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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “High Sparrow” (S5, E3)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “High Sparrow” (S5, E3)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 5, Episode 3: “High Sparrow”

Original Air Date: April 26th, 2015
Director: Mark Mylod
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Season six’s finale appeared to completely put an end to the fan theory that Daenerys would turn into the “Mad Queen,” because not only did she decide against bathing all of her enemies in Slaver’s Bay in dragon flame, Cersei, the real Mad Queen, was busy blowing hundreds up in the Sept of Baelor with wildfire. However, a brief moment in season five’s third episode, “High Sparrow,” reminds us that Daenerys’ most devoted followers could still pose as great a danger as the icy army of the dead.

Tyrion and Varys stop in the Free City of Volantis, a giant former colony of the Valyrian Freehold. It has a huge population, including a massive amount of slaves, and while it houses many religions, its largest faith is made up of that of the Lord of Light.


As the two walk through the streets, they come across an Asian red priestess, a former slave herself, preaching to a crowd. She wears the same clothing as Melisandre, and like her seems to come from the Far East of Essos in Asshai. Tyrion stops to listen (he can understand High Valyrian), and quickly learns that the Mother of Dragons is not just the Breaker of Chains to these people, she is something much more important.

Here’s her entire sermon, edited together:

Lord cast your light upon us, for the night is dark and full of terrors. I was once as you are now–bought and sold, scourged and branded. The Lord of Light hears your voice. He hears the king as he hears the slave; he hears the Stone Men in their misery. He has sent you a savior! From the fire she was reborn to remake the world! The Dragon Queen!


It’s so reminiscent of what Melisandre said about Stannis that if you cut off the last two lines you might think she had said this. Considering what Melisandre did for Stannis–birthing a brother-killing shadow baby, burning innocent men alive, and sacrificing a little girl–it’s a terrifying prospect to think what the entire faith could do for a woman who emerged from the fire with three dragons. Dragons are the living embodiment of fire and light, and therefore the living embodiment of their god.

These people don’t believe in Daenerys the way Varys, Jorah, Tyrion, and Barristan Selmy do, as a just ruler who can restore peace to the world, these people believe Daenerys herself is the Prince That Was Promised, the savior of mankind. Not even Daenerys thinks that.


Fanatics are often the most dangerous allies.

Tyrion hears this speech and mocks the idea of Daenerys as this promised hero, and then the red priestess turns and stares at him. It’s uneasy, as if she knows something about him she shouldn’t, and the usually unflappable Tyrion quickly leaves.


But we know this will prove to be much more than the the word of one priestess, because in season six’s “The Door” (which you probably remember for other, more horrible reasons), the high red priestess of Volantis, Kinvara, visits Meereen and tells Tyrion and and a skeptical Varys how she and her fellow believers will help spread the word about the Mother of Dragons, because “Daenerys Stormborn is the one who was promised–from the fire she was reborn to remake the world.”

She too believes the prophecy about the Prince Who Was Promised, the hero who would save the living from the Long Night, is really about Daenerys. And Kinvara’s knowledge goes well beyond just a prophecy. She tells Tyrion, “Her dragons are fire made flesh, a gift from the Lord of Light. But you heard all this before, haven’t you? On the Long Bridge of Volantis. The dragons will purify nonbelievers by the thousands, burning their sins and flesh away.”


It’s chilling, both because she knows something about his experience she has no business knowing, and also because if you believe in fighting for the living, bathing them in dragon flame would seem counterproductive.

Varys, who hates dark magic, is skeptical, having heard all of this before about Stannis, and he calls her a fanatic who can’t admit when mistakes are made. If what she said to Tyrion was eerie, her response to Varys is truly terrifying:

Everyone is what they are and where they are for a reason. Terrible things happen for a reason. Take what happened to you, Lord Varys, when you were a child. If not for your mutilation at the hand of a second-rate sorcerer, you wouldn’t be here helping the Lord’s Chosen bring his light into the world. Knowledge has made you powerful, but there’s still so much you don’t know. Do you remember what you heard that night when the sorcerer tossed your parts in the fire? You heard a voice call out from the flames. Do you remember? Should I tell you what the voice said?

Varys is speechless. There’s no way she should know about the voice he heard in the flames. She never does tell him what it was he heard, or who it was that spoke. Simply knowing about them exemplifies her power.


When you start to combine all of the words, deeds, and actions of the priests and priestesses of the Lord of Light, a list that also includes Thoros of Myr and Melisandre bringing people back from the dead, they seem as dark, mysterious, powerful, and worrisome as any danger posed by the Night’s King and his cold army of the dead.

Daenerys might not be the Mad Queen we feared, but that doesn’t mean those who believe in her the most aren’t a huge threat to the world. Because in the coming Great War, the side of ice and the side of fire both seem just as likely to kill the living.

But what do you think? Do the followers of the Lord of Light pose just as great a threat to the living as the White Walkers, or are they and the Mother of Dragons the only hope for mankind? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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