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This episode of “Game of Thrones” was slightly tepid. It began slowly and carried on in that fashion for the majority of its run time, with even more exposition than usual. Personally, I never felt fully immersed in this episode, because I didn’t really believe that the stakes were as high as they pretended to be. There were some interesting moments, such as Margaery’s (Natalie Dormer) arrest, so I’m intrigued to see how the episode is received, but those moments lacked any real impact for me because the interactions between the characters weren’t as exciting as usual, and the episode was just very dull. The final scene tried to capture the audience’s interest, and it was definitely controversial, but for me it didn’t quite do its job because there was nothing surprising about it. We all knew that Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) wedding night would end badly for her, so the fact that it did wasn’t that remarkable. It was a horrible scene, to its credit, but it only made me dislike the episode more.

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” began with a short visit to Braavos, which is probably the most disappointing thing about this season so far. The promise of seeing more of Westeros was very appealing before this season started, yet the time we’ve spent in Braavos and Dorne has been minimal at best, and they feel more like side attractions than the main event as a result (making both Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Arya (Maisie Williams) less compelling).

I didn’t particularly enjoy the opening sequence of this episode, because I think that right now Arya’s storyline is very weak – she doesn’t seem as strong as she did last season, which is understandable because she’s out of her depth, but in reality she’s been fending for herself for a long time and doing so with style, so to see her like this feels like a step back rather than a positive character development.

I love Arya; she’s one of my favourite characters, only matched by Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), Jon Snow (Kit Harington), and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), so to see her devolve as she’s doing right now is very disenchanting. She’s becoming ‘no one’ on the show, which has the potential to be fun in the future, but right now her character is in a state of transition and she’s losing what made her so awesome in the first place. If she stops being sassy and vengeful then she may as well stop appearing on this show, because an assassin without an interesting cause is just another extra on “Game of Thrones”. I don’t want to be too critical, because I believe that she has somewhere interesting to go and will become as likeable as ever very soon, but at this stage of her development she’s quite boring, and she doesn’t light up the screen as she has done in the past.

When Arya is on screen we’re meant to feel slightly confused, because that’s how the character is feeling and we are supposed to be able to relate to her. That feeling permeates through every scene in Braavos, which is good, but rather than filling me with a sense of wonder and intrigue, it makes me feel frustrated and tired. Nothing going on in Braavos makes me excited to see what’s going to happen next, because Arya’s story feels isolated and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, similar to how Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) arc has felt for the last couple of seasons.

It was okay for Arya’s story to feel like a side note last season, because her dynamic with The Hound (Rory McCann) was fascinating and the two actors played off of one another brilliantly. However, I don’t feel that same chemistry between Maisie Williams and Tom Wlaschiha (Jaqen H’ghar), so things in The House of Black and White often feel lost and out of place. Ultimately, I’m not sure whether I care about Arya’s storyline enough this season, because although I love her as a character, her arc is aimed solely at turning her into someone else.

I found the scene in which Arya finally got to go to the next stage of her training slightly strange, because I wasn’t clear why she’d earned passage into the other room after lying to the young girl and basically killing her. All she did was lie about her past and tell a girl to drink some water to put her out of her misery, anyone could’ve done that; to me that didn’t demonstrate that she’d given up the truth about her old life, because this felt like something that Arya would’ve done anyway, even before she devoted herself to the Many-Faced God.

The reveal of all the faces was cool as an idea, but it would’ve been nice if the lighting was a bit better so that we could see the intricacies on each individual face; that would’ve given the scene a bit more impact. We all want to know how the Faceless Men change their appearance, so it’s good to have that going on now, but seeing that the Faceless Men use the faces of the dead wasn’t all that illuminating. We still don’t know how they manage to ‘wear’ someone else’s face, or when that practice began, or why – it’s not as if they’re doing a Leatherface and sowing them on – so nothing all that interesting was told to the audience.

Miles from Arya, things went from bad to worse for Tyrion. It was interesting to see him reveal all to Jorah (Iain Glen), because he hasn’t really addressed the fact that he killed his father yet this season. However, that scene was lacking the kind of magic we’ve come to expect from Tyrion’s dialogue on this show, because the way that Peter Dinklage delivered his lines felt rushed and detached, almost as if he was bored. I found myself completely taken out of the episode by the fact that Dinklage’s delivery lacked any real passion or anger – this emotional void isn’t too surprising given where Tyrion is at as a character this season, but while recalling that moment I think he should’ve been at least a bit more emotional.

