Weddings in the ‘Game of Thrones’ universe are such guaranteed miserable occasions, it’s a wonder that anyone would ever consent to get married.
Yes, it’s time for another awful Westeros marriage ceremony. While this one may not feature any impalings or poisonings, it’s still pretty unpleasant.
Here’s the rundown on what happens in episode ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’:
As if she hadn’t been clued in enough already that her betrothed Ramsay Bolton is a bastard in multiple senses of the term, Sansa is forced to accept a bath from his jealous girlfriend Myranda, who delights in telling her all about Ramsay’s former lovers and what he did when he got bored with them. For a moment, Sansa develops a little backbone and tells the girl off, warning her that Winterfell is her rightful home and she cannot be scared away. Good for her.
That night, Sansa’s wedding to Ramsay is a chilly affair, and not just because it takes place outside in the snow. Ramsay insists that, as the ward of her father Ned Stark and thus the closest she has to a living relative, Theon must be the one to give Sansa away. She is not happy about this and refuses to take Theon’s arm when walking down the aisle.
After the ceremony, Ramsay brings Sansa up to his chambers and questions her adamantly to confirm her virginity. He then orders Theon to stay in the room and watch as they consummate the marriage, which appears to be pretty brutal and uncomfortable. Unlike her encounter with Myranda, Sansa reverts to being a weak-willed victim and simply allows Ramsay to treat her as badly as he wants.
Arya continues her dreary assignment of scrubbing dead bodies and preparing them for something she isn’t allowed to know more about. She receives a lesson from another girl in the temple about why she shouldn’t trust anything told to her and how easily she can be fooled. To teach her how to lie, Jaqen hits her with a belt anytime he can tell she’s not telling the truth. He even knows what’s in her heart when she doesn’t, such as her insistence that she hated the Hound.
A father brings a sickly child to the temple in hopes of curing her. Arya tells a very convincing story about how the same thing happened to her, and talks the child into drinking from the poisoned fountain. With her lie a success and the child dead, Jaqen allows Arya to follow him down into the depths of the temple, into a ceremonial chamber with walls covered in the sculptures of countless faces. Arya is drawn to one particular face. Jaqen tells her that she’s still not yet ready to become no one, but she may be ready to become someone else.
As they walk in search of new transportation, Tyrion informs Jorah that he killed his father Tywin. Jorah was obviously not aware that Tywin is dead. Also a surprise is Tyrion’s inadvertent blurting out that Jorah’s own father, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, was killed during a mutiny by his own men.
The two are then captured by a band of slavers, who plan to sell Jorah and kill Tyrion. They also announce that they’ll cut off Tyrion’s genitals, because “A dwarf’s cock has magic powers.” (I came very close to making that quote the headline of this recap.) Tyrion thinks quickly and convinces the slavers that they’ll need to keep him alive in order to prove to the buyer that the cock actually came from a dwarf – because that part of his body isn’t in proportion to the rest. I rather expected the slavers to verify that fact for themselves, but they take his word for it.
When the head slaver mentions that Queen Daenerys has reopened the fighting pits, Tyrion also plays up Jorah’s reputation as a great fighter and talks them into going to Meereen to sell Jorah there.
Baelish arrives back at the capital and is promptly accosted by Lancel and his Sparrow psycho cultists. He talks his way past them and meets with Cersei, as he was bidden to do. They have a very blunt chat about their current situations and their motives, as each sees the other. Baelish informs Cersei that Sansa Stark is in Winterfell and is set to marry the Bolton heir – though he leaves out the part about how he smuggled her there and arranged the marriage.
Baelish explains that Stannis Baratheon is currently marching towards Winterfell, and suggests that it would be in Cersei’s interest to wait until the battle is over, then send in another army to mop up whichever side happens to be the victor, thus reclaiming Winterfell for herself. Unfortunately, Cersei has no army currently available to do that. Baelish helpfully offers to command the Knights of the Vale himself, in exchange for the king naming him Warden of the North. Baelish never fails to have some new scheme brewing.
Also back in King’s Landing is Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), who is pissed. She demands that Cersei release her grandson Loras from prison immediately and, as always, doesn’t mince any words even when talking to the Queen Mother. Cersei continues to insist that she had nothing to do with the arrest, and has no authority over the church. Olenna will just need to take it up with the High Sparrow. Cersei remains coldly unfazed even when Olenna threatens to withdraw her family’s funding that’s currently paying off the Lannister debts.
The next morning, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) holds an inquest on the matter of the charges against Loras. Under questioning, Loras asserts that he’s innocent of all accusations of sodomy and fornication. To prove that no one is above the law, the High Sparrow even calls Queen Margaery to testify. She says that she has no knowledge of her brother engaging in such activity. Obviously, the High Sparrow isn’t going to let the matter rest there. He next calls the squire that Loras had taken as a lover, who says that he can identify a birthmark on Loras’ thigh and that Margaery saw them in bed together (which we know to be true). Loras and Margaery call him a liar, but the High Sparrow rules that he has sufficient evidence to hold a full trial – not just for Loras, but for Margaery as well on the charge of lying under oath. He has the Queen hauled off to the dungeon while Tommen sits by helplessly, unsure what to do.
Cersei is of course delighted, but I expect this plan to backfire in her face. She may think that the High Sparrow is under her thumb, but I have no doubt that he’ll turn against her and likewise put Cersei on trial for her incestuous relationship with her brother Jaime.
Speaking of Jaime, he and Bronn don the uniforms of Dornish soldiers and sneak into the Water Gardens to rescue Myrcella. What Jaime doesn’t realize is that Myrcella is actually in love with her betrothed, the Martell prince Trystane, and doesn’t want to leave. As Jaime tries to get a word alone with her, three of the warrior women known as the Sand Snakes (the daughters of slain prince Oberyn) launch an attack to murder Myrcella, under direction of Oberyn’s widow Ellaria. Jaime and Bronn fend them off, but one grabs Myrcella and attempts to run.
They don’t get too far. The Dornish royal guard, led by a big guy named Areo Hotah, sweep in and round everyone up, Jaime, Bronn and even Ellaria included.
As soon as this episode ended, my wife commented that she’s getting tired of how “rapey” the series is. Frankly, I agree. Whether it’s the fault of the show’s writers or original author George R.R. Martin, ‘Game of Thrones’ uses rape for shock value too often.
Yes, you can argue that Ramsay’s abuse of Sansa isn’t technically rape because she consented to let him do it to her, or that rape is simply a sad fact of life for characters in this fictional society, where human life holds much less value than in our real world. Similar arguments were made when Jaime raped Cersei in Season 4. Nevertheless, this show is made to be viewed by an audience in the real world, and the writers are fully aware of how uncomfortably these scenes will play.
I just think it’s a cheap plot device, especially considering how inconsistently the Sansa character is written. One moment, she seems to be developing some strength and force of will, then the next she’s a sniveling victim again. As Ramsay ordered her to take off her clothes, I expected Sansa to stand up to him and demand that Theon leave. That she doesn’t even try is very disappointing.
I find it interesting how this scene contrasts to the way Daenerys immediately took charge and used sex to tame her brutish husband Khal Drogo back in Season 1. Is Sansa’s inability to do something like that a deliberate decision to show how much stronger Daenerys is than Sansa, or is this just an unfortunate backslide in the way the series depicts women? Even Daenerys is losing control of her own destiny this season.