Tuesday, May 19, 2015

GAME OF THRONES Remains "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

Article first written for Seat42F.

In the latest installment of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, our heroes remain “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” They sure have more than their share of challenges to overcome, so that’s quite impressive. Among the tribulations this week, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah (Iain Glen) are captured by slavers, Arya (Maisie Williams) learns secrets in the House of Black and White, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) fail to execute a rescue, Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and Loras (Finn Jones) face trial, and Sansa (Sophie Turner) marries a monster.

Poor Sansa. She has worse luck than pretty much anyone else in GAME OF THRONES, and that’s saying something! Her marriage to Tyrion, the disfigured, older dwarf is probably the best thing that happens to her. But now, back in Winterfell, she must wed Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), arguably the most twisted individual in the Seven Kingdoms, and that is also saying something.

Yet, Sansa remains “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” She doesn’t start out as strong as most Starks. She alone of Ned’s children seems fragile and easily manipulated. Throughout her travels, though, she has steadily found a solid core she can rely upon and a self-reliance that would do her parents proud as evidenced by her bearing throughout the hour. It’s quite surprising to see this, and while she certainly doesn’t have fun being raped by Ramsay in front of Theon (Alfie Allen), I don’t think this will completely destroy her, either. She will overcome.

Might Theon be able to assist Sansa by escaping with her? Theon did some very bad things early in GAME OF THRONES, but he has paid for his mistakes by now. Had he actually killed Sansa’s brothers, as she believes he did, there would be no redemption for him, but he did not. Mostly, he just played at war. While his actions did lead to the fall of Winterfell, the keep probably would have fallen anyway if he’d not acted, given the chaos around it.

Theon has been broken severely by Ramsay, and for awhile, it seems like who he is is gone forever. However, there’s something in his eyes in “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” even if those adjectives don’t describe him. Now that he must watch Sansa suffer, someone he feels deep regret for hurting and a older brotherly-type of protectiveness, he may find an inner motivation he could not muster to save himself. Let’s hope that’s what happens.

Half a world away, Arya is doing the opposite of Theon, not finding herself but losing herself. In order to join the Faceless Men, she must learn to lie and give up who she is. “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” sees her make significant progress on this, leading a girl to her death and being allowed into the chamber of faces. I can’t help but think Sansa may be her family’s future since Arya likely won’t be a Stark at all for much longer.

But is anyone ever truly not themselves? Jorah’s father was a part of the Night’s Watch, men who give up their families and former lives. Yet, when Jorah hears of his dad’s death via Tyrion this week, he looks pained. Even long after a patriarch leaves a clan, there are residual feelings from a bond forged too hard to even be completely severed. It’s a moving scene that reminds us of this.

In King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) believes she scores a major victory against the Tyrells when the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) arrests the queen and her brother. Cersei’s smug smirk, honestly telling Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) she cannot do anything for Olenna’s grandchildren, shows how victorious Cersei feels. Things are finally going her way.

I can’t help but feel Cersei doesn’t realize there’s another shoe to drop. She has granted the High Sparrow too much power, and by allowing him to take a queen, Cersei doing nothing as the ineffective child king Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) watches on in horror, she grants the High Sparrow even more. Yet, Cersei is one of the biggest sinners in the city. She doesn’t realize that she will probably be the next target, and she really should. Her impending downfall will be her own fault.

The one thing that didn’t sit right with me this week is that Lancel (Eugene Simon) and his fellow sparrows don’t arrest Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) when he returns to the capital. Littlefinger is a big offender and not nearly as powerful as Cersei. His crimes against the religion are known, his brothel having already been raided. Why do they hesitate? Is the High Sparrow just waiting to see how Cersei will react to Margaery’s arrest to gauge how far he can push the ruling body? I think Littlefinger should have been taken into custody.

Assuming Littlefinger flees the city before he is taken, I do fully believe that Littlefinger will kill Sansa in a heartbeat if it will advance his position. He isn’t just blowing smoke up Cersei’s skirt when he tells Cersei he agrees with the queen mother. However, he’s also a long-game guy, so it may be wise for him to agree with Cersei but not actually execute Sansa, as it would be awfully hard to rule over the rebellious north after murdering a daughter of such a respected house. Just know that he will do whatever best suits him, with no regard for anyone else, and that makes him dangerous.

I won’t go into how much “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” differs from the books this week (see past my past reviews for that). At this point, GAME OF THRONES has made a number of huge departures from the source material, which makes the show unpredictable. Taken on its own, it remains a solid, engaging series, though, and one I enjoy. I do think what the current showrunners are doing is a despicable betrayal of the book fans, but at least they are making good television while they do it.

GAME OF THRONES airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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