“Game of Thrones” recap: The honor of your presence is requested at another …

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Game of Thrones recap: season five, episode six – Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

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.

Arya (Maisie Williams) has been honing her corpse-washing skills for weeks at the House of Black and White in Braavos, and she’s dying (no pun intended) to know what they do with them afterward – though the cutaway to the walls filled with faces may offer a clue. She asks her female co-washer what the deal is and gets attitude and a back story in return: The girl sought help from the faceless men after her stepmother tried to kill her with poison, the girl tells her, and she’s been in service to them ever since (a story that seems suspicious given the whole “I am no one” ethos at the B&W). Death and betrayal loomed over every one we’ve seen so far, from the mass murder of the Stark clan in Season 3’s Red Wedding, to the treasonous (though justified) poisoning of the newly crowned King Joffrey at the Purple Wedding in Season 4. 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. I’ve also discussed where I think Sansa will go in the future of the show, something I see (perhaps due to wishful thinking) as a positive progression for the eldest Stark girl.

She follows it up with, “Was that the truth or a lie?” That game continues as Arya’s awakened by Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) himself, who interrogates her about her past and smacks her when he claims she’s lied – including when she says she hated the Hound. (RIP the Hound!) “The girl lies to me, to the many-faced god, to herself,” he says. “Does she truly want to be no one?” She does, at least, graduate to giving out drinks from the fountain of death when a young dying girl is brought in by her father. But even for Thrones, which has always pushed taste boundaries when it comes to nudity, violence and gore, Sunday night’s marriage and wedding night shocked audiences, and left many asking if the creators had taken things too far in Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. And I believe that, as hard as last night’s episode was to watch, it was still necessary, both to stay at least somewhat true to the books, but also to propel Sansa to become the woman she needs to be to fight back, and to strike back at all those who have harmed her. After administering the fatal drink and cleaning the body, Jaqen pronounces Arya “not ready to become no one… but she is ready to become someone else.” Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) are still reeling from the Stone Men attack in Valyria, and Jorah’s still hiding the fact that he’s been touched by one. Sansa Stark, who has had an unfortunate history of being betrothed to hideous young suitors, was raped by her new husband, Ramsay Bolton – who made his tortured liege, Sansa’s childhood friend Theon Greyjoy, watch.

Yet while the nods to fairy stories’ most precious archetypes were all present and correct, it was the dark, old tales first collected by the Brothers Grimm that writer Bryan Cogman paid homage, to rather than the shiny, cleaned-up versions we read to children today. Tyrion confesses to Jorah that he killed his father, and reveals that Jorah’s was killed in a mutiny beyond the Wall – a fact, apparently, unbeknownst to his son up until now. Thus the Waif’s (made-up) origin story was essentially Snow White’s story with the neat twist that, rather than die, our heroine called in the assassins and did for those who wished her harm. While Tyrion is exploring the implausible idea of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) leading a successful revolution in King’s Landing, the two are captured by slavers who aim to sell Jorah and kill Tyrion for his genitalia (a good luck charm of some sort in Westeros?).

She is humiliated and tortured by Ramsay (at one point, it’s even implied that she has been forced to copulate with a dog, although this isn’t directly shown). 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. The episode’s controversial moment was horrible, Robinson writes, ”because this rape scene undercuts all the agency that’s been growing in Sansa since the end of last season. Meanwhile, Tyrion called into question Jorah’s blind belief in his fairytale princess Dany, arguing, correctly, that just because her father was the old mad king, that doesn’t mean she’s fit to rule. Bawdily bargaining for his life and Jorah’s, Tyrion gets them both a brief reprieve of being sent to Slaver’s Bay, where Jorah will demonstrate his legendary (if now geriatric) fighting skills.

Meanwhile, Sansa Stark remains with Littlefinger, learning, observing and moving away from being a victim, and into something more complex. (Moving from a pawn to a player, to borrow Littlefinger’s own term). 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. She was at the height of her power earlier in the episode when, stripped back down to her red-headed Tully roots, she told Myranda in no uncertain terms that Winterfell was her home and she would not be intimidated.

