Mastodon Mastodon Game of Thrones - Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken - Review

SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

Game of Thrones - Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken - Review



Game of Thrones, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” was written by Bryan Cogman and was directed by Jeremy Podeswa. In a series that has sparked a great deal of discussion, this episode may be remembered as one of the most controversial due to its last scene. I’ve taken some time to fully digest the episode before trying to tackle this review. I would be remiss in not pointing out that I have not, in fact, read the books, so my assessment is based only on the television show – as it would be anyway as that is what I’m reviewing. While I understand people’s investment in the books, I think it’s important to consider the show as a separate entity, especially in light of the remarks from the showrunners that the show will increasingly diverge from the books. I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone should like one more than the other – that is obviously going to vary from person to person.

The episode begins in Braavos with Arya (Maisie Williams), who is still washing and preparing corpses. Now that she’s made it this far, she’s curious about where the cleaned bodies go, but she is still denied that knowledge. Her relationship with the Waif (Faye Marsay) remains confrontational. Arya wants to play the name game with her, but the Waif insists that Arya has already played and failed. She then tells Arya about herself, telling her they are both alike – she’s the daughter of Lord of Westeros. She tells a tale of an evil step mother and having her killed and coming to serve in the temple. Arya is clearly feeling some sympathy, and then the Waif asks if it’s true. Is this really her story or simply a face she is wearing.

Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) continues her training by waking her in the middle of the night by asking her “Who are you?” Arya responds with her real name and as she retells her own story he beats her and tells her “Lies.” Finally, he hits her hard enough to knock her down, telling her, “The girl lies to me, to the many faced God. Does she truly want to be no one?”

Her next test comes as she scrubs the temple floor. A father (James McKenzie Robinson) brings his sick daughter, Ghita (Hattie Gotobed), to the temple. He tells Arya that he has been to every healer and spent all his money trying to make her well, but she’s still in constant pain. He simply wants it to stop. As Jaqen watches from hiding, Arya approaches the girl and spins a story. She tells her that she was just like her, sick and dying when her father brought her to the temple. She tells the girl that by drinking the water, she was healed and now serves the temple. Arya helps the girl drink the water that both Arya and we know will kill the girl. Of course, that is a release from her pain.

Arya clearly passes this test because when she finishes cleaning the Ghita’s body, Jaqen comes and takes her through the door at the head of the corpse. They descend farther under the temple to a huge hall filled with gigantic pillars that appear to house the heads or faces of thousands. Is this where they borrow their faces from? Daqen asks her, “Is the girl ready? To give up her ears, her nose, her tongue? Her hopes and dreams, her loves and hates, all that makes a girl who she is forever? No. That girl is not ready to become no one, but she is ready to become someone else.” And perhaps that was the point all along. That Arya needed to be able to put herself aside to become someone else, not simply no one. By taking on a persona, it’s much easier for others to relate to her and be manipulated. I wonder if cleaning the body has some relation to the actual faces they can assume. Or is that simply an illusion created by the story that they tell? As the episode ends, Arya has clearly reached another level in her training.

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah (Iain Glen) continue their journey. Glen and Dinklage are terrific together, really representing polar opposites, yet still clearly having something in common at their core. Tyrion’s constant talking is driving Jorah mad, while Jorah’s natural reticence is doing the same to Jorah. Jorah has been so focused on getting back to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) that he hasn’t questioned why Tyrion was in that particular brothel. One of the things the two have in common is a fraught relationship with their fathers – both were disappointments to their larger than life fathers. So, when Tyrion tells Jorah that he’s killed his own father who was “fucking the woman I loved.” Jorah looks both impressed and shocked. Tyrion goes on to say that he’d met Jorah’s father and he was a good man. Tyrion tells Jorah, “When I asked him about his men, he knew all their stories. Every one of them. He actually cared about the people under his command. How did they put in the Watch? We will never see his like again.” But of course, Jorah had no way of knowing that his father is dead.

        This is a terrific scene as we see the news register on Jorah’s face. Glen’s reaction is very subtle, in keeping with Jorah’s stoicism. But it’s clearly enough for Tyrion to understand, and Dinklage’s face is also a perfect gloss to Tyrion’s remorse. He genuinely feels bad for delivering the news. Jorah insists on knowing the details of his father’s death, but of course Tyrion’s telling leaves out that Jon (Kit Harrington) avenged his death and the details of the mutiny being a small faction of the men.

