Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 review: Jon Snow shows how to get a head in business

SPOILERS: Jon faces up to the Stark realities of life as a leader, Sansa opts to play the long game in her search for revenge and Kings Landing provides some light relief

I never thought I’d feel proud of one man for chopping another man’s head off, but this is what Game of Thrones does to you…


It was partly the relief of seeing a quick and painless death after the trauma of what happened to Mance Rayder, but Jon Snow’s summary execution of Lord Janos also solidifies him into a wise, strong leader of men, and if Jon should one day find himself shifting his bum about trying to get comfortable on a seat made of swords, it feels like we’ll be able to trace his success back to this pivotal moment.

Newly installed as Lord High Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon was faced with his first big decision when Janos refused to follow his orders (to take charge of the muddy ruin that is Greyguard) and, just as bad, referred to his commander as “boy” in front of his men.

It was a spine-tingling moment when Jon calmly delivered the line “You mistake me my Lord… that was a command not an offer.” And a conclusive one when Janos told him to “stick your orders up your arse”. He had signed his own death warrant and was hauled outside by Jon’s men.

The range of emotions that flickered across Kit Harington’s face during the brief moments before he swung his sword brilliantly told the story of a compassionate, determined, dutiful man who is his father’s son, bastard or not.

Stark men have always been driven by a combination of fealty and compassion, ready to do what they must but never with cruelty. Ned Stark doled out the same punishment to a deserter in an early episode – quickly, painlessly but decisively.

Harington admits he struggled with “a character I love… committing this murder in cold blood”. But there is a huge difference between what Jon did and Staniss’s (read: Melisandre’s) cruel practice of dispatching his enemies at the stake. And in the context of a world where death is a way of life, Jon’s actions were the right ones. Mutiny and blatant disrespect can’t be tolerated when you’re trying to maintain authority over a rough and ready band like the Night’s Watch. Jon nipped it in the bud, but without malice, and sent a powerful message in doing so.

As Stannis looked on with that trademark stony countenance, I’m sure I didn’t imagine the slightest nod of approval. Having offered Jon the chance to march with him as a Stark and take back Winterfell, it’s clear Davos Seaworth is right and Stannis “sees something in him”. Is it just me, or does Stannis kind of want to be Jon’s new dad?

After a pep talk from Littlefinger, Sansa has agreed to marry Ramsay Bolton, following in the footsteps of her younger sister Arya in opting to play the long game in her search for revenge. “You’ve been running all your life… You’ve been a bystander to tragedy from the day they executed your father,” Lord Baelish told her. “Stop being a bystander, stop running. There’s no justice in the world – not unless we make it.”

It’s horrible to think of Sansa in the hands of a man so sickeningly cruel he makes Joffrey look like Mr Tumble but the idea of her getting close enough to slip a dagger between Ramsay’s ribs (or – please – something much worse), before doing similar to his father, the man who murdered her mum and brother, is incredibly seductive.

That would all be a little too much like justice for Game of Thrones – then again, this Sansa storyline is a departure from the books and perhaps showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss are a little less ruthless than George RR Martin, the Ramsay Bolton of authors…

Compared with the north, Kings Landing is currently the light relief, with much fun to be had this week from the marriage of King Tommen and Margaery Tyrell (a modest and bloodless affair compared with most Westerosian weddings), not least the sight of Cersei attempting to manoeuvre her mouth into a smile as Margaery became queen again.

As Tommen considered whether the newlyweds might be able to break the Seven Kingdoms sex record, Margaery, arch manipulator of Baratheon boys, subtly suggested that the King is a little too important to be treated like a “cub” by “lioness” Cersei, even planting a seed that mum might like to return to her home of Casterly Rock, which she surely misses so much…

After puritanical holy order the Sparrows rudely interrupted the High Septum while he was “tending” to the workers in Littlefinger’s gentlemen’s club, Cersei saw an opportunity for an unlikely new alliance.

When the Queen Mother (“or Dowager Queen – which is correct?”) leaves Kings Landing and hitches up her skirts to navigate her way through piles of dung at an outdoor soup kitchen, you know she must be worried about her position. How exactly she plans to make use of the High Sparrow we’ll have to wait and see but Jonathan Pryce’s languid barefoot holy man immediately seems to have some political nous beneath the apparent self-effacement.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how he and Cersei – “the faith and the crown, the two pillars that hold up this world” – work together. And the battle between the two scheme queens is a mouthwatering prospect.


The lioness is sharpening her claws. She’ll tear Margaery a new one if she gets the chance…