Littlefinger….what is your endgame? You crazy man.
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, or, Burning Cersei, is the sixth episode of season 5. Gosh we’re already over half way through! Interestingly, this is the third episode to feature a house’s words as its title, the first being the very first episode Winter is Coming, and the second being the end of the first season Fire and Blood. Fun fact. Anyway. Whilst some argue that season 5 has been a bit slow, I think the biggest disappointment is some of the plot changes. Now, this isn’t a book-fan complaining because there are changes; this is a book-fan complaining because some of the changes are absolute crap. For example, Loras’ trial. I have already expressed how they have ruined this bad-ass knight’s character, but what the hell was the trial? Granted, the outcome is interesting, and leads itself into a book-based plotline. However, the way it was executed was absurd: let’s listen to this one lower-class brothel worker against the whole of the royal family. Squires may be required to bathe their knights, which is a perfectly plausible reason for seeing this birthmark. The whole scene just felt rushed for the sake of moving the plot along. And what will happen to OlyvAR now that he has confessed? The Sparrows are ridiculously militant – which means that they should probably kill or torture him (the latter being part of their confession technique, in a fashion). And what was OlyvAR’s motif for confessing? Perhaps Cersei (or maybe Littlefinger?) paid him off? Nevertheless, one man against the entire royal family with no real proof? Not even the Sparrows are that insane. Guess we will see how this plays out… We alsoOl once again got to see how wet Tommen is, bless him.
My next aggression is with the Sand Snakes, again. Bronn aptly sums it up: “oh, for fuck’s sake”. These daughters of Oberyn are just ridiculous. Book Sand Snakes, whilst equally annoying, do at least have some logic behind what they want to do – albeit flawed. These guys? No idea. Oberyn repeatedly said that in Dorne, they do not hurt little girls. What do the Sand Snakes want to do? Hurt Myrcella. I think. I don’t even know. What I do know is that fight scene was all a bit too silly. Yes, yes, we understand that these are your trademark weapons, you two-dimensional shits, but really? A whip? REALLY? And Obara, the spear one…Jesus it’s just a bit cringey really! And if that cut somehow festers and kills Bronn, I swear down…! They’re misguided, I get that, but to the extent that I just want them all to die – Ellaria included. The Martells are my favourite family…in the books, but now it just seems to be show-Doran I like. Their resilience, patience and cunning has been replaced by misplaced vengeance and bad acting. As a side note, the setting of the Dornish scenes, the Water Gardens, is a small palace just down the road from Dorne’s capital, Sunspear. Oh, also, how the hell did Jaime and Bronn sneak into the Martell’s PRIVATE gardens in blood stained uniforms? JUST as, coincidentally, the Sand Snakes were doing their…thing. God I’m angry.
Moving on. Tyrion appeared to be the voice of reason, raising many good points as to how Daenerys would probably suck at ruling in Westeros. Jorah’s luck seems to go from bad to worse; not only did he learn about the death of his father, but has also contracted greyscale and been captured. ‘Tis not a good day to be a Mormont (though not as bad as Stark….). If you remember, the reason why Jorah fled Westeros to Essos was because he sold poachers into slavery – so it’s a somewhat ironic twist of fate given the position he is now in. His father was Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jorah’s crimes brought dishonour to his family, much to his father’s disappointment. In fact, the sword that Jon wields, Longclaw, was originally Jorah’s before he left.
Some quite interesting parallels can be drawn between Cersei and Tywin in this scene. Firstly, we see that she has taken up residence in his old office (is she acting as Hand of the King now…?). Additionally, during her scene with Olenna, the Queen of Thorns (yay!), she uses the Jack Donaghy technique of making her opponent wait, mimicking Tywin’s letter writing performance. However, this doesn’t stop her from getting burned by both Olenna and Littlefinger!
