[intro-text size=”25px”]‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’ serves not only as the name of episode six of season five, but the house motto for the Martells of Dorne. [/intro-text]
So, if you expected this episode to feature significant storyline concerning Ser Jamie’s glacially-paced quest for his illegitimate daughter in Dorne you’d be correct. If you expected it to be satisfying, well, sorry? For all the posturing, the moustache twirling, and heavy handed exposition, Prince Oberyn’s daughters, the Sandsnakes, attempt at a coup/revenge/general anarchy failed before it began. Jamie and Bronn do their best Abbott and Costello rountine in Dornish soldier garb in a brazen attempt to steal away his daughter (I thought this was all about stealth?) right at the same time the Sandsnakes make a half-hearted attempt at kidnapping said Princess. After a moment or two of uninspired choreography the fight is broken up without bloodshed and they’re all given time outs. For building up this blood feud between the Martells and Lannisters for seasons, if this is the result than the narrative that got us here was a pathetic waste.
This was the second episode of the season not to feature Mereen, but that didn’t stop Jorrah and Tyrion on their trek there. One of Tyrion’s best skills is talking his captors into a relaxed camaraderie. After their slaver abduction by Mr. Eko from Lost, Tyrion may not be able to talk his way out of these latest shackles but was able to coerce their course to Meeren after all. In this, we see the path for both characters laid out for the rest of the season, which leaves Peter Dinklage woefully under-utilized. This would be fine if taking a supporting role meant that other characters stepped up in his place but aside from Jon Snow, also lacking in this episode, we’re left with only Arya to enjoy.
Perhaps the most remarkable set design to date, Jaqen H’ghar ushers Arya to the next level of her initiation. Literally and symbolically, Arya steps through a doorway he opens for her but it is her decision whether to pass the next threshold or not. Spiraling deeper beneath the House of Black and White, Arya enters a vaulting chamber lined with towering honeycombed pillars of faces. They literally have a repository of thousands of faces to wear. This is the show I want to watch; more of this, please.
The person with the most agency this episode was Cersei Lannister. The Queen Mother pressed her case against the Tyrells as she allowed the Faith Militant to continue their prosecution against Queen Maegery’s brother, Loras, for charges of homosexuality. Not only is Loras thrown in a cell, so too is the Queen for lying in his defense. Cersei can’t see past the tip of her nose. Thinking she accomplished anything other than making more enemies in this charade would be a fool’s error. A trait she proved in taking anything Littlefinger had to say to heart in a later scene.
Yes, we all know the Boltons are bad people. Yes, we know that Ramsey is a kind of evil barely fit for human comprehension. Yes, we know Sansa Stark is a walking trope for the victimized damsel in distress. bearing all of this out, you would be hard pressed to explain a legitimate reason to film the final scene in which Ramsey, after wedding Sansa, humiliates her in front of Theon and violently takes her virginity (some sites are already calling this rape, and their argument has a lot of merit, but I will allow the viewer to make that call). The audience learns nothing new from this scene on a narrative basis and using it for the climactic final scene before cutting to black only highlights the fact that this show has consistently used rape, or at least the subjugation of woman, for little more than shock and awe and not as valid character development/destruction. Theon is the audience’s proxy, forced to watch. When Ramsey tells him, “You’ve known her since she was a girl, now watch her become a woman.” That is the showrunners saying the same to the audience. Aside from utterly breaking the character of Sansa, this reviewer is at a complete loss as to what Benioff and Weiss are trying to achieve any longer in this series.