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GAME OF THRONES Recap: Sunday, Bloody Sunday

The night is dark and full of spoilers, fair friends of the Realm. Which is to say if you have yet to watch Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, “Sons of the Harpy,” we highly suggest you turn away from this very informative lil recap tout de suite. Don’t say we didn’t warn ya, ya gooses.

BLOOD?! Both spilled and questioned, the role and rule of blood was the name of the game during Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones. After three relatively quiet weeks of set-up and machinations, “Sons of the Harpy” put a lot of balls into play. We’ve been — at long last! — introduced to the Sand Snakes, been given hints to potential kingly parentage, and had more than a bit of blood spilled in the name of honor and justice. If you’ve thought Thrones was playing it close to the vest this season (which it has), Sunday night was sure to cure you of all fears of that continuing. Because man oh man is winter about to be a-comin’, folks.

Down in King’s Landing:

Oh Cersei. Cersei, Cersei, Cersei girl — everyone’s favorite villain has taken to trying to start wars without any name attachment to them. It’s this sort of sneaky business that’s afoot in King’s Landing, and the Dowager Queen (gotta use that one, amirite Maggie Smith?) has the struggle for control on her mind. It’s an interesting bit of business, sending Mace Tyrell to Braavos and getting into bed with a bunch of religious fanatics: clearly, Cersei has learned enough to know that it’s easiest to control a populace when your name isn’t attached to the dirty deeds that “must” (we use that term lightly here) be done. It’s exactly why she sent Mace to deal with the Iron Bank’s monetary demands, and why she has the High Sparrow and his loyal servants reinstate the Faith Militant.

But repercussions are real, and though they’re not falling directly on Cersei’s head yet, you can see the chips being stacked perilously close to her. It’s never a good idea to give a group of righteous religious zealots enough power to wield as justice in the name of the Seven. It causes trouble, like the sort we saw between Margaery and King Tommen upon the arrest of Ser Loras Tyrell for being gay. King Tommen came face-to-face (sort of) with the dissent his name carries amongst those he’s supposed to rule — something from which his mother has worked tirelessly to shield him. “Abomination!” a voice cried out from the street, reminding us all that the king’s incestuous origins are still a big problem for the folks of Westeros, regardless of the fact that they are something Tommen himself couldn’t have helped. Which is sad because, ultimately, of all the Lannister kids, he’s perhaps the kindest and most just. But now he’s nothing more than an innocent bystander — one that’s so eager to please everyone. Tommen’s on the fast track to becoming collateral damage if he keeps trying to appease both his motheraunt and his wife, so eager as they are for power and control over doing what’s right.

And Cersei is riding a very fine line with this game, too. Clearly the folks of King’s Landing are less-than-keen on the Lannister (and for all intents and purposes, the Baratheon) brand. And Cersei and Jaime’s worst-kept-secret is more likely than not on the tip of the High Sparrow’s tongue — incest is pretty, pretty bad by all standards now that the Targaryens are out of power — so it feels unwise to bestow upon the Sparrows the absolute authority and power of justice and judgement in the eyes of the Faith. Right? But then again Cersei’s never really been one for forward-thinking measures, eschewing logic and reason for hoarding power. So expect this whole scenario to work really, really well for her. Ha ha ha.

“All sinners are equal” in the eyes of the gods, after all. With the Faith Militant in power, no one is protected.

Up Upon The Wall:

Elsewhere, Lord Commander Jon Snow had to swallow his pride — and his lustful wants — in order to keep peace and order on The Wall. You see, Melisandre can sense there’s something special about Jon Snow (more on that later/below), and propositions him with the promise of elevating his power to something far beyond the comprehension of men. “There’s power in you, you resist it — that’s your mistake,” Melisandre explained while whipping out the goods, “embrace it.” Ahh yes the ol’ naked persuasion game: it probably works really well on other men with less rigid morality — but not our beloved Lord Commander Snow.

But you know he second-guessed himself the second Melisandre cooed those all-too-familiar Ygritte words — “You know nothing, Jon Snow” — effectively sending the noble lad into a mental tailspin. What, exactly, are Melisandre’s powers and why does she always seem to be, like, 74% right?

Perhaps the most surprisingly delightful moment of the night happened upon The Wall, though. And it came from the unlikeliest of sources: Stannis Baratheon. Goin’ about as ol’ softy as one could ever expect from a man like him, Stannis and his daughter Princess Shireen shared one of the more lovingly tender moments the show has ever seen. (As “lovingly tender” as you can call anything Stannis Baratheon has ever done.) After being beat over the head with her own mother’s displeasure with her daughter, Shireen asks her daddio, “Are you ashamed of me, father?” It’s pure heartbreak, really, as the girl has been grappling with the realities of her disfigurement at the hand of Greyscale for the past few weeks.

