Game of Thrones Watch: The Game of Faces

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Game of Thrones’ Recap: Stark Reality.

“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.Sansa Stark was brutally attacked on Sunday night’s Game of Thrones by her sadistic new husband, Ramsay Bolton, who finally showed her his true colors in the bedroom on their wedding night—all the while forcing Sansa’s former childhood friend Theon to watch. We talked to Sophie Turner back in October about the Ramsay storyline and Sunday’s instantly controversial scene—which the actress had not yet filmed but definitely had opinions about. Sansa Stark may not go to Winterfell at all in the novels, but Jeyne Pool—Ramsay’s poor bride in the books whose place Sansa has taken—does get sexually assaulted.

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. He was saying, “You get a love interest next season.” And I was all, “I actually get a love interest!” So I get the scripts and I was so excited and I was flicking through and then I was like, “Aw, are you kidding me!?” I thought the love interest was going to be like Jaime Lannister or somebody who would take care of me. 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).

All that makes these characters who they are is communicated by a glint in their eyes, a tremor in their cheeks, a tug up or down at the corner of their mouths. And after Alfie Allen (Theon), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay), and Sophie Turner (Sansa) all hinted that something awful and controversial was coming this season, fans who lived through that Cersei/Jaime mishegoss last year were very afraid for Sansa Stark. But, as Jaqen H’ghar and The Waif are all eager to prove, simply cutting your hair and pretending to be a boy does not make you worthy of joining the Faceless Men.

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. It’s hard to know precisely how long Arya has been scrubbing corpses by the time she confronts The Waif in the episode’s opening minutes, but Maisie Williams’ hair is certainly a bit longer and she seems to have grown at ease with the process.

We get a great shot of her rapping her thumbs along the scrubbing table as her most recent patient is taken away, but learning what happens to the bodies clearly isn’t knowledge acquired simply through impatience. When he interrogates Arya to see if she’s prepared to leave her old self behind, he’s so good at recognizing her tells that he detects a lie she doesn’t even realize she’s telling: She hated the Hound.

I bear witness to this thing, and it’s crazy, sort of having to portray how messed up everyone’s situation is through my own reactions to what happens. 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. Sandor Clegane was just the latest and greatest of the series of surrogate warrior-fathers with whom the Stark girl formed attachments, but it’s clear she’s not ready to examine what this says about the severity of her loss. “I’m not playing this stupid game anymore!” she shouts. “We never stop playing,” H’ghar replies, in what could well be the motto of the entire show. Martin’s books, which saw Ramsay marry a girl impersonating Arya (Maisie Williams), so no one knows how bad things could get for Sansa. “He is a horrible human being. As The Waif concludes her tale, a faint grin appears along Arya’s lips — one that rather resembled her initial reaction to meeting Brienne in last season’s finale.

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. As he learns the terrible truth — the patriarch was killed by his own men in the wild beyond the Wall — the camera lingers as grief, shock, horror and love ripple across his weatherbeaten face like the sunlight on the water behind him. 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. But Arya Stark is not one to be easily deterred, and sees the opportunity to simultaneously practice her lies and impress Jaqen when she convinces a terminally ill girl that drinking the water from the enchanted pool will heal her rather than kill her. Though Lannister’s older brother Jaime and his buddy Bronn are bogged down in a somewhat contrived confrontation with the vengeful Dornish women known as the Sand Snakes.

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). 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. If Stannis is victorious over the Boltons, Littlefinger believed he would name Sansa Wardeness of the North in gratitude, and that seems like a likely scenario.

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. Having been out of the loop, Jorah is unaware of what Tyrion did to Tywin in King’s Landing and sadly, the tragedy that befell his own father as head of the Night’s Watch. Her scheme to thwart the upward trajectory of her hated daughter-in-law Margaery has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. (Or her worst memories, given its roots in the prophecy about her downfall at the hands of a “younger, more beautiful” monarch decades ago). The High Sparrow — now the High Septon, though his clothes are no fancier and his followers just as fanatical as ever — orders Loras Tyrell to stand trial for fornication. 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.

Witnessing the birth of the dragons was all it took to convert Jorah but Tyrion points out all the reasons why Daenerys still might be a terrible ruler of Westeros. 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. 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. Loras’ squire Olyvar (Will Tudor), who had a sexual relationship with Loras, testified that Margaery had walked in on them, while both Margaery denied ever seeing such a thing. 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.

I’ve been making [producer Bryan Cogman] feel so bad for writing that scene: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!” But I secretly loved it. Again, the faces say it all: the older queen’s triumph, the young lord’s terror, King Tommen’s uncertainty, the queen’s surprise, the holy man’s blessed certainty, and — most ominously for the prospect of peace in the city — Lady Olenna Tyrell’s utter fury. After Joffrey, she’s escaped him and you think she’s going to lose her virginity to a guy who’s really sweet and takes care of her and she’s thrown in with a guy who’s a whole lot worse.

Their wedding ceremony was every bit as ominous as expected, though compared with previous weddings attended by the Starks and Bolton’s, it was a rather tame affair (and the band likely asked to skip its rendition of “The Rains of Castamere.”) What followed, however, was an entirely different story. 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. The groom’s sadistic grin, the bride’s look of resigned and mounting agony (so reminiscent of Daenerys on her first night with Khal Drogo all those full moons ago), the tears of Theon Greyjoy as he’s forced to watch — these faces will be hard to forget. Allen said in an interview that this story would position Ramsay as “the new Joffrey in town, and then probably me followed closely after that.” But haven’t we had ample time to understand the depths of Ramsay’s depravity?

