Game of Thrones S5E6 “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Honesty is a theme that gets explored a lot in the episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”. Some truths are very difficult to face and appropriately express such as the fact that Sansa was almost assuredly going to be raped by her new husband Ramsay, while others drive stories forward such as Arya’s ability to make a lie look truthful, granting her the opportunity to start meaningful training at the House of Black and White, Jaime’s self-made up princess saving fairy tale being comically wrong, House Tyrell’s dishonesty leading to imprisonment, and Tyrion’s ability to selectively tell the truth to turn a trip to Volantis into a trip to Meereen. As you can tell, most of these were hits. We’ll talk about all of those as well as discussing in great detail where the Sansa story line went wrong, all of that starting now.
We’ll start with the travelling duo of the season in Tyrion and Jorah. Jorah seems resigned to the fact that they’re going to have to walk the remainder of the way to Meereen while Tyrion vents his frustration of the same fact. The subject of why Tyrion was in Essos in the first place comes up and Tyrion explains his story. Jorah hears Tyrion recount the story of Tyrion killing his father who wanted him executed for a crime he didn’t commit, and then sleep with the women he loved. Jorah gives a small nod in approval. Kinslaying is a big deal in Westeros but Jorah seems convinced Tyrion had good enough reason to go through with it. Recounting the story makes Tyrion concede that Jorah at least had a decent father. Jorah’s father dying is new news to Jorah and when Tyrion has to tell Jorah that Jeor died in a mutiny at the hands of his own men, it’s devastating for Jorah. Jorah doesn’t even say a word, but he doesn’t need to. The look on Jorah’s face tells you everything you need to know. Jorah silently grieves and tells Tyrion they should keep walking.
Keep walking is what they do and Tyrion changes the subject to Daenerys. He walks Jorah through the logistics of Dany taking Westeros and shows his own skepticism at the conquest ending well through the way that he phrases his questions. Jorah stops him when he spots a slaver ship anchored nearby. The two go to hide but it’s actually too late and they’ve been spotted by the slaver Malko and his crew. Malko plans to bring Jorah to Volantis to sell as a slave and kill Tyrion and sell a certain piece of his body to a merchant (because dwarf parts are very valuable). The topic of the fighting pits being reopened comes up and Tyrion seizes the opportunity and saves their lives. He firstly tells Malko that he’s going to have to be alive for the merchant to verify that he’s a dwarf, and then says that they should go to Meereen instead of Volantis. Jorah is a well renowned fighter and would make Malko more money fighting in the pits of Meereen. Malko is convinced and Tyrion uses his clever words to save himself for what seems like the umpteenth time. It may not be the way they wanted to get to Meereen, but Jorah and Tyrion are getting there nonetheless.
Over in Braavos, Arya continues her routine of sweeping floors and washing corpses. She’s getting antsy now and asks the Waif what it is that they do with the bodies when she’s done washing them. When that gets no answer, Arya asks to play the game of faces again to which the Waif replies that they played it already and she failed. Lastly, Arya asks the Waif who she really is. This one gets the game rolling again and the Waif tells her an elaborate story and hints at the end that in order to win the game, Arya needs to be able to convincingly lie. Later that night, Jaqen comes to play the game of faces with Arya and Arya tells Jaqen the story of her life, throwing in lies here and there. Jaqen calls her out on every single lie, hitting her with a switch when she doesn’t tell the truth.
Arya seems to make a breakthrough in her next scene though when a poor father brings his terminally ill daughter to the House. The father explains that he’s spent every penny he has trying to heal his daughter but nothing works and her pain only gets worse. Arya talks to the ill child and tells a false story, saying she too was terminally ill and drinking the fountain water here made her better. The girl is then convinced to drink the water and is given the mercy of a painless death. Jaqen was watching and sees that Arya can convincingly lie now. She brings her through the mysterious door that she’s been denied access until this point, and Arya is brought into the Hall of Faces. The hall contains all the faces from every body that has been brought into the House of Black and White. Jaqen tells Arya that she isn’t ready to become no one but is ready to become someone else, signifying she’s going to get to use one of the faces. Arya’s training is finally getting interesting.
