Game of Thrones recap: Season five, episode six

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Game of Thrones recap in progress: ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’.

“Is the girl ready? At the House of Black and White, Arya Stark (or, “no one,” if you prefer) continues to wash the bodies of the people who have come to die at the mysterious temple. But the brutality Sansa Stark suffers at the hands of Ramsay Bolton is a horse of a different color. [Spoilers] Sansa Stark has tumbled helplessly from one torturer to the next for four seasons now, from Joffrey and Cersei’s abuse and humiliation, to her Aunt Lysa’s unhinged jealousy, to Ramsay Bolton’s gleeful sadism.

Martin’s A Dance With Dragons now seem a natural storyline fit for Game of Thrones’ walking misfortune magnet—which is the last thing Sansa deserves. When he asks who she is, she responds with her true identity as the youngest daughter of House Stark, dropping the “no one” pretense—Jaqen knows she isn’t ready to give up her true identity. In Sunday night’s episode, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” Sansa and Ramsay were finally wed, in keeping with Littlefinger and Roose Bolton’s political maneuverings.

She no longer seems quite so anxious and frustrated with this gig, but she wants to know what’s behind that mysterious door where the bodies are taken. “I’m not scrubbing one more corpse until you tell me why I’m doing it!” she demands, rather reasonably. The family is famed for their claim — unique among everyone else in Westeros, including the Lannisters and the Starks — as a house that has never been conquered by another. In the Targaryen dynasty that set the stage for the events of Game of Thrones, the Martells were only brought under the Iron Throne’s control by a political double-marriage, fortifying their reputation as a family that will not compromise, surrender, or be defeated. In a broader, more thematic sense, that refusal to yield runs through this week’s episode, which forgoes bigger set pieces to focus on a few individual characters as they struggle to remain stoic in the face of pressure, scrutiny, and trauma.

As the pair discuss Daenerys’ abilities as a ruler (or lack thereof) and the Targaryen family’s reputation for insanity, they are captured by a group of slavers. They want to send Jorah to labor on a galley or in a salt mine, and they want to kill Tyrion, cutting off his head as well as another body part that the Lannister lord holds very dear (and that apparently fetches a hefty sum for its supposed magical properties). The manner by which Tyrion successfully begs for his life is unexpected to say the least, and “The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant” has to be one of the strangest phrases uttered throughout the series.

On the strength of his testimony, both Tyrell children are seized and imprisoned, with Margaery finally losing her cool and screaming through the halls as she is taken away. When the slavers mention that Dany has reopened the fighting pits in Meereen, Tyrion tells them that Jorah is a veteran of “a hundred battles,” and that he would be better suited for the blood sport of the pits than hard labor. In Season 2, Sansa became a glorified hostage in King’s Landing, where she was denied her own identity: She was forced to wear Lannister clothing, denounce her family as traitors, and profess undying love for her psychopathic King Joffrey. Getting to Meereen by ship will certainly be quicker than walking, but when they get there, they’ll have a hard time meeting with the Queen as slaves. A scene that felt excruciating at the time looks tame compared to what Sansa endured last night: “Leave her face; I like her pretty,” Joffrey had said, as he ordered Meryn Trant to strip Sansa naked and beat her in front of his entire court, supposed retribution for her brother Robb’s recent military win.

Luckily, their grandmother — Olenna “Queen of Thorns” Tyrell (Diana Rigg) — has returned to King’s Landing to try and smooth things out, and she’s an absolute, ruthless pro at playing the game. She unwittingly wore a necklace containing poison that Lady Olenna Tyrell slipped into Joffrey’s wine, making her, yet again, just a passive observer in her own affairs. She’s not yet ready to become No One—not just anyone can become No One, you know—but she’s ready to advance beyond floor-sweeping and corpse sponge-bath duties. Remember, though, that he promised support to Roose Bolton against the crown, and told Sansa that he was betting on Stannis Baratheon beating Roose and becoming the new Warden of the North. But even Olenna Tyrell might bow to the intricate, strategic web woven by Littlefinger, whose plan is even more far-reaching and complicated than it first appeared.

