Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

“If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

These gloating words, uttered by Ramsay Bolton in Season 3, aptly describe the tragic character arc of Sansa Stark. To date, the would-be queen of Westeros has been forced to endure the death of her pet direwolf, the execution of her father, endless abuse at the hands of Joffrey, the destruction of her ancestral home and the brutal slaughter of her remaining family. But last night’s episode served up the biggest ignobility yet. Winter has come for Sansa — and it’s a cold, stone-hearted bitch.

Warning: Spoilers within!

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Before we jump into the recap, we need to talk about last night’s climactic ending. After several weeks of psychological taunting, Ramsay Bolton finally “consummated” his marriage to his terrified bride. It was every bit as awful as we were dreading.

I find this storyline highly problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it’s an invention by HBO that never occurred in the books. (Indeed, the two characters haven’t even met.) More importantly, it felt gratuitous and unnecessary – a ‘Red Wedding moment’ added purely for shock value. Once again, the show has concocted the rape of a major female character in a cheap bid to jolt its audience. Not cool.

Sansa’s victimisation was infinitely worse than last season’s controversial encounter between Jaime and Cersei. Unlike the queen regent, Sansa was a captive, a virgin and possibly underage. There was crying. There were screams. A man she hated was in the room, watching. I feel that a line was crossed by the show, and all for a scene that doesn’t even appear in the source material!

I’m not sure where the showrunners are planning to go with this. If they attempt to sweep such a traumatic event under the carpet – as they did with the aforementioned Cersie/Jaime scene – I may well be done with the show entirely. In any event, the character of Sansa had surely suffered enough. The only thing I’ll say in the scene’s defence is that Alfie Allen’s reaction really helped to sell the horror — but it was horror we didn’t want or need.

Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

Otherwise, episode 5.6 was much like the rest of season five thus far: decent, without ever being truly terrific. The theme was all about captivity this week – in quick succession, Jaime and Bronn, Tyrion and Jorah and Ser Loras and Margery were incarcerated by the Martels, slavers and Sparrows, respectively. (Despite this, the episode never felt repetitive which is to the director and writing team’s credit.)

In King’s Landing, the Faith Militant continue to harass innocent members of House Tyrell at the urging of Queen Cersei. Despite the intervention of Lady Olenna (the always hilarious Diana Rigg), the High Sparrow has Ser Loras imprisoned for the crime of buggery, along with Queen Margery who was caught lying under oath in an attempt to save her brother’s skin. Until now, Cersei has spent most of this season winning over viewers’ sympathies. Last night, she reminded us that she’s as wicked as they come with one barely concealed smile. Well played.

Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Littlefinger lays out his cards to the queen — after the armies of Stannis and the Boltons decimate each other in the impending battle for Winterfell, he plans to sweep in and reclaim it for the Lannisters. In return, he humbly requests to be made Warden of the North. Doubtlessly he envisions himself ruling with Sansa by his side; presumably after dispatching Cersei who is hell-bent on the girl’s execution. It would seem Peter Baelish has various wheels in motion; some of which have yet to be revealed to the audience. Could an alliance with the Sparrows against Cersei be on the cards?

Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

Over in Dorne, Jaime and Bronn vied with each other to pull off the best Laurence Of Arabia impression before botching their attempted rescue of the queen’s daughter. As luck would have it, the vengeful paramour and warrior daughters of Oberyn Martell show up at the exact same moment, leading to a bland and bloodless battle scene. Eventually, some soldiers break up the melee and the lot of them are carted off in chains. Ho-hum.

While it certainly looks nice, Dorne has proven to be the biggest disappointment of the season so far. It’s not really adding anything to the show and the newly introduced characters have conspicuously failed to make up for Prince Oberyn’s absence. Hopefully things will pick up in future episodes although they are fast running out of time. Fingers crossed, eh?’

Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

On the road to Mereen, Tyrion and Jorah Mormont run afoul of some slavers and narrowly escape having their throats cut. In a nice piece of world building, Tyrion attempts to big up Jorah as the knight who unhorsed the fabled Jaime Lannister. This of course means nothing to the slavers, who all hail from the East. Jorah then boasts that he slew one of Khal Drogo’s blood riders in single combat which has the desired effect. Also, we learned that “cock merchant” is a viable profession in Essos. Interesting.

Episode 5.6 also delivered some quality time with Arya. Everyone’s favourite wolf cub is still learning the trade of the faceless men, which currently involves sweeping, cleansing corpses and learning how to lie effectively. While nothing particularly important happened, it was great to catch up with the coolest member of the Stark family. (It is known.)

