If last week Game of Thrones was “heading into darker territory”, this week the show did a kick flip off the deep end into some terrible shit. Admittedly, I spent the first ten minutes trying to remember which house’s motto used the episode title “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” (it’s the Martells, by the way), and in all honestly I wish I could have spent the entire hour pondering that rather than actually watching the episode. I was tricked by some interesting aspects of the Arya storyline into paying attention, and all I got for it was me seriously debating whether or not to drop the series entirely.
Spoilers and a content warning for rape under the cut.
In the mysterious House of Black and White, Arya has been assigned the task of cleaning off dead bodies before they’re carried off to who knows where. Understandably, she becomes frustrated over the lack of information given to her and refuses to do any more work until she gets some answers. For all her efforts, Arya gets no closer to the truth or her revenge, and instead is reprimanded when she cannot tell a lie from the truth—and apparently much like the game of thrones itself, the game of the Many Faced God is one the players never stop playing: a chilling parallel to be sure. Later, a girl winds up in the House’s inner sanctum, dying from illness. Her father begs Arya to help her. Comforting the girl with a lie about how she used to be sick herself until she drank from the Many Faced God’s waters, Arya kills the girl via poison. This act is enough to convince Jaquen that while Arya may not be ready to become no one, she is ready to “become someone else.”
Across the ocean in King’s Landing the confrontation that no one wanted between Cersei and Littlefinger brings high stakes into the unfolding events. Having some plan up his sleeve, Littlefinger sells out the location of Sansa. Cersei, interpreting this as a betrayal by the Boltons, is all too eager to send her troops up to Winterfell and bring back Sansa’s head on a pike. However, Cersei currently has no troops to waste on the excursion. Knowing this, Littlefinger offers the Eyrie’s troops to do just that; all he asks for in return is to be named Warden of the North when the dust settles.
After Littlefinger makes his welcomed exit, we get the confrontation that at least I have been waiting for—the one between Cersei and Olenna Tyrell. Cersei has effectively placed Loras on trial for being gay, and Olenna is having none of this bullshit. Despite threatening the Tyrell’s food supply and economic aid, Cersei talks a good talk about Loras’s questioning only being an informal event. Not an actual trial. However, despite both Loras and Margaery’s testimonies to Loras’s straightness, Loras’s lover ends up admitting everything, sending both Loras and Margaery to an undetermined punishment, but probably death if Cersei has her way. I sincerely hope that Olenna has something up her sleeve, or else this is going to be the most contrived bullshit ever.
Finally, we have our two merry bands of bros. On the soils of Esos, Tyrion and Jorah are caught off-guard by slave traders. For all their philosophizing on the “great” future reign of Daenerys, they couldn’t keep their eyes or ears open enough to notice they weren’t alone on the coast. Through some fast talking on both of their parts they save themselves form instant death, but it appears that Tyrion is going to be sold off to the first “cock merchant” the slavers run into, while Jorah has committed himself to the fighting pits which Daenerys has just re-opened. In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn break into the water gardens and almost steal back Myrcella, but are interrupted with an assault by the Sand Snakes. Both sides are stopped by Prince Doran’s guards, and both sides are taken into custody, Ellaria included.
Even though I don’t find either of these storylines compelling or interesting, I do understand their worth in the greater scheme of things. Placing Jorah as Tyrion’s foil, who may or may not allow Tyrion to believe in something, gives us much needed character development on Tyrion’s part, while Jorah gets to… I don’t know, regain part of his masculinity that Daenerys took away when she cast him aside. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that he’s going to wind up in the same battle arena that Dany just re-opened. On the other end, Jaime is regaining the honor that the showrunners completely destroyed last season. However, it’s at the expense of Ellaria’s character. It’s really almost comical how evil the show has made her, and just as comical when she’s cornered in her “evil lair” by the “good and just” Prince Doran’s guards. Why did the show runners have to throw all these powerful, interesting women of color under the bus like that? To make Jaime look good? To show that Ellaria is just as “evil” as Cersei? It’s so pointless, and embarrassing to watch to be completely honest.
Though, what bothers me most about this episode is its title in context. “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”: yes, it’s the words of House Martell, but it’s also indicating the reaction to everyone in the episode. Unfortunately, there’s a huge gap in the meanings of this for the men and women of the cast. Jaime, Bronn, Jorah, and Tyrion all find themselves captured in some extent, but remain in a position they can logically get out of. After all, Tyrion is a great talker, Jorah actually is a fighter, and Jaime is more than likely going to have a nice conversation with Prince Doran about his misconceptions over Myrcella’s situation. They are unbroken because there is nothing to be broken over. Compare this to, on one hand, Arya. She remains steadfast in her desire for revenge; however, she is completely out of her depth and has no idea what she’s actually getting herself into. Additionally, from the looks of things she’s getting whipped almost nightly due to her inability to lie well enough to fool Jaquen. Olenna and Margaery have been completely played by Cersei—who is, in turn, getting played by Littlefinger and the other men in her life—and I wouldn’t put it past the Queen-Mother to have some sort of torture implemented to get the results she wants. In any case, even if Olenna is comparatively “safe”, Margaery is definitely not, as its show that for all her skills, Cersei is still better at the game. Who’s going to help her? Tommen?
However, the most disgusting implication of this title comes at the mere existence of this portion of Sansa’s plot. Oh no, trust me, I didn’t forget this. So, this is the episode where Sansa marries Ramsay and he then subsequently rapes her on their wedding night—a horror that while not graphic in image, is graphic in sound, and completely unnecessarily so. While the title argues that despite this trauma, Sansa remains “unbroken”, how much shit is the show going to put her through before it stops using her as a punching bag? It’s disgusting how much Sansa has gone through, and how little chances she’s been given for any sense of safety or comfort—not even revenge. She gets few victories; she is mostly further victimized. Sansa is a strong character—this much is not even up for debate any further, but a woman’s strength should not be indicated by how much trauma she goes through!! And this trauma shouldn’t be on camera every fucking week for the shock factor. This isn’t “gritty” or “dark fantasy”, this is torture porn.
I do not expect the show to get any better in this respect, and it’s for this reason that I’m considering stopping watching it entirely. There’s only so much open misogyny I can take, and if the show’s directors want to try to hide enjoyment of hurting women under the guise of “it was in the books”—which given how much the show has started to veer from said books, is an even less valid argument—then why should I give them my patronage? Everyone’s supposed to get fucked over in the game of thrones, and in some respects they do, but it’s the pain of the women that ends up being glorified and glamorized. And they can fuck right off with that.
What will happen next week? Hopefully literally anything else, like Ramsey getting fed to the dogs. Or Ellaria getting the respect that she deserves.