If, best case scenario, Sansa and Theon (and probably Brienne and Pod) band together to take down Ramsay over the next few episodes, did we really need this rape scene to drive that engine? But by involving a multidimensional main character instead of one introduced primarily to suffer, the series has a chance to grant this story the gravity and seriousness it deserves. 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. Showrunners [David Benioff and Dan Weiss] must have been like, “Okay, let’s do everything we can to make her the most abused, manipulated character!” Right, because you can’t get on his level.

Sansa has a story of her own, of which this is now an admittedly excruciating chapter — but she, not Theon, is the real victim here, and it remains her story nonetheless. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah (Iain Glen) were taken by slavers, who thanks to some fast talking on Tyrion’s part, will take them to Meereen, so Jorah can fight in the pits. For as long as we’ve known him, Loras Tyrell has been tasked with keeping his sexuality a secret, but he has grown increasingly careless as the seasons have dragged on, as though playing this particular game of deception was no longer of any concern to him.

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. She likely expected some unpleasantness from her association but, based on how Turner played the scene two weeks ago, it seemed as though Sansa believed Littlefinger when he told her she had Ramsay wrapped around her finger. (There’s a special hell reserved for Littlefinger in all this.) So whatever horrors Sansa Stark of Winterfell was prepared to face in order to avenge her family, we can safely assume that this wasn’t one of them. 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. While Myrcella Baratheon and Trystane Martell seem to be the only happily betrothed couple in Westeros, they don’t realize war between their families is about to break loose.

An unpleasant wedding night was in the cards—she told Littlefinger she’d be a married woman when she returned—but not even goth Sansa could have seen this dress-ripping, Reek-watching indignity coming. Their capture has some serious diplomatic implications, as the leaders of Dorne will not be happy that the Lannisters tried to steal back their princess.

Their claims are rendered moot once Olyvar enters the High Sparrow’s interrogation room, revealing to the assembled everything he knew about Chekov’s Dorne-shapped tattoo. 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. Drake will celebrate his self-proclaimed “second home,” Houston, Texas with his second Houston Appreciation Weekend, set to take place over Memorial Day weekend, Vibe reports. 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. The boy king proves just as useless as he’s shown himself to be since ascending to the throne, sitting there dumbfounded as his wife is dragged off.

The weekend will reportedly feature several charity-driven events, though the centerpiece will be a celebrity softball game on Friday, May 22nd at the University of Houston’s Cougar Field. 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. Threatening to bring the power of Highgarden down on Cersei’s head, Cersei again blames the Faith for Loras’ predicament but Lady Olenna wasn’t born yesterday. Drake will take the field alongside a number of athletes and entertainers, including local talent like former Astros stars Chris Sampson and Brandon Backe, the Houston Texans’ Duane Brown and Darryl Morris Jr. and Houston rapper Kirko Bangz.

She was unleashed in full cry in this episode, dispensing barbed criticisms from under her wimple with abandon, the determination in her eyes promising more to come. Her meeting with Cersei was going just about as expected (the “Famous tart” quip was one of her finest) until Olenna allowed the Queen Regent to have the final word.

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. 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.

You could easily be forgiven for expecting that the Tyrell matriarch had something up her sleeve for the inquest, but all she could do as her grandchildren were dragged away was shout objections. But given that the show runners have seen fit to change so much of the book plot this season, “it happens in the books” really isn’t any kind of defense.

In the last few episodes, Petyr Baelish did a fine job of convincing Sansa and the rest of us that he had a grand plan that would keep her best interests at heart. 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. Another wedding day has come for Sansa but it gets off to a creepy start when Myranda tries to frighten her with tales of what has befallen Ramsey’s other girls.

Not only do the Lannisters need the Tyrell’s men, gold and wheat, but it’s not as though Cersei isn’t hiding a few secrets that the Sparrows wouldn’t approve of as — and Olenna Tyrell seems like just the sort of woman who’d know how to handle an overplayed hand. 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. As Drake’s debut mixtape, So Far Gone, was gaining traction in 2009, Bun B told Rolling Stone, “It’s just one of those moments in time, where the right person comes with the right music to the people. The lesson that Arya is attempting to learn (and the one that Game of Thrones’ most successful characters already have) is that you don’t necessarily need to become no one, you just need to become anyone who isn’t truly you. He’s obviously very talented, I don’t think anyone can dispute that.” After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands.

The scene isn’t exactly graphic, but it feels needlessly explicit — especially after the highly criticized incident last year between Jaime and Cersei. The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with “We all know we need police, but…” It’s a familiar refrain to those of us who’ve spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, “But who’ll help you if you get robbed?” We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still lacking creativity down here on Earth. 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. Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario. Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing: Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts. In the book, Sansa was learning to wield and manipulate power in the Vale after a long period of victimization but the show pretty much added a new, and in my opinion, entirely unnecessary victimization to her story.

More concerningly, after Jaime’s rape of Cersei last season, it’s yet another rape Benioff and Weiss decided to add to the show that was not in the text and at this point, we don’t need anymore. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters.

There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. Outside of the fun of watching Jaime and Bronn in a scene together, it’s been hard to get involved in what is going on in Dorne even when an episode title carries House Martell’s motto. While police forces have benefited from military-grade weapons and equipment, some of the most violent neighborhoods have found success through peace rather than war.

If Lancel tells his sparrow buddies about his affair with Cersei a few seasons ago (not to mention their plot to murder King Robert), Cersei could easily join Margaery and Loras in a cell. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage.

—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. Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process.

Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place. Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds.

Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street.

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