The scene ended with some extremely clunky exposition, which was probably there to make us feel something for Jorah before greyscale takes a hold of him, rather than to provide a meaningful plot point. Tyrion inadvertently told Jorah that his father was also dead, taking the conversation full circle, which was smart because it reminded the audience that not everyone is in the know in Westeros. Jorah has been worlds away from The Wall, and it’s not as if he can pick up a newspaper to see what’s been happening across the sea. However, it didn’t feel like it meant all that much for the wider story, because Jorah hasn’t mentioned his father once, or if he has it hasn’t been important enough to stay in my memory – I don’t see how knowing that his father is dead will impact his decision-making going forward; it’s not as if he was ever going to see him again anyway.

Still, this scene served as a reminder of what happens when you lose support as commander of the Night’s Watch, because that’s what spelled the end for Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo) at Craster’s Keep. I don’t know whether or not this was intended to forebode what’s to come for Jon Snow, but it seems strange that it would be mentioned in the episode after Jon divided the Night’s Watch by announcing that he intended to help the Wildlings survive the winter. I can’t see any other purpose for the information, other than the fact that it related back to what Tyrion was talking about, so personally I’m worried for our favourite bastard’s health.

The conversation that Tyrion had with Jorah about Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was markedly better than their previous one; it was nice to have Tyrion’s wisdom put to the floor, because he showed the kind of insight he could offer to Daenerys if he was allowed to be part of her council, and he also posed a lot of the questions that viewers are asking regarding how this series will end. Ultimately, I don’t think that it’s fair that Daenerys should conquer King’s Landing and take the Iron Throne – she’s been the ‘good guy’ of “Game of Thrones” since the very beginning, but now that Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is being set up as a hero, and a child sits on the throne, it’s unclear why we should support Daenerys if she plans to leave her enemies in ashes.

The people of Westeros might not want her to rule, and if she serves a just cause that should matter to her. There are plenty of potential rulers out there that could do just as good a job as her; Stannis would make a harsh but strong king, Jon Snow would make for an honourable and just king, Margaery would be a pragmatic and thoughtful queen, and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) could grow to become a great leader. Only one person can come out on top at the end of this, so it doesn’t seem right that any one of them should just kill the rest to win the prize. These are the kinds of thoughts that seem to be swimming around Tyrion’s head as he effectively asks Jorah, ‘and then what?’, regarding their journey to meet Daenerys.

Jorah’s character now has a clear direction – it was obvious that he was going to be a warrior in the fighting pits, it was on the trailer after all, but before now we didn’t know why. I initially thought that it would be a way of earning favour from Daenerys by killing one of her foes, but now that the season has moved on I can see what the writers are going for. There are a couple of possibilities for what part he could play given what we’ve already seen in the trailer: 1) He just so happens to be in the fighting pit when the Sons of the Harpy attempt to attack Daenerys, earning Daenerys’ trust again by saving her life. 2) He is in the fighting pits and Daenerys notices this, venturing down into the pits to face him which in turn forces the Sons of the Harpy’s hand. I like both of these possibilities, because Jorah is on the path to redemption, but taking Tyrion to Daenerys wasn’t the best way to get it. He needs to do something brave and noble, and now that opportunity presents itself.

Still, because Jorah has greyscale I’m not sure if this will go down how we all want it to. There has to be a purpose for the disease, but that purpose is unclear in the grand scheme of things. One idea I’ve had is that because he knows that he’s dying, he will sacrifice himself for Daenerys, which would end his story in a positive vain. If the writers want to tug at the heartstrings they could give Daenerys a moment where she speaks to Jorah before he dies and offers him her forgiveness (think Eponine (Samantha Barks) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) in “Les Miserables”), but that wouldn’t be necessary to get the point across. The only issue with it is that I’m not sure where Tyrion fits in, which matters a hell of a lot more than whether or not Daenerys pardons Jorah.

Elsewhere, Littlefinger arrived in King’s Landing, only to be greeted by a stern warning from Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon). I said in an earlier review that Littlefinger’s head was on the chopping block, because he’s planted enemies at every turn. He might speak as though he’s in control, but in reality he has Cersei (Lena Headey), the Boltons, and the Faith Militant who would probably like to see him dead, and I don’t think he’ll be able to juggle them all. That theory was only reaffirmed by Littlefinger’s quick conversation with Lancel, and particularly by the antagonistic line, ‘we both peddle fantasies, mine just happen to be entertaining’. It didn’t seem necessary for Littlefinger to provoke Lancel in that way, given the stakes he’s playing with, and it felt like a mistake he couldn’t afford to make. I could see Littlefinger manipulating Cersei and getting what he wants, strutting through King’s Landing as though he’s just won the World Heavyweight Championship, only to be stabbed in the back by Lancel.

