Monday, May 18, 2015

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

"House Lannister has no rivals."
With this installment HBO's Game of Thrones has officially moved from an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire to something that is inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire. This was a tough episode to watch for a number of different reasons. More on that in a minute. At the House of Black and White Arya continues to clean and wash corpses, but isn't allowed in the secret rooms. When Arya wants to know who the creepy girl is and why Arya isn't allowed to do anything more than the basic tasks the girl gives Arya a very convincing story of her exile from Westeros before asking if Arya really believed that story. Evidently lying is part of the training or "game". Arya may not yet have the ability to tell truth from lies but her sensei Jaqen H'ghar does. He asks Arya questions and whips her every time she tells a lie. Curiously one of Arya's lies is apparently that she hates The Hound. Imagine that. We also hear that Arya left the Hound to die. While Arya is cleaning floors a man comes into the House of Black and White with a sickly dying daughter. He can't afford to pay for any more treatment or take care of her any longer. He wants a mercy killing. Acting like she saw Jaqen do, Arya comforts the child and tells her all sorts of lies before giving her a poison drink. Jaqen watches from the shadows. Afterwards, when she is cleaning the child's body a door is left open, and Jaqen leads Arya into the sub basement. There are many pillars there all with human faces hanging from them. Jaquen says that although Arya is not yet ready to be no one she might be ready to be someone else. So Arya is making progress on something. For what purpose we're not sure yet. I don't think that mercy killing and murder are what Ned and Catelyn would have wanted for their little girl but they're not around any more are they. That's life in Westeros and truth be told our world as well. Things don't always work out. Get used to it.

While Jorah is learning to better appreciate Tyrion's cutting wit he learns that his father, Night Watch Lord Commander Jeor Mormont was murdered by his own men. Tyrion admits his patricide and the reasons for it. Tyrion also unsuccessfully tries to get Jorah to see beyond his worship of Daenerys to articulate why someone with no experience of ruling and a family history of incestuous insanity would be a good ruler. Because Tyrion isn't necessarily feeling that. Jorah's not having it. He doesn't think Tyrion is seeing the big picture. He left cynicism behind when he saw Daenerys emerge unburnt and unhurt from fire. Before they can continue their conversation on leadership, political science and fatherhood the two men are captured by slavers. The slavers want to kill Tyrion and sell his genitalia. Tyrion is, typically, able to argue for their lives by appealing to the chief slaver's greed. If you need someone to think fast and speak faster, Tyrion's your man. His retort about the size of his (not so) "little Tyrion" was pretty funny. In the Dornish water gardens, Prince Trystan and Princess Myrcella talk about marriage. Myrcella is already jealous and curious about Trystan's past dalliances. By the way these two have zero charisma together. I mean like none. Zip. Nada. Prince Doran and Areo Hotah watch over the two crazy young lovebirds. Doran appears happy to see that his son is falling in love with the beautiful Baratheon Lannister princess. Doran reminds Areo that push may come to shove. Not everyone in Dorne is happy about the proposed nuptials. Areo and Doran need to protect Myrcella and Trystan. 
Cue cutaway to the venomously angry Ellaria Sand reminding the Sand Snakes of the Martell House words ( Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken) and exhorting them them to avenge their father. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby have disguised themselves as North Africans I mean Jaime and Bronn have disguised themselves as Dornish and joined a caravan that's headed for the water gardens. Bronn is singing a typically bawdy song about Dornish women. The actor used to be a singer. Go figure. Anyway apparently no one notices that the not so dynamic duo don't really have a typical Dornish look. And no one is there is to check that the people entering gardens where the Prince of Dorne, his heir and Princess Myrcella are residing actually have official business being there. Right. This is akin to just waltzing into the White House and telling people you're with the landscaping crew. Anyway Jaime and Bronn find Trystan and Myrcella and try to take Myrcella. Myrcella doesn't understand why her uncle Jaime is there. She doesn't want to go with him. And Trystan notices the blood on both men's clothes. But it's at that moment that the Sand Snakes go into wondertwin powers activate! status. A battle royale breaks out but no one is really hurt. One of the Sand Snakes does manage to (temporarily?) spirit Myrcella away but Areo breaks up the fight and arrests everyone. His men also detain Ellaria. You kind of wonder why this wasn't done before but whatever. 
In King's Landing Littlefinger has a brief run in with the Faith Militant/Sparrows before seeing Cersei. Cersei is, as usual, already tipsy. But she's not so drunk that she's not suspicious about Lysa's sudden death. She wants to know if Littlefinger supports the throne. Littlefinger reveals that "he's found Sansa Stark" and rats out the Bolton-Stark impending marriage. Littlefinger advises Cersei to let Stannis and Roose Bolton battle it out over Winterfell and then swoop in to pick up the pieces. If Cersei doesn't have the muscle to send to Winterfell (Jaime out of town, Kevan not talking to her) then Littlefinger will send Vale soldiers to exchange for being named Warden of the North of course. Cersei says that might could happen but the main thing she wants is to see Sansa's head on a pike. Margaery's grandmother Olenna, the Queen of Thorns, has come to King's Landing to sort things out. She tells Margaery that obviously Cersei is behind the Loras arrest and just as obviously the Tyrells can't let this pass. The QoT visits Cersei and angrily reminds her of the Tyrell contributions of food, gold and troops. She tells Cersei that although she never liked or even trusted Tywin Lannister she did respect him. She thinks Cersei is being short sighted in her attempt to stick it to a rival. Cersei sneers that the Lannisters have no rivals. She says she has no pull with the Sparrows. It's only an inquest into Loras' activities not a trial so the QoT should stop making threats and insults. Have a coke and a smile and shut the **** up is Cersei's advice. Cersei remains serene in the face of Olenna's bluster and threats. I think she's trying to do what her daddy would have done.

