***SPOILERS SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!!! LET’S ALL HAVE A DRINK!***
Let’s begin with the title: Sons of the Harpy. I made sure to use good ole Wikipedia for this just to make sure I had mythology right. I’m not completely ignorant when it comes to these things but I wanted to know what I didn’t know.
A harpy is a female monster in the form of a bird with a human face. They steal food from their victims while they’re eating and have been known to carry off evil doers to the Furies especially those who kill their family, which is interesting considering that Jaime and Tyrion are both going to places with vengeful women (the Sand Snakes and Dany respectively). Jaime is a kinslayer as well as a kingslayer if the theory about him being Aerys’s son is true. So both brothers killed their fathers if this is so. Jaime would be doubly damned as the Furies “punish whosoever has sworn a false oath,” unless they accept the loss of his hand as payment.
The paradigm of the harpy must also be examined in the context of the word “son,” for the episode is entitled “Sons of the Harpy,” implying that the harpy is mother and vengeful both. Cersei Lannister, Selyse Baratheon, and Ellaria Sand most certainly fulfill this requirement. Daenerys is literally battling the sons of the harpy, and after the ending events, she will most certainly become as vengeful as their “mother.” The episode sets up and continues to set the stage for many a revenge: Dany for Barristan and Grey Worm, Ellaria and her daughters for Oberyn, Margaery for Loras, the North for Sansa against the Boltons, Jaime against Tyrion for Tywin.
So…welcome to my analysis/review of episode 4! I suppose I just jumped right in without even an introduction. At least I gave you a spoiler warning. This episode…well let’s just say that by the end of this examination I shall be revealing a prediction that’s been bouncing around in my head since yesterday morning. I can’t say that it’s one I made, but I did finally get my head clear enough to put together. It belongs to a righteous other that I will certainly credit, and I have much laud to extend in this edition of my GoT analysis. Let’s jump in shall we. As before I’ve broken my study up into sections, the magical three this time: The Harpy and Her Daughters, The Judgment of the Seven, and Cryptic Revelations. I may not discuss everything in the episode as I wish to focus on just the central and most integral pieces.
As per usual, the day after S5E4 aired, I ran to the internet to see what my favorite theorists had to say. It just really helps my brain juices to see a recap and hear other thoughts. I’m still waiting for the round table discussion usually hosted by James Johnson. They’re usually good to go by Tuesday, but it seems a bit late this week. Three hours of pure brilliance that breaks down every aspect of the episode, compares it to the books, and speculates what things mean for later. Bar’s was the first video I watched.
Then Tony Teflon who is Stannis’s number one man weighed in.
So I had a decent foundation for my ruminations. I think I have to say that so far this has been my favorite episode this season. Alright, enough hemming and hawing. On to…
The Harpy and Her Daughters
*sigh* I started with this because of all of the changes from book to show, this one makes me the unhappiest. The role of Arianne Martell
was cut, and while, yes, I understand not everyone and everything will make it into the show, I was a bit disappointed. Not as disappointed as I am about Lady Stoneheart, but I’ll talk about her in a second. It looks like Arianne’s role is probably going to be absorbed in either Ellaria or one of the Sand Snakes, and Arys Oakheart’s role is more than likely going to be taken over by Bronn or Jaime, and Clare Grey (gods I hope I didn’t misspell her name) believes that Bronn may also cover the role of Darkstar. (The link attached to Clare’s name leads to a video hosted by Maester Payne of YouTube theorist fame. I’ll be mentioning him later as well. Later, later, so much later. Anyway…). We also have to discuss what they did to the Sand Snakes *deep breath*
Alright, first, I’m wondering are there only three of them?
When in the books there are eight! The youngest four are Ellaria’s daughters, and Oberyn has four others by other women.
The Red Viper was a very worldly man. He studied at the Citadel forging a few links of a Maester’s chain, traveled all throughout Essos, among other things. I do want to make mention of the way Ellaria pronounces Obara’s name. She says it almost like Oberyn as “o-buh-RAH,” whereas I’ve said and heard it as “o-BAR-ah.” Their appearances, too, leave something to be compared.
