"High Sparrow," the third episode in season five of HBO's hit series Game of Thrones, allows its characters to begin an evolution that will take them further away from the narratives of the book, but closer to the stories that showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are developing.
With two episodes of season five concluded, the characters of George R. R. Martin's world are establishing the moral codes that will carry the rest of the season in these six scenes. They're also the moments everyone will be talking about (spoilers ahead).
Jon Snow beheads a man
In the last episode, Jon Snow was named the head of the Night's Watch on the Wall. Now he sits at the front of the dining hall, and his word makes the laws for a group of men who were formerly his peers. Though Snow has always been a decent fighter and a good swordsman, he's alienated himself from many of the members by being sympathetic to the wildlings, and by moping around a good deal in season two.
Where the first four seasons were full of Jon Snow trying to battle the wildlings while falling in love with one, season five seems to be a time for Snow to take his life and his will into his own hands. In "High Sparrow" a man questions Jon's authority as commander and refuses to follow his commands. Jon, in response, chops off the man's head despite pleas for mercy. It's a moment reminiscent of Ned Stark's beheading of a man way back in season one, and it gives him a bit more of a determined persona that could allow him to carry some more interesting plot lines for the rest of the season.
A skeleton comes back to life
In a very brief scene, Cersei is seen talking to Qyburn, the scientist who works on many secret and seemingly important projects for the Kingdom. She comes in to ask him a question, but the focus of the scene seems to be on what Qyburn is hiding beneath a blanket.
As soon as Cersei leaves the room, rattling can be heard beneath the blanket behind Qyburn. It's a moment that has enough mystery to seem like it might be a key piece of information going forward.
Sansa meets her match
Sansa Stark has long been a captive of people more powerful, more manipulative, and more cunning than she is. In the first four seasons, she was used as bait for Joffrey and then as a wife for Tyrion before being left in the care of Littlefinger, who is possibly one of the most manipulative men in Westeros.
In episode two, Sansa had the opportunity to leave her uncle's care for the protection of Lady Brienne of Tarth, but out of allegiance (or stupidity) she chose to stay. In episode three, we realize exactly what Littlefinger has been manipulating his way to this whole season — a match between Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton. Sansa is understandably hesitant, because Lord Bolton killed most of her family in the Red Wedding.
But marrying Bolton could give Sansa the agency she's been missing for the past few seasons, and place her in Winterfell, her childhood home, where she could experience all sort of character-developing events.
The high priest gets shamed
In "High Sparrow," religious zealots called the "sparrows" have taken over King's Landing by the strong-armed will of Cersei Lannister. In this episode, Tommen and Margaery get married, leaving Cersei vulnerable to being shipped away or being manipulated by her (yet again) daughter-in-law.
In an attempt to rearrange the center of power in King's Landing, Cersei befriends the "High Sparrow," and a plan is enacted to make him the head of religion in the seven kingdoms. The sparrows catch the High Septon of Westeros — the high priest of the Faith of the Seven — in a brothel, and punish him by dragging him out of the brothel and into the street naked. When he begs Cersei for help, she has him locked up.
Arya hides her sword
Arya Stark is still at the House of Black and White, as she was in the second episode, and is under strict order to try to become no one. During this episode, we see her sweeping floors and helping with tasks but really being reprimanded for continuing to be Arya Stark instead of a nameless, faceless person.
At the end of her portion of the show, Arya has changed out of her usual clothes and into unremarkable attire. At the edge of a long pier near the House, she drops a bundle of her possessions into the ocean, ridding herself of her past identity. The tiny sword that has been on her person since very early on in season one, though, doesn't get tossed into the ocean. Arya is too attached to it, so she hides the sword in a pile of rocks near the water instead, seemingly so she will be able to retrieve it later.
Tyrion gets kidnapped
The episode closes with Tyrion's plot line on the other side of the world in Essos. He has convinced Varys to take him out of the carriage and into the city of Volantis so that he can find booze and a brothel. While there, though, he feels some remorse that makes him unable to fully enjoy himself.
Then, while peeing off the edge of the building, he is kidnapped, this time by Jorah Mormont, Daenerys’s former adviser. Jorah takes Tyrion away from Varys and loads him into a boat to take him to Dany, his original destination anyway.