Before we discuss the ending I thought that I would touch on the Faceless Men. Essentially, these guys are elite assassins. This makes me doubt the Waif’s (the other girl in the House of Black and White) story, as Faceless Men cost an arm and a leg to employ. Only the richest can afford them. They can be hired to kill anyone, but at a lofty price. Furthermore, there is a theory that the Jaqen we see here is not the same as the one Arya met before; rather, Jaqen is just one of many faces! Oooh!
The climax of the episode (no pun intended) saw an emotional end to Ramsay and Sansa’s dream wedding. Poor Sansa can’t catch a break. Her character has gone a long way since she was last at Winterfell – to the point where she is beginning to become a player. We saw how brilliantly she handled Myranda earlier in the episode. Whilst the consummation of the marriage was awful, I think that she knew what was coming (no pun intended). Now, I’m in no way saying that what we saw wasn’t rape; it was, and it was horrible. But I think that it is important to note that Sansa, to quote producer Bryan Cogman, “isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland.” It was horrible, unfair and quite emotional to watch (give Alfie Allen an emmy!) but she isn’t a silly little girl any more…she knew what to expect. The next question is, how will she react? I am just thankful that they changed this scene from the books, in which Ramsay makes Reek sexually…interact with his new wife (a cut character), which is extremely disturbing.
To conclude, it seems like episode most counterbalance one good scene with one bad. As I said before, I’m completely happy with a lot of the changes being made (you know, because my opinion matters), just not when they are replaced with flawed, badly written shite. Bring on episode 7, which looks a lot colder…
Some humanisation of Stannis!
This week’s episode, The Sons of the Harpy, certainly had its ups and downs. So let’s discuss the lower points before moving onto the arguably better aspects. Firstly, the Sand Snakes. What a load of monkey poo. The Sand Snakes are the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, with various women. In the books, there are eight in total, so you can see why Benioff and Weiss have cut that down a bit, which is fair enough. Naturally, they are pretty pissed off about Oberyn’s death, as is Ellaria Sand. I mentioned before about how Ellaria is partially seeming to take the role of Arianne Martell, who is Doran’s daughter and overall great character, sadly. So why was it a bad scene? Believe it or not, this is largely due to TV-stuff as opposed to “that didn’t happen in the book-stuff”. Book Sand Snakes are still bent on revenge, and filled with anger, so no real problem there. The problem was that their introductory scene was so bland that it was cringey. I think a mixture of bad acting and bad writing is to blame – the Sand Snakes themselves just seem extremely wooden, especially Obara and her bloody exposition. Yes, we understand; you’re the ‘tough one’. And Tyene is a mummy’s girl. Brilliant. Established. Game of Thrones is chocka-full of monologues – some of which are brilliant (Jaime in the bathtub) and some…are not so. This was certainly one of the latter. Ellaria too. She was great in Season 4, but seems to just be so awkward this season. Such a shame – the Martell’s are my personal favourite house, due to the likes of Oberyn, Doran and Arianne. Here’s hoping that we see more Doran action in the next few episodes to redeem this. This is perhaps one of the worst scenes in the series far (though not quite as bad as Yara’s rescue mission of Theon in S4 and Ramsay’s plot armour).
Moving on, to somewhere in the middle. We got to see another side to Margarey. Away with the façade of purity and kindness, is this her true face? It was certainly interesting to see the type of king that Tommen is – a bit of a wet wipe. Knock Joffrey all you want, but he would have sorted those religious fanatics good. Their whole ideology, combined with their violent approach, makes the seemingly docile High Sparrow even more terrifying. They represent the Faith Militant – an army that serve the Gods. We discussed last week how big religion is in Westeros, so if it were to come down to crown vs religion, I think we would see a close fight on our hands. Of course, Cersei describing a sinner hid behind gold…could very easily describe her too, couldn’t it?