Obara’s appearance I’m actually okay with. They found an actress that really fits the part. She is the oldest and the daughter of an Oldtown whore.
I’m good with her, too. They pretty much nailed it with the first two. Nym is the second oldest and the daughter of a Volantis noblewoman.
Now we get to a major, major difference. Tyene is the daughter of a septa. She is fair with golden hair and blue eyes, maintaining a veil of innocence to disguise a treacherous heart. She shares her father’s knowledge of poisons, and she looks nothing like her show counterpart. Tyene is the one birth daughter of Ellaria, but regardless of this and regardless of their gender, they all still fit the harpy’s son description.
I think D&D decided to simplify and consolidate the Sand Snakes down, but I wish they’d chosen a closer depiction of Tyene. They could’ve made her not Ellaria’s child and the septa’s daughter still. I also really hope they include Saralla though…although I don’t even know if we’re going to see Oldtown and/or the Citadel
I wasn’t super impressed with the Sand Snakes. Sure, though Obara looked bad ass and cool, her “tears and spears” speech came off as extraneous and downright cheesy (the fore mentioned Clare Grey’s words of which I am in accord). Her killing that merchant with the spear didn’t really do much to elevate them for me. We see death so often on Game of Thrones that another one for a character I don’t know and don’t care about means nothing to me.
Now as for the future potential of Ellaria and her vipers, I do have to say that while Lady Stoneheart may not be in attendance, vengeful mothers certainly abound. While the Snakes are female, not male, I still think we can extend the sons of the harpy metaphor to her. Ellaria is furious that Doran will do nothing to “avenge” his brother’s death, and I have to side with Doran. There’s nothing to avenge. Oberyn choose to champion Tyrion’s cause and enter into battle to the death. He gambled, was hot-headed, and…literally lost it. This isn’t a case of murder; this was a case of justice per se. Oberyn knew the cost and knew the penalty. Ellaria is motivated by grief and vengeance; her daughters are as fiery as their father, and a harpy with vipers is a very dangerous enemy for Jaime and Bronn to face in…
.Who else felt a little heart twinge when Jaime looked longingly at Tarth aka the Sapphire Isle? That little scene really made me wonder which woman the Kingslayer was thinking of when he and Bronn were discussing how they’d like to die. Jaime states he’d want to die in the “arms of the woman he loves.” I’m not so sure it’s Cersei anymore since he’s starting to see her for what she really is.
His sister and Brienne couldn’t be more different, but I Jaime is starting to realize that there are other women besides his sister in the world. In a way, it’s like he never really grew up. He had a kind of childhood crush that moved to a level most of us do not go to because it’s his goddamn sister, but if we remove the incestuous depravity from the equation, it is like having that childhood crush fulfilled. You don’t know anything better so you think this is the best you can get.
When Jaime met Brienne, the first and only thing he could think to do was mock her for her unwomanly appearance and manner. Then he actually found himself jealous of her because the Maid of Tarth was stronger and possibly a better fighter than even he himself. After he loses his hand, this definitely rings true, but as time goes on, he starts to see her as an equal. She’s simple where Cersei is conniving. Honest where Cersei is deceptive, and while Cersei has never been one to hold the lash of her tongue, the queen has no issue lancing her spleen with lies and half truths to hurt, but Brienne while maybe not entirely right and too black and white in her assessments, still speaks truth as she sees it. She has no qualms about calling him out for breaking his kingsguard vows, and that’s when he tells the story of why he did what he did. It’s like they both have something to offer the other, and they both have much to learn.
Brienne, though she will never be a knight, is ironically the best person to teach Jaime how to be a true one. Fucking your twin is like fucking yourself. They’re essentially the same person, and it’s the height of narcissism. Cersei was Jaime’s mirror, but as his redemption arc rose, the knight realized he didn’t like what he saw within. He didn’t want to only be known as the slayer of Aerys, the act the preceded his name. He wanted something better to record in the White Book, and he didn’t want those deeds to be written in the blood of murdered kings.
