Game of Thrones has made headlines again with “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” a rocky Season 5 episode that features some great moments and some of the worst the show has seen. A great start at the House of Black and White leads into terrible sequence in Dorne, followed by hamfisted social commentary in King’s Landing and a questionable last scene at Winterfell.
Arya’s (Maisie Williams) progress with the Faceless Men continues to be a highlight of the show. The religion of the Many-Faced God and the wonderful set the show is using for their sanctuary had J and me terribly excited for what’s to come. Arya also sees some noticeable progress as she learns the way of Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) and the Waif (Faye Marsay). Of note, J and I speculate about Jaqen’s allusions to Arya and The Hound, implying perhaps that like his brother (The Mountain), Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) may not be as dead as we’d thought.
In a brief segment with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah (Iain Glenn), we see the two unlikely allies bond over losing their fathers before they’re captured by pirates, led by Malko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). We see some great dialogue from Tyrion here as he talks himself and Jorah out of a quick death. I question the likelihood that any pirates would dare cross Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) at this point, but I appreciate that they’re still on their way to Meereen, in a fashion.
We then spend a good chunk of our conversation mocking Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) excursion into Dorne. From the terrible choreography to the Sand Snakes’ half-baked plan to kidnap Myrcella (formerly Aimee Richardson, now Nell Tiger Free), this was a case study in poor writing. J attempts to explain some of the choices based on behind-the-scenes production constraints, but we both agree that the end result was laughably executed.
At King’s Landing, the show continues to do a disservice to Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) who has become a caricature of his own potential. His plot has been reduced to his sexual orientation and as a result he has lost his capacity to grow as a character in any meaningful way. It seems to be the driving force for the drama with Lancel (Eugene Simon) and the Sparrows at the Capital; J and I fear this may be a recurring theme in coming episodes.
Finally, we turn to the controversial final scene in the episode: Sansa and Ramsay’s wedding night. J and I have a heated back and forth over this moment, although we ultimately agree that Sansa’s storyline has suffered from poor writing. The way the showrunners have moved her from one dangerous situation to another has effectively killed her agency and character development despite her potential as a female lead.
Note that this podcast contains spoilers for Game of Thrones up to and including “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” This conversation also deals with subjects of sexual assault on the show so be please be aware of that.
Do you think Littlefinger was grooming Sansa for a future in manipulative politics? Did that last scene work for you? Let us know in the comments. And tune in to Stark Contrast next week where we’ll take on the next episode of Game of Thrones Season 5, “The Gift.”