I really missed King’s Landing last week, because the political intrigue and cryptic dialogue always reminds me of the calibre of the show that I’m watching, as each line is delivered perfectly, and feels as though it’s layered in deceit. Seeing Lena Headey and Aidan Gillen play off against one another once again, (it’s been a while), was awesome, and it’s something that “Game of Thrones” has missed as its characters have spread around Westeros in previous seasons.

I don’t know what Littlefinger’s plan is here, I wish I did because I feel like I’m missing something obvious, but I believe that he wants Sansa to survive. I don’t know what he hopes to gain by telling Cersei of her whereabouts, because I feel like he could’ve twisted it slightly differently so that she’d still name him Warden of the North, without having to put Sansa in danger. Still, I’m sure that all will be revealed in time, and that it will be worth the wait – when Littlefinger is involved it invariably is.

The Dorne situation got a lot more exciting this week, as we finally got to see Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) in action, and we learnt a bit more about her motivations. She actually cares for Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian), and by all accounts she isn’t having that bad a time of it. She’s a young girl enjoying her time in the sun, care free and in love, living a normal life. However, that doesn’t mean that Jaime was foolish to go on a rescue mission to save her, because if he hadn’t intervened she’d probably be dead! I have to say that I really didn’t like this scene, because it was incredibly convenient that the Sand Snakes made their move just as Jaime arrived to take Myrcella away; it was as if they’d organised it just so that the audience could see Jaime doing the right thing for his child.

It was cool that the Sand Snakes finally did something, because after six episodes you’d hope that they’d stop twiddling their thumbs, but the fight scene didn’t last nearly long enough for my liking, and the stakes never felt that high. The story in Dorne hasn’t developed at all yet, so it was far too early to kill off all of the Sand Snakes – one could’ve died to spur the others on, but I never believed they’d all die, because there’d have been no point in introducing them in the first place! I didn’t believe that Jaime would die either, because it feels as though he has at least one heroic moment left in him, and that hasn’t arrived yet.

Nevertheless, there is a chance that the fight produced a casualty, because Bronn (Jerome Flynn) was cut by one of the Sand Snakes. It looked innocuous, but we know from previous experience that Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) laced his blades with poison before battle, that’s how he managed to ensure The Mountain’s (Hafthór Júlíus Björnsson) death after all. It isn’t too much of a stretch to think that Bronn could now face a similar fate, because why else would he get such a minor injury in the fight? I don’t want Bronn to die, because he’s a funny character, which are few and far between on this show right now (most of the comic relief characters are either dead or in extremely depressing situations – think Tyrion and Podrick (Daniel Portman)), but I think he’s had his time and we will see him succumb either next week or the week after.

The most interesting character in the episode was Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), who lights up the screen whenever she’s present. In this episode she was so blunt and forthright, which on “Game of Thrones” is incredibly endearing; her conversation with Cersei was enjoyable on a number of levels, as the dialogue between the two demonstrated a stark contrast in attitude. For every word Cersei speaks another ten are implied, but Olenna says exactly what she’s thinking. Her line – ‘what veil’ – regarding the threats she was putting to Cersei was just brilliant, and it let us all know exactly what she’s about.

The funny thing about this scene was that Cersei acted as though she had all the power; she thought she was on top and looked down on Olenna, but the audience knows that you ignore Olenna at your own peril. Cersei was unknowingly talking to the killer of her son, yet she treat her like an old woman that needed to go back home!

Despite the fact that I enjoyed that scene, it didn’t do a very good job of convincing me that Loras (Finn Jones) would make it through his hearing unscathed. It was obvious that things weren’t going to go well for him, given the ferocity of Cersei and Olenna’s conversation. The back and forth was great, but its content was slightly hollow for the viewer, because the threats being made needed to be backed up by the events that followed. If Loras had simply been set free then the conversation would’ve been rendered pointless, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense for a show that doesn’t have enough time to tell its story as it is.

