Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 review: Things get touchy-feely at Castle Black

SPOILERS: Stannis comes over all fatherly, Melisandre has a surprise for Jon Snow, Jaime and Bronn form a great new double act and there's militia madness in Meereen and King's Landing

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I love Bronn. His earthy northern manner and passion for the two Fs (fighting and sex) can never disguise that philosophical sense of humour and one of the sharpest brains in Westeros. But he only really works as half of a double act, so it was great to see Jaime taking over from Tyrion as the wry Lannister who gets to give Bronn all the dirty jobs (cooking snake for breakfast, killing, digging graves).

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They bounce off each other brilliantly – almost as well as Tyrion and Bronn did – but as they headed off on their expedition to Dorne to rescue Jamie’s “niece” (who is about to become a pawn in EIlaria Martell’s game of war) The Imp wasn’t far from either of their thoughts.

It was touching to see that Bronn misses Tyrion – “if you ever see the wee f**ker, give him my regards” – and interesting that Jaime seemed genuine when he replied “He murdered my father. If I ever see him I’ll split him in two”, even though it was he who helped Tyrion escape in the first place.

Back at King’s Landing, the motives behind Cersei’s alliance with the High Sparrow are becoming clear. Like all religious fanatics, the Sparrows hate gays so after she set them up with weapons and unofficial royal backing it was easy to whisper in their leader’s ear that there is “a great sinner in our midst, guarded by wealth and privilege”.

Margaery’s brother Loris was duly picked up by the city’s new faith militia and thrown in a dungeon. Young King Tommen may have the raw sexual energy of any teenage boy but when it comes to power and politics he’s basically impotent, so he was easily fobbed off when his new queen asked him to intercede. Margaery has now gone off to seek help from her family. Cersei has cunningly sent her father Mace away on a mission to the bank of Braavos, but to be honest he’s useless anyway.

No, the exciting prospect in this rapidly escalating feud between Margaery and Cersei is that Diana Rigg’s arch-politiker Lady Olenna might be called in. A face-off between the Queen of Thorns and the Lannister Lioness is a really mouthwatering prospect.

Meanwhile, what exactly should we make of the High Sparrow? Jonathan Pryce is fantastic as the deadpan holy man who makes a virtue of not taking himself or his sect too seriously (when refusing Cersei’s offer of wine, he told her “I could say that our minds are temples to the Seven and should be kept pure, but the truth is I don’t like the taste”) but he is clearly yet another of Game of Thrones’ deep thinkers.

Then again, he seemed easily manipulated, and perhaps flattered, by Cersei’s other offer – “an army in service to the gods themselves, and to you of course” – and it will be interesting to see who is playing who, and to discover to what extent the shoeless cleric backed the slaughter of the “sinners” in Littlefinger’s brothel.

As outwardly humble and holy as he is, it’s not hard to imagine the Sparrow overseeing those acts with as calm a countenance as when he dishes out soup to the poor.

In Meereen, Daenerys has a rebel militia of her own to deal with, and she is not going to be happy if the spooky mask-wearing Sons of the Harpy have killed her trusted advisor Ser Barristan, as very much looked to be the case at the end of this episode.

Barristan is like a kick-ass Kriss Kringle. It was awesome to see him wading in to help out Grey Worm when the Unsullied were attacked by the Sons of the Harpy – and only minutes after making Dany smile with a heart-warming story about her brother Rhaegar. If she loses him, she loses a warm and twinkly grandfather figure as well as a great advisor.

There were more touchy-feely moments (in one case quite literally) at Castle Black this week…

Stannis’s emotional range tends to start at vaguely ticked off and end with burning at the stake so his little speech to Shireen was a sweet surprise. 

“You are Princess Shireen of House Baratheon, and you are my daughter,” he assured her after telling her how he’d refused to give up on her when she became afflicted with the dreaded greyscale, calling in “every maester on this side of the world. Every healer, every apothecary” until they halted the disease.

When she wrapped her arms around his waist and he stood there awkwardly, before finally allowing himself to hug her back, it told us so much about a man who has rarely allowed anything as piffling as his family to distract his attention from the burdensome calling of claiming the Iron Throne.

But was that the only reason he found it so hard to embrace his daughter? Melisandre has hinted in the past that Shireen has an important part to play in the Lord of Light’s plans for Stannis and this week she told her mother Selyse “Her father is the Lord’s chosen King, and her father’s blood runs through her veins.”

Last time Melisandre got excited about Baratheon blood it was Gendry’s and after sucking some of it out with leeches, her plan had been to burn him as a sacrifice (isn’t that always her plan? I sometimes feel like Melisandre could do with shaking things up a bit). If her intentions for Shireen turn out to be the same, will Stannis put his daughter or his kingship first?

The other thing Melisandre likes to do is get her kit off and when the urge hit her this time it was Jon Snow in the hot seat. “This power in you, you resist it and that’s your mistake,” she told him, before adding a load of stuff about life, light and shadows which basically translated as “let’s do it”.

Jon wasn’t having any of it, of course – he still loves Ygritte (yay!) – but nevertheless it was probably for the best that he didn’t get up from behind his desk to see Melisandre out…

That state of affairs didn’t last for long anyway. At the door, she paused to utter some words which appeared to do the same thing to Jon’s nether regions as Chandler from Friends experienced when Janice appeared behind him to say “Oh. My. God.”

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“You know nothing Jon Snow,” said Melisandre. Could that BE any weirder…?