The Judgement of the Seven
So can we all agree that Cersei is an idiot for reestablishing the Faith Militant? Yeah, she pretty much just signed her own warrant with that act, but she’s too caught up in her vendetta against Margaery to see. In setting the Faith Militant against corruption like a pack of rabid dogs, the queen doesn’t realize she is about to be infected. Homosexuality is not the only transgression they’re going to come after, and you can see it in the High Sparrow’s look! Loras is not his target…Cersei is.
Oh yes, the High Sparrow looks like a kindly, old man, but so does Qyburn.
All of this is set up for her vainglorious fall from grace. In removing Mace Tyrell and sending him to Braavos with Ser Meryn, her small council grows smaller and smaller by the day. Let’s dwell on this for a minute, shall we? Mace and Meryn going to Braavos means that one of the people on Arya’s list will be in her vicinity. Also, I didn’t miss the look on Ser Meryn’s face when he followed Mace out the dodor. I highly doubt Margaery’s father is supposed to make it back to King’s Landing alive. The only question is will Arya kill Meryn before he can off Mace?
I also liked the “I’ll give your regards to the Titan of Braavos.” That particular phrase about “regards” was uttered twice in this episode, and it hearkens back to the Red Wedding where Roose says, “Jaime Lannister sends his regards” to Robb before stabbing him through the heart. I loved the fact that Jaime himself echoes this sentiment in his conversation with Bronn about Tyrion. Also show of hands who thinks Jaime would actually kill Tyrion if he had the chance? I…just don’t. I think his words are perfunctory. He has to say them because Lord Tywin was his (supposed) father, but there was little love lost between the two of them. I’m not sure, guys, but I hope we get to see it.
Both Cersei and Dany’s small councils are shrinking but for vastly different reasons. The Lannister queen’s because she keeps sending her councilors away and the Dragon queen’s are dying 😦 Both queens are making egregious errors, as I’ve mentioned before. Though Dany’s are done in good faith, good faith and good intentions are not good enough. Cersei’s are most definitely done in bad “faith,” which is going to come back to haunt her. Cersei is the harpy, while Daenerys must deal with “her” sons.
Cersei may very well be the queen harpy (double entendres are fun) of them all. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that her name sounds exactly like Circe, a noted witch in Greek mythology. She is also aligned with Lilith, the mother of demons (see Joffrey), and in the eyes of the Faith she does birth abominations, incestuous children born of her twin. This seems to be far more known than the queen thinks, which we, the viewers, find out when Tommen goes to challenge the faith his mother has armed.
Tommen is the son of a harpy, but he is desperately trying to not fulfill that role. In a way his challenging the faith is a son facing sons. Cersei has created these monsters (not my theory; this was another brilliant insight from Maester Payne’s analysis), and I can’t even say it’s in a less bloody way than she birthed her own children though it lays not physically on her. She is forcing her own flesh and blood son to possibly incite a confrontation that could end with death in the streets, but he refuses to let that happen.
I really like Tommen. I’ve heard some comments about him being weak, but I disagree. I don’t think we can make a solid judgment about his strength or weakness from this one scene. He is trying to not be like his brother. He wants to be a good king. We know that he had at least some inkling that Joffrey’s way was not the way to go in the scene last episode after him and his wife had finished consummating their marriage. He confesses that he’s not all that upset that Joffrey is dead. Some people have said that that might be an implication that he killed him, but it could just be that he saw what Joffrey was. In the books the eldest “Baratheon” tormented and bullied his little brother. He once killed a fawn that Tommen had taken in and cut open a pregnant cat to see the kittens inside. Anyone could see that he was a sociopath. Given the right tools, he may have very well ended up in the basement laboratory with Qyburn performing atrocities upon living people. Tommen choosing to not disturb the king’s peace, his peace, says that he is a king willing to follow the rules the crown itself lays down, and speaking of which, notice that he is not wearing his crown in that scene.
I would not be surprised if this were done on purpose to show that Tommen was not willing to invoke the full power of his kingship, but seeing as how much that pissed Margaery off, and she wields enormous power over a teenage boy who just discovered sex, I think we may be seeing the crown, physically and figuratively, very soon.
