Oliver Davis reviews the sixth episode of Game of Thrones Season Five….
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa.
Written by Bryan Cogman.
Game of Thrones season five is now over half way through…yet, Barristan Selmy aside, there have been no major deaths or overly shocking twists. Events have been much more subdued, the writers instead focusing on Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) and Cersei’s (Lena Headey) political maneuvering. But wait…what’s that coming over the hill? It’s a wedding! Which, as seasoned fans know, is Martin-speak for ‘all your favourite characters are about to die’.
But something else happens instead.
Sansa (Sophie Turner) marries Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) in a ghostly nighttime wedding in Winterfell’s Godswood, and everyone survives. The ceremony goes off without a single flaying. The honeymoon, though…that’s where Season Five’s preference for unsettling psychological moments over shocking twists comes in.
Ramsay’s rape of Sansa, with Theon (Alfie Allen) made to watch, has generated a backlash on Twitter – hardly surprising in a forum of faux outrage.
“WTF is going on in Game of Thrones? Why are they just randomly throwing more rape in? Why is Sansa married to Ramsey?” @Charlotte_Stein
“There is such a thing as crossing the line. And yall definitely did that tonight to #Sansa. Don’t ruin a great show for shock.” @Marcisfunny
“I defended the Jamie scene last season. Will NOT defend the Sansa scene last night. TOTALLY unnecessary.” @DukeD1989
In truth, the episode’s climactic rape scene makes perfect narrative sense, and most arguments against it fall apart in the show’s overall moral framework. Murder, nudity, violence are all episode-frequent occurrences. As one tweet points out, the show had a rape scene not too long ago with Jaime and Cersei (one far more problematic) . To get offended by the ending of S05E06 means you’ll have to retrospectively #OUTRAGE Oberyn’s eyes being squashed into his head, references to the Mountain smashing babies to death and Joffrey killing a prostitute with a crossbow. It begs the question – if you’re so offended by this scene, how have you made it this far already?
Story-wise, to address @Charlotte_Stein, the reason Sansa is marrying Ramsay is to condense the overly complex plot of the books. There, a Sansa imposter married Ramsay so the Boltons could cement their claim to the North. On their wedding night, Ramsay raped the imposter. In the show, he rapes the real character. The only other difference is that the books were far more graphic, and Reek was forced to join in, not just watch.
If you thought Ramsay Bolton was going to be nice to his wife, reserving his meanness for bits-on-the-side, you clearly weren’t paying attention as he systematically ripped apart Theon’s character (and genitals) two seasons prior. This was not a scene treated trivially. The rape was neither flippant or glamourised.
Ramsay is reaffirmed as Joffrey’s heir in the dickhead stakes, and the journey has begun for Sansa’s inevitable emotional payoff – most probably a horrible Bolton demise.
Finally, we learn more about the mysterious Faceless Men…or should that be the LOADS OF FACES MEN! In Arya’s (Maise Williams) story’s final scene this episode, she walks into a vast hall with shelves lining every wall and column, reaching high up to the ceiling. On each shelf are rows of perfectly placed and conditioned human heads, presumably taken from all those suicides in the temple’s atrium.
One thing’s for certain, they’ll never be the heads of Westeros great houses…
…is this thing on?
The hall is a glimpse of Arya’s future, the tools available to her once she becomes a Faceless Man. But Jaqun H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) affirms she’s not yet ready. To truly become a Faceless Man, you must strip away your own identity first (perversely mirroring Ramsay’s creation of Reek). This is what those late-night whipping games are for. “Who are you?” “Where do you come from?” The content of Arya’s answers matter not; only whether she believes them.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is such a great character, acted so well, that – much like his brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) – you can pair him with any of Game of Thrones’ extensive cast and instantly have absorbing scenes. With Jorah (Iain Glen), another buddy road trip is established – grumpy exile with jovial dwarf.
Their scenes together are beautifully shot, by the lake in particular. That backdrop of earthy browns, greens and yellows adds a poignant tranquillity to their topic of conversation: dead dads. Tyrion reveals he killed his own father, while letting slip Jorah’s own dad – the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch – died North of the Wall.
It’s a reminder that Westeros doesn’t even have a 3G network yet. News travels slow, and this is the first Jorah’s heard of his father’s passing. His and Tyrion’s relationship thaws a little more.
But it’s Jorah’s talk of Daenerys and her dragons that’s most interesting. Tyrion’s character from the very start has been set up as a cynic. He doesn’t believe in dragons, in magic, in the Children of the Forest or White Walkers. He’s a learned, rational man who sees such things as make-believe tales from a more naive time.
Then, last episode, he saw a dragon.
Jorah’s recounts his own journey – how he was once a cynic, spying on Daenerys as an informant for King’s Landing – but upon seeing her emerge from Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, unscorched and holding a baby dragon, he started to believe. Now it’s time for Tyrion to do the same, and give purpose to his life once again.
SEXINESS TALLY (in lieu of the Hodor Count):
Boobs – 0
Bottoms – 0
Oliver Davis is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors, curator of its Super Newsletter and Lead Producer of Flickering Myth TV. You can follow him on Twitter @OliDavis. Check back here every Monday for his episode-by-episode reviews of Game of Thrones Season 5.