Game of Thrones Watch: The Game of Faces

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Game of Thrones’ Recap: Stark Reality.

‘Game of Thrones’ has shown sickening scenes before but the ending scene of this episode was more disturbing than watching the Red Wedding. Warning: This article is full of details from Season 5, Episode 6 of Game of Thrones, titled “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.” Don’t read it unless you’re prepared to be spoiled and are ready for a frank discussion of a particularly upsetting episode of Game of Thrones. 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. 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. There’s something that happens about halfway through this season that is really going to make huge waves, and people aren’t going to be happy about it. Most of this episode’s characters — from Jaime, to Tyrion, Jorah, Sansa and Arya — are where they’re supposed to be, but they’re on a more difficult path than they originally intended.

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. 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, the smaller empathy we feel for her does nothing to lesson the horrors of her marriage bed, where Ramsay uses Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) as a kind of sexual surrogate before raping his new wife himself. 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. When it became clear that “Game of Thrones” was going to marry the real Sansa to Ramsay, I wrote that I wasn’t sure I could bear to watch this scene play out with a character we’d come to know so well; the heightened emotional pain might have simply been too much.

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. He’s capable of anything, really,” Rheon told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the episode. “Because of who she is, I don’t think Roose Bolton will stand for too much slapping around. 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. After one too many lashings, Arya verbally lashes out, shouting at Jaqen that she doesn’t want to play “this stupid game.” To that, Jaqen cryptically responds, “we never stop playing.” Later, a man approaches Arya scrubbing the floors imploring her for her help for his sick sister.

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. 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. 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. 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.

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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

It’s no mistake that this episode begins with Arya Stark tenderly washing a body in the House of Black and White, and doesn’t quite end with the scene of Myranda (Charlotte Hope) washing Sansa’s hair with the same care, but with an added dose of malice. 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?

In this week’s episode, he gained Cersei’s permission to take the soldiers of Vale to Winterfell to cast out either the Boltons or Stannis, depending on who wins the coming battle. Tyrion again talks himself out of getting killed, this time a little miraculously, and convinces them to take them to Mereen’s fighting pits by telling them Jorah was one of the greatest warriors in Westeros. 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.

Petyr Baelish (who is still using that magical jetpack that cross-country in one episode, I see) has a heated encounter with Lancel Lannister, who threatens him with the help of his fanatic religious order. If Arya was hoping that becoming someone else didn’t mean peeling the face of a corpse from a storage alcove and fusing it to your own, living skull, she might be disappointed. I hated him,” Arya tells Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) about the Hound (Rory McCann) as she finds herself on the losing end, once again, in the Game of Faces. “A girl lies to me,” Jaqen says, slapping her less for the falsehood than for her inability to conceal her affection for the dead man, which is obvious to him, if not to Arya herself. “To the many-faced god. 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.

But with her arming of the fanatic Sparrows and her trusting of Littlefinger of all people, Cersei seems like she’s floundering now that she’s in a position of power. 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. The next chapters will be hers alone to write. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. 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. Olenna Tyrell once again seems to be the only voice of reason, comforting Margaery and shutting down Cersei. (Favorite line: “Put the pen down we both know you’re not writing anything.”) Olenna tries to reason with Cersei, saying Tywin saw the logic in trusting their rivals, but Cersei, of course, is stubborn as ever.

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. Even worse than the idea of Sansa needing this to motivate her into vengeance is the notion that the Theon character needed to watch her rape in order to snap out of whatever zombie/Reek fugue state he’s been walking around in. 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.

They bring in the male prostitute who slept with Loras, who confirms Loras’ “sins,” causing Margaery and Loras to both get imprisoned and Cersei to finally achieve her goals. 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. 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.

Proving why she has the nickname Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna takes a few cracks at Cersei but the latter tries to mollify her with the news Loras only faces a simply inquest and will be let go. 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. 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. Despite Bronn’s hilarious plea to “not do something stupid,” Jaime knocks Trystane down and he and Bronn are forced to face off against all three Sand Snakes, who have infiltrated the palace to kidnap Myrcella. 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. He senses in Mormont a desire to hear more of his father, and gives Jorah a good report from his long-ago visit to the wall. “At least your father was a good man,” Tyrion tells Jorah. “He actually cared about the people under his command. 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.

How do they put it in the Watch? ‘We shall never see his like again.’” When Tyrion realizes he’s inadvertently become the first person to let Jorah know his father is dead, he could be cruel. In a repeat of that uncomfortable bath scene between Theon and Ramsay, Sansa gets a bath from Ramsay’s fellow psycho Miranda, who tells Sansa about all of Ramsay’s other conquests who he hunted and killed.

Despite her completely vulnerable position, Sansa doesn’t waver under Miranda’s veiled threats and forcibly tells her to leave (and Sansa finally lives up to her “skin turning to porcelein, to ivory, to steel” line). 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. And there’s quiet dignity even in the middle of the farce that is Sansa’s wedding. “Theon, of house Greyjoy,” Theon announces himself when he’s asked who gives Sansa in marriage. “Who was…who was her father’s ward.” That quiet admission of who he is, and by extension, what he did in conquering Winterfell, is a far more meaningful apology than the one Ramsay wrested from him last episode, using the words as a weapon against Sansa even as he dressed the scene up as a gross parody of reconciliation.

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. The greatest cruelties in “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” are just as small and personal, though sometimes they gain additional power when the people who are motivated by anger and pain, like Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), lean on the levers of bureaucracy. 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. 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. The battle brewing up at Winterfell may be more violent, and depending on the outcome of Jon Snow’s mission north of the Wall, may end up changing Westeros’ society forever.

While losing Quentyn Martell isn’t a really big loss, Arianne’s disappearance still bugs especially after seeing what nonentities both Trystane and Myrcella are so far. 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.

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. 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.

To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.” Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. 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. In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses “as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined,” which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers. 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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