We’ve seen Tyrion struggle with his own part in Tywin’s death, regardless of how much he had it coming. Tywin’s death – like Mormont’s – mean that neither son will every have the opportunity to gain their father’s approval. This speech also reminds us of how many leaders Tyrion has met and observed, and Mormont’s interest in those under his command is a quality that Tyrion will also see in Daenerys.

Tyrion is curious about why Jorah is so dedicated to Daenerys. Jorah asks Tyrion “Do you believe in anything?” Tyrion hedges that he believes in many things. Jorah goes on, “Something greater than ourselves. I mean, the gods, destiny. Do you believe there’s a plan for this world?” Tyrion says no, and Jorah says, “Neither did I.” He tells Tyrion about seeing Daenerys emerging from the fire with the baby dragons and tells him it was “hard to be a cynic after that.”

Tyrion points out that giving birth to dragons doesn’t mean she’ll be a good Queen. And we have seen her struggle with the actual nuts and bolts of everyday rule. Tyrion again proves his aptitude for politics. He knows that it’s harder to rule and maintain the balance of peace that in is to fight and conquer. Tyrion also brings up the Targaryen penchant for madness and the fact that Daenerys has never spent a day of her life in Westeros. Their discussion of politics is interrupted when they stumble upon a group of slavers who take them captive.

Malko (Dewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the leader, quickly determines that Jorah could be sold as a galley slave or for the salt mines but Tyrion is worthless. He orders his men to kill him and chop off his cock because dwarf cocks have magical powers! In one of my favorite exchanges, Tyrion desperately bargains for his life – or at least more time, telling them, “You can’t just hand a merchant a dried cock and expect him to pay for it He has to know it came from a dwarf. And how will he know unless he sees the dwarf?” One of the other slavers (Michael Jegbefume) says, “It will be a dwarf-sized cock” and Tyrion declares, “Guess again!” Malko relents, declaring, “The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant.” Once again, it’s Tyrion’s quick wits that save his life – and result in getting he and Jorah back more or less on their journey.

Jorah points out that Queen Daenerys has outlawed slavery, and Malko says they’re bound for Volantis, not Slavers Bay, but he also tells them that Daenerys has re-opened the fighting pits. Tyrion tells Malko he’s about to become rich because Jorah is a famous warrior. Malko remains unconvinced and scoffs at jousting, but comes around when Jorah mentions having killed a Dothraki Blood Rider. Jorah tells Malko, “take me to Slavers Bay, put a sword in my hand, and I’ll prove my worth!” Tyrion my not believe in a guiding force to the universe, but it certainly seems like something is making sure that he makes it to Daenerys.

In King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) seems to be getting everything she wants. Baelish (Aidan Gillen) arrives and encounters Lancel (Eugene Simon) in the street on his way to see Cersei. Lancel tells Baelish that “there’s little tolerance for flesh peddlers in the “new” King’s Landing.” Gillen is terrific as always as Baelish and never loses his cool. He tells Lancel, “We both peddle fantasies. Mine just happen to be entertaining.” Baelish is too shrewd to start a fight in the middle of the street, but it’s also unlikely that he’s going to let the Faith Militant shut down his business.

Baelish’s meeting with Cersei is particularly interesting. Baelish knows he has more power now and Cersei has less. He also cautions her about the Faith Militant. He clearly sees what she does not – she doesn’t really have control over them. He also cautions her on the wisdom of having the heir to High Garden imprisoned and likely to face a harsh judgment. Cersei feigns innocence saying that it’s all the Faith Militant and that she’s the injured party because Loras (Finn Jones) prefers boys. Baelish comments that “One’s choice of companion is a curious thing.” It’s clearly an illusion to Cersei’s own relationship with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Cersei then insults Baelish’s late wife.

Cersei is only concerned in securing Baelish’s promise to support the King with the Knights of the Vale who are now under his control. I was shocked when Baelish told Cersei that he knew where Sansa (Sophie Turner) was and that she was about to marry Ramsey (Iwan Rheon). Cersei wants to go after Roose (Michael McElhatton) as a traitor, but Baelish councils patience, telling her to let Stannis who is marching on Winterfell engage Bolton, so that whoever wins is weakened. Cersei could then swoop in and win over the weakened party. Cersei has no one to fight for her. Her Uncle Kevan refuses to and Jaime is away. Baelish offers to fight with the Knights of the Vale. If he wins, Baelish wants to be declared Warden of the North. Cersei agrees, but stipulates she wants Sansa’s head on a pike.

