Game of Thrones: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken Review

game-of-thrones-unbowed-unbent-unbroken-headerAfter a fairly underwhelming episode last week, this week, Game of Thrones is right back on course and I don’t think that anyone of note died this week. See? We don’t need bloodshed (okay, there was a little non-death bloodshed) or titillation to have a great episode of Game of Thrones. This, by the way, was a great episode of Game of Thrones. Sure, it might have been controversial and angered a number of people but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

The story in King’s Landing continued from last week with Ser Loras going on trial for debauchery (or whatever the Westerosi legal term for homosexuality is) and Maggie getting caught up in Cersei’s legal maneuverings. She’s also putting the pressure on Littlefinger to do more for the good of the crown by having the Faith Militant put pressure on him and his brothels.

A while back, I recall saying that Littlefinger just seems to want to see the world burn. In reality, I think that Cersei may have reached that point before Petyr. While she can deny to the world that she has anything to do with the High Septon/Sparrow and the Faith Militant arresting Loras, putting him on trial and then arresting Margaery, the returning Lady Olenna and the rest of House Tyrell know better than that.

So what Cersei did by using the Faith Militant to undermine House Tyrell is set forth a chain of events that could result in the ultimate demise of House Lannister by alienating the one ally who is keeping the crown afloat with gold and arms. Cersei knows that Stannis marches south, the Boltons are looking for alliances outside of King’s Landing and the Iron Bank is looking for their loan payments. Without the Tyrells, the crown is largely without anything that they need to keep their enemies, frenemies and creditors off their backs.

While both Cersei and Tywin seemed quite intent on the acquisition and retention of power, Tywin was smarter about doing that. Cersei is a bit blunt in her political maneuverings. She did have King Robert drugged so he would die and then enlisted the Faith Militant to cripple/intimidate House Tyrell. Tywin would be a little more cleaver about his political dealings. He made alliances, put people into positions where they would service him best and engage in battle as needed. If Tywin performed surgery with a scalpel, Cersei’s politicking is closer to the use of a battlehammer. It might work in the short-term but it will quickly bite her in the ass.

And that brings me to Sansa’s arc last night. It’s interesting to see how far she’s come over the course of five seasons. She’s gone from a character that no one particularly cared for to someone who has become a fan favourite over the last year. She’s gone from scared little girl to playing the game but we saw both sides last night.

With Myranda, she saw right through trying to scare her out of the wedding and sent her away. She wouldn’t give Sansa the time of day at any point. The only time that we saw the old Sansa was when she was alone with Ramsay after the wedding.

Ramsay raping Sansa to “consummate” their marriage is obviously controversial. Most people find the depiction of rape to be over the line and very offensive. In the grand scheme of things, this was pretty mild for Game of Thrones because we’ve seen far more graphic depictions of, well, everything on this show. In fact, one could say that the focus on Sansa and Theon’s crying faces was about as tasteful as one could do this sort of scene.

But I feel as though I have to point out a few things in defense of this scene (not that it needs defending). First, I don’t think anyone could have not seen this coming considering that Ramsay Bolton was one of the characters. Second, this isn’t any different from what Khal Drogo did on his wedding night any many subsequent times in the early part of the first season. Anybody remember Khal Drogo and his Dothraki wedding?

I think the big difference between when Drogo raped Dany and Ramsay raping Sansa is the time spent with the characters. Daenerys was just one of an overwhelming multitude of characters in the early part of the show that we didn’t really know or care about when she was being raped. As I mentioned earlier, Sansa is now a popular character. Now that we’ve come to know and love Sansa, people actually care that something like this is happening to her. Of course, Dany’s beginnings with Drogo is glossed over now but I can’t imagine this rape will be quickly forgotten about.

That beings me to the final point: This scene was supposed to make you uncomfortable. If you watched this scene and went “F*ck yeah! Go Ramsay!” you should probably consult professional psychiatric help. That’s not a bit, I’m being serious. Sure, a TV show is here to entertain you but it can do other things. In this instance, Game of Thrones is trying to make you uncomfortable and make you feel sympathy for Sansa. The writers have to follow-up, though. Just saying this happened and moving on with life completely defeats the purpose of doing this scene in the first place.

But at the end of the day, if you don’t want to depictions of rape on TV, you can always watch something else. Well, you probably stopped watching during the first episode but the point still stands. Since this isn’t violating any rules about what’s allowed on HBO or promoting rape, it’s fine to be used in a TV show as far as I’m concerned. You like and don’t like your things. I like and don’t like my things. We shouldn’t be forcing our ideas of what should be censored on everyone else. You want to stop watching Game of Thrones over Sansa’s rape? I think you’re about 45 episodes too late but that’s your prerogative. Just don’t force that on the rest of us.

Tying the first two parts of this review together is Littlefinger. Lord Baelish has always been a tough man to pin down. When you expect him to zig, he zags. When he does, it’s always done in such a way that you see the immediate game but you’re never sure what the next move is. From the start of the show, you never expected him to turn on Ned until his blade was at the Lord of Winterfell’s throat.

