"If last week’s episode was concerned with the heavy burden of crowns," notes Andy Greenwald from Grantland, " 'High Sparrow' was very much about the weightier struggle of those denied the chance ever to wear one." This week's episode connected the dots between several far-flung characters and their respective journeys. Three key examples are below.
Arya Stark & Jon Snow
The half-siblings "have always existed in parallel to one another," states Myles McNutt of The A.V. Club, "Needle exists as a thread between them." This week: "They each face a crossroads at which they must confront who they want to be and who they were in the past." In the end, both take steps forward but hang on to what they can of themselves: "Arya can’t toss away Needle and hides it in a rock wall for safekeeping instead, while Jon channels his father and delivers justice for Janos Slynt, suggesting each remain 'Starks' even if they are renouncing the name itself in one way or another."
Jon Snow & Ned Stark
By executing Slynt, Jon Snow also evoked another Stark: his father. His act embodied Ned Stark's words: "The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword." In this instance, "Stannis plays the father-figure role," says New York Magazine, "nodding grimly at the young man’s act – which, for those with long memories, feels doubly appropriate since Janos was one of the men responsible for Ned’s death." Kit Harington discusses what the act means to Jon in the video below:
Sansa Stark & Brienne of Tarth
Sansa's story also calls back to better times for House Stark, as the lady arrives at her old family home. Her return to Winterfell and engagement to Ramsay Bolton, all orchestrated by Littlefinger, exemplify what The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg calls, "a strong, and surprisingly tender theme that runs through the episode: the things men and women learn when they find themselves in partnerships that might not have been possible in their old lives."
Another example? Brienne and Podrick. In an interview with HBO, Gwendoline Christie describes Brienne's take on her squire: "She sees something of herself in Podrick, someone who has been marginalized as unsuitable to become what they want – a knight. She sees that she played a part in that, and treated him the way that she had been treated in the past. She decides to change that and to empower him. It's in that act of good that she becomes reinvigorated in her mission."
Whose mission are you most excited to see play out? Share your thoughts in the comments.