Emilia Clarke in “Game of Thrones” season 5, episode 7. Photo: Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO.

Emilia Clarke in “Game of Thrones” season 5, episode 7. Photo: Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO.

“All rulers are either butchers or meat” — Daario Naharis

Fasten your seat belts because things just shifted into high gear with the season’s strongest episode thus far. Perhaps the biggest, most gratifying character blow yet has left us anxiously squirming in our seats… But we’ll get to that a bit later.

First, hats off to Samwell Tarly (or “Sam the Slayer”), who finally became a man. He was already a man of the Night’s Watch, but after getting beaten up by two of his own brothers over Gilly (Hannah Murray), he lost his virginity in only what can be described as pity sex. Exhausted and with his face bloodied and bruised, Sam (John Bradley-West) succumbed to his unwavering love for Gilly in one of the few modest sex scenes of the show. His wildling crush climbed on top of his immobile body, causing Sam to hilariously cry out “Oh my God” in response.

But did he really break his vows? Sam, after all, has been a critic of the Night’s Watch rules, which are in his opinion open to interpretation. Regardless, he sure needed a good lay. As Ser Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) blatantly put it, Sam’s quickly losing all of his friends. Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) has set off on his journey with nemesis Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) — against everyone else’s wishes — to travel north of the Wall in hopes of recruiting the Free Folk, and ailing Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) sadly died of old age, his watch ending at last.

Meanwhile in Winterfell, Sansa Stark’s (Sophie Turner) fire is also dimming as she endures the violent wrath and lovemaking of her new husband, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). At this point, you’d think she’d be used to crying herself to sleep, given her rotten luck in life — only this time, she’s been driven as far as to seek help from Reek (Alfie Allen), her former (now despised) childhood friend. But like any true pet, Reek (aka Theon Greyjoy, as Sansa reminds him) immediately reports to his master of goings on behind his back. Just when Sansa thinks she has a way out, Ramsay, in true villainous fashion, completely squashes all hope of escape from her new life after flaunting her chamber maid, an old lady that is now dead, flayed and displayed in the courtyard for all to see. Despite its reputation for only revealing bad news, Game of Thrones once again successfully gets our hopes up of one small victory, if only to have our optimistic outlooks — as well as Sansa’s — dashed.

Not too far away are Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and company, who know all too well that “winter is coming.” Already men and horses are suffering from freezing temperatures and lots of snow, and yet Lady Melisandre (Carice van Houten) manages to stay warm and toasty. And for maybe the first time ever, Stannis refuses to follow the Red Woman’s orders when she casually mentions that his daughter, Shireen (Kerry Ingram) — with king’s blood running through her veins — must be sacrificed in order for him to eventually take the Iron Throne. Stannis may be a dour man with a stern exterior, but the love for his daughter runs deep — a trait that makes his otherwise dull character rather likeable.

While Stannis’ army marches on Winterfell, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is failing miserably in Dorne in convincing his (cough, cough) niece, Myrcella, to come back home to King’s Landing (I guess without a hand he’s just not as intimidating), and Bronn and the Sand Snakes are locked up behind bars. Regrettably, despite the possibilities of delving into Dornish character developments, we have seen very little of the Sand Snakes so far this season. And yet with every meeting, they manage to establish themselves as a treacherous trio.

Tyene Sand (Rosabell Laurenti) can feign being soft-spoken and childlike, but this is just an act; she is just as fierce as her older sisters. It’s this cunning act that has Bronn (Jerome Flynn) eating out of the palm of her hand as she disrobes in the opposite cell, taunting the sellsword with her beauty. Little does he know that just like her father, she is notorious for coating her signature daggers with poisons, hence what Bronn thought was just a tiny scratch on his arm is really a lethal blow that slowly starts to work its magic on him. The typically cocky Bronn collapses to the ground, dying — and for a second, it seems as if the show is going to wrongly kill off yet another main character. But after dangling the antidote in front of him for a while, Tyene eventually throws it to Bronn, who, rather luckily, is going to be alright.

 Dean-Charles Chapman and Lena Headey Clarke in “Game of Thrones” season 5, episode 7. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO.

Dean-Charles Chapman, Lena Headey Clarke in “Game of Thrones” season 5, episode 7. Photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO.

But Dorne isn’t the only place in Westeros where treachery flies high. It seems everyone has underestimated the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), who comes off as a simple, pious man that — like anyone else in King’s Landing — can easily be bought off. After giving Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) a run for her money and finally enraging King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) about his beloved being locked in a dungeon — giving us a brief flashback to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) — the High Sparrow reveals his true self.

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) comes to the religious leader after making a mock-nice visit to a worse-for-wear Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), believing that she is the divine ruler and that everything is going according to plan. However, in a moment that’s almost too good to be true (so much so that you’re not quite sure it’s really happening), the High Sparrow talks of a boy whose soul is now clean and pure, after having divulged many secrets about Cersei herself. And as time stands still, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) emerges from the shadows. Cersei hastily tries to make a run for it, knowing she was outplayed in the game of thrones, but she is apprehended and thrown in a dungeon herself, spewing hateful words all the while — oh, how the mighty have fallen.

I can easily say that quite possibly every Game of Thrones watcher was smiling and laughing as the “untouchable” Cersei Lannister finally got what was coming to her. It seems the Sparrows really do serve justice.

But this mouthwatering ending scene wasn’t the only moment that had us on the edge of our seats. The downtrodden Ser Jorah (Iain Glenn), after much drinking and despair, finally got his wish of seeing his beloved Queen Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) in the newly reopened fighting pits. Nothing could stop him from getting that chance. Once he caught sight of her, he charged onto the field, men easily being cut down with his sword, until he stood before her, helmetless. It cut right through to your heart to see the light in his watering eyes at the sight of his Khaleesi. Unfortunately for him, though, there was nothing but hate in Dany’s eyes, and she quickly asked to have Ser Jorah removed from her sight.

Although not before Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who had been scrambling this whole time to free himself from his chains, runs out to the Queen, presenting himself as the gift that Ser Jorah promised. Tyrion and Daenerys, two fan favorites from rival houses, are finally in the same place, face-to-face. This season is nearing the end, and after spinning its wheels for so long, plotlines are just finally starting to get juicy…

Throne Room Notes:

  • Will Tommen ever grow a pair and stand up to his mom?
  • I just have to say it again: Yay for Sam!!
  • With Dany and Tyrion in the same room, I don’t see how they can’t become friends?! Even if they are the dragon and the lion, Tyrion’s wit may win her over yet.

Video courtesy of Game of Thrones.

Video courtesy of Game of Thrones.

Tune in to HBO, HBO Go or HBO Now this Sunday at 9 p.m. for a new episode of “Game of Thrones!”