Since then, Littlefinger has been zigging and zagging through the political minefield that is the Seven Kingdoms. With so many alliances built and every one seeming to be a contingency for when another fails, he’s ready to pounce on any possibility. I think I’ve documented his alliances but he’s formally allied with the Lannisters and the crown, the Tyrells through executing Joffrey’s murder, the lords of the Vale through marrying Lysa Arryn, the Boltons through marrying off Sansa to Ramsay and he’s apparently looking to tie himself in with Stannis.

At some point, you would expect all of Littlefinger’s little alliances to blow up on him when someone puts two and two together. It hasn’t happened yet and it may never will. For now, he’s the one character whose actions may most dictate the future of Westeros. Who he sides with between the Lannisters and Tyrells when push comes to shove will determine the fate of the crown while who the armies of the Vale back in Winterfell could turn the whole tide of the remnants of the War of Five Kings.

The reason why Littlefinger keeps getting moved up and up in the show isn’t because everyone else is dying or because Aiden Gillen is quickly turning into the show’s MVP in Charles Dance’s absence. It’s because he’s involved in every story in the show because Littlefinger makes sure he’s a central part in everyone’s plans. He’s the puppet master Tywin always dreamed of being. Sure, he can’t plan for Tyrion going postal but he has enough contingencies to roll with the punches.

Littlefinger gets so much time because he’s the most interesting character on the show right now. Everyone else’s motives seem fairly plain but you’re always trying to keep one step behind Lord Baelish. I know you want to be one step ahead but he’s so far ahead of everyone else that you just want to be close enough with him.

Speaking of a step ahead, the dynamic tag team duo of the man with one hand and the man doing all the work almost had a leg up on the whole of Dorne this week. Then the Sand Snakes showed up to kill Myrcella right when Jaime and Bronn arrived for the rescue.

Naturally, that devolved into a shmozz that was pretty entertaining. With the Dornish girls wielding what would be unconventional weapons for the northern pair, it made for a decent fight of clashing styles. It also provided Bronn ample opportunities to be the most underrated badass in all of Westeros. With the show deviating from the books more and more, I wonder if Bronn will be given a long lease on life just because he’s very much the Daryl Dixon of Game of Thrones. Not that Bronn wasn’t in the books. It’s just that he’s become a big enough player in the TV version of ASOIF and might be enough of a draw that he could be safe for a while yet… Yeah, I don’t believe that either.

Our two favourite not-travelling companions continued their march to something resembling civilization but were sidetracked by slavers. It did lead to a hilarious exchange between Tyrion and the captain over whether one could prove that a dwarf penis could be proven to be a dwarf’s penis if it was not shown to be attached to the dwarf immediately prior to sale. That’s the most ridiculous and most brilliant argument that Tyrion could have made to keep himself alive.

But the two cleverly hatch a plan to have Jorah enter the fighting pits of Meereen. Presumably, this is so someone in Meereen sees him and rescues him (and maybe Tyrion too). But why do I have the nagging feeling that Jorah in the fighting pits of Meereen won’t end well. Tyrion getting people in fights to the death tends not to end well for the closest thing to a “hero” character in those scenes. The guy fighting for the Starks/Arryns in Season One went out the Moon Door. Then there was that Prince Oberynn fella who fought for Tyrion last season which didn’t end well for him. Jorah’s effectively a hero fighting for Tyrion here. I don’t like his chances.

Off the top, I referred to the episode as controversial and what did you expect from an episode that has a rape in it? I think you can’t say that an episode was terrible because of one scene. In fact, the whole idea of the scene was to make you feel that way. Wouldn’t that make it this whole episode a success if the writers made you feel the way they wanted you to feel with that scene?

Anyway, from start to finish, this episode was always moving. Things happened in this episode. The plot moved forward in every scene. Characters developed in every scene. No, there wasn’t any killing, (non-sexual) violence was minimal and nudity was non-existent so this episode was missing a lot of what people consider the hallmarks of Game of Thrones but this episode was every bit as good as an episode can be. You don’t need to fall back on the usual GoT tropes to get a great episode.

Other random points of note:

  • Poor Arya. Her scenes just aren’t important or interesting enough to get in the main review.
  • Still no sign of Varys.
  • There were little snippets of Theon slipping back out from under Reek for the first time since he helped the Boltons take Moat Cailin back from the Iron Born. As much as Brienne protecting Sansa is what they want us to focus on, it has to be Theon that strikes down Ramsay, doesn’t it?
  • I know the books and TV show are different but did they completely omit the eldest Tyrell? Loras isn’t the heir to Highgarden in the books and is one of three of Mace’s sons but apparently we’ve deleted them from history in the show.
  • Anyone else worried about that cut Bronn got on his arm in his fight with the Sand Snakes? They lingered on it just a little too long for me to think that’s just a coincidence.

Next week, Tyrion and Jorah make it to Meereen, for better or worse. Stannis marches on Winterfell to take back the North. Ser Alliser starts some political maneuvering to undermine Jon as he tries to treat with the Free Folk. And the whole Faith Militant / Cersei / House Tyrell battle continues. I don’t think this ends well for anyone involved. That’s all next week in the Benioff and Weiss penned The Gift.

Cross-posted from et geekera. For more from et geekera, follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr, Steam and RSS.

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