The High Sparrow himself conducts the inquest in front of King Tommen, Margaery, Cersei and the QoT. He probes Loras (no pun intended) about Loras' relationship with Renly and other men. Loras denies everything as lies and rumors. He specifically claims that he's engaged in no homosexual acts. Curiously the High Sparrow calls Margaery as a witness. Margaery also swears that her brother is innocent. She says she's seen no evidence of homosexual activity. Hmm. Well The High Sparrow has evidently been watching Law and Order reruns and paying attention to perjury traps. After Margaery leaves the witness stand the High Sparrow brings in one of Loras' lovers, a squire. The squire gives all sorts of salacious details about what he and Loras did. He can provide proof because he knows some of Loras' intimate physical characteristics. As he was also the same fellow that Margaery walked in on earlier he also states truthfully that Margaery knew about her brother's lifestyle and wasn't surprised or disgusted. This testimony shows Margaery to be a liar. Now my understanding is that a prosecutor is not supposed to deliberately call someone as a witness to get them to perjure themselves but I'm no lawyer and more importantly there's no judge to reign in the High Sparrow. He is the judge and prosecutor. He orders that Loras and Margaery both be detained for trial. Cersei pretends outrage but can barely hold back the smirk. She silently cautions Tommen against interfering. Margaery calls for Tommen to do something but he won't act. He appears frightened. Truthfully he's been weighed, measured and found wanting by the High Sparrow. It is a serious breach of secular power for the Church to arrest the Queen. It shouldn't be tolerated but that's what happens when you have a weak King. For the second time the Kingsguard is ready to start slicing and dicing and for the second time the King won't give the word.
At Winterfell, Myranda comes to Sansa's door to draw her bath water for the upcoming wedding. As I said before Myranda is not anyone you'd want to be around in a dark alley. She's very vampiric looking. She tries to scare Sansa with tales of Ramsay's past atrocities and her own role in them. Sansa sees that Myranda loves Ramsay. Sansa restates that she is a Stark of Winterfell and will not be frightened by any kennel master's daughter. On Ramsay's orders, Theon comes to escort Sansa to the godswood. Sansa is repulsed by Theon's presence and won't touch him. In a very sad scene, Sansa, attired all in white with her natural red hair, goes to the godswood where her father used to pray and seek solitude. There in a solemn and yet somehow farcical nighttime ceremony she is married to Ramsay Bolton. It's all very sad because Sansa is alone in the world. For all she knows she's the last Stark. She's literally spoils of war. But the worse is yet to come. In his bedchamber, (symbolically?) filled with wolf skins, Ramsay decides to drop the mask and let the crazy come out. He does not let Theon leave. Ramsay skeptically and rudely inquires if Sansa is still a virgin. He then makes Sansa take off her clothes in front of Theon. When she's not doing so fast enough, Ramsay rips open her wedding dress, bends Sansa over and rapes her. Ramsay tells Theon because he's known Sansa since she was a girl he can now watch Sansa move from girlhood to womanhood. Although there is no nudity in this scene it's as horrific as anything ever filmed in Game of Thrones. Something that should be an act of love between two people is instead used by one psychopath to hurt and humiliate other people. We see Sansa's shocked face and then cut away to stay on Theon's weeping one. We hear Sansa's screams and cries of pain and Ramsay's laughter and grunts. The viewer may feel, much like Theon, an emasculated and unwilling voyeur. It's a very disturbing way to end the episode. The Starks have been betrayed, murdered, exiled and now raped. When will this end?