Cersei also receives an uncomfortable visit from Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg). Rigg is magnificent. Once again the verbal sparring in the scene is some of the best dialogue on television. After Olenna tells Cersei to put her pen down because they both know she’s not writing, Cersei says, “Ah yes, the famously tart-tongued Queen of Thorns.” To which Olenna bluntly replies, “And the famous tart, Queen Cersei.” Cersei tries to maintain the fiction that it was all the Faith Militant’s doing to arrest Lorus. Olenna points out that Cersei should not expect the alliance – and huge financial support – to continue should anything happen to the heir of High Garden. Olenna cautions Cersei, “I didn’t trust your father and I didn’t particularly like him, but I respected him. Sometimes we must work with our rival rather than destroy them.” But Cersei continues to prove she is not a good ruler and is completely short-sighted as she declares, “House Lannister has no rivals.”

The Inquest is not supposed to lead to a trial, but of course, things go from bad to worse. Margaery (Natalie Dormer) testifies in support of Lorus’ denial of homosexuality only to also be discredited by Olyvar’s (Will Tudor) testimony and thrown in jail with Lorus. Cersei makes a pathetic show of protesting the High Sparrow’s (Jonathan Pryce) decision. Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) does nothing to support his own wife. Pryce is excellent in this scene as we finally start to see through the humble mask that the High Sparrow wears to convince others of his non-threatening devoutness. I suspect that it won’t be long until we see a very different side to him.

I’m also curious to see how the trial will play out. Olyvar answers to Baelish as the one running the brothel. It’s in Baelish’s interest to have his lucrative business back up and running, but it’s clearly high on the list to be destroyed by the Faith Militant. It’s Olyver’s testimony that has both Lorus and Margaery in jail. Is an alliance between Baelish and Olenna in the offing? This would seem pretty logical for both of them. Certainly, Baelish would never take the money and support from High Garden for granted. It’s an interesting predicament for Olenna. If she and Baelish were to not only have Olyvar recant, thus likely getting Lorus and Margaery released, and also have Cersei and Jaime’s relationship exposed, they could topple Tommen off the throne. If he’s discovered to be the product of incest and not Robert Baratheon’s son, Margaery would likely lose her crown when Tommen did. She really has ghastly luck with husbands!

Jaime, meanwhile, is having problems of his own in Dorne. He and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) descend on the Water Garden at the same time as the Sand Snakes - Obara Sand (Keisha Castle-Hughes), Tyene Sand (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers), Nymeria Sand (Jessica Henwick). However, it seems that Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) isn’t really interested in being rescued from her intended Trystane (Toby Sebastian).
 As always, there is excellent banter from Bronn – it’s not possible to have enough of Flynn in an episode. Free was not terribly impressive in this episode, but Sebastian shows promise.

        The Sand Snake fight ended up being pretty disappointing. Not “I’m going to stop watching the show” disappointing, but with all the hype and build up around them it was a let down. It is understandable that given the gigantic cast and what it must cost that the production wasn’t going to spend a lot on three characters who are only going to be in two or three episodes. However, maybe they could have simply hired good stunt people who would have done the fighting justice. Regardless, the two sides were broken up quickly by Areo (Deobia Oparei) at Doran’s (Alexander Siddig) command. Ellaria (Indira Varma) is also taken into custody. It should be interesting to see what Doran does with Jaime and Bronn, let alone how he may punish Ellaria.

And finally, we come to Winterfell and Sansa’s wedding and wedding night. Sansa is getting ready for the wedding when Myranda (Charlotte Hope) appears at her door, saying that Ramsey told her to help Sansa get ready. It’s utterly creepy to watch her help Sansa bathe. Myranda tells her, “You’re so beautiful, but you have to keep him happy. Ramsey gets bored so easily. You don’t want to end up like… the others.” She washes the black out of Sansa’s hair to reveal her red and it’s nicely symbolic of Sansa taking back her identity as a Stark – her roots if you will. Doubly interesting considering Arya’s taking on a new identity in the episode.

Myranda goes on to tell Sansa about Ramsey setting the dogs on lovers who bored him, hunting them. In the dark room, with just the firelight, he feels very much like a ghost story. Sansa has come far enough not to be bullied by a blacksmith’s daughter. She draws strength from her rightful place at the head of the social order in Winterfell – something she never felt at King’s Landing. Here she is certain of her superiority to Myranda. Sansa has learned some things in her travels. She says to Myranda, “How long have you loved him? Did you imagine that h would be with you forever? Is that it? And I came along and ruined it. I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home and you can’t frighten me.” She sends Myranda away. But Ramsey isn’t Myranda.