Being the king and keeping the king’s peace is one of the most honorable (and meta) things that Tommen could do. Joffrey would’ve killed them all. I wonder if commentators would’ve seen that as strength or depravity. There’s a time and and place for brutal measures. He even says, “We’ll find another way.” One word from him would decimate them all but he chooses not to use it. To me that is the mark of true power. Having it, but not using it. I shall reserve my judgment of young Tommen for a more decisive day.
I also really don’t want him to be killed off, but I have no idea how that’s not going to happen if the foretold ending is going to come to fruition. At the very least, I want to see the boy king come into his own and prove that nobility can exist even in incestuous bastards, nor should a person be judged for the sins of their parents.
This is the part I’ve been waiting for…in the review not the show. Well, actually that’s not true. I am supremely happy that they finally started hinting at this. It has sparked so many conversations, and finally shown the show only watchers one of the major foundations of the story.
Rhaegar Targaryen is mentioned twice in this episode. You’ll forgive me if I don’t recall the order, but I’m going to start with Barristan’s tale. The old knight tells Daenerys about how Rhaegar preferred music to fighting though he was a consummate warrior. The prince and Ser Barristan would go out in King’s Landing and Rhaegar would play his harp, and they would do various things with the money so earned. I found it fascinating that Barristan mentioned three possible scenarios, and I wonder if there’s something more to that. Sometimes Rhaegar would give the money to another musician; sometimes he would donate it to an orphanage, and sometimes they would get drunk on it. Just taking a quick stab, but all three of these things show what a versatile and charitable man the Crown Prince was, and just as a reminder, this is what he looked like.
Now these are just my off the cuff theories, but giving the money to another musician shows how he would treat his equals if less fortunate. Another musician is another musician. Even though he is the Crown Prince of the most noble blood of them all (the dragon blood, the golden blood), as a musician he wouldn’t put himself above another in terms of that. Giving the money to an orphanage shows how he would treat those less fortunate, destitute, helpless and below him so that they could potentially become better. Using the money to get drunk with Barristan shows his generosity towards his friends. It also shows that though somber (he was plagued with melancholy all the days of his life), he could still partake in those activities that would give others joy. As I said, I just came up with this, but the magical three called to me and I had to answer. Taken as a whole, we see that Rhaegar was a decent person, and we are getting this from a source. Barristan knew Rhaegar personally, and the story he told was something that Barristan himself had taken part in. It’s not like the old knight was recounting something someone else had told him. He was there. He knew the prince, and he knew the man.
Now in the crypts of Winterfell we find Sansa looking at her Aunt Lyanna’s tomb. I think this was the most important part of this episode. She bends down to pick up what appears to be a white feather from the ground. I watched Maester Payne’s breakdown of this episode with Clare Grey today; however, and it turns out the feather only appeared white and was actually black AND it had been placed there by King Robert.
Little bit of epic story time. That feather bothered me a lot. I knew it was significant, but I had no idea why. Why would a white feather be near Lyanna’s tomb? So I googled “Sansa finds feather in crypts of Winterfell.” I didn’t find anything about that pinion; however…I did find the blog of Cantuse who writes literal dissertations on ASOIAF theories. The blog is called Meditations on A Song of Ice and Fire, and you should follow it; you should follow it right now as I have done. I initially found the subreddit he’d written on Rhaegar’s harp, but that soon led me to the blog post he’d created and the many, many essays there in. The fore mentioned essay is entitled The Secret in the Winterfell Crypts, and I had chills running down my spine because I could see it; I could 100% see Martin doing that. I’ll not spoil the fun for you if you choose to read it (please do), as I still have a “prediction” to make later on concerning those crypts and may just spoil it there anyway.