Stannis decides the best way to show his love for his daughter is to tell her a story of how she contracted the deadly illness — from a poisoned doll a trader gave her at her birth. He explained how other men implored him to send her to live with the “Stone Men” in Valyria for what was sure to be a very short and painful life. But Stannis was determined to heal and save Shireen’s life. “You did not belong across the world amongst the Stone Men,” because she was his daughter, the Princess Shireen. It was perhaps the most tender we’ve ever seen Stannis, very matter-of-fact and devoid of true emotion as it was, but you could see that the sentiment of love was there just below the surface. It was an unexpected bit of sweetness from a man who is literally anything but.

Over in Winterfell:

Meanwhile, Sansa Stark is turning into the Black Widow of Westeros, being set up with a sort of superheroic origin story in order to propel her forward and straight into the Game itself. Now that she’s back in Winterfell, Littlefinger has to set her free, hoping his lessons will ensure her manipulative future is a prosperous one. Because he has to head back to the Red Keep at the behest of Cersei Lannister, so he lays out a few more hypothetical plans for our new master manipulator-to-be while also dispensing a bit of familial background. (Again, more on that later/below.) If all goes according to Littlefinger’s plan, Sansa could very well become Wardeness of the North as the last surviving Stark, whether or not Stannis Baratheon beats them on his way down from the Wall to the Iron Throne. Sure, she’s still a pawn, but at least she’s in on the game — which might just make her the most powerful player of all, just like Littlefinger.

“Even the most dangerous men can be outmaneuvered,” he posited before he left, and he’s not wrong. He’s given Sansa very powerful tools and insight into the Bolton men with which she must reside. Whether Roose is defeated or not, Ramsay Bolton is still in love with her: all she needs to do is use those strings of affection to create her own advantage. After all, the North Remembers and the Stark name goes far in this part of the world. After these however-many-months of learning and grooming, the time for Sansa Stark to step into her own autonomy is now. And homegirl looks ready: “I expect I’ll be a married woman by the time you return,” she stated matter-of-factly to Littlefinger before his departure. And she might, but that isn’t to say she won’t hold all the cards.

The time of Sansa Stark is now, y’all!

Down in Dorne:

Elsewhere in the Realm, Jaime and Bronn are on an outlandish adventure to return Princess Myrcella to the Red Keep, effectively neutering the ruling Martell family down in Dorne — something Ellaria Sand and Oberyn’s daughters, the Sand Snakes, are less than keen on. Revenge for their father’s death is the only thing on their minds, and the news that Jaime is en route to seize their one claim to the Iron Throne (in Dorne they believe women can be rulers just as much as men, unlike the rest of the Realm) does not go down all that easily, even if the men employed to protect their shores did.

Finally getting to meet Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene was an exciting moment, wasn’t it? After all, a cornered snake has but one option: to attack. And given Oberyn Martell’s penchant for daggers and poison, we’d steer well clear of these ladies if we were, well, anyone in the Realm. Their plans to seat Myrcella atop the Iron Throne in order to ensure a Dornish rule over all of Westeros is going to come at a huge cost. But Oberyn Martell’s bastard daughters are fearsome warriors beloved by the nation from which they come, and under the seemingly masterful tutelage of Ellaria Sand (Tyene’s mother), theirs is a course set sail on the good ship Avenge.

And speaking of ships (wow what an awful segue), let’s talk about how Jaime’s totally in love with Brienne. I mean, right? That wistful look as they passed by Tarth can only mean one thing: the brotherlover has moved on from the cold, damaged arms of his sister and into the heart of another. (And oh thank goodness for that.)

Across the Sea:

Tyrion Lannister’s motley crew of companions continues to change hands. Swapping out Varys for someone less eunuch-y, it’s Ser Jorah Mormont who’s setting off with the imp en route to Daenerys Targaryen. Naturally, Tyrion is less than keen to be muzzled and left in the dark, but figures out the man and his plan — to get back in Dany’s good graces by bringing her a Lannister captive — pretty quickly (because of course).

“What a waste of a good kidnapping,” indeed. However Tyrion gets there, though, is of no matter to us: we just need him to hurry up and get there already because TEAM DANY NEEDS TYRION. Especially after what happened at the end of the episode.