What I liked

  • Littlefinger being Littlefinger. Although I don't think it's in character for him to let the last surviving incarnation of Catelyn Stark (Sansa) out of his sight, it is in character for him to immediately betray the Boltons and work an angle for his own advancement. Still perhaps Cersei might want to investigate HOW Littlefinger knew Sansa Stark was at Winterfell and WHO helped her get there before she gives Littlefinger anything. But Cersei has always been a woman to react emotionally and not wisely. 
  • The High Sparrow getting Margaery to perjure herself. He may look (and smell) like a homeless beggar but he's a lot more dangerous and smarter than he looks.
  • This episode did bring home the pathos of being alone in the world for both Arya and especially for Sansa.

What I didn't like

  • The Sansa Stark rape scene. I never thought it made any sense for Sansa Stark to willingly marry into the family which had helped to betray and murder her own. This isn't book material, and that's all I'll say about that now. Perhaps it's unrealistic for Sansa to have escaped being raped by Joffrey, Littlefinger, The Hound or any of the other rough men she's run across but it also seems a bit much to have Ned and Catelyn's oldest daughter held prisoner in her own home and raped by someone who makes Joffrey seem stable. It was also a mind-rape of Theon FWIW. I feel like we already know that Ramsay is pure evil. I don't need rape to develop Sansa's character. If Sansa really wanted revenge it would make more sense for her to stay in the Vale and attempt to use family connections there. Powerful scene but I thought it gratuitous.
  • The Sand Snakes continue to not impress. I thought the fight scene with Bronn and Jaime was silly. Just an episode ago we saw Bronn take out multiple swordsmen in seconds yet he's having trouble with women who are much smaller than he is? That aside as mentioned the security around Prince Dorne was horribly lacking. Perhaps instead of introducing the Sand Snakes throwing a spear through some guy's head, there should have been some better backstory about their exploits or Areo/Doran speaking with worry about their reaction? I don't necessarily blame the actresses but it's just not working for me.
  • Dorne in general bores me but that could be an issue with the source material. 
  • There are other families in the North besides the Boltons. I would have liked to see some sort of nod to families who lost people at the Red Wedding and now must decide their next move.
  • Slavers, slavers everywhere but Jorah and Tyrion just happen to run across an all black group? Hmm.
  • For some reason watching Trystan and Myrcella I kept thinking of One Direction or any other insipid boy band of the day.

*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events or have seen future leaked episodes please be kind enough not to discuss that here.  NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....
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