High Sparrow (Game of Thrones)
|Game of Thrones episode|
Janos Slynt begging to the recently elected Lord Commander Jon Snow for mercy from his death sentence for insubordination
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Mark Mylod|
|Written by||David Benioff|
D. B. Weiss
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Cinematography by||Anette Haellmigk|
|Editing by||Tim Porter|
|Original air date||April 26, 2015|
|Running time||60 minutes|
"High Sparrow" is the third episode of the fifth season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 43rd overall. The episode was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Mark Mylod, his directorial debut for the series. It aired on April 26, 2015. Prior to airing, this episode along with the other first four episodes of the season were leaked online.
In King's Landing
Tommen and Margaery are wed, and that night, they consummate their marriage. Margaery then manipulates Tommen into trying to persuade his mother, Cersei, to return to Casterly Rock for her wellbeing, but she declines. Cersei, with the façade of a caring mother-in-law, confronts Margaery and is powerless when she mockingly gossips about Tommen's enthusiasm in the bedroom and Cersei's age.
In a brothel, the High Septon is attacked by Lancel and several other Sparrows, and forced to walk naked through the streets while they call him a sinner. He requests that the Small Council take action against the Sparrows by executing their leader, the High Sparrow. Cersei meets with the High Sparrow personally to tell him that he will not be executed, and that she has imprisoned the High Septon, whom the High Sparrow will replace as head of the Faith. Returning to the castle, Cersei has Qyburn send a message to Lord Baelish. As Qyburn writes, the body of Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane shakes on Qyburn's operating table.
In the North
Theon Greyjoy (Reek) passes through the courtyard at Winterfell, while several workers repair the castle. He is horrified to witness several flayed corpses being hung up in the courtyard. While serving dinner to Roose and Ramsay Bolton, Theon overhears that the Boltons do not have enough men to hold the North, should the former bannermen of House Stark rise against them. Roose tells Ramsay that the best way for them to forge alliances is with a marriage.
At Moat Cailin, Petyr Baelish tells Sansa that he has agreed to have her wed to Ramsay. She is disgusted by the idea, since Roose was responsible for the death of her brother and mother, but changes her mind when Petyr points out that this will be an opportunity to take revenge. They arrive at Winterfell and are received by Roose, his wife Walda, and Ramsay. Ramsay promises Petyr that he will never hurt Sansa, before Roose arrives to discuss the possible ramifications of their plan. Petyr tells him that, with Tywin Lannister dead and Margaery Tyrell as queen, they have no reason to fear the Lannisters. Roose is unconvinced, and shows him the letter sent for Baelish from Cersei. Petyr reassures him of their alliance, but Roose requests to read Baelish's reply nonetheless.
Petyr and Sansa are being secretly followed by Brienne and Podrick. Podrick tells Brienne the story of how he came to serve Tyrion Lannister, and Brienne tells him of how she came to be devoted to Renly Baratheon when he showed her kindness when they were young. She then explains that she believes Stannis Baratheon was responsible for Renly's death, and that she has sworn to kill Stannis in revenge.
At the Wall
Jon, now the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, refuses Stannis's offer to legitimize him in return for helping Stannis take back the North. Stannis tells Jon that his army will leave the Wall within a fortnight to march on Winterfell. In the dining hall, Jon appoints Ser Alliser as First Ranger. He also appoints Janos Slynt as the commander of Greyguard, a ruined castle which Slynt must restore. Slynt refuses and insults Jon, who responds by having Slynt seized and taken outside. Despite his pleas for mercy, Jon personally beheads Slynt. Stannis, who was watching, nods in approval.
Arya watches as the man with Jaqen H'ghar's face helps a man drink from a pool of water. He leaves to pray, and Arya approaches Jaqen, demanding that he begin teaching her to be a Faceless Man. Jaqen reminds her of the phrase "valar dohaeris", which means "all men must serve", and accuses Arya of only wanting to serve herself. She turns and sees that the praying man has died, revealing that the pool of water is poison for those who seek a quick death. Two servants then come to take his body away, but ignore Arya when she asks what they are doing with the body.