Over in Dorne, Prince Doran and his guard, Areo Hotah, are watching over Trystane and Myrcella, as Doran notes that their betrothal is much more dangerous than the two teenagers can imagine. Prince Doran’s suspicions turn out to be correct as Jaime, Bronn, and the Sand Snakes are both secretly in the Water Gardens, trying to capture Mrycella. Jaime and Bronn, in Dornish guard gear, arrive first and Bronn comments that it doesn’t look like Myrcella needs saving, as she’s taken to Trystane quite well. Jaime calls out to Myrcella and tells her that she has to come with him. Trystane grows suspicious of the two and goes to draw his sword but Bronn knocks him down before he can, much to the shock of Myrcella. Before they can make their next move, Jaime and Bronn are ambushed by the Sand Snakes. The two parties engage in a duel and one of the sand snakes leaves the fight to capture Myrcella but everyone is interrupted when Areo and a group of guards arrive on scene. Jaime, Bronn, the sand snakes, and Ellaria (who wasn’t present but behind the plan) are all detained. That didn’t turn out the way anyone planned it to.
To the capital we go where Littlefinger arrives to a changed situation. Littlefinger is welcomed (in not so friendly fashion) by Lancel Lannister and the faith militant. Lancel tells Littlefinger that King’s Landing has been cleaned of its corruption and vices and warns him that his prostitution business will no longer be welcomed. Littlefinger seems unconcerned with this and pushes on to the Red Keep where he meets with Cersei. Cersei is unsure of where Littlefinger’s loyalties lie and Littlefinger is surprised that Cersei would arm the faith militant as it’s far too obvious of a move against House Tyrell. After they share their concerns, Cersei asks Littlefinger if The Vale (which he basically controls through Robin Arryn) will fight for the crown if need be, and Littlefinger replies that they will. He also brings up the fact that Sansa is in Winterfell and Roose is going to marry her to his son Ramsay. Cersei is irate at the news and wants to attack now but Littlefinger councils patience. Stannis is attacking Winterfell soon and Littlefinger likes their odds of defeating whoever wins that battle. Littlefinger offers to lead the attack with the knights of the Vale in exchange of becoming Warden of the North. Cersei agrees to talk to Tommen about it and Littlefinger departs.
Cersei’s next meeting is with the queen of thorns Olena Tyrell. Olena asks Cersei to release Loras while Cersei continues to stick with the story that she had nothing to do with it. Olena reminds Cersei that she is threatening their alliance and House Tyrell currently supplies the capital with nearly all of its food but Cersei simply states that Loras isn’t even under trial. He will have a holy inquest and Cersei is confident his innocence will be confirmed (yeah right). At this inquest, Loras is questioned by the High Sparrow and denies the crimes of laying with men. Margaery is called to testify and she too denies Loras’ homosexuality. The tables turn when Loras’ squire and lover Olyvar is brought to testify and he confirms that he has intimate relations with Loras and Margaery knows because she walked in on them one time and didn’t seem surprised. Loras is outraged at this betrayal and goes to attack Olyvar before being restrained by the faith militant. Satisfied, the High Sparrow concludes that enough evidence is present to not only bring Loras to trial, but also Margaery. An outraged Olena and dumbfounded Tommen watch as Loras and Margaery are taken away. That’s three Tyrells down.
To Winterfell we go for what may be the most controversial event in the show’s history. Myranda comes to Sansa’s chambers and helps her bathe in preparation for her wedding that night. Myranda tries to frighten Sansa by warning her of Ramsay’s cruelty to those who bore him but Sansa is unafraid. I wish I could say it stayed that way but that would be lying. Sometime later, Reek comes to Sansa’s chambers and asks her to take his arm as they go to the godswood for the wedding. Sansa refuses, saying she doesn’t care what Ramsay will do to Reek and the two head to the wedding, not hand in hand. The wedding is a grim affair, although the candle lit snowy night setting is actually quite nice. The ceremony is a short one and before long, Ramsay shows Sansa to his chambers. Ramsay asks her to take her clothes off and Reek tries to leave, only to be stopped. Ramsay, in a ploy to hurt the both of them, is going to make Reek watch him consummate his wedding to Sansa. Fed up that Sansa is taking too long, Ramsay tears Sansa’s dress and puts her face down on the bed as he rapes her and Reek tearfully watches the uncomfortable affair.