Game Of Thrones Season 5 Episode 6 Recap: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken is destined to be remembered as a controversial episode; and probably not in a good way. What did you guys think? Did you find Sansa’s wedding scene to be an appalling misfire or did it work for you dramatically? What sort of impact will it have in the rest of the season? Also, just how does one become a cock merchant? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Note: Please, no spoilers from the books in the comments below!

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  • Arya is still cool, but I enjoyed her chemistry with the Hound more than with Jaqen.

    The sand snakes and Dorne in general have been a bit disappointing. The whole area feels like a lower budget show.

    Love the Cersei and the Sparrows vs House Tyrell story line, very gripping. I was really hoping to see Lady Olenna just go full Yoda lightsaber on Cersei and fuck shit up.

    I thought the rape of Sansa was very well done, and felt more powerful and justified (in a story sense) than many of the other atrocities committed in the show. It makes me hunger for her revenge even more, which unfortunately knowing George’s predilections is unlikely to be sated. 🙁

  • I disliked that last scene, but for slightly different reasons. Don’t care what is (or isn’t) in the books, because after multiple attempts at the first one, I gave up on them — IMHO, Martin’s prose style is woeful — which leaves (in my view) the TV show as a standalone entity.

    Within that context, however, this was just a rape for shock value based purely on where it occurs in the episode. It’s a cliffhanger, and a nasty one, and the way it (possibly) could have been justified would be to place it elsewhere in the episode and have the repercussions of it strike at that time.

    Unfortunately either obvious path — Sansa’s revenge (and I can’t be the only one thinking she was drawing a dagger from her sleeve, can I?) or Theon’s breaking of his conditioning — are also rather tired tropes that’ll be hard to justify in a narrative sense. There are so many other ways this could have been covered without needing the scene to happen at all. Ramsay’s just a cipher for “evil” at this point, and they overplayed that hand back when he was endlessly torturing Theon. We get that he’s the bad guy. We do.

    As for the rest of the episode, the Sand Snakes were flat and lifeless — that fight scene was terrible! — but anything that Diana Rigg is in is instantly 2000% better. Maybe more.

    • Yar, my beef wasn’t that they chose to deviate from the text but that they did so to degrade and victimise a female character purely for shock value. I half suspect they did this just to rile up all the viewers who complained about Jaime forcing himself on Cersei last year.

      • I don’t think it was done for shock value, it didn’t feel that way to me at all. It was horribly disturbing, but fully in character for Ramsay. He isn’t just a cipher for ‘evil’, he is a sociopath/psychopath, and horrific. It isn’t about making him ‘the bad guy’, he just is, and people like him exist, and would moreso in this type of world.

        I thought the scene, disturbing as it was, was not played for shock value at all, it wasn’t graphic or gratuitous, but it forced the viewer not to look away, it slammed home the horror and personal horror of that situation, rather than just making it a 2D ‘shock scene’.
        Plenty of rapes are done on the show, this one punched you hard, and I think it was done as well as something like this can be. Theon became the viewer, unable to look away. It was horrible, but realistic within the world they have set.
        It affected us so much, we had to cue up something more lightweight to watch as we were all just so flat after the credits rolled. (We normally just go to bed after the show).

        The sand snakes, I’m not a fan of, it looks more like Days of our Lives, the production value and actor choice I think misses the mark. Bron was great as always, with the last taunt and grin. They just aren’t convincing.

        The Jorah and Tyrion scene was fantastic, the whole ‘cock merchant’ thing was just great, and there was genuine tension around Tyrion and the slavers. The reveal of Mormont the elder’s death to Jorah was really touching and unexpected.

        The reveal with Arya was nicely done, and was left at a really good point to keep you thinking.

        Apart from the sand snakes, (which wasn’t terrible, just not as good as the rest), I thought the episode was a return to form, better banter, more character and a slower pacing which helps make the world seem epically large again, something that was missing from the last season when people were skitting around the world within a single episode, from Kings Landing, to the Vale, the wall to Craster’s, it took no time for people to get anywhere, and the world felt smaller because of it.

        The scope and scale seems to be back.

        • Bron was great as always, with the last taunt and grin.

          Did you notice how they showed a close-up of Bronn getting cut by a spear? That spear was wielded by the Red Viper’s daughter. Uh-oh…

          • I think the difference here is that the sand snakes were intent on kidnap, not killing. Thus they wouldn’t want to poison their blades. After all, they’d be mightily distraught if they accidently killed Myrcella and/or Trystane, if they were scratched in a struggle.