Later, Arya is approached by the Waif, who asks her who she is. Arya replies that she is no one, but the Waif is dissatisfied with her answer and begins to beat her. Jaqen arrives and stops the fight, but, noticing that Arya was about to attack the Waif with Needle, asks Arya how she came to be surrounded by things owned by Arya Stark if she is indeed no one. Arya then takes her possessions to a dock, where she throws them into the water. She cannot bring herself to discard Needle, so she hides it amongst some nearby rocks, and returns to sweeping at the House of Black and White. Jaqen then takes her to a room where she and the Waif wash a dead man's body.
Arriving in Volantis, Tyrion persuades Varys to let him depart their carriage and walk the streets. In the city, they witness a red priestess preach to a congregation of slaves about "the savior", Daenerys Targaryen. After the priestess notices Tyrion, the two hide in a brothel. Tyrion talks to a prostitute, but finds himself unable to bring himself to have sex with her, and leaves to urinate. While doing so, he is kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, who tells Tyrion that he intends to take him to the queen.
This episode was written by executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss and contains content from two of George R. R. Martin's novels, A Feast for Crows, Arya I, Cersei III, Arya II, Cersei V, Cersei VI, Alayne III and elements of Brienne III and Brienne IV, and A Dance with Dragons, chapters Jon II, Reek III, Tyrion VI and the Blind Girl.
Like other episodes this season, "High Sparrow" deviated from Martin's books in several places. For example, Tyrion's storyline has been sped up, and Tommen is old enough to consummate his marriage with Margaery. In what Forbes called "the biggest surprise in Sunday night's episode," Sansa Stark goes to Winterfell to marry Ramsay Bolton, a role that is played in the book by a minor character impersonating Arya. Busis describes mixed feelings regarding these changes but stated "at the very least, this is going to give Sophie Turner some real meaty material." In an interview, show writer David Benioff explains that Sophie Turner's strength as an actress was one of the reasons that they decided to give her character more dramatic scenes and Bryan Cogman added that it made more sense to give the Winterfell storyline to a proven actress who was already popular with viewers than to bring in a new character.
With this episode, Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton) is promoted to series regular. The episode has the introduction of new recurring cast members Jonathan Pryce, who plays the High Sparrow, and Faye Marsay, who plays the Waif.
"High Sparrow" was watched by an estimated 6.71 million American viewers during its first airing, and received a 3.5 rating among adults 18–49. In the United Kingdom, the episode was viewed by 2.196 million viewers, making it the highest-rated non-terrestrial broadcast that week. It also received 0.174 million timeshift viewers.
The episode received positive reviews, with critics highlighting Jon's storyline and the High Sparrow's introduction. Based on 30 critic reviews, the episode received a 100% rating score approbation in Rotten Tomatoes from 30 reviews with an average score of 8.1 out of 10 and with the consensus "'High Sparrow' expertly weaves together characters from Game of Thrones' sprawling stories, though the episode ultimately belongs to Jon Snow, whose new position highlights unexpected qualities."
Critical response to changes from the books and to original material written specifically for the episode were mixed. Critics seemed to be reserving judgment on the decision to bring Sansa to Winterfell, but Entertainment Weekly commentator Hilary Busis described this as "massively gross to watch [Tommen's] TV counterpart sleep with Margaery knowing that in A Feast for Crows, he’s still playing pretend with his beloved kitty," but Myles McNutt of A.V. Club found that the character's age gave him more agency. Both Busis and McNutt noted that the changes may make the story less cluttered, with Busis saying, "combining Sansa and [the Arya impostor]'s storylines allow Benioff and Weiss to trim a good bit of fat from ASOIAF and give already-introduced characters more stuff to do."
Awards and nominations
|2015||Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)||Deborah Riley, Paul Ghirardani, Rob Cameron||Won|||
|2016||ADG Excellence in Production Design Award||One-Hour Single Camera Fantasy Television Series||Deborah Riley||Won|||
|Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project||Dominic Piche, Christine Leclerc, Patrice Poissant, Thomas Montminy-Brodeur||Won|||
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