Before we look at the closing scene in the episode, I think it’s important to note how often Rhaegar Targaryen was mentioned this episode, leading many fans to believe the truth behind a certain theory surrounding this character. By now, you should know all about how Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister), sparking Robert’s Rebellion. It all began at a tourney in Harrenhal. As Littlefinger explained whilst Sansa was in the Winterfell crypts, Rhaegar won the tourney. However, instead of presenting the traditional flower to his wife, Elia Martell (you raped her, murdered her etc.), he gave it to Lyanna Stark (who was with Robert Baratheon). Cue gasps. Rhaegar then kidnapped and raped Lyanna….that is, if you ask a supporter of the Baratheons and North. If you ask a Targaryen supporter, they will tell that Lyanna willingly ran off with Rhaegar; indeed, Barristan himself, a good friend of Rhaegar’s, states how he would go into the town disguised as a bard and sung to the poor folk. Here’s where the theory kicks in. As this is all just a theory, there are no spoilers, but if you want to bypass this anyway JUST IN CASE then please skip down until after the next image.
I might well have mentioned this before, but there is a huge fan theory that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark are Jon Snow’s real parents, making Jon a Targaryen. There a numerous reasons and nods to this, but I’ll just go over the most basic. Firstly, as Stannis points out in this episode, Ned Stark was extremely honourable (to a fault), so it seems extremely unlikely that he would be unfaithful to his wife and sleep with another women. Secondly, after the Battle of the Trident, in which Robert kills Rhaegar, Ned travels to Dorne to a place called the Tower of Joy. After killing what remains of Aerys’ Kingsguard (excluding Barristan and Jaime), Ned enters the tower to find his sister, Lyanna, dying in a bed of blood. She keeps saying “promise me, Ned. Promise me.” In his point of view chapters, Ned never reveals what he was made to promise, but many fans believe that Lyanna gave birth to Jon and died. Ned promised not to tell anyone the baby was hers because Robert would have had Jon killed. Hence, Ned, sacrificing his honour, pretends Jon in his. There is a wonderful extract in the book detailing the events at the Tower of Joy, which can be watched/listened to here.
Righty right. That last scene. I’ve expressed before my feelings towards Emelia Clark’s ok-ish acting (though she has gotten better), but on top of that, Daenerys has very little idea of how exactly to rule. Can you fault her? Kind of. She had queen-hood thrust on her quite literally in the form of Drogo’s penis. After his death, she makes it her mission to liberate the slave cities in the aptly named Slaver’s Bay. But, ultimately, she has no idea what she is doing. Her people are too many to feed, and she has a massive uprising in the city. She completely underestimates her enemy – an enemy at her front door. Which resulted in the climax of this week’s episode. The Sons of the Harpy are a rebellion group that seems to be comprised of ex-slave Masters and even some ex-slaves, who do not want to live in Dany’s new world. Whilst the final scene of this episode did provide us with some fancy sword fighting, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the outcome. The Unsullied are supposed to be the greatest warriors…well, ever. With such strict discipline, they become master fighters. Even when outnumbered like they were in this episode, they still kick-bum. Arguably, fighting with a spear in such a confined place may be what led to their downfall, but I still think that they should have had a better chance than they did. But then again, they lack ‘real’ combat experience – all they know is training. Whilst the Sons of the Harpy are made up of civilians, some of these may well have been pit-fighters, explaining their skill in battle. Nevertheless, what went down will certainly leave a certain khaleesi most angry. Most angry indeed! This brings us on to Barristan Selmy. Barristan the Bold is one of the greatest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. He has so many bad-ass accolades to his name, such as the time he singlehandedly snuck into a fortress after Aerys was kidnapped and rescued him. His skill and mentality reflect that of a typical Arthurian knight. Finally, we got to see him fight. Obviously now he is an old man, and was wearing very little armour, but he still held his own. Whilst his (and Grey Worm’s) fate is left unknown (unless you watch the preview for the next episode, in which it I spoiled in the first five seconds…), I think we can all agree that he fought brilliantly. They are both still very much alive in the books, however, so keep your little fingers crossed!
This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
Let’s kick off with the big new characters introduced in this first episode of the new season (squee). As the Game of Thrones cast is so big, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of who everyone is in relation to whom.
