This week on Game of Thrones… well, you probably heard about it.
Opening credits – no Daenerys or Brienne this week, but at least we’ve got Bronn and Jaime! Adventure Bros!
We begin in Braavos, where Arya is washing bodies again. Once again, she wants to know what they do with the bodies after, but Shona from Doctor Who won’t tell her. She just says that Arya will know when it’s time. Arya also wants to play “the game of faces”, which she failed previously. Shona gives her some backstory and then asks Arya if she was lying – the point is that Arya needs to learn how to lie for this face game of theirs.
At night, Jaqen wakes her up and asks who she is. He asks questions and hits her every time she lies. Yeah, he catches every single lie. Arya is not yet convincing enough. Interestingly, no matter how many times she says she hated the Hound, he keeps slapping her.
Meanwhile, Tyrion and Jorah are hanging out on the beach, out of food. They bicker and Tryion tells him why he came across the Narrow Sea in the first place, namely that he killed his father and had to hide. Tyrion also talks about meeting Jorah’s father at the Wall, and this is where Jorah finds out that his father is dead, murdered by his own men.
And we’re back to Braavos. A man brings his sick daughter so she can die in peace. Arya lies to her about being sick when she was her age and then gives her some poisoned water to put her out of her misery. Impressed, Jaqen leads her to a chamber where they store the faces of everybody who died there. Is that where they get their faces from? And if so, is that related to my Doctor Who theory that regenerations come from the images stored in a Galifreyan supercomputer and that’s why the Twelfth Doctor looks exactly like an emperor the Tenth Doctor met? Probably related. Anyway, Jaqen says that Arya isn’t ready to “become no one”, but she’s ready to become someone else.
And let’s check back in with Tyrion and Jorah. Jorah talks about why Daenerys is so great, and Tyrion reasonably points out that the ability to raise dragons doesn’t make a leader. “A woman who has not spent a single day of her adult life in Westeros becomes the rule of Westeros.” And then they’re captured by slavers. The leader, Malko, is played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who you may recognize as Mr. Eko from LOST or Adebisi from OZ. He’s great. Malko is ready to kill Tyrion and sell his penis. Tyrion convinces him that you can’t just sell a severed penis and convince somebody it’s from a dwarf! Also, he notes that Jorah is a great champion who could clean up in the fighting pits of Meereen.
Baelish arrives in King’s Landing and Lancel and the Sparrows immediately confront him about the new status quo. He takes the closing of his brothels pretty well. But then he meets with Cersei and questions the wisdom of giving the Sparrows this much power. Then he tells her about how Sansa Stark is going to marry Ramsay Bolton and take control of the North. He leaves out his part in this, of course. I’m not sure Baelish even knows whose side he’s on at this point. He suggests that she let him lead the knights of the Vale to wipe out whoever survives the Bolton / Baratheon war. Cersei agreed and demands Sansa’s head.
Dorne! Jaime and Bronn move in to get Myrcella at the same time the Sand Snakes attack. It’s a really well-choreographed fight scene that’s easily the high point of the episode. I love Bronn trying to swordfight one of them while another just keeps hitting him with a whip. Finally, the palace guards arrive to break up the fight and arrest everybody, including Ellaria.
Olenna returns to King’s Landing to spring Loras. First, she warns Cersei that this is putting their alliance in jeopardy, but Cersei promises they won’t be able to convict him. I honestly can’t tell if she means it or not – I get the feeling that she thinks the High Sparrow is overreaching. Especially since the Tyrells are likely to cut off funding if this keeps up.
And that brings us to the trial. Well, an inquest really. Loras pleads innocent and then the High Sparrow calls Margaery to the stand. She backs up her brother’s claims of staunch heterosexuality. Then they bring in the surprise witness, the squire that Loras banged earlier this season. They take both Loras and Margaery into custody, and there’s nothing Tommen can do about it. Cersei may have accidentally turned King’s Landing into a theocracy…
Now it’s off to Winterfell for the rest of the episode. And here our troubles begin. Myranda washes Sansa before her wedding, including washing the black out of her hair. She looks like the old Sansa again. Myranda starts to threaten her and tell her about all the women Ramsay killed. Sansa throws her out and declares she’s not afraid. And then it’s the wedding – a small affair in a darkened room.
And then Ramsay takes Reek and Sansa back to his room where he makes Reek watch as he rapes Sansa. That’s how the episode ends, and if you don’t want to hear any more about that, bail out now and I’ll see you next week. I don’t blame you, because I don’t want to say any more about it.
–I’ll lead by saying I thought it was mostly a good episode. Really good. The Sand Snake fight was fantastic. Cersei (unwittingly?) giving the High Sparrow far too much power, Margaery’s arrest, Mr. Eko, the ongoing question of Baelish’s endgame. This was all good! I was super pumped about this episode. And then we get to the end.
I’ve already established that my interest in the Boltons is near zero, but bringing Sansa and Baelish into it helped. So this is not just me never wanting to see Ramsay and Reek again, but this show needs to stop using rape as a storytelling device.
That’s a big card to play, and I think it has to be done very carefully and sensitively. Game of Thrones does it over and over, and it’s generally consequence-free and almost never important to the story. (I get that Ramsay is bad – I watched him torture somebody for a full season.) They’re doing it cheaply and tastelessly, and it’s becoming a giant stain on what is an otherwise excellent show.
And here’s the thing that makes me crazy. Well, one of them. In this case, the scene focuses on Reek’s reaction. He’s upset about having to watch a sexual assault. Poor Reek! Violence against women (sexual or otherwise) shouldn’t be used as a device to motivate a male character or just inflict Man Pain. The story here shouldn’t be about how Reek feels. And yes, I understand not wanting to show the act. It would be exploitative, upsetting, and tasteless. So if their concern was how to block the scene sensitively then maybe the solution is to not have a rape scene. (And it should be noted that, in the books, Sansa wasn’t raped. But only because this storyline went to a different character who isn’t on the show.)
Maybe there will be consequences and there are justifiable story reasons, but their track record in this area is not great. I’m not bailing on the show, because the things I love still outweigh the things I don’t, but if this keeps up, I’m not going to keep recapping it. And I don’t mean this as a threat because nobody cares. (If HBO isn’t going to put me on the comp list for The Leftovers, a less popular show that I consistently gush about, they could care less what I think about Thrones.) I just don’t want to recap another “shocking” rape scene. When I recap a show, I have to watch it multiple times. It takes up more space in my head. And I don’t want to deal with that. If this is where we’re going, I can’t give them any more of my time and interest than it takes to watch the show.
I’m sorry to harp on this once again. I don’t want to be mad at the show, and I don’t think they’re bad people. I just think they need to be a lot more careful in this area and maybe actually address the issue. I am the last person who wants creative people to make changes because of fan pressure, but if the showrunners would just acknowledge the outrage and just indicate that they’re taking it to heart. This isn’t people unhappy with the direction of the show or frustrated ‘shippers. This is an audience that would very much like for the show they love to stop employing rape for shock value, and a mea culpa would go a long way.
I’ll be back next week and hopefully I won’t have to be strident again.