Game of Thrones: 5.6 “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” Review

Trigger Warnings: Rape, homophobic slurs So, there is a justifiably large amount of ragequit going on because of this episode. Not only because Ramsey raping Sansa but also because...

Trigger Warnings: Rape, homophobic slurs

So, there is a justifiably large amount of ragequit going on because of this episode. Not only because Ramsey raping Sansa but also because of the “trial” that Loras and Margaery will be made to face as well as the Sand Snakes’ and Ellaria’s diminishment into vicious and brutal characters rather than the nuanced and interesting people they are in the novels.

Not to mention that Cersei—though not a good person—was never as shortsighted and cruel as what her character is becoming in the show.

While no one should reasonably expect adaptations from one media to another to remain slavishly faithful to the source material, the showrunners of Game of Thrones have reduced a text already full of violence towards women, children, and others to the lowest common denominator of shock and sleaze.

Which is a damn shame considering some of the great character work being done this season with Arya, Brienne, Jon, and others.

It’s hard to think of how this season can recover from what happened in this episode, to be quite honest.

The House of Black and White (AKA The girl might be somebody else.):

Arya continues to act the part of the impatient apprentice—fed up with washing bodies without knowing what happens to them—and after playing the Game of Faces with the waif, H’ghar comes to give Arya a lesson about lying.

In other words, H’ghar beats Arya with a switch every time the girl lies because we need more violence against children-cum-women.

Interestingly, though, Arya lies about hating the Mountain because, while there was plenty of rage against Clegane, clearly Arya’s feelings for him were much more complicated than unvarnished hate. Although she won’t admit it.

Arya’s sequence is really the lone bright spot in this trainwreck of an episode as she compassionately begins her service to the Many Faced God by helping a seriously ill girl, Ghita (Hattie Gotobed: Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer), who has been brought in by her father find peace in the waters of the House’s fountain.

Arya has learned the Game of Faces well as she tells Ghita that the waters helped Arya’s own sickness. Arya might not be ready to become No One, but H’ghar is right that Arya is “ready to become someone else”.

Essos (AKA They really need to stop talking about Tyrion’s genitalia.):

Tyrion confesses to murdering his father and Shae after he asks Jorah why the ex-knight didn’t seem to be curious as to why Tyrion was in Volantis. Jorah is shocked by the admission, but he is even more shocked when Tyrion tells him that the elder Mormont was murdered by his own men.

Tyrion let that information slip because he was envious that Jorah’s father was actually loved and respected—rather than simply feared.

The two also have an interesting conversation about beliefs—Jorah became a true believer after seeing Dany’s transformation—and Tyrion effectively plotholes Dany’s ambitions by asking the simple question “What then?” after every step of Dany’s plans.

Unfortunately, the two soon encounter some slavers—who are all people of color, by the by—who only spare Tyrion because his genitalia still need to be attached to him before a “cock merchant” will buy his merchandise, and who only spare Jorah from the salt mines because Jorah manages to convince the slavers that he will make them money as a fighter.

Fun times are ahead for them.

King’s Landing (AKA “The New King’s Landing” really stinks.):

As the Faith continue to run rampant in the city, Littlefinger arrives to find his brothels in bad shape and his way blocked by Lancel and his goons. Not particularly fazed by this new situation, Littlefinger pokes at Lancel’s righteousness by saying that “We both peddle fantasies, Brother Lancel. Mine, at least, are entertaining.”

Littlefinger shocks Cersei by revealing that Sansa is alive and at Winterfell to be married to Ramsay, which allows Littlefinger to make his biggest gamble yet: convincing Cersei to allow him to become Warden of the North.

With the assistance of the Knights of the Vale once Stannis and Roose have exhausted each other.

One can’t help but be impressed by Littlefinger’s audacity.

After coming in haste at Margaery’s news concerning Loras’ arrest, Lady Olenna confronts Cersei and threatens to break the Tyrell alliance with the Lannisters should Loras be harmed. Cersei is not intimidated and, instead, hides behind her supposed powerlessness in regards to the Faith.

Of course, Cersei has not only manipulated the situation so that Loras would be in danger, but she also knew that the High Septon would call Margaery to testify at Loras’ inquest and that Margaery would lie—thus allowing the Faith to arrest and try Margaery as well. Clearly a cunning plan.

