TV Show Review

TV Review: GAME OF THRONES: Season 5, Episode 6: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken [HBO]

HBO’s Game of Thrones Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken TV Show Review. Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 6: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken brings all the momentum of season six to a grinding halt. In this episode, the show eschews events on the wall and in Meereen in order to go into more detail on fewer characters. Unfortunately, the way the show’s writers handled this episode left me wanting to pack up my review notes and head north of the wall to take my chances with the White Walkers.

Arya’s (Maisie Williams) trial in the house of black and white continues to prove less interesting with each passing scene. One moment we see a subdued version of Arya, preparing a corpse with the single-minded focus of a master artisan, only to flip the switch back to her petulant pre-training behavior the moment she grew frustrated with her training. We are not watching Arya develop her assassin skills, instead we are treated to people constantly telling her what she is not yet good at, namely telling convincing lies and being no one. We get it; Arya is having a hard time becoming no one. With only 10 hours of television a season, screen time is too valuable of a commodity to waste on Jaqen’s (Tom Wlaschiha) repetitive lessons.

After several episodes, we got the first hint that Arya is making progress on her faceless man quest. Arya’s ability to tell a believable lie, helped a dying child come to terms with death, moved Arya to the next level of her training and unveiled one of the house of black and whites great mysteries. Although, Arya told a successful lie, I can’t help but wonder if the act of telling the lie was the true lesson. The takeaway from that scene came across as understanding that telling people what they desperately want to hear is the easiest lie to tell. As much of a slog as its been watching Arya sweep catacombs and trim the finger nails of corpses, her mind-numbing tasks were eclipsed by the momentous feeling that hit the moment Arya entered the hall of faces. To put it into video-game terms, it felt like Arya Stark had leveled up, coming one-step closer to being a power player in the Game of Thrones.

We returned to Jorah (Ian Glen) and Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) journey to find Jorah inspecting his new-found greyscale body art. The camera then pulled back to give the audience one of the most beautifully framed shots we have seen on the series so far. Twice in as many weeks, the camera has panned out from Jorah and Tyrion to offer a visual moment of serenity ripped right from the canvas of a J.M.W. Turner painting. Like all beautiful things on Game of Thrones, the moment was fleeting. Tyrion interrupted Jorah’s moment of introspection, unleashing a barrage of questions that all the characters in The Seven Kingdoms need to be asking.

Tyrion’s most significant point was questioning why Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), daughter of a known madman, had the right to rule a continent that she never stepped foot on. For all the stock that the people of Westeros put into bloodlines and nobility, the only people with a legitimate claim to power are those that reach out and claim it. The Targaryan’s demanded it with the military might of their Dragons, Robert wrenched it away through his insurgency and the Lannisters acquired it with treachery and wealth. In Westeros, entitlement to power is a fluid concept which hinges on who has the most to gain from whoever wears the crown.

Amidst the calamity in King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) continues “kicking it in chill-mode”, sipping her morning wine with villainous glee. As much as Cersei likes to believe that she is Tywin 2.0, the instability she created in King’s Landing proves that she is at best the bootleg version of her father. The sparrows are over-running the streets, their numbers growing faster than an army of gremlins let loose in a water park. It’s difficult to believe that Cersei is so comically short-sighted that she has no fear of the sparrows turning their ire towards her.

Even after Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) and Lady Olenna (Dianna Rigg) openly question Cersei’s, “havent’t read past chapter-2 of Treachery for Dummies” style decision making, the Dowager Queen refused to course correct. Lady Olenna went out of her way to make it clear to Cersei that Tywin’s effectiveness stemmed from not letting his pride get in the way of working with rivals. Cersei needs to quickly adopt this philosphy as this show takes great joy in destroying characters that don’t adapt to the world around them.

Describing the events transpiring in Dorne as a major disappointment would be like describing Godzilla as a reptile. Fan’s would pay 1000 gold dragons to watch more of Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) crazy hi-jinks, so the show really had to go out of its what to fumble the storyline. Everything about what is transpiring in Dorne feels condensed, which is a confusing change of pace considering this show literally spends entire seasons on characters killing time until their important moment in the greater overall story arrives.

Prince Doran’s (Alexander Siddig) spider-sense must have been tingling because no sooner than after informing his guardsman to be on alert, Jaime and Bronn as well as the sandsnakes invaded the sanctum of his water gardens. That’s too big of a coincidence and some lazy storytelling. Jaime’s quest to rescue his daughter feels like the husk of a more interesting story, as much of a wasted canvas as a pizza crust with no toppings. Speaking of unused canvases… With only four episodes left in the season, the show is running out of time to portray the sandsnakes as anything more than an angry lynch mob. The series needs to come up with a Dorne-centric episode in order to have any hope of salvaging what’s left of the storyline.

Where do we even begin with how Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken treated Sansa (Sophie Turner)? The least that can be said about what happened the better. The Sansa/Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) return to Winterfell plot is another example of the show flashing a glimmer of hope in front of a sympathetic character, only to reveal the light they perceived as the glint off a blade, swiftly closing in to slit their throat. Sansa did get a brief moment to show that she was nolonger the starry-eyed little girl from season one, boldly declaring that she is a Stark of Winterfell. Sansa took ownership of her path to vengeance, holding back the bile in her throat and stepping forward to marry Ramsay Bolton. Unfortunately, Sansa’s small step forward was met with several uncomfortable steps back as she became another in a long line of Game of Thrones rape victims.

I have enjoyed the current season of Game of Thrones because it feels like the first time the series provided fans with reasons to be optimistic. Each demoralized character’s journey finally has a sense of purpose.  The victimized characters are asserting their will, putting themselves in positions to make amends for the wrongs unleashed upon them. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken obliterates all that optimism. What we got was another example of Game of Thrones punishing its audience. The show can only demoralize its fans for so long. There has to be a belief among viewers that their heroes can seek shelter from the show’s torrential downpour of adversity. With only 24-episodes remaining in the series, Game of Thrones has not done an adequate job of conveying any reason for optimism . Clean up your act, Game of Thrones. YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken punched me in the gut harder than any previous episode, a dubious distinction for a show as overtly gruesome as Game of Thrones. I would like to say that the writer’s have a master plan and there is a reason for the way the Sansa story is unfolding, but, I also know better than to hold my breath waiting for the show to redeem her. Game of Thrones wields the sexual brutalization of women like the magic trick where magicians pull a never-ending chain of colored silk scarves out from their sleeves. For a magician, the act becomes more impressive the longer it continues. For Game of Thrones, the longer they maintain the trick, the more they find themselves caught tangled up in a colorful mess.

Notes:

What more could possibly go wrong on Jorah’s little clown parade back to Khaleesi? He’s suffered through passive aggresive barbs from a detoxing Tyrion, an attack from Stone-Men and now capture at the hands of evil slave-trading pirates? No wonder Daenerys ditched him.

The camera seemed to linger on Bronn’s cut. Do the Red Viper’s daughters also tip their blades with poison?

Can’t say that I missed Daenery’s this week.

Watching The Queen of Thorns call out Cersei on impersonating Tywin by looking busy and writing notes was hilarious.

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About the author

Victor Stiff

Born and raised in Toronto, Victor has spent the past decade using his love and knowledge of the city to highlight and promote significant cultural events such as TIFF, The IIIFA awards, and the Anokhi Gala. He is an avid reader of Sci-fi and Horror and constantly sits through indie film marathons in rabid anticipation of the genre’s next great film auteurs. He also contributes sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews to www.zone-six.net

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