Littlefinger soothes Cersei outrage with a simple promise: Let Stannis Baratheon and Roose Bolton slaughter each other in the oncoming battle of ice, and he will send his Vale knights in to clean up the mess so no Lannister men are harmed. But femininity has never precluded agency in Westeros. (See: Margaery Tyrell and Daenerys Targaryen.) When will she shed her “bystander to tragedy” designation and rip the Boltons a new one?

It’s a bold endgame, and — presuming Littlefinger had a hand in his employee Olyvar’s damning testimony of the Tyrell family — an extremely complicated one. In Dorne, Trystane and Myrcella walk through the Water Gardens, kissing, making out, and planning to ask Trystane’s father, Prince Doran, to have them wed sooner rather than later.

There’s been much talk of his former ward, Sansa Stark, going “dark” this season — and after last week’s unfortunate trip to Winterfell’s dog pound, it seemed like Ramsay’s former flame Myranda was only there to rattle Sansa’s cage. Happily, after watching her administer her first in-temple death sentence, Jaqen H’ghar deems Arya ready to take on her first disguise—probably the old woman Arya seemed taken by in the sanctum. Her experiences have given her confidence; where once she was content to marry Joffrey and become a Lannister, Sansa is now hellbent on retaining her identity as a Northerner. The raging Sand Snakes, dead-set on starting a war with the Lannisters to exact revenge for their dead father, Oberyn, clash with the sneaks in a battle that, ultimately, feels a little disappointing. Bronn punches Trystane out when he draws his sword, and it turns into an all-out melee when the Sand Snakes show up—Obara with her spear, Nym with her whip, and Tyene with her daggers.

Myranda is sent scuttling off after her scare tactics don’t work, and later, when Sansa is dressing for her wedding, she is similarly cold to Reek, who has come dressed as Theon Greyjoy. Though he’s been tasked with giving her away, Sansa refuses to link arms with him, something which sets him off into a twitching mess as he worries what Ramsay will do to him. Tyrion and Jorah encounter Agbaje as Malko, a cutthroat slaver who almost chops off Tyrion’s “dwarf cock” to sell it to someone whose job description is literally “cock merchant.” (“A dwarf’s cock has magic powers”; the more you know!) Tyrion manages to talk his way out of his dismemberment by pointing out that a merchant would have no way of knowing whether the penis actually came from a dwarf. “It will be a dwarf-sized cock,” one of Malko’s lackeys tries. “Guess again,” Tyrion snarls.

He’s been teased as a cautious and wise leader, and has expressed his desire to avoid war—but he also lost a brother and sister to the Lannisters. He gets closure (of sorts) regarding his father’s death in this episode when Tyrion relays the news of the former Lord Commander’s demise at Craster’s Keep.

Myranda tries to scare Sansa with stories of Ramsay’s horrible behavior with past lovers, how he hunts them down with dogs for sport once they become “boring” to him. The scene isn’t exactly graphic, but it feels needlessly explicit — especially after the highly criticized incident last year between Jaime and Cersei. If “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” is trying to remind us that Ramsay is a complete monster, it’s wasting time; the show has repeatedly driven home his psychopathy in the most lurid shades possible. After her wedding in Winterfell’s godswood, though, Ramsay asserts his power over her as her new husband, and violently consummates their marriage—while he forces Theon/Reek to watch. That the episode closes with intense sexual violence is a controversial move, considering the uproar that resulted when the show depicted rape in the past.

Given their role in the murders of her mother and brother, Sansa didn’t need more reason to seek revenge on the Boltons, but her rape will likely redouble her desire for vengeance. In an interrogation overseen by the High Sparrow, Olyver, Littlefinger’s blonde brothel boy, spills the beans about his affair with Loras (including a damning detail about the Dorne-shaped birthmark on his thigh). But for now, we’ll have to settle for watching the Queen Mother’s ever-cool facade start to slip. (The tiny, frustrated sighs she emits during a conversation with Olenna—in which she calls Cersei a tart!—are satisfying beyond measure.) But in the end, we’re left with Sansa’s sobs.

Earlier in the episode, she spoke to the jealous Myranda in a lower, more menacing tone than we’ve ever heard from her before. “I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell. —Hotah recognizes Jaime, saying, “When you were whole, it would have been a good fight.” The guy’s never going to live down the whole “missing-a-hand” thing. This might mean he’ll play a part in freeing the girl from her newest captors (a teaser for next week’s episode shows Sansa telling him, “My family still has friends in the North”).

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