Finally, in Meereen:

“Everyone looks happy enough from up here,” Dany stated at the beginning of the episode. And oh. Ha. What a joke that was, because things are anything but copacetic for the Meereenese people. Their displeasure with Dany’s rule came to a head last week after the execution of Mossador. But that’s only one part of Dany’s very complicated puzzle: the other Free Cities are still trying to pick up the pieces and find some semblance of normalcy after she effectively freed the slaves. This includes Hizdahr zo Loraq’s suggestion to re-open the fighting pits. (It’s like gladiator stuff.) Dany is not keen on them because she thinks it’s just another form of slavery — which is probably true to an extent. Still, Hizdahr believes it’s still a good option to bring a bit of pride and opportunity back into their world: it won’t solve all their problems but it’s a start.

Still, Dany seems to lack the perspective of what it takes to rule and bring order to a world that’s been set-up and built upon by injustice. Considering her favorite sword to wield is justice above all else, it’s no surprise that she’s struggling to figure out the right way to rule. It’s more complicated than she ever thought and perception plays far more into it all than she cares to admit. Which is probably why it was good she heard from Barristan Selmy about the compassion of her brother Rhaegar.

…Particularly because he ended up dying at the end of this episode alongside Grey Worm. (IIIIIII know!) We weren’t kidding when we said the Meereenese people were unhappy, and trying to fight for their rights are the Sons of the Harpy, who we’ve long seen now as instigators. And, well! Instigate they surely did, what with their outright slaughter of several Unsullied soldiers, as well as Grey Worm and Selmy, in the end. This one’s going to throw Dany for a major loop, isn’t it? Yet another reason Tyrion needs to GET HIS ASS TO MEEREEN ALREADY AND HELP OUR YOUNG QUEEN DANY RULE. Hurry, Tyrion! HURRY!

And If You’re Feeling Spoiler-y:

There’s another thing that’s worth mentioning here now that we’ve covered Winterfell, The Wall, and Meereen: the story of Lyanna and Rhaegar. (If you’re keen on staying in the dark and spoiler-free on this matter, skip this whole last part.) We’ve learned an awful lot about Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark tonight thanks to Sansa and Littlefinger — something that only the book readers may have understood thus far. And it looks like it’s going to be majorly important to at least one storyline in the series.

It’s worth pointing out how their story is being unearthed in tiny, seemingly unconnected, throwaway moments. Like when Stannis Baratheon quipped off-handedly to his wife about Jon Snow’s origins, “but that wasn’t Ned Stark’s way.” He’s of course talking about Ned Stark’s honor and do-right-edness, which was always what made him who he was to those who loved and admired him. Add to that Littlefinger’s reaction to Sansa saying that Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped and raped Lyanna and, well, you can probably see where we’re going with this.

Which is to say: maybe the stories we’ve all been told were shrouded in the lies of others that made the whole war situation go down a bit easier.

See, the day Rhaegar Targaryen gave the crown of Winter Roses to Lyanna Stark over his own wife, Elia Martell (Oberyn’s sister), was the beginning of the war that ultimately put Robert Baratheon in power. As the story was told to Sansa and those across the kingdom, though, Rhaegar “kidnapped [Lyanna] and raped her,” an egregious move, particularly because she was already promised to Robert. But Littlefinger’s face — and Barristan Selmy’s loving tale of Rhaegar’s compassion and love of song to Dany — paints a picture that suggests the opposite may have, in fact, been true.

Particularly when one considers Melisandre’s obsession with Jon Snow — what if that princely blood of which she speaks is less the longstanding Starkian/King in the North stuff, and more the Targaryen business: which is to say what if Jon Snow isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard at all, but rather the baby of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar? Ned Stark would not tarnish his honor for just anything, but saving the life of a child born not out of rape, but love? One that belonged to his dying sister? What if protecting Jon Snow at the risk of his own honor was that promise Lyanna asked her brother to keep all those years ago? It would also explain Melisandre’s attraction to Jon (she has a thing for those with kingly blood, see: Gendry) and fall far more in line with Ned Stark’s character than anything else posited thus far.

Not that this is anything new: it’s been a long-held book reader fan theory for ages now — one that the show is seemingly tipping its hat to, leading us to believe it’s been right all along: Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen — born with the blood of two highly noble and stabilizing houses (minus that whole Mad King bit) in the Realm. The prince that was promised, perhaps? It’s something to think about and would be a major game-changer for both book readers and TV watchers alike.

What do you think of tonight’s revelations and character assassinations? Let’s hear it in the comments.

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