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Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 6 ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’: When the Series Betrayed Sansa Stark

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 Episode 6 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken': When the Series Betrayed Sansa Stark

PREVIOUSLY: Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 5 ‘Kill the Boy’: The Targaryens Stand Alone

Post-“Game” Analysis

Let’s be blunt, the end of Episode 6 is going to be a controversial one. There’s a lot to discuss, and I, your loyal “Game of Thrones” weekly reviewer am still in a state of semi-shock, but let’s get to the rest of the episode first.

Most Magical Moment

Tonight, it looked like Arya had finally begun taking pride in the work she was doing for The House of Black and White. She seemed to enjoy the intricacies of the ritual washing of the bodies, despite not knowing what happened to them afterward. When the other servant girl told her a fabricated story about also being from Westeros and also being the daughter of a lord, Arya ate up the lie, proving that she wasn’t yet ready to pass through the next door. When Jaqen asked her to relay her own story, he whipped her with a switch every time she lied. Most interestingly, he had to hit her three times when she said she hated The Hound. Perhaps she had taken a liking to Sandor Clegane after all.

But the most magical moment came when, after Arya told a similarly fabricated story to a sick, dying girl, easing her to her final rest, Jaqen took Arya down to the third level. There, walls and walls of faces lined the shelves of an enormous cavern. Which begs the question: do the faceless men shape shift using the actual faces of others? And to become a faceless man, does one have to give up their own face? Jaqen said she’s not ready to become no one, but is ready to “become someone else.” Look, Arya learning to become a faceless man is cool and all, but what does this mean for Maisie Williams if Arya eventually has to have her own face cut off? There’s a lot to be said for fan devotion to a particular actor, and though many characters have had replacement actors join the show, something tells me there’d be a riot if we saw less of Williams.

Great Moments in Feminism

Myrcella and Trystane have gotten rather smoochy, haven’t they? Too bad their little romance was about to be broken up. Jaime and Bronn made it to Sunspear and the Water Gardens, though not without Bronn showing off his epic singing voice along the way. What they didn’t see coming, however, were the Sand Snakes, the daughters of Oberyn Martell. They recited their family words, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” before attacking. The battle between Jaime, Bronn, Obara, Nymeria and Tyene is definitely an exciting one, with Obara showing off some of her father’s signature spear moves. (Though remember, Obara, showing off is what got Oberyn killed.) Nym’s whip came in handy as well, with her able to assist both of her sisters against their opponents from afar. Sadly there was no victor, as Areo Hotah, Doran’s captain of the guards showed up and took them all, as well as Ellaria Sand, into captivity. It also looks like Areo is going to be another source of humor on this show, as he told Jaime Lannister, “When you were whole, it would have been a good fight.”

Wit of the Week

Cersei: “As for your veiled threats…”
Olenna Tyrell: “What veil?”

After the arrest of Ser Loras, the Queen of Thrones herself, Olenna Tyrell, made her way back to King’s Landing to confront Cersei about her grandson’s arrest. These two are able to go head to head with each other like no one else on this show — one vindictive woman to another. It’s incredibly engaging to watch these two have a battle of wits, but Olenna’s chances were crushed during Ser Loras’ actual hearing. He denied his homosexuality, and Margaery denied knowing anything about her brother’s proclivities. But the Tyrells didn’t suspect that Loras’ squire, his former bed mate, would be called to the stand. Not only was Loras found worthy of a trial, but Margaery found herself locked up as well for lying under oath; even Tommen couldn’t save her. It looks like the Sparrows are continuing their persecution, and Cersei is making the most of their fundamentalist wave. But she shouldn’t get so comfortable. After all, she’s previously shared her bed with a young Sparrow named Lancel Lannister.

Who’s the God of Tits and Wine?

You have to hand it to Tyrion for managing to hold off his execution by using his own penis. When Jorah and Tyrion are captured by slavers, Tyrion managed to convince them that, any merchant who’d want to buy a dwarf’s cock would need to see it on the dwarf beforehand, so as not to be tricked. It was a little bit of a long shot, but Tyrion’s quick thinking led to the slavers sparing Jorah as well, and the two are on their way Meereen, exactly as they had planned. (Though maybe their original plans didn’t include the fighting pits.)