Ah, back to the feather. So Robert Baratheon placed it there in the very first episode, but I have no idea why he would’ve done that. Feathers don’t feature in either the Baratheon sigil or the Stark. It shouldn’t have anything to do with Littlefinger, who does have a mockingbird for his, but they don’t even have black or white feathers, nor should Littefinger be involved in anything to do with Lyanna. Maybe it’s supposed to hearken back to the House of Black and White and/or show that black and white thinking is shallow and dangerous. A third option is the feather is covered in white, concealing the black. Black is a color associated with House Baratheon as the denizens of that house have coal black hair. We know in genetics that black is dominant to white in gene expression. Therefore white covering it would be counter intuitive to what typically occurs. White is very close to silver, which was the color of Rhaegar’s hair, so this could be a reference to Rhaegar being the one to whoo and win the beautiful Lyanna where Robert did not. So even though Robert made his offering to her, his black did not override the silver/white, which could be a potential parallel to what happened with his own “children.” This color may not only be indicative of the Targaryen hair, but also what Rhaegar’s harp strings were made of and let us not forget the color of snow…
Going back to my second reason about black and white thinking, that is exactly what Sansa is doing when Littlefinger joins her. We get to hear another Rhaegar story from Petyr’s lips this one more ambiguous and leaning toward negative. In the Year of False Spring (a name that gives me chills, too, for some reason), there was a tourney at Harrenhal where Rhaegar won at the lists and so earned the right to crown the queen of love and beauty. Instead of of his own wife, the Crown Prince choose Lyanna Stark, and I love that D&D had Petyr say the line “the moment when all the smiles died.” After he tells the story, Sansa “finishes” it by saying, “Yes, he chose her. Then he kidnapped her and raped her.” The look Littlefinger gives her clearly says that this is not true, and when we consider that this is information that Sansa would’ve heard not witnessed, it’s hard to accept her version. The man that Barristan paints was not like that, and I hear the same sentiment echoed with Stannis saying, “That was not his way,” in terms of Ned. That was not Rhaegar’s way. Please, please anyone reading this do not think that I am trying to make a rape apology argument. That is not what I’m about; that is not my way. What I’m trying to say is that history is written by the winners, and the narrative about Rhaegar spread by Robert is as false as the spring. The usurper king was a jilted lover because the Crown Prince had had what he could not, and it was ordained by prophecy. You can’t fight the Seven Robert, and you can’t forever deny the son…
Jon Snow is facing a black and white decision of his own at the Wall when Melisandre tries to seduce him. This is very telling because Mel only goes after men with king’s blood. Stannis, Gendry, now Jon? Jon has king’s blood if R+L=J, which I believe is true, and she knows there is power there. Jon is tempted but he refuses both her and her request go to Winterfell, and here is where I present the prediction.
I stood on the foundation of giants and shouted their own words back. I did not in any way come up with this, but the moment I heard it, ice locked round my heart and I knew that it was true. Maybe because it really speaks to me (and I’ll explain why in the aftermath) or it just flows with the story. I’m not sure if I’m just seeing it there because it would be an art mimicking art ad nauseum, but LaDonna and James presented it, and I hold their words higher than gold.
Jon Snow needs to find his mother’s grave. There is something very important there. If you went to Cantuse’s blog (linked above) then you know what it may be. This is why were shown Sansa and eventually Littlefinger down in the crypts before Lyanna’s tomb. Lyanna is Jon Snow’s mother. There is something hidden there that he has to find. This may also be why Melisandre wants him to come with them to Winterfell. She knows as she knows he knows nothing. Jon doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know who his mother is, and he only thinks he knows his father. Even Gendry has some memory of a mother; Jon doesn’t even have that. This whole episode was a set up for revealing his parentage. Stannis’s insistence that Ned Stark wasn’t “like that” in response to Selyse’s remark that Jon had been gotten on some “tavern whore;” the crypt visit; the two opposing tales of Rhaegar all lead to my conclusion that the main goal of this episode was to subtly tell who Jon Snow really is. The reason Mel tried to seduce him is because he has king’s blood, dragon king’s blood. Mel only shows interest in men such as that. There is something in that tomb, and I’m going to go further, as I believe what James Johnson says in his Rhaegar video. Jon is going to be so pissed off that this integral piece of himself was kept from him for so long that he’s going to desecrate his mother’s grave by knocking off the statue’s head and inside will be the true Lightbringer, the Sword of the Morning, Dawn. That’s where Ned Stark hid it when Ashara Dayne refused to take her brother’s sword back choosing instead to throw herself from the tower. The Daynes are the keepers of Dawn. What else will end the Long Night but that?
