GAME OF THRONES Recap: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

     May 17, 2015

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Braavos

Serving the Many-Faced God requires a fine balance between being true to oneself while convincingly lying to others, a difficulty Arya is discovering during her stay at the House of Black and White. As she continues to prepare more of the God’s followers for their departure from this world, her curiosity about the ultimate destination of their bodies is piqued, but blocked by another servant. Jaqen further tests her, whipping her when he catches her in a lie. Arya is pushed to the brink of quitting her servitude altogether.

But when the father of a terminally ill girl comes to Arya seeking help, she tells the girl a lie to put her at ease and get her to drink from the fountain. Jaqen watches Arya’s interaction and then leads her to the cavernous tombs beneath the preparation room. There, she is witness to the infinite faces carved into the room’s massive columns. In keeping with the episode’s theme of truth and lies, Arya is now faced with the decision to either give up serving the Many-Faced God to remain Arya Stark, or take on the deceitful guise of strangers in order to become Noone. Keeping in mind her secretive stashing of Needle, which path do we think she’ll choose in the end?

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Old Valyria

Meanwhile, on the shores of Old Valyria, Tyrion and Jorah forage for food while getting to know each other. Tyrion not only confesses his assassination of Tywin Lannister, but passes on the harsh news of Jeor Mormont’s death to his son, Jorah. The disenfranchised heir, in turn, confesses that seeing Daenerys walk through fire to become the Mother of Dragons was the miracle he needed to turn from his cynical lifestyle. It’s the most honest these two duplicitous characters have been in some time, but being forthright can quickly get you killed in this world.


Case in point, when they are apprehended by slavers, Tyrion is quick to talk up Jorah’s legendary fighting prowess, inflating his abilities somewhat so that the slave merchants might deliver them to the fighting pits of Mereen rather than the trading stocks of Volantis. Jorah jumps in to embellish the tale even further. Tyrion himself also confirms the magical powers of his cock, suggesting that they deliver him alive to the waiting “cock-merchant” in order to prove the worth of the merchandise. Both Tyrion and Jorah have managed to survive this long, not by being true and noble, but through their cunning and ability to lie convincingly. But will this lifetime of deceit lead to their ultimate undoing?

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King’s Landing

Perhaps the best example of truth versus lies was found in the various engagements at King’s Landing. First, the high-and-mighty Sparrows introduce themselves to the ever-conniving Peter Baelish, warning him to watch his step. That’s a mild appetizer for what’s to come, as Littlefinger next meets Cersei to engage in a battle of wits. The expert manipulators attempt to feel each other out, both knowing that their outer appearances belie their secretive motivations and machinations. Littlefinger gains the upperhand in their dialogue when he not only suggests (strongly) that the Knights of the Vale will support House Lannister in the coming war, but reveals that Sansa Stark is alive in Winterfell and is betrothed to the Bolton heir. This emotional unseating of Cersei allows Littlefinger to counsel patience, to allow the Boltons battle the approaching army of Stannis Baratheon, and to let the Knights of the Vale clean up the aftermath with Baelish being instated as Warden of the North. Pretty crafty! Aside from the faceless followers of the Many-Faced God, Littlefinger might just be the most deceitful person in the Known World, even lying to himself as a means to his end.

Cersei, who is honest only in her actions if not her passive-aggressive speech, attempts to regain some lost face by meeting with Lady Olenna concerning the imprisonment of Ser Loras. The High Sparrow holds an inquest, in which Loras denies all charges and is officially supported by Queen Margaery. All well and good until the High Sparrow brings Loras’ squire (and lover) to the stand, who reveals far too intimate details about Loras, thus putting Loras and the deceitful Queen on trial, all while Cersei smiles and smiles. (At this point, it’s clear that Tommen is in over his head. He’s caught between the thorns of the Tyrells and the claws of the Lannisters, and will be shredded to bits for his naivete.)

