Moving past the midway point of the season, last night’s Game of Thrones was a bit uneven – both in terms of adaptation and its tone. However, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” did begin moving its various characters’ threads forward, finally putting into motion the plans set forth by this season’s first five episodes.
Ever since the trailer premiered we knew Jorah was destined for the fighting pits, and in last night’s episode he took his first step towards that fate. He and Tyrion have also gotten somewhat back on track as it pertains to their storyline from the books; only, instead of being capture by slavers and sold to Yezzan zo Qaggaz (a character expected to appear this season), Tyrion is acting as manager for the best fighter in all of Westeros.
In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn finally arrive at the Water Gardens, conveniently at the exact time the Sand Snakes launch their plan to capture Myrcella. And if this were meant to stand in for the Arrianne’s kidnapping of Myrcella, it’s a disappointing change to say the least. But given how little has actually happened in the Dornish narrative, hopefully having all its characters in one place will reveal what purpose this story line’s changes really had. (Also, Bronn’s poisoned right? What other significance could there be to that minor flesh wound?)
To Become Someone Else
For the most part, Arya’s time at The House of Black and White has passed as it does in the novels. Except, of course, for Game of Thrones‘ reveal that it is Jaqen H’ghar and not some anonymous, kindly man who is in charge of her training. Much like the decision to send Jaime and Bronn to Dorne in place of new characters, the return of Jaqen gives audiences a familiar face in what is a strange, new land.
However, Jaqen is not only familiar to viewers but to Arya as well. To her, Jaqen is someone she can trust and this previous association of theirs gives scenes like their game of faces a stronger significance. Arya is berated and beaten by the closest thing she has to a friend in the whole world, and that pain and sense of failure is clearly written all over her face.
On the flip side, once Arya proves her willingness to be a Faceless Man by helping a sickly girl accept the gift, Jaqen shows her to the room of many faces in a scene that almost strikes of fatherly pride. Again, there’s a bond between Jaqen and Arya that isn’t there in the novels, and it’s allowing these scenes to have more emotional weight. Jaqen’s declaration that Arya is ready to become someone else isn’t simply a culmination of what she’s endured since arriving in Braavos, but from the moment Jaqen first saw her as being capable of great things.
Tyrells on Trial
Cersei’s restoring of the Faith Militant wasn’t without reason, no matter how reckless, and like she does in the novels, her aim is for The High Sparrow’s morality to orchestrate Margaery’s downfall. On Game of Thrones, however, the Faith isn’t investigating any claims of Margaery’s infidelity (though they may eventually), but of her brother’s debauchery.
This isn’t an entirely surprising switch, given the greater importance the series has placed on Loras’ sexual proclivities, but it does allow for Cersei to remove both Margaery and Loras from Tommen’s sphere of influence with one fell swoop. (And it spares Loras’ pretty face from the boiling oil at the Siege of Dragonstone.)
Beyond the obvious streamlining of narratives this achieves, it also makes Cersei the sole perpetrator of the crimes against the Tyrells (though through the veil of the Faith). Whereas it was Cersei who urged Loras to lead the siege, she was only encouraging his own recklessness and want of glory. Here she’s simply handed him over to The High Sparrow on a platter, and Margaery becomes entangled in his guilt by association.
The ease at which the Faith concludes that both Tyrells are guilty enough to warrant a full trial is shocking, but Cersei is too smug to be alarmed. Her drinking must be dulling her senses, because The High Sparrow being able lock up the heirs to what’s arguably Westeros’ most powerful family is a clear indication of how unchecked his power has become. And if there’s a worse kept secret than Loras’ sexual escapades, it’s Cersei’s. How she doesn’t suspect what’s coming is mind-boggling. Somehow, Game of Thrones has managed to make Cersei appear even more oblivious and short-sighted than all her foolish scheming from the novels. That’s a feat.
From Stark, To Lannister, To Bolton
Lastly, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” left us with Sansa’s second marriage in just as many seasons. And though we were given a scene in where Sansa gained a little of her own back in her take down of Myranda, book reader’s worst fears were realized when she did indeed take the place of Jeyne Poole as Ramsey’s bride.
However, Ramsey and Sansa’s wedding night wasn’t as horrific as it could have been (or as I imagined). There’s no getting around the fact Sansa was raped, as is Jeyne, but what was shown was mild not only by Ramsey’s standards but by Game of Thrones‘. In the novels, Jeyne is brutalized and it would have been all too easy for the series to depict the same given its track record. But here Sansa is taken against her will in way that’s likely (and disgustingly) customary for arranged marriages in this setting. It’s almost as if the show wanted to move past this scene as quickly as possible – though they still chose to include it and as the final scene no less, making it so we’re left with Sansa’s cries and Theon’s tears for a whole week.
Obviously, much will rely on how this event is resolved next week, but given its tameness (by Thrones‘ standards anyhow), it appears Sansa will not be chained and beaten as Jeyne was, meaning perhaps her chance at revenge isn’t as far off, either.
More questionable than Sansa’s fate, however, are Littlfinger’s loyalties. Within the span of this season alone he’s allied himself with Sansa, playing at being her sole friend; the Boltons through a promise of delivering them the North through Sansa; and now Cersei by insisting he’ll use the Knights of the Vale to secure Winterfell after either Stannis takes it or the Boltons hold it. Not that this is too surprising given Littlefinger’s changing alliances before, but it does beg us to question what his endgame truly is? Who does Littlefinger want to see on the Iron Throne?
“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” was an episode that dared to take more liberties with George R.R. Martin’s novels than most. What other changes and deviations did you notice? How will affect where season 5 goes next? Continue this spoiler discussion in the comments below!
Game of Thrones will continue next Sunday with ‘The Gift’ @9pm on HBO.