5 things we learned from this week’s Game of Thrones

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Deadly Sand Snakes out for blood.

Scenes which were previously alluded to by Alfie Allen saw fan favourite Sansa Stark brutally raped by sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Brandishing a whip, spear and knives, the lethal “Sand Snakes” vow to avenge their slain father, Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), on “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” Episode 46 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Oberyn’s paramour Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) blames House Lannister for the prince’s gruesome death.

If you watch enough prestige television, you come to realize that the most traumatic thing that could possibly happen to a man is having to suffer the pain of a woman he knows getting raped. The character of Ramsay is no stranger to barbaric acts – who can forget the grim scene where he cut off Theon Greyjoy’s penis as part of a torture ritual? For many fans who were appalled at the horrible scene of Jaime Lannister raping his sister/lover Cersei last season, it felt like the showrunners had only doubled down, putting Sansa Stark into the hands of sadist Ramsay Bolton and, to add insult to injury, making her former foster brother Theon Greyjoy watch. No, not the obvious lessons, like “Think twice before empowering a violent, self-scarifying army of religious fanatics” or “Never make life-or-death decisions before consulting with your nearest cock merchant.” I mean the moments when Game of Thrones steps outside of itself and nudges you about how, precisely, you should be watching it. That’s why she unleashes the Sand Snakes — Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes), Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) and Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) — for some bloody payback.

They’re on a mission to capture Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), the daughter of Queen Mother Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), before she can marry Oberyn’s nephew, Prince Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian). To exist as a woman on a cable drama is to understand that at some point you’re probably going to be raped by someone you know or in the presence of someone you know or as a punishment to someone you know, but it’s okay because in the end, it just gives you something to overcome and everyone knows that having something to overcome is the only way to prove that you are a strong woman. You are in very good hands here because I have seen every episode of this show and, not to brag, but I have frequently had a pretty good handle on what’s going on. But while I agreed with the critics of the Lannister rape scene last year, this time around, I believe that, while it was horrible to witness a beloved and innocent character like Sansa get raped, it didn’t feel gratitutous or unserious.

But it also accomplished the neat trick of equating anyone who dared complain about boredom with a glassy-eyed monster who hunts women for sport. “You’re so beautiful,” Myranda cooed, “but you need to keep him happy. However, what really makes the wedding night rape of Sansa Stark notable is the fact that as brutal and honestly unnecessary as the moment is, the show doesn’t even have the courtesy of letting Sansa’s emotions about the event serve as the center of the moment.

Two roads diverging in the dark of the woods, I suppose… but all of us are still intending that at the end we will arrive at the same place.’ He reminded fans that there have been changes since the first season before admitting that his e-mail was being flooded with comments and reactions to the Sansa storyline. For once, rape is being portrayed accurately, as an act of sadism instead of just an overabundance of passion. (It was also, as writer Bryan Cogman explains in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, much worse in the book. It’s a common sentiment among the showrunners who agonize over the weekly feast-or-famine deconstructions of their work online. (Hell, it appears to be a common sentiment among faceless assassins who force princesses to bathe cadavers.) And there’s something to it: How is it possible to judge a journey when you’re utterly ignorant of the destination?

It’s been weeks, though, and she’s tired, so she calls a meeting with The House of Black and White’s HR department and makes a simple request: “I’m not scrubbing one more corpse until you tell me why I’m doing it.” She of course grows frustrated. “I’m not playing this stupid game anymore,” she says, after being twisted around by her coworker and then Jaqen H’ghar, who both prod her with questions and lies and, at times, a wooden switch. In other action, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and his captive Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) resume their long trek to Meereen in hopes of joining forces with Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). As my co-host Marc Faletti and I discuss in House Slate, our weekly take on the series, the point of Game of Thrones-—and A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series this show is based on—is to subvert and complicate the standard tropes and narratives of fantasy fiction. But I’m mostly upset because the show seems to have very little interest in how Sansa might be feeling about the nightmarish way her wedding night proceeded.

In traditional fantasy, the Stark family would be the conquering heroes, their great honor and love for one another rewarded as they triumph over their corrupt enemies to save the realm. Now Jorah and Tyrion are abducted by slavers heading away from Meereen. “You’re about to be rich,” Tyrion exclaims, trying to convince the slavers that Jorah is a famous warrior. Throughout its first season, the freshman Starz drama “Outlander” has repeatedly pulled focus from the actual victims of sexual assault to instead dig into how their male loved ones feel about the matter. This passes some kind of test or another, because immediately Jaqen H’ghar takes her into the Room of All the Heads, which is what I call the giant room in that building that’s full of human heads. Is it any wonder that it sounded like the writers room speaking through Bronn when, miffed at Jaime’s inelegant interruption, he cried out, “This song really is all about the ending”?