We have to start with the rape here. We can’t sit here and pretend Ramsay wouldn’t be the kind of person to rape his wife, that would betray his character. Knowing that, it may have been best to avoid a wedding night entirely. People have complained that the focus of the rape was Reek’s reaction but I have to say I think the scene would have been received just as poorly if it was shown from Sansa’s perspective. The one thing I won’t defend them for is the editing. Using this as the last scene of the episode, the scene was clearly meant to stick with us and be a lasting image. There was no need to because it doesn’t establish anything new. Ramsay is a bad person and tortures Reek for fun, that’s been going on for seasons now, no need to make it an end scene. Arya getting a new task (that doesn’t involve sweeping or washing), Loras and Margaery’s arrest, and even Tyrion and Jorah’s capture (if rewinded and cut to just show the capture and not Tyrion’s redirection to Meereen) all would have made better endings that actually presented new information. I can only hope this is the absolute low point for Game of Thrones because frankly, the show is better than having to resort to this.
The rape scene will ultimately be hard to vindicate but I would like to think the show is going to attempt to do so by having Reek help Sansa escape and have him get closer to becoming Theon again in the process. If Sansa’s wedding night is used as rock bottom where Reek realizes something has to change, then maybe it’s not a scene that’s completely lost.
All of those criticisms of the rape scene are completely fair in my book but they’re taking nothing away from Alfie Allen and his portrayal of Reek. The devastated look on his face in that scene was really something to behold. No one really talks about Alfie Allen, but he’s one of the better actors on the show. Going from arrogant Theon Greyjoy to utterly broken Reek is the biggest range a single character has on the show and he plays both personas brilliantly.
Dorne is something else I have to question. If the sand snakes and Jaime both planned to seize Myrcella, why on earth would you do that during the middle of the day? And the fight between the two parties is probably the worst fight the show has given us to date. In the show’s defense, the Water Garden scenes are shot in a royal palace in Seville and there are super strict regulations to filming there. Given the circumstances, they probably did the best they could there. This show usually doesn’t need excuses so I’ll let this one slide.
Anyone have a clue what Littlefinger is trying to do here? I know the best way to get power is to secretly play both sides of a conflict but would he really turn on Sansa and kill her like he told Cersei? If not, what’s the point of even mentioning that to Cersei? Mystery has always been a big part of his character but I’m genuinely lost right now trying to figure out what his end game is.
On a more positive note, Bronn has an excellent singing voice. His rendition of the song “The Dornishman’s Wife was excellent. I’m upset Jaime told him he had to cut it short. Bronn says the song is all about the ending so I hope we get to hear him sing the ending sometime.
So just in case you needed convincing of it, Arya doesn’t actually hate The Hound. Jaqen hits Arya extra hard for saying that she did hate him.
Most bizarre occupation in Essos has to go to dwarf cock merchant. I wonder how one gets into that field.
I loved when Olena called out Cersei the way that Tywin used to do to Cersei. She calls Cersei out on not actually writing anything during their meeting, knowing she’s just trying to annoy her. Olena also says that Cersei is nowhere near as smart as Tywin because Tywin knew that alliances, especially with rivals are some of the most important things needed to strengthen your own house. Cersei meanwhile, wants to doom her own alliances just because she doesn’t like the people in them. All very true.
Is Lancel safe from being arrested considering he’s in the Faith Militant? If so, what’s stopping him from having Cersei arrested for her incestuous relationship with him? I’d watch out if I was Cersei, by wanting to bury the Tyrells graves, she many have buried her own in the process.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I do think this will be a season of Cersei grossly miscalculating her decisions now that Tywin isn’t around. This one goes back to season two though. Remember how furious she was that Tyrion sent Myrcella to Dorne to essentially be a political hostage? Seems like she’s worrying for nothing, Myrcella loves it there! Just keep the Sand Snakes away.
That Dornish shaped birthmark on Loras came back to bite him. Who would have guessed that not only was that not a throwaway line, the birthmark actually had two purposes? The first being a subtle reminder of Dorne’s relevance in season five and the second being incriminating evidence that gets him thrown in jail.
Quote of the day comes from Olena Tyrell, as her carriage is approaching King’s Landing. “You can smell the shit five miles away”. That’s probably true and the return of Olena is always going to get bonus points when deciding on a quote of the day. The Queen of Thorns is always a welcome addition to the show.
“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” delivers a disturbing rape and questionable moments in a rare mediocre episode of Game of Thrones.