        • We can agree to disagree — that’s cool. The reason why it concerns me is its narrative placement. It’s the end of the episode, placed there deliberately, and even off the top of my head I can think of half a dozen ways to get to the point they seem to be arcing towards without needing that scene. We already know Ramsay’s an evil sod; it doesn’t need any further explanation.

          I think I agree, though, that the episode picked up the pace that seems to have been missing this season. That’s probably just because of Diana Rigg, though.

          • Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. I won’t staunchly defend Martin’s writing, but I will say that the books at least use allusion that serves the narrative more effectively than scenes like this in the tv version do. I kind of think the books get away with building a mostly slow sense of dread following the red wedding, but tv doesnt have the same luxuries and needs more moments of shock value, often to its detriment :/

      • There’s no need to half suspect. They probably relate good writing with higher viewership (debatable), and there’s no doubt that these shocking scenes get more people talking and get more people watching, just to see what the next one will be. Game of Thrones has been relying on it’s shock value for the entire life of the show, and while there’s no doubt much of that material is in the books, it could clearly be handled a lot less obscenely. They’re making a conscious decision to include a few “WTF did I just watch?” moments in every season. There was no need to show the eye gouge, or the tummy stab. Season One handled a beheading without actually showing any blood and guts. They are showing more because the audience expects more, we’ve been desensitised now – a bloodless beheading doesn’t (pardon the pun) cut it any more.

        What bothers me a little bit about your write-up and comments though is the focus on female victimisation, over say, the rampant murder, torture, slavery, castration, and pregnant mummies being stabbed in their tummies etc. Specifically that you’re putting female victimisation in the camp of “gratuitous, unnecessary and cheap”, but giving the other atrocities a pass for, narrative reasons?

        Not being familiar with the books, the rape of Sansa felt like one of the more expected, almost narratively necessary atrocities. When Jaime raped Cersei, they could have taken that out and the episode would have been just as good or better without it. It did nothing for the story and was just there for shock value. But we knew Sansa was going to marry Ramsay, and we knew he was a sadistic bastard. The whole episode I was thinking “How can she get out of this? How is she going to be saved???”, and in typical Game of Thrones style, she wasn’t. It was justified by the story, more so than many of the other shock-value events that happen in the show, so I’m a bit confused why this particular scene is getting more than an average amount of hate.

        I think perhaps it’s causing more discomfort than most because it’s more realistic? It’s something closer to home that is more likely to be experienced than most of the other crimes in the series, but I’m not entirely sure. Female victimisation is still a raw part of our society, whereas we’ve long since properly and completely condemned murder and torture and slavery, both criminally and socially. It’s still an unhealed wound in our culture, and it hurts when a light is shone on it.

        Or it was just another cheap gratuitous shock tactic and fuck those showrunners.

    • For me, that last scene just made it obvious how lazy some of the writing was. You know exactly where this is going, and with a character like Ramsay, there were numerous creative, inventive ways to get there. But they decided that this was the worst thing that could happen to a woman to drive her to revenge and to seek help.

      The only way this isn’t sexual violence for the sake of sexual violence is if she ends up pregnant and that becomes a major plot point. Otherwise it’s just super lazy and kind of boring.

      • I don’t see it as boring or lazy, more as realistic and horrible, and for Sansa’s character, somehting she probably thought she would avoid somehow. I don’t think this is a lazy setup for the drive for revenge, there is already more than enough there (they slaughtered her family, remember?), to me this was more the end of her naivety, she let littlefinger talk her into playing the game, she entered this world, in some ways without thinking about it, and both the audience and Sansa were left thinking, how will she get out of this, will Theon save her, will she save herself, will the trumpets sound and Stannis be at the gates, saving her from her fate?
        Any of those would have been lazy and opportunistic, what actually happened was a braver move I think by the writers, and grounded the show in the horrible reality of that world.

        • But there were plenty of ways to have ended her naivety. I just think that there is a huge list of ‘Bad Things Ramsay Could Do To Sansa’ to pick from, and they picked the cheapest and least original.

  • Have been going through the books and quite enjoying it for the most part.
    What really struck me this episode is that the show and the books are now entirely different stories. The first season was spot on, dialogue and everything. Nothing in this episode was from the books with the possible exception of Tyrion as the show is possibly ahead of me on that character.

    Not complaining or anything, I just found it quite interesting. Most of the really broad story arcs are still intact to some degree.

