It seems to me that last week's title, 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" would be far better applied to this week's episode, in which half the cast have been imprisoned against their will.
Sansa, for starters, is definitely not broken. She is traumatised, in pain and suffering, but far from broken. She went along with Littlefinger's plan because she wants her home back, but she takes no time at all deciding this level of abuse isn't worth it and she needs to get out. She knows that guilt-tripping Theon is her best chance at signalling for help, so she works on him as best she can, while also needling Ramsey about his position in an attempt to destabilize the Bolton household. She has always had that fire - witness her nearly pushing Joffrey off the battlements in season 1 - but now she is far more able to translate it into some kind of action. Where she used to wait for someone to rescue her, now she will bully Theon until he does. (She weeps at Ramsey's torture of her servant, but who wouldn't?).
Gilly, while not currently a prisoner other than by circumstance, is another survivor of years of abuse. In her case, she's tragically despairing of the idea there might be help for her, but determined to protect her son, and also choosing to have sex with someone for the first time in her life. I can't decide if Ser Alliser's warning to Sam that he was running out of friends was a deeply chilling threat, a rather touching genuine warning about the behaviour of others, or both at the same time. Probably both. I think Gilly and Sam need to get away from Castle Black.
Margaery is a little closer to cracking, but she still has enough of a hold on herself to tell Cersei what's what (and not eat anything brought by Cersei - very wise). The Sand Snakes' response to imprisonment is rather different, but then, they have Bronn and his lovely singing voice to entertain them. I was so relived Bronn got hold of that antidote - I really hope it's genuine. With Tyrion increasingly depressed, Jaime distracted by his family crisis and Varys nowhere to be seen, we need him and his snark very badly!
Cersei herself has finally fallen foul of her own colossal stupidity. Granted, she will have assumed that Olenna wouldn't accuse her and Jaime because if Tommen isn't king, Margaery isn't queen, and she doesn't know Olenna and Littlefinger killed Joffrey because she's genuinely convinced Tyrion did. But Lancel was right there the whole time. I suspect Cersei, in contrast to the other ladies in this episode, will not react well to imprisonment.
Meanwhile, moving on to our prisoners in Essos, I am jumping for joy because things are happening! I've always liked Ser Jorah, but I really felt his every emotion in this episode, from his tentative hope that he might see Danaerys, to his determination to get to her, to that wonderful run to see her when he realises she's actually there. The hope on his face and then his enthusiastic slaughter of a bunch of extras so that he could stand in front of her was brilliant television. Plus, I'm an absolute sucker for stories about gladiators. Emulate Gladiator, make Juliette happy.
And then a really significant and truly exciting moment - Danaerys' storyline has finally intersected with the rest of the show. Granted, Ser Jorah was in contact with Varys and Robert in season one, and Ser Barristan walked out of King's Landing in season one and into Essos in season three, but this is the first time Dany has come face to face with someone from the rest of the story. Tyrion must be the most well traveled character in the series, having been all the way up to the Wall, down to King's Landing and across to Essos, and he knows far more about what's going on than anyone else, so I'm really excited to see where this goes. Hopefully Dany will accept Tyrion and forgive Ser Jorah - she desperately needs better advisers than Daario 'Lets just kill everybody!' Naharis.
It's taken a while, but things are finally really starting to happen in season five. I'm excited for next week!
Bits and pieces
- My other objection to the episode title is that it's so bland and over-used it borders on meaningless. Just off the top of my head it could be an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Star Trek: Voyager...
- I cried when Maester Aemon died. The Night's Watch do an excellent line in solemn funerals.
- Ghost! Ghost is still alive! I'd almost forgotten about him.
- I like Stannis more and more with every passing episode. Melisandre really doesn't know him at all if she thinks he'll hurt Shireen (and I noticed she mentioned Robb and Joffrey but not the other name from her blood-letting ritual, Balon Greyjoy, trying to cover up the fact that the show seems to have temporarily abandoned the Greyjoy storyline).
- I'm really glad we're seeing so much of the Queen of Thorns this season.
- I'm not wild about the pretty pink princess dresses Myrcella keeps being put in. I get it, she's young, sheltered and vulnerable (and literally a princess) but that level of pink is just too much, and neither the colour nor style look anything like anything else on the show. But I may be projecting a bit there, and transferring my annoyance at the use of frilly pink dresses in other shows onto this one!
- Myrcella is quite interesting though, in this episode about imprisonment, as she doesn't realise she's imprisoned. We don't know enough about Trystane to know whether she'd be better off left alone if she's happy, or if the threat sent to Cersei is an indication she should get out before she ends up in a position like Sansa. The framing of the image above is especially effective - Jaime may be in a much nicer prison than Bronn and the Sand Snakes, but he knows that he and Myrcella as just as much behind bars as they are.
- Ser-Not-Appearing-In-This-Episode: Arya and Not-Jaqen, Missandei (though everyone else from Essos appeared), Roose Bolton (though everyone else at Winterfell appeared), Ellaria Sand (though some others from Dorne appeared). This episode got good coverage, and it was effectively done too - but perhaps that's another sign that things really are starting to pull together. Brienne and Pod appeared for all of two seconds, still watching for Sansa's signal (they should be employed as beacon-lighters for Minas Tirith). I wish we'd got some dialogue between them, if only for a bit of snark, as this episode was distinctly light on humour.
Maester Aemon: Egg, I dreamed that I was old...
Gilly: Am I hurting you?
Sam, clearly in a lot of pain, keeps this to himself and shakes his head because this is going to be worth it.
More forward movement than we've seen all season. Three and a half out of four direwolves the show really needs to scare up the budget to show us more often.
You can read lots more about Juliette Harrisson's thing for gladiators at her blog, Pop Classics.
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