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Game of Thrones: The Best Laid Plans & “High Sparrow”

High Sparrow - Sansa & BaelishChaos doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  It’s more than just entropy breaking things down slowly but surely.  Chaos is the car crash when people rushing to work don’t see one another as they merge onto the same lane of traffic.  It’s the good intentions of one person meeting the noble plans of another.  Chaos is the outcome of schemer versus schemer plotting and planning and watching as those plots and plans – well-crafted as they may be – collapse against themselves for the chance to win it all.  And tonight, we saw many a schemer’s best laid plan fall on itself in spite of all their plotting.

Sometimes it’s the innocent plan that puts someone on their course.  This was the way for Brienne of Tarth.  The young, innocent girl attended a ball thrown by her father in the hopes of finding her a suitable husband.  And the highborn boys had all desperately thrown themselves at her. For a while, she thought her dreams and her father’s were coming true.  Instead, it was all more cruelty from the young nobles who found her ugly and ungainly.  Where she might have ended up is unknown, for in her lowest moment, she found a friend in young Renly Baratheon.  Seeing her misery and abuse, he spent the rest of the night dancing with her.  It was that night that made Brienne swear herself to Renly’s side – which eventually led her to Catelyn Stark, Jaime Lannister and her vow to keep the Stark girls safe. It wasn’t what she intended all those years back, but it’s what her heart made her do.

So she rides slowly northwards, trailing Sansa Stark and Petyr Baelish as they make their way back to Sansa’s ancestral home of Winterfell.  For Sansa, the revelation of Littlefinger’s plan to marry her off to Ramsay Bolton comes as a total shock.  She had planned to keep the charade of being his bastard daughter to keep her identity secret.  Instead, now she’s revealed to the very man who betrayed and murdered her brother and mother during the Red Wedding.  Roose Bolton’s and Baelish’s plan is to betray the Lannister cause, from which they both grew powerful beyond their station. Bolton will have the North through Ramsay’s marriage to Sansa while Littlefinger will have The Eyrie as Robin’s adopted father.

High Sparrow - QueensBut if they think that Cersei Lannister is trusting of her father’s allies, they are clearly wrong.  She is not as willing to believe in the stories and plans. So she sends ravens out to Littlefinger.  In the meantime, she’s moving to try and consolidate as much of the power of House Lannister around her.  And for that, she needs to control pieces of power as her father did.  One of those is her own son, King Tommen.  But her plan to control her young son has ran into one major issue: his new bride, Margaery Tyrell.  She’s not just younger and prettier, but able to manipulate the boy king sexually.  Moms can’t compete with that, no matter how hard she tries.

Sensing her weakening grip on her son, Cersei instead jumps on the chance to make the man they call “High Sparrow” into an ally.  As the War of the Five Kings has ravaged the Seven Kingdoms, more and more of the poor and displaced refugees of Westeros have turned to their faith for salvation and to a man who practices the piety and adherence that their leaders seldom do.  When the Sparrows catch the High Septon – their Faith’s version of a Pope – in the midst of a brothel orgy, they shame him publicly, casting him out onto the street naked.  In his outrage, he runs to the Small Council for revenge upon this new faction.  Instead, Cersei seizes the chance to put someone in charge of the Faith of the Seven that she feels she can control.  But can she? Can she manipulate this seemingly pious peasant like she has the highborn of Westeros?

Another ruler who planned on manipulating someone lower in status than him was Stannis Baratheon, who felt that he could convince Jon Snow to bend the knee to him and deliver the North into his side for the right to be declared the rightful Lord of Winterfell.  Stannis was not wrong to believe this to be a long-held dream of Jon’s.  But the moment that the Night’s Watch voted him as the next Lord Commander, Stannis’ plan collapsed.  Jon, bastard as he may be to many, is too much the son of Eddard Stark and he won’t abandon his responsibilities to his order or his brothers. Stannis’ disappointment is profound, but based on his needs and his plan to march on Winterfell and the Boltons.

High Sparrow - JonStannis’ warnings over enemies against him, however, do not fall on deaf ears and Jon tries to split Ser Alliser Thorne and Lord Janos Slynt.  His plan is to elevate Ser Alliser to First Ranger and give Lord Janos command of Greyguard, another Night’s Watch fort that needs repair.  Ser Alliser takes his promotion well, but Lord Janos, insulted at being given a ruin to command, spits it back in Jon’s face.  His false bravado falls when he realizes that he just disobeyed the 998th Lord Commander and the penalty for that is death.  He pleads for his life but Jon Snow is his father’s son and he delivers his own justice, taking the head of the man who once betrayed Eddard Stark.

Halfway a world away, his half-sister Arya is facing the difficulties of her own plans.  She thought by sailing to Braavos and finding Jaqen H’gar that she’d finally have a place to be safe in.  Instead, she finds herself doing much of what she did when she hid at Harrenhal – cleaning, scrubbing, taking orders and dealing with mean big people.  And any question she asks results in more confusing and doubt.  Does she understand what the Faceless Men are offering to her?  What they are?  What becoming one will require of her?

She gets a taste as she is ordered to cast away all trappings of Arya Stark – the clothes she’s worn since she left King’s Landing, the silver she took from The Hound, the coin Jaqen gave her after he freed her from Harrenhal and Needle, the sword Jon made specially for her.  Slowly, she parts with each one of these items…but not her Needle.  Her sword, which she’s carried since she left her home, is too precious for her to bear.  So she buries it in a rock wall, setting it aside, but not discarding it entirely.  Even her plan to become a Faceless Man must deal with that.

High Sparrow - AryaHowever, no one’s best laid plan failed as much as Varys’.  Dealing with a drunken, depressed Tyrion as they reached Volantis, the Spider finally relented and allowed themselves the chance to walk the streets of the Free City.  He knew that Cersei’s promise of wealth and title to anyone bringing her the head of her brother was a real threat.  But Tyrion didn’t care.  He wanted the chance to share his misery with the world and he took it – first by looking down on a priestess of R’hllor with greyscale, then by dismissing the whore dressed to look like Danaerys.  But when he tries to speak with a different girl, his charm is back on, but his lust is gone.  Unsure, he goes to relieve himself, only to be taken captive by Jorah Mormont, who plans to deliver him to “The Queen.”

And just like that, so many of the carefully-laid and plotted plans by the various players in the game of thrones are revealed, change and collapse.  What Queen was Mormont speaking of when he captured Tyrion?  What happens to Jon after his execution of Janos Slynt?  Can Stannis find any way to win the people of the North to his banner?  Can Brienne save Sansa from Ramsay, whom even Littlefinger is clueless about in regards to the depth of his depravity? What part will the hiding, filthy Theon Greyjoy play in that?  And what will Cersei do to retain hold on her power in King’s Landing? Can she outmaneuver her new daughter-in-law? Is the High Sparrow an ally or a foe?

Chaos doesn’t come out of nothing.  It’s the ensuing carnage born out of too many well laid plans collapsing under their own weight.

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