Except that Cersei seems to have underestimated Olenna’s determination to protect her family.

No alliance would prevent Olenna, as essentially head of House Tyrell, from exacting retribution on the Lannisters for harming her grandchildren.

Dorne (AKA Well, that escalated quickly.):

I must say that Trystane and Myrcella are the cutest and most adorbs couple ever. It’s too bad certain adults are dumb and have to be jerks and have to screw everything up—well, not Doran and faithful Areo Hotah, but they are the exceptions.

No, instead we have Jaime on his ill-advised “rescue mission”, and Ellaria and the Sandsnakes’ completely ill-conceived “attack”.

The results? Everyone gets captured right quick, and Areo almost takes Jaime’s head but decides that the Lannister isn’t really worth it.

Oh, and Bronn—who gets a wee slice, which I suspect might be poisoned—makes a typically misogynist remark about Obara’s fighting skills.

And, poor Trystane gets his block knocked off by Bronn for trying to stand up for Myrcella, who isn’t exactly happy to see her uncle/father.

The fight scene really wasn’t that good either.

Winterfell (AKA Just, no.):

In the segment which pretty much has the GoT fandom spitting mad—for good reason!—the showrunners most likely crossed a line that will cost the show much of its remaining good will.

Because Sansa hadn’t gone through enough already?

Because the showrunners had to make Sansa endure what Jeyne Poole, a character from the novels that was basically omitted from the show, endured?

Because we need any more confirmation of how awful Ramsay Bolton is?

Ok, granted we do get a nice moment of Sansa fury when she dismisses Myranda after the maidservant continually tries to intimidate Sansa with tales of all of the young women Ramsay tortured and had murdered for being “boring”.

Sansa knows that Myranda loves Ramsay, and the two (Myranda and Ramsay) do seem rather made for each other, unfortunately.

Really, the whole Winterfell segment was perfectly effective in its portrayal of how Greyjoy and the Boltons have made the place creepy and corrupt without what happened in Sansa’s chambers. The wedding ceremony in the Godswood was quite enough desecration for one episode, thank you very much.

Tropes and Troubles:

Honestly, I didn’t think that the showrunners could do much worse than what they had Sansa endure, but the fact that the ending sequence of “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” made the whole thing about Theon’s pain as he was forced by Ramsay to watch???? I wanted to throw my iPad.

Basically, the whole thing in Winterfell was just a reaffirmation that Game of Thrones is still very much a show about and for the male gaze.

Yes, we get that Theon did awful things to betray the people who helped to raise him and that Theon has suffered a great deal, but it’s Sansa who is being assaulted and aren’t we really supposed to be concerned about that?

Instead, the Winterfell segment becomes a part of Theon’s redemption arc.

We already know the Bolton’s are nasty customers, and we already want Stannis to put their heads on spikes. Sansa already has plenty of reasons to want to help Stannis do so, and Sansa has already been dehumanized enough by everyone (except for Tyrion, who doesn’t deserve an award for being an occasionally decent person).

While not as egregious as Sansa’s dehumanization, Tyrion too is also being continually reduced to being valued only for certain of his body parts, which are said to bring good luck.

While we are certainly not supposed to approve of how obsessed with taking Sansa’s virginity Ramsay is, or how much the slavers want to remove Tyrion’s genitalia and sell them as a commodity—which are basically the same type of obsession but in different places on the sliding scale of privilege because Sansa’s dehumanization and rape is so, so, so much worse than Tyrion’s current discomfort—we are supposed to accept that such things are simply a matter of course in the world of the show.

So, basically, “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken”, in one episode, has marred much of the good work that the show had been doing with how Jon and Dany had been evolving as people and as leaders and how the future generation was working towards a better future.

Instead, we get tawdry sexism and homophobia at their worst.

Image courtesy of HBO

Gnome – Senior Contributing Writer

Gnome is a male-assigned genderqueer academic, educator, musician, and vinyl junkie who is absolutely thrilled to have the chance to write about music. When not learnin’ em good, Gnome is making the occasionally valiant attempt to finish a dissertation.
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