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Dorne


This sandy setting provided another interesting look at truth and deceit, though not quite as overtly as in other places in the kingdom.  Though Trystane Martell promises a marriage proposal to Myrcella Baratheon, the young princess remains wary of the handsome rogue. While it remains to be seen whether or not Trystane will remain true to his word, there are those in his midst who are more outwardly in disguise.

Bronn and Jaime, dressed in the bloody clothes of the soldiers they defeated and riding their horses, gain access to the Water Gardens in order to rescue Myrcella. It looks as if all’s going to plan, until the Sand Snakes attack with their whip, spear, and daggers. Before one of the Snakes can spirit Myrcella away, Doran’s guard puts a stop to the battle and forces the combatants to drop their weapons. The captain of the guard recognizes Jaime and stops short of beheading him, knowing him to be less than whole and not worthy of battle. It’s an interesting moment considering the theme of the hour since Jaime’s unconvincing disguise actually manages to save his life. For just how long that is remains to be seen.

Winterfell

On the night of Sansa’s wedding to Ramsay Bolton, his servant girl/lover Myranda comes to prepare her bath. In a scene eerily similar to Arya washing the hair of the corpses, Myranda is telling Sansa about Ramsay’s dealings with previous lovers of his, and the gruesome ends they met when he grew bored. Sansa catches on that Myranda is in love with the young lord, and tells the girl she cannot frighten her out of her own home. And here we have the moment, as the black dye is being washed out of her hair, that Sansa Stark proudly states her name, her parentage, her rightful home, and her place in it. This truthful representation of herself is admirable, but so was that same quality in Ned Stark (and we all know where he ended up).

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Now in her wedding gown, Sansa refuses to let Reek take her arm and escort her to the God’s Wood for the ceremony, an act of defiance that Ramsay will later punish his lackey for. All goes well during the wedding itself (a surprise for this show), with the additional interesting bit of dialogue in which Reek refers to himself as “Theon Greyjoy, formerly her father’s ward;” one assumes Ramsay allowed him to say such a thing, because as we’re about to see, Ramsay still holds sway over Reek.

I try to refrain from referencing the books in these episode recaps, but tonight’s closing moment provides an interesting question: Which version handled this scene better, or perhaps more disturbingly? In the TV version, Sansa’s assertion of her virginity is questioned repeatedly by Ramsay, who then quickly sheds the appearance of a doting husband for his true nature as an abusive and violent psycho. He tears her clothes and rapes her, forcing Reek to stand by and watch. This horrible act is handled differently in the book and I can’t quite decide which is worse, so maybe you have some comments on that front.


Regardless of which depiction of this sexual act is more depraved, the common thread seems to say that those who are virtuous and true will be torn down by those who seek to exploit them, and that those who learn to lie convincingly, hide their true selves, and manipulate the less cunning will be the ones who survive to pull the strings. So when all is said and done and the Game of Thrones is won, who will be left standing (or sitting, as it were)? Will it be a virtuous leader who stuck to their principles despite the hard and dangerous road that steadfastness demands? Or will it be a manipulator, perhaps operating behind the scenes to control the virtuous puppet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Rating: ★★★★ Very Good

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Image via HBO

Miscellanea:

Jaqen: “A girl lies to the Many-Faced God.”

Jaqen: “No. A girl is not ready to become noone, but she is ready to become someone else.”

Tyrion: “Targaryens are famously insane.”

Slaver: “A dwarf’s cock has magic powers … the dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant.”

Littlefinger: “We both peddle fantasies, Brother Lancel. Mine just happen to be entertaining.”

Littlefinger: “One’s choice in companion is a curious thing.” Cersei: “Most curious.”


Ellaria Sand: “Unbowed, unbent, unbroken. For Oberyn.” Sand Snakes: “For Oberyn.”

Olenna Tyrell: “You can smell the shit from five miles away.”

Ramsay: “Reek, I told you to watch. We have known Sansa since she was a girl, now watch her become a woman.”

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