The most maddening aspect of this shift in perspective is that it eliminates the idea that TV creatives don’t understand how damaging and horrifying the act of rape is, as might have been suggested by how frequently they resort to it as a plot device. Back at King’s Landing, Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) fights to free her grandson Loras (Finn Jones) after he was accused of homosexual acts by religious zealots called Sparrows.

From what I can gather, Arya came to this mysterious place in search of magical abilities to kill people and has instead found herself playing confusing games, being hit with a stick when she lies, and preparing dead bodies for something that no one will explain to her. And while these reviews are intended to view the show in complete relief from the books its based on, it’s still worth noting that Sansa’s fate isn’t something that’s been ported over wholesale from the books. While the plots may follow roughly the same trajectory as another, completely unrelated character’s arc, this was not something that had to be implemented by David Benioff and D.B.

Which all led to perhaps the greatest line in the show’s history, a line that I hope will one day be etched on monuments and sung across the land: “The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant.” Littlefinger gets to town and runs into Lancel Lannister, who he is told is no longer a Lannister, and is just Brother Lancel now. Littlefinger makes his play to be the Warden of the North, telling Cersei that Sansa Stark is alive, and advises her to let the Baratheons and the Boltons battle it out for the north, then let him come in and clean up when the battle is over.

The character who had shown the most growth and potential for becoming her own woman, even earlier in this episode standing up to Myranda as she tried to intimidate her about Ramsay’s sinister sexual habits, is broken down in a matter of minutes, then not even given enough agency to suffer her own assault. In really the only fun scene in the entire episode (this wasn’t a bad episode, by the way, just not the most fun) we get a lovely bit of derring-do in the gardens at Dorne. This harmless bit of deception earns Arya the right to see what’s been going on with all the dead bodies and the answer to that question explains everything. Everyone is looking for young Myrcella Baratheon in the maze of gardens. “Let’s not do something stupid,” Bronn says, as Trystane Martell stares at him. Tyrion’s quick thinking manages to spare the lives of them both, as well as the livelihood of his penis, as apparently dwarf penis is a hot commodity on the black market.

It’s impossible to tell who’s getting played whenever Littlefinger is doing his dirty business, but it does make me think that he missed his calling as a Faceless Man. With liberty and Wilco for all! (Contrast this made-up story with what Stannis actually did for the daughter he loved.) But just because Kid A is heading to Point B doesn’t mean that you have to volunteer to play Charon, you know? This new person she’s becoming feels vague and nihilistic. (Yes, valar morghulis — but don’t all men also have to live?) I want to see Arya become a better version of Arya. Hiring Murphy as your showrunner might result in something closer to real life, but god, would it be unsatisfying. (Poor Brienne would still be wandering around a grassy field trying to find a single Stark girl.) What bothered me was how rushed and stilted the resulting battle seemed. Far be it from me to ask for less world-beating detail — I am, after all, the guy who went into ecstasy at the sight of a few floating melon merchants — but I would have happily traded the scenes of Arya dispensing corpse-manicures for a few more contemplative, scene-setting moments in Dorne.

She’s a funny lady but all the sharp verbal jabs in the world can’t give you the upper hand against Cersei Lannister, who informs Don that there will be a holy inquest, which quickly turns into a holy mess for House Tyrell. Loras is found guilty of, well, the word they used was “buggery” and Margaery, the goddamned QUEEN for crying out loud, is hauled off for perjury. After all, she was in her home (or what’s left of it), and, in the buildup to her second nightmare wedding, she flashed Myranda with a bit of her parents’ imperious spunk when she refused to cower at the telling of Ramsay’s horrific exploits.

But I don’t think there’s really any storytelling acrobatics that can forgive what happened next, particularly when it all seems so clear where it’s going. But it was almost worse the way Jeremy Podeswa’s camera lingered on Alfie Allen’s tear-filled eyes, as if his violation was somehow equal to Sansa’s; as if this disgusting act was somehow part of Theon’s long and ugly path to redemption, not a brutal and unwarranted violation. But what felt so liberating about the past five weeks was the way the show seemed to have moved past its rough binary of rocks and hard places, of frying pans and wildfire. I appreciate Benioff and Weiss’s willingness to do unpopular things, but there’s nothing essentially brave about violence, no intrinsic depth to pain.

Tyrion was being glib, but, in his inimitable way, he voiced the most profound question of anyone in the Seven Kingdoms, in front of or behind the cameras. “And then what?” Note on these recaps: I have not read the books, and I have no immediate intention to do so.

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