the first paragraph of the previous section: this episode will make for an entertaining rewatch. I’ve mentioned bits of this story here and there, but Lyanna was the Helen of Troy to Robert’s Rebellion: her kidnapping started the chain of events that resulted in the fall of the Targaryen dynasty. Her story is barely mentioned at all outside of Eddard’s memories and dreams, and seems like the show has finally decided to slowly pick up the slack.

To get the grasp on the Tourney at Harrenhal (more on that in GRVrush’s weekly context post), imagine if the whole cast of the series gathered at one place. This more or less the scale of importance of the event, and anything that happened there had immediate effect on key political figures from all over the Seven Kingdoms. Among the knights jousting were Eddard’s older brother Brandon, Rhaegar Targaryen and Barristan Selmy. Speaking of whom…

My Slave Liberation SNAFU


I was thinking about all the times your brother made me go down with him from the Red Keep (…)
Barristan Selmy, delivering his last heartwarming speech indicating his inevitable demise

Prince Rhaegar is a mysterious figure in the series. He was born at Summerhall, a royal residence in the Stormlands, on a day that a great fire consumed that castle. The origins of the fire are unknown – some suspect the attempts at hatching dragons from the petrified eggs – but the tragedy has resulted in death of King Aegon V (brother of Maester Aemon at the Wall), and many others. Rhaegar was often seen wandering through the ruins of Summerhall, taking it as inspiration to write songs.

I really have nothing good to say about that fight scene. The Unsullied were introduced to us as fearsome warriors, practically immune to pain, and now “jobbing”, serving as cannon fodder to legitimize the threat of Sons of the Harpy. To be fair, it is noted by no one else but Tyrion himself, that without their phalanx formation the Unsullied are no better or worse than anyone else, but they could at least keep their “silent in the face of pain” attire. All in all, the scene is a classical example of “show, don’t tell”: Sons of the Harpy attack like this numerous times, but since all chapters are from Daenerys’s point of view, we never get to see the attacks. Now, instead of repetitive ambushes with no-name characters, we get one big fight with two known characters.

Last but not least, Barristan Selmy is still alive in the books. He even has his own POV chapter. As for his role in there, we’ll revisit that later, but it appears he’s expendable.


And that concludes this week’s followup. Big thanks for the feedback in the Reddit thread and in here, much appreciated. The AiPT staff has helped me adjust the article for the mobile viewers, and it seems like the format is acceptable for all intents and purposes – and if not, I’ll keep posting the raw text version in the Reddit comments. There is a possibility of covering the removed book subplots in separate articles, but we’ll talk about it later. See you guys next week!

Jump to last week’s follow-up: Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 3 “High Sparrow” Follow-Up For Non Readers.

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