The darkest fairytale of all, however, was saved for Sansa, who learnt in the most brutal way possible that all the strength she drew from being back in her own home was nothing in the face of Ramsay’s cruelty. In the recent preview chapter from George RR Martin’s next book, The Winds of Winter, we are shown a Sansa who seemed both more cynical, and more sophisticated.

Refusing 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. 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.

He, of course, immediately seems to throw Sansa (Sophie Turner) under the bus, informing Cersei of her upcoming nuptials to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and of Stannis (Stephen Dillane)’s march on Winterfell. “Let Stannis and Roose battle it out,” he advises, “and when they’re done, seize Winterfell from whichever thief survives.” He offers to join up the Knights of the Vale to aid in the takeover: “As I said, I live to serve.” But serve whom? 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. And just because she finds herself in a terrible predicament now doesn’t mean she won’t regain that agency (and then some) in the not-so-distant future.

From the moment she agreed to Littlefinger’s plan, this evening was coming, as it came to many young women throughout history married off against their will for dynastic power. Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) seems pretty cozy in Dorne, where she’s smooching Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian) in the palace gardens while Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) plot her rescue, sneaking through the palace looking seriously out of place in purloined Dornish yellow silks. Indeed it’s arguable that, terrible as it might seem, Sansa has been surprisingly lucky so far – she avoided marriage to Joffrey and in Tyrion, had a man more sensitive than his sharp-tongued exterior might suggest.

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. It’s pretty intense and awful and the character will have to deal with it.” He added that he would never have considered involving Theon in the adaptation, who was part of a similar wedding night scene in Martin’s A Dance With Dragons. “It’s still a shared form of abuse that they have to endure, Sansa and Theon,” Cogman said, “but it’s not the extreme torture and humiliation that scene in the book is.” Meanwhile, 19-year-old Turner has caused controversy by saying that she “kinda loved” the scene. It’s one thing to show the bitter, brutal reality of dynastic marriage but I, for one, would find it hard to stomach scenes of Ramsay’s torturing and breaking Sansa in the way he has previous sexual partners, and, of course, Theon. It’s a particularly upsetting development on “Game of Thrones,” in light of how much of season five has been given over to the agency and empowerment of its female characters, meaning that — as is often the case with this show — it’s two steps forward, one step back.

If they arrested all the gays in town, the Queen of Thorns points out, half the city would be empty. “I have no love for these fanatics,” shrugs the endlessly self-preserving Cersei, “but what can a Queen Mother do?” Mostly, what she can do is smirk to herself at the Sparrows’ trial of Loras (Finn Jones). “Do you deny the charges against you?” thunders the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). “Fornication? 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. They handled it well tonight, telling a gothic tale of innocence sacrificed, which at times recalled Angela Carter and Neil Jordan’s dark and haunting The Company of Wolves, and hinted perfectly at horrors to come, but they must be careful not to tip from there to gratuitous violence for its own sake. Buggery?” Loras does, but unfortunately his former squire and lover has turned against him, offering not only that they slept together but that Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) saw it and thought it was no big thing.

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. Offering a detailed birthmark description as evidence, he gets both Loras and the Queen thrown in jail, while young King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) looks quietly confused. 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. This was a choice and the choice was to marry off a teenage girl, rape her, and not even have the dignity to care primarily about her feelings about her fate. To her credit, Sansa tells her to get out: “This is my home, and you can’t frighten me.” Still, she’s got to be quivering a bit under those furs as Theon (Alfie Allen) gives her away to Ramsay; back in the bedroom after the chilly godswood ceremony, the groom insists his manservant stay to watch: “You’ve known Sansa since she was a girl; now watch her become a woman.” For once, the show is kinder to us than Ramsay is to Theon, and doesn’t make us watch.

