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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (S5, E6)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (S5, E6)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.

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Season 5, Episode 6: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

Original Air Date: May 17th, 2015
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: Bryan Cogman

I have always considered season five of Game of Thrones to be the show’s weakest, so going into this re-watch I wanted to see if I had been too hard on it, and through the first five episodes the answer was yes, it was much better than I originally gave it credit for. The Sand Snakes introduction was still awful, and Jaime and Bronn‘s covert trip to Dorne to take back Myrcella was as asinine as ever, but those were small elements in an otherwise compelling year. Season five has been far superior to how I remembered it.

Until this episode, where two truly awful scenes reminded me why I have always ranked it at the bottom.

myrcella-trystane

The first terrible scene is a far more forgivable transgression than the second, because it stands out as a rare example of illogical writing on the show, with the totally absurd story of Jaime and Bronn sneaking into Dorne clashing (literally) with the underdeveloped and wholly uninteresting Sand Snakes (show version only!).

Jaime and Bronn sneak into the Water Gardens of House Martell via the old trick of dressing like Dornish soldiers, because that would definitely work if Prince Doran were a cartoon. They try to grab Jaime’s “niece” Myrcella and then—and this is honestly their plan—just sort of figure out an escape. She doesn’t want to leave her betrothed, Trystane Martell, but it doesn’t matter because the three Sand Snakes show up to stop them and kidnap Myrcella themselves. The five fight, until Dornish soldiers arrive—far later than they should have—and mercifully put an end to all of it.

jaime-bronn-dorne

None of it makes sense and it’s all ridiculous. Everyone is acting stupid, and the normal authenticity behind characters’ motivations, the ones that make a show with dragons and magic feel real, disappears in a burst of foolishness. From the time Oberyn—one of the greatest, most dynamic characters in the show’s history—was killed by The Mountain, everything related to Dorne has felt pointless and boring, and this scene is the nadir of all of it.

There’s still time from a storytelling perspective for the Dornish plot line to be redeemed now that they have thrown in with the Mother of Dragons, but you wouldn’t know it from this episode.

sand-snakes

However, that’s not even the worst scene in the episode. That ignominious title goes to the final scene, when Ramsay rapes Sansa on their wedding night while making Theon watch, a decision from the show that is much harder to forgive than characters acting dumb.

It is in contention for the worst scene in the show’s history, up against another uncomfortable rape scene that also felt gratuitous and did not service the story, Jaime and Cersei’s “sex/rape” next to Joffrey’s body.

I remember thinking throughout season five, there was no way the show would actually marry Sansa off to Ramsay, even though she had been given a different character’s arc from the books (Jeyne Poole), and that character did marry Ramsay and he brutalized her in unimaginable ways. I figured Sansa had already been through enough horrors to get her character to the point she needed for her next development, and it would be unnecessarily cruel to add physical abuse to the list of crimes committed against her.

theon-sansa

Then the show not only did it, they showed us her being raped. And if that wasn’t enough, her abuse was used to further Theon’s story, because he had to watch the girl he had grown up with experience this monstrous abuse.

It made the rape of Sansa more about Theon than it was about her; a compelling female character was victimized, and that was used to also make a man a victim. The entire plot line felt unnecessary (overkill really) to Sansa’s story, cruelty for cruelty’s sake, and then the show mitigated her abuse by making it about someone else.

theon

Theon did not need to literally see what happened to Sansa that night to understand what kind of horrors his actions had sown. Nor did we, the audience, need to see what Ramsay did to her to know it had happened. I will always hate that Sansa’s story went down this road, but once the decision was made to put her through the nightmare of marrying Ramsay the show should have trusted us to understand what that meant for the characters involved.

When Ramsay ordered his dogs to eat his step mother and baby brother, they didn’t show us the actual act. The horror of the moment was enough. If you’ve made it this far into the show, you’ve accepted this is a horrible world where people do horrible things, and that includes murder and rape. The show shouldn’t be expected to ignore those realities. But the decision when to actually show us those crimes should only be in service to the story, and they need to be handled with both deftness and an understanding that these scenes are not viewed in a vacuum.

But for all of the intentions behind the scene—and we do trust that the show was trying to achieve a very different result—it was grossly mishandled, making it feel gratuitous and cruel.

Season five has been better than I originally thought (even the rest of this episode was typically great), but when the stupidity of cosplaying Jaime and Bronn fighting the Sand Snakes isn’t the worst scene in an episode, you know something has gone horribly wrong.

But what do you think of this episode? What about season five? Tell us in the comments below.

Images: HBO

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