Game of Thrones: 504 “The Sons of the Harpy” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
The Sons of the Harpy was an interesting episode of Game of Thrones. To be honest, sitting down to watch it for a second time I was expecting the episode to be a lot better than it actually was. Perhaps it was the initial hype of new Game of Thrones which caused me to overestimate it to such an extent. Sadly I find myself in the unique situation of actually being disappointed by an episode of Game of Thrones, and that’s not something I want to say lightly.
So just what went wrong? It think it is fair to say that tonight’s episode was more about the larger conflicts, and that took away somewhat from the individual characters upon which the success of the show is built. I don’t think it’s a co-incidence either the episode doesn’t feature a wealth of new material for, Tyrion, Daenerys and Jon who all gain the acclaim as fan favourites and Arya doesn’t feature at all. As I said the episode is about the conflicts to come, and it serves to set something up in each of the four key locations utilised by the narrative.
The feud between Margaery and Cersei is nothing new, it has been running ever since the former arrived at King’s Landing and tried to gain power for herself. Whilst Margaery is the queen, it is Cersei who holds the power due to Tommen’s young age, but that doesn’t stop the two women vying for said power regardless of gets hurt. Last week saw Margaery try to use Tommen to get Cersei to leave King’s Landing, but now Cersei strikes back going for Margaery’s family in retaliation. This is where I found things start to get ridiculous, Cersei’s motives have always been to hold onto power for herself, yet she persists in reducing the size of the small council. Whilst this tactic gives her more power in the short term, it ultimately leaves her vulnerable.
To make matters worse she decides to arm the Faith Militant and allow them to unleash havoc on anyone they feel violates their beliefs. In going after Loras, they have shown they are not afraid to go after people with big names. I find it difficult to believe that the Cersei I know from previous seasons would not see the risk she is taking here, so it seems a little out of character for her to take her vendetta against Margaery so far.
The Dorne storyline was only established this series, but thus far has received very little attention from the narrative. I feel that the new characters introduced have been sub-par, which makes the storyline harder to become invested in. Besides the fact that we know that they want a war with the Lannisters in retaliation for Oberyn’s death, and that one of them has incredible accuracy with a spear, we don’t really know enough to care yet, and that is a problem.
This leaves Jaime and Bronn to hold up the storyline and so far they have only been used for the purpose of reflection on past events. There is one scene where they discuss how they want to die, which if foreshadowing events to come is a little too obvious. There is also a fight scene, but this ultimately proves to serve no purpose other than the opportunity for Bronn to add light comic relief to the narrative. I very much remain to be sold on this particular narrative strand, but it is still early days.
If I had to place a bet, I would suggest that the battle for the North, will be the major event in Episode Nine of this series. The North has got the most air time so far and has the highest concentration of main characters. In this episode it also receives a fair share of the run time, but the problem is, nothing happens. We witness Littlefinger tell Sansa of his plan for Stannis to take Winterfell and install Sansa as Wardeness of the North in return for her support. As far as I’m concerned, we already knew this, or at least had worked it out. So for the episode to waste time informing us seemed like a waste of time that could have been better utilised elsewhere.
At The Wall, we see Stannis share a touching moment with his daughter, this is one of the highlights of the episodes as it shows another side to would be King of Westeros. Jon’s storyline is also reaffirmation of concepts which we already knew, that he is motivated by his vow and will do whatever it takes to fulfil it, be that accepting resources from the man who killed his brother (there’s also the fact that surely he would know reducing the Bolton army would make life easy for Stannis, that he still has to be persuaded is baffling). His devotion to the Night’s Watch was also reaffirmed by his refusal of Melisandre, which shows how his character has developed since Ygritte’s death.
Daenerys’ struggle against the concept of slavery is one that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. By the end of the episode, we have reached an impasse where she refused to budge on principles, meaning it is time for her enemy to act. The final scene of the episode is undoubtedly the strongest of the episode as the Sons of the Harpy being their assault. The scene is executed quite well in that it splices Dany refusing to budge with regards to the fighting pits, against her men include two of the people she cares about most face slaughter due to her beliefs.
Given that the episode ends on a cliff-hanger with both men injured, it should be interesting to see if this will serve as a message to her that sometimes a compromise is best bet. In previous seasons she stated that she was a Khalesi and not a Queen. Earlier in this season we witnessed her claim to be a Queen not a Politician. What’s next for Dany is anyone’s guess, but I hope she makes more mature decisions because it starting to become quite irritating.
I’ve been very harsh in my verdict of this episode, because I think the episode offered us very little in terms of new material. In more ways than one the episode had the feel of a classic filler episode. For the first time I can remember after watching a Game of Thrones episodes I am left feeling that certain characters where not done justice by the narrative: Cersei’s decisions seemed too drastic, Daenerys and Jon’s refusal to budge on their beliefs too overplayed (more so with the former).
It was inevitable that there would be a sub-par episode at some point, and for it not to be until the 44th episode is quite an achievement, although it does make it sting that little bit more. I have every faith the show will come back next week stronger than ever.