The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) gave the episode a much needed shove in the right direction, as he arrested both Loras and Margaery, the former for being a homosexual and the latter for lying before the gods. That scene was great, because it made everything feel so much more urgent, as Margaery will now be at war with Cersei, presuming she’s set free. Cersei has caused all these problems, so the Tyrells aren’t going to be happy (another poor political move from Cersei Lannister, put another pound in the jar).

Cersei’s cockiness felt so out of place in this scene, because nothing good will come of this situation for her. Margaery’s separation from Tommen is likely to be temporary, because although she faces a trial, there’s no direct evidence that she was aware of Loras’ ‘crimes’ – I don’t think they have CCTV in Westeros. Furthermore, she’s let out a soft-talking beast in the form of The High Sparrow, and it’s only a matter of time before she becomes the object of his interest. Once he’s rounded up all the sinners in King’s Landing she’ll be what’s left, and she’ll be punished just as harshly. All he’s doing is saving the best for last!

The best scenes in the episode, whether you liked them or not, came from Winterfell. That might be a controversial thing to say, but it’s something that I firmly believe. It was nice that Sansa showed her guts by basically telling Myranda (Charlotte Hope) to piss off, because she’s needed that kind of scene this season so that she could come across as having a bit of agency. Sansa is playing her own game, she knows what these people are, so hearing that Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) is a monster shouldn’t change much. She showed her authority, which so many people were complaining about last week, so that was pleasing.

It was very annoying that Theon (Alfie Allen) didn’t tell Sansa the truth about Bran and Rickon (Art Parkinson), because he had ample opportunity to do so. I still don’t really understand Theon as a character, because although he’s been tortured and fears Ramsay to a degree that I doubt many people can comprehend, that shouldn’t entail that he will take even more torture. What doesn’t make sense to me is that he’s afraid of acting against Ramsay because Ramsay will hurt him, but Ramsay is hurting him anyway, so why not do something about it? Maybe he doesn’t trust Sansa to keep quiet, so he doesn’t want to tell her about her brothers, but it’s still incredibly infuriating.

The wedding was a good scene; the snowy scenery was mesmerising and the characters were glowing, bringing beauty to an otherwise bleak situation. Ramsay’s evil smile when the job was done was absolutely hilarious, he looked like he was doing a Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) impression, but it was still scary, because it let the audience know exactly what Sansa was in for when she got back to her chambers (as if any of us were holding out hope anyway).

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A lot has been said about the final scene of this episode, with certain people saying they’d give up on the show altogether, and others saying that that was an overreaction. I’m not interested in that debate – take it as you will, it wasn’t nice to watch but we don’t write the show. What I will say is that although I didn’t want to see it, I disagree with those who say that it wasn’t necessary for the plot. Rape isn’t a plot device, that’s not what I’m saying, but for a wedding to count in this universe it has to be consummated, so one way or another this scene had to happen for Littlefinger’s plan to progress. That’s all I have to say about that, because it isn’t a nice thing to try to write about, and if it offended people that is completely understandable.

I really do hope that the writers use that moment to propel Sansa forward, because if this ends up being another Theon situation I will be very very annoyed. I don’t want to see Sansa hurting for no reason, if she has to suffer I want her to get revenge and come out on top, even though this is “Game of Thrones” – please let this scene spell the beginning of the end for Ramsay.

If seeing Sansa being subjected to such vile treatment doesn’t make Theon a man again then I don’t know what will! He knows who he is, he said the words himself at the wedding, and it’s about goddamn time that he stood up to Ramsay and stopped being such a coward. Kill him for God’s sake! I want Ramsay dead, so if he doesn’t get flayed pretty soon by Stannis, Theon, or Sansa, I’ll lose it.

There was a lot of talking in this episode… A LOT. I’ve said already that I don’t mind episodes with an excess of dialogue, but this one went overboard. The balance wasn’t quite right, and there wasn’t enough to keep me engaged. The crazy finale made the episode memorable and got people talking, for better or worse (pun intended), and it gave the show a genuine villain again. I can only assume that the battle between Stannis and the Boltons will come before the end of the season, because everyone is going to want to see Ramsay die as soon as possible (which probably means that he’ll make it to the end). If it wasn’t for the controversial final scene I think that “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” would’ve been utterly forgettable and frankly quite boring, but the fact that that scene was controversial didn’t improve the episode as far as quality or enjoyment are concerned. I didn’t like this episode, and although it laid yet more groundwork for episodes to come, for me it was very disappointing.

5/10

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