So here we go. Let’s start with arguably this season’s most prominent new character, the Red Viper himself, Oberyn Martell. The Martell’s are the presiding family over Dorne, located at the very south of Westeros. The lord of Dorne is Doran Martell, who suffers from gout, and is rarely seen in public as a result. The men of the Martell family are also known as ‘princes’, though this is just Dornish custom, and essentially has the same meaning as ‘lord’. Oh, Dorne is also where Myrcella (Joff’s younger sister) was sent in season 2, to be betrothed to Doran’s son. Oberyn is a fan favourite, as well as one of my own, and is often described as a ‘wild card’. He’s a sexual deviant, fathering many bastards, and hell-bent on seeking revenge for the death of his sister at the hands of Gregor Clegane, the Mountain. His sister was Elia Martell, who was married to good old Rhaegar Targaryen before he ran off with Lyanna Stark. Marriage, guys; it’s complicated. Also Oberyn’s paramour, Ellaria (not to be confused with Elia!) is a bastard – her surname is Sand. Obvs King’s Landing frowns upon bastards at court, so this will be fun to watch.
We were also introduced to Styr, the Magnar (leader) of a group of Wildlings from a place called Thenn. He was the big Xerxes-looking guy, with the bald, scarred head and crazy eyes. Since Jonathan killed Orel (Mackenzie Crook) last season, the Wildlings south of the Wall don’t have a Scooby as to where they are going, so the Thenns have come to lend a not-so-helping hand. These guys are terrifying. Interestingly, in the books these guys aren’t cannibals, and are actually implied to be a lot more civil than the rest of the Wildlings, so it will be interesting to see the developments in their characters.
Now some recurring characters who we haven’t seen in a while! The drunk guy that was following Sansa is Dontos Hollard. Cast your minds back to the very first episode of season 2 – Dontos was the knight that was too drunk to fight at Joffrey’s name day, so Joff tried to kill him. Sansa spoke up and Dontos was made the serve as the court’s fool instead. He just stopped to say hello. At the Wall, Jon was seen speaking in front of a board of Night’s Watch members, including Alliser Thorne (the guy that made Jon’s life hell in the first season), and Janos Slynt, who was the old commander of the City Watch at King’s Landing, before Tyrion sends him to the Wall for betraying Ned. Oh Ned…. Lastly, in the climactic scene of the episode, we see an old friend of Arya’s, Polliver. This was the guy who killed Lommy and took Needle from Arya back in season 2. God that last scene was awesome. And has sprouted various Sandor Clegane-chicken memes. Rightly so.
One last shout out to a recast: Daario Naharis. He was introduced at the end of season 3, played by actor Ed Skrein, but was recast after Skrein went on to pursue other things. I’m still not sure how I feel about this – Michiel Huisman seems like a better actor, but I miss Skrein’s smarminess. And something about Huisman just makes him look like generic guard #5. Still, it’s early days to judge.
The title of the episode – “Two Swords” – comes from the opening scene, where we see Ned Stark’s fat off greatsword Ice melted down into two brand new Valyrian Steel swords. One went to Jaime, and the other….?
Overall this was a great first episode to what promises to be an outstanding season. The speech-less opening was very powerful, and symbolised the Lannister triumph over the Starks, whilst the end scene almost represented the opposite: one Stark sword is lost; another is gained. The Hound was hilarious, and you can real feel Tyrion’s growing disdain for his family. Also Jaime picked up on Cersei’s drinking. Well, someone needs to tell her. I didn’t really like how Oberyn’s ‘characteristics’ were almost spoon-fed to the audience though – oh, he’s in a brothel. Oh he’s obviously in an open relationship. Oh he’s bi too. Oh and he wants to kill every Lannister he sees? Still, Oberyn’s character goes a lot deeper than that, so maybe this was just a preliminary introduction to establish his nature: he will either kill you, or have sex with you. Soon we will see why House Martell is so freaking awesome. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.