    • If you noticed, the show is condensing many events that happened in the books. Instead of these events happening to other minor characters, as the book depicts, they’re happening to major characters. In that way, the number of characters needed is reduced, and the show becomes easier to digest. There were many things that both happened in this episode and in the books, just to different characters.

  • I’ve said it before – I’ll say it again. This season is feeling as lacking as Season 2.
    This episode I liked:
    – The interaction between Jorah and Tyrion.
    – The Ending in Winterfell (as unfortunate as it was)
    – The Sparrows putting pressure on Littlefinger
    – Littlefinger playing EVERYONE again.

    Kind of liked:
    – The trial with Loras and the High Sparrow
    – Olenna & Cersei’s meeting
    – Jamie & Bronn in the Water Gardens

    Did not like:
    – The fact that Olenna and/or Margaery didn’t bring anything up in-regards to Cersei’s incestous in an effort to take the fire off of them.
    – Sand Snakes – as many people have said. They just simply do not think. Their logic for going for Myrcella is just… Horrible. That could be my lack of taste for the characters speaking though, I haven’t read the books.
    EDIT: – Oh yeah, fuck Tommen. Spineless little prick. Seriously guys, I MISSED JOFFREY for once.

    • I think it makes sense that they would bring up Cersei’s past at that point, she wasn’t on trial and it wasn’t relevant to the particular inquiry, and there was hardly time, they would have been thrown by the sudden arrest of Marge. Olenna is smarter than to fire off her main weapon before all her ducks are in a row, I reckon it is coming and will be huge.

      • Oh I hope so much those Sparrows turn and get Cersei for sinful fornications and whatnot. It will be so satisfying seeing that High Sparrow delivering his “nobody is above the law” speech as he arrests her and she realises that she caused her own undoing. Please please please let that happen.

        • I’m hoping for this too, and the setup is definitely there, if it happens whilst Littlefinger is at court, it opens up interesting possibilities for him to ‘counsel the King’.
          This season has already diverted so far from the books, all bets are off.

  • To all the haters who think the rape scene was forced and lazy writing…. in the books, the character of Jeyne Poole (that is merged with Sansa in the TV show) is forced to marry Ramsay. She was forced into far worse situations with him. In fact, she is made to perform sex acts with his dogs. The same dogs he hunts women with. So, thank your lucky stars the writers subbed that out for a far more traditional rape scene, as I certainly would not have enjoyed watching Sansa go to town on a ‘Hound’.

    • Yeah but I think the point is more that it can be expressed in other ways. Jeyne’s experience was only alluded to by someone else, for example.

  • The latest episode just reminded me that the show has actually left out probably the most important character in the Dorne chapters of the book, Arriane Martel, the eldest daughter of Doran and heir to Dorne.
    By making Oberyn’s paramour this angry revenge seeker (which she isn’t in the books), they’ve both made that character less interesting and seemingly written out one of the most interesting characters in the books. Changing a semi-intelligent plot to insist Myrcella is the rightful heir to the throne by Dornish law, to the thoroughly unintelligent “let’s kill the little girl so we can start a war for revenge”.

    The only real issue I had with this episode was also with Dorne where the fight scene with the sandsnakes was just a horrible mess that left you confused as to who was doing what to whom. Just seemed to give the feeling of they had only so much time to film on that set so they went with what they could get and what they could get was a mess.

  • Might be done with she show entirely? Really? Come on. Thought I was on Kotaku, not Polygon.

  • This series is deviating from the books all over the place. I wonder if Petyr’s plan is something that will happen in the Winds of Winter? The books are so much more well thought out than the show with its shortcuts – just how long did it take Littlefinger to travel from Winterfell to King’s Landing? It would be a shame for the TV show to be spoiling the unwritten books.

    As for Sana’s rape, what did people expect to happen to her on her wedding night to Ramsay Bolton?

  • Given this is GAME OF THRONES I can’t say I was overly surprised with Salsa being raped. That said, I’m glad I’ve got a reason to watch it now, Ramsay’s eventual demise. The only reason I got this far was to watch Joffery die.

  • Once again, the show has concocted the rape of a major female character in a cheap bid to jolt its audience.

    This is impossible to state with assuredness and also not at all fair. It’s disappointing when people digest something and then attribute intent to content creators as though they can divinate the artist’s motives. You have no idea where they are going with this scene and how it plays into the whole series (unless you’ve seen the rest of the season and have telepathy in general) or the motivation for including it.

    I completely respect people’s dislike for the the rape scene. But acting as though you’ve got the artists pegged is the kind of annoying running off of the mouth that’s typical on the internet.

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