The Sand Snakes, renowned fighters, take on two swordsman, one of whom only has one hand, and can’t manage to defeat them before they’re all taken into Dornish custody for trying to abscond with Princess Myrcella. This blog has frequently touched on this show’s mishandling of Loras’s character, but I felt Finn Jones made the most of his brief scene this week, giving us a sense of the charisma which drew Renly to him, and making me wish that they’d done more than use him as slightly clumsy comic relief in the past. In many ways, lady Olenna—the Queen of Thorns—throws her under the proverbial bus when she poisons Joffrey, since both she and Tyrion are the immediate suspects. As for his sister – Natalie Dormer has already played one doomed queen to good affect so is pretty adept at heartbreaking attempts to save her life: the moment when she stopped saying, “I am the Queen,” and abandoned her tattered dignity to simply cry, “Tommen, Tommen!” at her ineffectual young husband was beautifully done.

Lady Lysa Arryn (her mother’s sister) is jealous and quite mad and quite in love with Littlefinger. (Actually, the show changes many of these horrible struggles in a way, since they make all the characters including Sansa so much older. No matter how brutal it was—and it was, very—it was never presented as titillating (something other scenes, including Dany’s can be accused of) or gratuitous.

But even Olenna Tyrell might bow to the intricate, strategic web woven by Littlefinger, whose plan is more far-reaching and complicated than it first appeared. While the scenes in the North – from the Wall to Winterfell have had a frozen, almost terrifying intensity this season – Dorne still seems slightly incidental to the plot.

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. I’d like more of the world-weary Doran and his faithful manservant Areo Hotah – their quiet calm is a welcome respite in a land seeming entirely populated by tempestuous eye-flashing, hair-tossing stereotypes. In the show it’s not quite the same, but Ramsay continues the fiction on Theon’s behalf, and Sansa certainly believes it and scorns Theon when she sees him.

The Jorah and Tyrion Best Friends Tour continues to march through the countryside and their conversational topics range from “People We Love Who Have Died” to “Dany As Queen: Yes or No” before they are set upon by the crew of a nearby slaver ship who’d come to land for water. Other than a shot of Ramsay ripping Sansa’s dress open, we don’t see her body during the rape: just her face, and then Theon’s contracting in agony and fear and horrible sympathy. 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 in his Vale knights to clean up the mess. 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.

Personally I felt that there was more interesting tension in the brief moment when Areo persuaded Jaime to drop his weapon than in the entire preceding fight. What she and Theon–and yes, there are two victims, though of very different crimes, in this scene–feel about what’s happening is what’s important. 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. 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. By my count he’s now attempting a triple cross (quadruple if you count Sansa) that, if it works, will presumably leave him Lord of Most Things and Master to None.

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. That said hopefully a man’s final words this week will see a girl let loose in Braavos soon. • Tyrion and Jorah continue to be my favourite pairing and, “The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant,” is quite probably my favourite line ever uttered on this show. For me at least, it’s about Sansa becoming something far more than the girl she was long ago when she first left Winterfell, starry-eyed and dreaming.

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. Robinson also suggests that Sansa, Theon, Podrick and Brienne will ”band together to take down Ramsay over the next few episodes” now that Theon’s been smacked out of his “zombie/Reek fugue”. I think that’s pretty far-fetched as a book-reader (ok, there is actually zero percent chance this happens.) But I do think it’s an important moment for Theon as a character, and for the two of them together. My best guess is that Brienne and Podrick will hear of her plight somehow—through the Northern Grapevine, as it were—and find someway to go to her rescue. Still, between Brienne and Theon they’ll get Sansa out, into the terrible winter storm that hits Winterfell and Stannis (we see bits of that storm already in the above preview for Episode 7.

Podrick will die valiantly (though maybe they’ll be kind and let him live, to reunite eventually with Tyrion.) Theon will take Sansa to Stannis, where she’ll finally be safe, though still not home. I think Stannis will beat Roose Bolton, and that Littlefinger will pledge his swords to Stannis (or at least claim to) in his bid for the Iron Throne. I hope that Sansa herself will march on King’s Landing, though I’m not sure if that battle will even come to pass with winter on its slow, chilly way. Whereas I believe Jon has more fantastical Ice vs Fire-conflicts in his future (as does Dany and her trio of wyrms) Arya will be the stone-cold-killer she’s been training to become. There’s much less to go on when we speculate about the books with Sansa’s alternate (canon, and rather thin) storyline, but any thoughts you have about that are also welcome.

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