In the third episode of season 5, we finally get to see some progression of the story, which is a welcome change from the prolonged exposition we were given in the first two installments. The title of the episode, “High Sparrow,” refers to the leader of a religious movement that is gaining popularity throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Those that follow the High Sparrow are devout followers of the seven gods, and stand in stark opposition to the corruption and excess that has become rampant in the faith. Instead, the “sparrows” live simple lives and focus on serving the poor. Conflict erupts as some of the sparrows find the High Septon, the established leader of the faith, in a brothel. They drag him outside, parade him through the city completely nude, and beat him. After this harsh treatment, the High Septon appeals to Cersei and the small council, an act for which he receives imprisonment in the Red Keep. Cersei then goes to visit the High Sparrow, undoubtedly in an attempt to curry favor with him and his followers.
Cersei’s problems do not end there, however, as Margaery and Tommen are now wed, which puts Cersei’s position of power in jeopardy. Margaery, who is becoming increasingly popular with most of the population, does not allow this fact to escape Cersei’s notice, as she makes sure to point out that Tommen will surely impregnate her soon, because, yeah, her and Tommen are totally consummating their marriage. Like, a lot, if Margaery is to be believed. Which brings me to my next point – Can I just say how weird it is that they chose to add this element into the shows? In addition to not being in the books (due to him being eight years old), it made for a weirdly uncomfortable scene. I know that show Tommen is older than book Tommen, but he can’t be older than thirteen or fourteen – way too young to be…er…”becoming a man.” Obviously, this is the writers’ way of creating even more tension between Tommen’s bride and his mother (Obvious due to Margaery’s not-so-subtle suggestion that Cersei will always view Tommen as her “baby boy,” which prompts Tommen to suggest to Cersei that maybe she’d be happier at Casterly Rock), but still, it’s a weird and unnecessary way to go about it.
Meanwhile in the North, an alliance is forming via a perverse wedding pact orchestrated by Littlefinger and Roose Bolton which will result in an unholy union between Sansa and the deranged psychopath Ramsey Bolton. Sansa is understandably not thrilled at the notion of marrying the son of the man who betrayed and killed her brother and mother, but Littlefinger convinces her to acquiesce by imploring her to “stop being a bystander.” The bigger development here, however, is that this marriage pact is being formed without the knowledge of Cersei, who has sent Littlefinger a message and who presumes is still loyal to her. The message raises Roose’s suspicion of Littlefinger, but Littlefinger assures him that now that Tywin is dead, his alliance with the Lannisters is no longer solid. Meanwhile, as Sansa is taken to her quarters, she is welcomed home by an unnamed attended who also assures her, “The North remembers.” Is this a warning to Sansa not to cast her lot with Littlefinger and Bolton, or an affirmation that no matter who is in power, the citizens of the North remain loyal to House Stark and will make sure they are avenged? We don’t know at this point, but it’s an interesting question that will hopefully be answered in the coming episodes.
At the Wall, Jon meets with Stannis and formally declines his offer to be made Lord of Winterfell. He also inquires how long Stannis and his men will be staying at Castle Black since food is becoming scarce. Stannis informs him that he will be taking his troops to Winterfell soon and leaving the Wildlings for Jon to deal with. After Stannis leaves, Davos lingers to inform Jon that Stannis sees something in his character and also calls Jon’s attention to the “I am the shield that protects the realms of men” line from the oath of the Night’s Watch. After all, Stannis reasons, isn’t Roose Bolton a threat to the realms of men? Later, Jon holds his first meeting as Lord Commander. He bestows the title of First Ranger on Ser Alliser, who has been a perpetual thorn (no pun intended) in Jon’s side. This seems to please Thorne, but his close companion Janos Slynt is not as pleased with his new appointment – command of Greyguard. He tells Jon in no uncertain terms that he will not be going to Greyguard. Jon, incensed at Slynt’s disobedience, calls for his sword (omitting the iconic “Fetch me my block” line from the book – bad choice, writers) and has Slynt escorted outside. Janos remains defiant until his head is placed on the chopping block, at which point he begs for forgiveness and promises to obey Jon’s order and go to Greyguard. Does Jon listen to Lord Slynt’s plea for mercy? Spoiler Alert: Nope.
Arya is still at the House of Black and White in Braavos with Jaqen H’gar, who tells her that she must get rid of all of the things that belonged to Arya Stark if she is truly to become “no one.” Arya does as he commands, throwing all of her things into the sea – except for her sword, Needle, which she hides in a pile of rocks.
Tyrion and Varys arrive in Volantis, and Tyrion heads immediately to a brothel. He engages one of the women working there, who agrees to offer her services to Tyrion, but Tyrion finds himself unable to complete the deed, seemingly stuck on the fact that he is still married to Sansa. As Tyrion is relieving himself off the wall of the brothel…Spoiler Alert: He is captured by another patron of the brothel, the exiled Ser Jorah Mormont who informs Tyrion that he is taking him to the queen.