Most Poised to Take the Throne

Littlefinger is certainly up to something, and after believing his devotion to Sansa for a couple of episodes, we’re not really sure where to stand with Lord Baelish. Surely he had heard of what Ramsay has done to women? So why leave Sansa in his hands except for a disturbing means to an end? He’s not afraid of Lancel’s Sparrows: “We both peddle fantasies, brother, mine just happen to be entertaining.” He’s certainly managed to convince Cersei that he had no part to play in getting Sansa back to Winterfell, or in the marriage arrangements. Now that he’s promised Knights of the Vale to help King’s Landing retake the North, we’re not really sure what he’s up to. But that’s the point, and damn he’s good at it.

For the Book Nerds (May Contain Spoilers from “A Song of Ice and Fire”)/Why, Show, Why?!

I thought for sure that Sansa’s marriage to Ramsay Bolton née Snow would be prevented in some way. Perhaps it would be yet another divergence that the show would take from the books. Then, Sansa emerged from her room, dressed in white, hair returned to red, and I got nervous. During the ceremony, when she hesitated to answer that she had come to wed Ramsay, I thought, perhaps, she was going to reject him, or make a break for it, or the Bolton bannermen were going to unsheathe their swords, reveal themselves as Northerners and take out the Boltons. (“The North Remembers.”)

But their snowy, dark, ominous wedding took place, and no one stopped it. This was Sansa’s second forced marriage, her first being to Tyrion after the beheading of her father. Now came this, being after the murder of her mother and brother by the very father of her betrothed. Once in their bedchamber, when Sansa began unlacing her sleeves, I thought for sure that she had a knife hidden and that Ramsay would soon be a goner, but those hopes were dashed as well. This episode also featured the second time that the back of Sansa’s dress was ripped open against her will. When it was revealed that Sansa would be taking the place of a character named Jeyne Poole, whom Ramsay marries in the books (Jeyne pretending to be Arya), I thought for sure they weren’t going to let what happens to Jeyne happen to Sansa. And yet. Despite it being a bit tamer than what George R.R. Martin wrote — in the novel, Ramsay makes Theon partake in sexually abusing Jeyne — Sansa’s wedding night rape was still disturbing, disappointing and incredibly hard to watch.

It Is Known

Sansa Stark, gorgeously played by Sophie Turner, has grown over the course of five seasons from a spoiled, boy-crazy brat into a character that audiences have begun to root for. If anything, the numerous things that have happened to her have made audiences sympathetic to her plight and called for a “cease-fire,” as it were, on terrible things happening to the character. Tonight, the show failed her.

It’s angering and confusing why the series has chosen to add yet another rape of a major character into the show that does not exist in the books. In last season’s episode “Breaker of Chains,” Jaime Lannister raped (yes, it was rape) his sister Cersei below their son’s funeral bed. The incident lit a fire on the internet, with many wondering why the show seemed so obsessed with sexual assault and lamented the horrendous treatment of women on the show. Why invent a rape that was not included in Martin’s creation? In the book, the Cersei/Jaime scene was consensual. (There was the argument that first-person narration isn’t reliable; perhaps Jaime did rape her in the novel and because we were being told the story from his perspective, we weren’t treated to the truth. But the director denied that as well, claiming that what he shot wasn’t a rape scene.) Still, these essays suggested that the rape would have consequences for both Jaime and Cersei, that his guilt would officially lead him to exile from the Lannister fold. So far, nothing of the sort has happened, and Jaime seems unaffected by what he’s done.

But Cersei won’t forget. And now Sansa won’t forget. The fact that “Game of Thrones” has done this for a second time now might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. [Editor’s Note: Actually, this might be the third time.] The show will probably actually lose some viewers for this. I won’t be one of them just yet, but I’m extremely bothered by their choice — their need, it seems, to continually alter Martin’s story to include more rape. Putting Sansa into Jeyne Poole’s place, and having her assaulted, raped and humiliated, was unnecessary. There have been numerous plot points and characters from Martin’s novels that have been omitted from the series; I’d love to hear what the showrunners’ arguments are for not only keeping the brutal assault of a young woman, but changing the storyline so that it happened to a beloved character. I’ll be waiting for an explanation, but like Jaime Lannister’s guilt, I’m not expecting it to actually arrive.

Grade: C

READ MORE: Women & ‘Game of Thrones’: How ‘Breaker of Chains’ Broke the Bechdel Test

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