by Matthew Thompson
I expected we were headed for this episode’s ending for a few weeks now, but was hoping against hope that maybe someone would intervene before we got here. The result is one of two major problems plaguing this week’s installment of Game of Thrones that leave me questioning the showrunners in the aftermath.
The final scene that depicts Ramsay making Theon watch as he rapes Sansa is a disturbing one. It is horrifying and difficult to watch, but it is far from the first Game of Thrones scene I would describe that way. My bigger question coming out of this episode is: was this necessary? What does it add to the show? What does it do for the characters involved? For example, part of me hates the Red Wedding. But I also see it as a pretty brilliant, if extremely dark, moment in the show, one that I’d never argue for removing. I don’t need to go over the ways that sequence was a game changer. This is not that. Now if Ramsay was going to marry Sansa, this was certainly going to happen. It is one of the reasons I was wary of this plotline from the day it was introduced. I guess in the end, I don’t see the value of putting her in this situation to begin with. And I don’t see what there is to gain from here on out. We hated Ramsay already. Sansa has already been beaten down and victimized plenty on the show. And if this will be utilized as a catalyst for a change in Theon’s character, there was any number of alternatives to drive that turn instead. Maybe the writers can change my mind as the season rolls on, but I’m not optimistic at the moment.
My other big issue with “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” is in the storyline for which the episode gets its name. The plotline in Dorne isn’t likely to leave anyone disturbed or disgusted, but the way everything comes to a head this week just seems goofy. Jaime and Bronn just walking into the Water Gardens to nab a princess. The Sand Snakes doing the same at the same time (though at least their easy access makes a bit more sense). And then the ensuing fight which marks a new low for the series’ hit or miss fight choreography. The whole thing just left me shaking my head. This storyline still seems plenty salvageable, I just feel there have been some shaky motivations and poor scenes to get us to where we are at the moment.
Both of these issues are born of the showrunners desire to try to consolidate storylines. It is an understandable move given just how sprawling the fourth and fifth books are. But I don’t feel like the way they did it is paying dividends in either case. And they may be doing more harm than anything else.
Moving onto the bright side of things, Arya returns after a few weeks off with some great material. It is hard to pick a favorite moment here. The other girl telling her backstory and then asking if it was a lie was a strong moment. Jaqen testing Arya was another good one (I especially like the questions involving The Hound). The final two are probably the best though. One sees Arya speaking to a young sickly girl and convincing her to drink the water. This leads to her getting to enter the Hall of Faces and seeing what she was preparing the bodies for all this time. This episode features some great character development for Arya and sees her make significant progress in her journey this season. It was easily the highlight of a very mixed episode.
It wasn’t the only thing I liked about this week’s episode though. There were a number of positives to be found in Tyrion and Jorah’s continued adventure. It started with one of those quality acting moments without any words by Iain Glenn as Jorah learns of his father’s passing. It ends with a much lighter moment where they are captured by some slavers. It is hard to not laugh at a line like, “The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant,” but I was impressed with the duo’s ability to steer their captors towards where they wanted to head as well. It began with a little over the top boasting by Tyrion as he tried to puff up Jorah’s fighting prowess, but it was the truth, his single combat against one of Khal Drogo’s bloodriders, that finally won over the slavers.
We also spend a bit of time in King’s Landing and with it comes the welcome return of Olenna Tyrell who delivers the kind of zingers we came to expect from her sharp tongue during the previous two seasons. And while I don’t completely buy the idea that Littlefinger would be unaware of the person Ramsay is, the plan that is revealed during his talk with Cersei at least helps to explain the motivations for his actions this season.
A few more things:
- Scene of the Week: I’ll go with the Hall of Faces one with Arya. Once again Game of Thrones really nailed the look of a new location. I also dug this line from Jaqen: “No, a girl is not ready to become no one. But she’s ready to become someone else.”
- I’m guessing the focus the show gave to that cut that Bronn received during the fight means he got poisoned.
- I hope when Doran becomes a greater focus in the Dorne plots that it will improve.
- Not really sure about the how the inquest of Loras played out. I was pretty indifferent to it I guess.
- These two lines from Olenna were awesome: “Get some rest dear. You look appalling.” And, “Put the pen down dear. We both know you aren’t writing anything.”
Benioff and Weiss did a great job of adapting the books to TV for the first four seasons, but I have always felt they were better when they followed the road map they have more closely. They’ve also excelled at presenting scenes that didn’t appear in the books due to the POV structure (think Cersei and Robert’s scenes in Season 1 or Oberyn and Tywin’s last year). But when they’ve gone too far off on their own, the results have been a mixed bag in my opinion. This year they almost had no choice but to do that though. A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons are simply not as conducive to a more straight-forward adaptation like the first three books. So I can’t fault them for making changes, but I also can’t say I’m liking how their big swings this season have turned out. “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” isn’t devoid of positives, but it does feel like the low point in a season that has so far failed to live up to my expectations for the series. What did you think of the latest episode? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!