The one wrench in the prediction is Jon’s stabbing. For this to come to pass he must recover from this, but prior he must become a Ghost…and ghosts belong in crypts.
I know what you’re all probably thinking. “SN, you’re just saying all this because it partially parallels your own story Northern Lights along with the story that’s based on (FFVII)! You’re just a crazy fangirl mixing up your narratives and trying to force a connection in between.” This is why I included the links to other theorists. Also, I have comparative essays planned for the narratives of ASOIAF and FFVII as there are numerous eerie similarities made more so unsettling due to Martin’s declaration that he’s not a gamer (missing/dead mothers & abandoned sons only a bare inkling of the many). Regardless if one can divine a pattern and provide proof then what does it matter what narratives are involved?
Jon will seek his mother’s grave. He has spoken of reoccurring dreams of the crypts to Sam before where he is looking for something. That is what he’s searching or: his mother’s grave and the truth. This also resolves the disconnect of the missing/dead mother and abandoned child paradigm that is pervasive throughout the narrative of ASOIAF. We see it with the Lannisters, the Starks, Brienne, the Hound, Dany and Viserys, Robin Arryn, Lysa and Catelyn, (emotionally) Selyse, (spiritually) Theon and Asha, Aegon (if he is truly Elia’s son), Dany and her dragons, Ned and his siblings, the Unsullied as a whole, Craster’s children. Do harpies just abandon their sons? Is that why they’re so vengeful?
Loose Ends to Tie
I don’t have much left. I want to mention the seriously sweet scene of Stannis and Shireen (wow many S much?). Prior to this we have Selyse (wow, another S. I never noticed that all of their names begin with that letter, hm…) bemoaning the fact that she “gave him only weakness and deformity” after she notes that her husband has a grudging respect for Jon Snow. Selyse is most definitely another harpy. You can see the stones of her heart on her daughter’s face. Tara Fitzgerald is a phenomenal actress by the way brilliantly pulling off the cold and loveless Selyse. She would gladly sacrifice her daughter if the Red God demanded it, but in her declaration she is wrong. When Shireen (who is such a sweet child) asks Stannis if he’s ashamed of her, the cold, calculating tactician proves that he does have a soft side. He tells his daughter that he bought her a doll from a Dornish merchant with heavy implication that that doll was what caused her greyscale. Soooo, Selyse wasn’t the cause of Shireen’s deformity in any genetic way, which is an interesting spin in the show. It came from a Dornish doll, a poisoned gift. I wonder what this means for Myrcella. The implications about Dorne could be very far reaching especially since Jaime and Bronn are currently there AND Tyrion is supposed to have a run in with the stone men in the Sorrows. Stannis was told to send Shireen away to live in the ruins of Valyria with the fore mentioned stone men (we are definitely going to see them before this season is out. They’ve been mentioned in the last three episodes and maybe in all of them), but he refused. Practical, tactical Stannis refused to send his dying possibly infectious daughter away. Instead he called forth every maester and healer he could find and they saved her life. I…loved that scene. Maybe too much, because now I’m worried that either Stannis or Shireen is going to die. It’s similar to how Barristan told Dany the story of Rhaegar and afterwards when she sends him to patrol the streets she says, “Sing me a song” or something to that effect, but Ser Barristan has already sung it and so he goes to his fate.
What does the future hold for us? What shall it reveal? How many vengeances does it take before we decide it’s enough. Where does the cycle end? Dany promises that she’s going to break the wheel, but I am almost positive she will not let Barristan and (possibly) Grey Worm’s deaths go unpunished. The harpies will snatch, more sons will die, and the mothers will cry for vengeance.
I really feel I must include a list of all of my references. It’s really only fair. I didn’t come up with the majority of this. I just discovered brilliant people and applied my babbling to their genius.
Bar de Porto’s episode analysis video can be found here
Tony Teflon’s episode analysis video can be found here.
Maester Payne’s episode analysis with Clare Grey can be found here. (I highly recommend you follow them all on YouTube.)
The Arianne Martell picture can be found on A Wiki of Ice and Fire here.
The Obara Sand picture can be found here.
Nymeria’s picture can be found here.
Here is Tyene.
The artwork for Qyburn can be found here.