Theon (Alfie Allen) comes for Sansa to take her to the ceremony. Allen just continues to impress in this role. It was nice to see Theon actually get to be clean for a change. He asks Sansa to take his arm and she flat out refuses to touch him. Theon tells her, “Please. He’ll punish me.” Sansa replies, “You think I care what he does to you?” Theon looks everywhere but directly at her throughout the scene. I suspect that Sansa will soon learn to have a great deal more empathy for Theon.

The ceremony takes place at the end of a path of lanterns under the Heart Tree. Roose conducts the ceremony. The entire ceremony is horribly uncomfortable. Roose asks “Who comes before the old gods this night?” And Theon answers, “Sansa of the House Stark comes here to be wed. A woman grown. True born and noble. She comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes to claim her?” Ramsey steps forward: “Ramsey of House Bolton, heir to the Dread Fort and Winterfell. Who gives her?” I loved the flash of anger that flashed across Sansa’s face at Ramsey claiming Winterfell.

Theon then answers, “Theon of House Greyjoy who was her father’s ward.” All of which causes Theon a great deal of pain over what he’s lost. Roose then asks “Lady Sansa, will you take this man?” Rheon is also deliciously psychotic as always. Ramsey has just the barest raising of his eyebrows as there is a very long pause as Sansa inches forward – and Myranda glowers in the background. The pause is so long that Ramsey almost looks a little worried and then she finally says, “I take this man.” At which point, Ramsey looks like the cat who ate the canary.

The two return to their chambers accompanied by Theon – who is now back to being Reek. Ramsey asks her if she’s pleased and then tells her he wants her to be happy. And then he starts to show his true colors. His next question is designed to embarrass her and make her uncomfortable, especially because he asks it in front of Theon. He asks if she is really still a virgin. She’s clearly uncomfortable but answers yes. Ramsey presses on, “Why? Why are you still a virgin? Afraid of dwarfs?” Sansa tries to explain that Tyrion was kind and gentle and never touched her. Ramsey is naturally completely mystified by this as such behavior would never occur to him. It’s a nice contrast, that while Ramsey might be outwardly more conventionally good looking, Tyrion is truly the better man on the inside.

Ramsey is almost sure that she must be lying, and Sansa gets the first indication of his temper. He’s not going to tolerate lies of any kind. However, he cups her face and kisses her gently before telling her to “Take off your clothes.” Sansa’s eyes narrow and she looks at Theon. He tries to take the hint and leave, and this is where the night goes irrevocably wrong. Ramsey insists, “Oh no, no, no. You stay here Reek. You watch.” Theon actually looks directly at Ramsey here. It’s perhaps the closest he’s come in a very long time to defying him. He’s utterly horrified. Sansa is stunned that her new husband would do such a thing.

To Sansa, Ramsey says, “Do I need to ask a second time? I hate asking a second time.” And here he’s clearly getting angry. Sansa walks slowly toward the bed, slowly undoing her sleeves as Theon closes the door to give her some small measure of privacy and dignity. Theon drops his eyes for the same purpose, but Ramsey tells him, “Reek. I told you to watch. You’ve known Sansa since she was a girl. Now watch her become a woman.” Ramsey than rips her dress open from behind and shoves her face first into the bed. Ramsey wants no real connection to her, and she is faceless to him as he violates her. We see her face only as the rape begins, then the focus is on a close up of Theon’s face. He is flinching and crying to all of Sansa’s noises of distress. The episode goes to black and there are several seconds of silence followed by different credit music. In fact, the music over the credits is often a reflection of the emotions the final scene was to evoke. In this case, the music is very somber and quiet and is most strings – the music of a lament.

There has been a lot of strong feelings about this final scene. I felt it was handled well in a way that was powerful yet not exploitative. We aren’t being titillated with a lot of flesh and we weren’t voyeuristically watching. Even Theon isn’t being a true voyeur as his being forced to watch is a rape of him as well. Sansa continues to be a helpless pawn. Even in her own home, she is powerless to protect herself against Ramsey. I’m very much looking forward to Baelish returning. He clearly underestimated Ramsey and overestimated Sansa’s ability to protect herself. I’ll also be interested to see if she will trust Baelish again. Perhaps this is finally the push she needs to put her trust in Brienne.

What did you think of the episode? How soon until Jorah’s greyscale becomes a problem? Do you think Baelish and Olenna can form an alliance? Are you as eager as I am for Cersei to get what’s coming to her? Do you think Jaime is going to be able to talk his way out of his predicament? What should/can Sansa do? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Forever, Defiance, Bitten, Glee, and a few others! Highlights of this past year include covering San Diego Comic Con as press and a set visit to Bitten. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.

Recommendations