Game of Thrones: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, season 5 episode 6, review …

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Game of Thrones, episode 6: bleak horror.

Poor Sansa Stark. But while on each occasion in the past it’s been plenty disturbing, tonight’s closing scene with Ramsay Bolton and Sansa was just flat-out disgusting. 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. Her marriage to Ramsay Bolton this week was not only one of the most depressing weddings ever seen in Game of Thrones (and that is a hotly contested field), but also one of the bleakest moments of the entire show so far.

Even if you’ve never read the books (myself included and that shouldn’t limit anyone’s enjoyment of the show) it’s hard not to know that what happens to Sansa in this episode doesn’t happen to Sansa in the books. We’ve seen enough disturbing nuptials to put romantics off for life: the Red Wedding, Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion, Joffrey’s fatal Purple Wedding, Daenerys’s marriage to Khal Drogo (though at least those two fell in love eventually). 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. Alyssa Rosenberg has a smart take on the scene, and the sensitivity of its filming, and how it leaves Sansa with a bit of dignity in how it is presented.

In Sunday night’s episode, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” Sansa and Ramsay were finally wed, in keeping with Littlefinger and Roose Bolton’s political maneuverings. 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 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. The words may belong to the Martells, but it’s a mantra that will prove just as useful to Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, and Margaery Tyrell. “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” rejoins Arya at the House of Black and White in Braavos, as she doubles down on her commitment to a path filled with uncertainty, where secrets and deception are the only currency. But after an initiation to this achingly atmospheric hall of disembodied faces, with its soaring columns and rows of flickering flames, it looked as though things may not be that simple.

But as scenes like this have continued to be a common occurrence through five seasons, it feels like some viewers may have reached a point of no return. Thankfully, that dynamic was briefly reignited in the relationship between Tyrion and Ser Jorah, before it dissolved neatly into genuine emotion as Tyrion informed Jorah of his father’s death. As Ramsay prepared to consummate his marriage to Sansa with the brutality of which only he is capable, I was willing a distraught Theon – forced by Ramsay to watch – to stop Ramsay, but he did nothing. Ramsay’s jealous plaything tries her hand at intimidating Sansa, telling her about all of Ramsay’s past lovers who he got bored of, including that one who ended up becoming dog dinner.

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. 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. Like Daenerys, Sansa may rise from this experience to become stronger, and there was a glimpse of serious backbone when she informed Ramsay’s malevolent mistress Myranda that “I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell, this is my home and you can’t frighten me.” But although full credit should go to Sophie Turner and Alfie Allen, in particular, for their heartbreaking performances as Sansa and Theon, this grim scene was difficult for the show to justify. 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. Notable is that Theon is able to refer to himself as Theon of House Greyjoy, the first official acknowledgment of his past, and perhaps a springboard into reclaiming his identity. 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. Back in their quarters, you get the feeling things are going to bad — Ramsay is involved, so it almost goes without saying — but at first there’s hope that it will just be more of his uncomfortable line of questioning and will end there. Male dwarf genitalia is, apparently, considered to have valuable magical properties in Essos, but only if you can prove to a merchant that it comes from a real dwarf.

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. 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. Cersei’s drawing attention to Lady Olenna’s “veiled threats” was met with the retort, “What veil?” Olenna’s tongue was sharper than ever, and beginning to draw blood.

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. 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. She is great at doing that thing where she’s obviously lying and taking delight in lying straight to someone’s face and they know she’s lying right to their face but can’t do anything about it.

Finally they get to the point: She wants to know if the Knights of the Vale will support the crown in battle and Littlefinger says he has always counseled loyalty to the throne, which isn’t quite a straight yes, is it? 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. Littlefinger preaches patience and suggests Cersei let Stannis and the Boltons fight each other, and when the winner of the battle is recovering and nursing their wounds, that is the time to pounce. She is not happy to be back in the capital for both the surroundings (“you can smell the s— from five miles away”) and the circumstances (her grandson’s ridiculous detainment). The scene isn’t exactly graphic, but it feels needlessly explicit — especially after the highly criticized incident last year between Jaime and Cersei.

Their initial back and forth does not disappoint. “The famously tart-tongued Queen of Thorns,” Cersei greets her. “And famous tart, Queen Cersei,” Olenna replies. 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). She then gives Cersei a version of “I knew Tywin Lannister and you’re no Tywin Lannister.” See, he wasn’t likable or trustworthy, but he understood how the world worked.

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. 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”). Jorah is also inspecting his greyscale-infected arm, but the less said about that the better. (I think that is legitimately his strategy right now.) They get some good backstory in — Tyrion explains to Jorah he’s on the run because he killed his father and speaking of fathers, yours was a good man. “Was,” as in, is no longer with us. He decided to pledge loyalty to Daenerys after he saw her walk into a fire with three stone eggs and emerge alive with three baby dragons. “Have you ever heard a baby dragon singing?” Jorah asks Tyrion.

Tyrion isn’t exactly convinced that simply having dragons will make her a good ruler of Westeros, especially since she’s never actually set foot in Westeros and the Targaryens have a history of insanity. And sizes up Tyrion, who is worthless, except for Tyrion’s favorite part of his own body. (From a dwarf, that’s a collector’s item, apparently.) Some quick bargaining by Tyrion saves his throat (and his appendage). Eko say this sentence: “The dwarf lives until we find a c— merchant.” Tyrion also tells their new captors that despite his advanced age, Jorah is an all-time legendary fighter. Sure, some of his victories have come at jousts — “a fancy game for fancy lads,” Eko says — but Jorah impresses them enough with tales of his feats that he earns himself a trip to Slaver’s Bay to prove his worth with a sword. I wonder if that means he’ll have to engage in some combat later… Bronn and Jaime are approaching, with Bronn providing the travel soundtrack with his singing; he really loves music.

She’s getting very good at cleaning dead bodies, but still doesn’t quite get the hang of abandoning her identity, which is a prerequisite for becoming a Faceless Man. Jaqen H’ghar interrogates her, which involves some serious slapping, which unfortunately is not even close to the worst abuse to befall a Stark girl this hour.

As Arya comforts a dying girl brought into the House, she does so by telling her a complete lie, fabricating a new life story for herself, saying that she, too, was once sick and dying. It’s like a cross between that room in the FBI building where they keep all the files in “The X-Files,” except filled with “Futurama” disembodied heads.

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