The name of episode six, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” refers to House Martell’s words. But, it also refers to this episode’s journey for the Tyrion and Jorah, the Tyrells, Jaime and Bronn, Theon, and Sansa. In fact, most major characters have a hard time in this episode, even if they aren’t in outright danger. Given this is the end of Act 2 (in the fifth season story arc), their problems aren’t that surprising. Act 3, where the character’s biggest problems and the climax occur traditionally, is just about to begin. And, given tonight’s episode, it promises to be a bumpy ride.
Braavos: The House of Black and White
As Arya and the blonde girl (“Waif,” Faye Marsay) wash the bodies of the dead, Arya impatiently demands to know why they are cleaning the dead. Arya also demands to know when she will get to play the game of faces.
The Waif tells Arya that she has tried already and failed. Waif then asks Arya who she is. Arya replies, “No one.”
Arya turns that question on Waif, who replies with a test. Waif tells Arya:
“I am from Westeros, just like you. I am the daughter of a lord, just like you – except I was an only child, heir to his fortune. My mother died. My father and his new wife gave birth to a girl. My stepmother didn’t want any rivals for her precious daughter so she tried to kill me with poison. I found out. I sought help from the faceless men – and my father was widowed again. I’ve been serving them ever since. Was that true or a lie?”
Arya replies, “What?”
“Did you believe every word I said?” asks Waif.
Arya is clearly stunned. She didn’t expect to be conned. Determining that Arya’s ability to dissemble is still weak, Waif commands, “Get back to work.”
While Arya sleeps, Jaqen H’ghar comes into her chamber and asks her who she is and where she came from. When she tells Jaqen her real story, he slaps her and tells her she lies. This happens over and over again. Until Jaqen finally tells her that she is lying about wanting to be faceless and lose her identity.
Incidentally, Arya reveals that she didn’t kill the Hound and left him in the mountains to suffer and die because she hated him.
Arya tells Jaqen that she doesn’t want to play the “stupid game” anymore. Jaqen replies they never stop playing.
Later, Arya is scrubbing the floors when a weary man comes into the House of Black and White and sets a girl with violet bruises circling her eyes down by the pool.
The man has taken this girl, his daughter, to every healer in Braavos and spent every penny he has. She suffers every day of her life. The man just wants his daughter’s pain to end.
Arya walks over to the girl, attempts to console her, and lies. She tells the girl about how Ned prayed to the Many Faced God and how drinking the water in the pool healed her. Arya says that she has since devoted her life to the Many Faced God.
Jaqen watches from a distance as Arya gives the girl “the gift.” Perhaps he is impressed by her compassion or perhaps by her ability to lie so convincingly. Either way, Jaqen decides Arya is ready for the next step.
Later, Jaqen finds Arya in the “morgue” washing the sick girl’s corpse. He leads Arya down into a huge room with massive columns that store faces, presumably of all those who drank the water.
As Arya admires the masks, Jaqen warns her that “a girl is not ready to become no one” (and presumably wear a mask). Jaqen does, however, say that Arya is ready to become somebody else.
Jorah and Tyrion
Having lost their skiff, Jorah and Tyrion are now wandering, hungry, and irritable. As Jorah washes his hands, we see that Jorah’s greyscale is spreading. The two men begin to talk as Jorah finally succumbs to bored Tyrion’s demands for conversation.
Jorah finally asks why Tyrion travelled to Pentos in a crate. Tyrion explains how he killed his father. He also mentions that he met Jorah’s father, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Tyrion accidentally reveals that Jorah’s father is dead. In that moment, Jorah’s conflicted feelings about his father rise to the surface.
Jorah says little, but his voice thick with emotion, he demands to know how his father died.
Jorah can’t reveal the pain this news causes him. After Ned caught Jorah selling slaves, Jorah’s relationship with his father collapsed. But he isn’t going to discuss this with his captive.
Later on, Jorah and Tyrion – the two advisers — get philosophical.
Jorah tells Tyrion how seeing Daenerys give birth to the dragons cured him of his cynicism. This is a borderline religious experience for him.
Tyrion warns him that birthing dragons doesn’t mean Dany will be a great queen. Targaryens are notorious for being crazy. What if she conquers the world? Then what? A thousand years of peace and prosperity?
“First we have to conquer the world,” Jorah replies.
Even if Dany conquers Westeros, how will she understand its culture? “A woman who has not spent a single day of her adult life in Westeros becomes the ruler of Westeros, that’s justice?”
Jorah replies, “She’s the rightful heir.”
“Why because her father who burned living men for amusement was the king?”
Before Jorah can reply, he grabs Tyrion and tells him to be quiet. A slave ship is not far, down in the water.
The slavers find them. This is not good.
They evaluate Jorah’s strength by beating this half-starved man. They condemn Jorah to the rowing galleys of a ship. This is a veritable death sentence, since slaves who rowed all day did not live long.
As Wikipedia describes the rower’s fate, “Galley-slaves lived in unsavoury conditions, so even though some sentences prescribed a restricted number of years, most rowers would eventually die, even if they survived the conditions, shipwreck and slaughter or torture at the hands of enemies or of pirates. Additionally, nobody ensured that prisoners were freed after completing their sentences. As a result, imprisonment for 10 years could in reality mean imprisonment for life because nobody except the prisoner would either notice or care.”
Tyrion is to die immediately so they can sell his “dwarf cock,” which supposedly has magical properties.
Tyrion’s quick tongue gets the duo a temporary stay of execution. To get Jorah out of the galleys, Tyrion pitches Jorah as a great warrior and mentions that he killed a Dothraki in single combat.
(The slavers, incidentally, take Daenerys’ decision to reopen the fighting pit as a sign that the abolition against slavery is soon to fall if it hasn’t already.)
When Littlefinger arrives in King’s Landing and goes to his brothel, “Brother Lancel” of the Faith Militant greets him. Lancel warns him to tread carefully: “There is little tolerance for flesh peddlers in the New King’s Landing ((~25:00) .”
Littlefinger meets with Cersei, and he warns her that House Tyrell won’t tolerate the insult of having their heir arrested. Cersei continues to pretend she had nothing to do with Loras’ arrest, but notes that she is the insulted party given that her fiancé preferred the company of boys.
“One’s choice of companion is a curious thing,” replies Littlefinger, clearly meaning Cersei’s own incestuous choices.
Cersei doesn’t miss a beat and slams Littlefinger’s deceased wife, “House Aryn, for instance, thoroughly repellent women.”
Just when Cersei dismisses Littlefinger, he plays his gambit.
Littlefinger reveals that he has found Sansa alive and well and living at Winterfell.
Cersei is furious at the Boltons, but realistically the impoverished queen hasn’t the armies to retaliate against the Boltons or capture Sansa.
Littlefinger counsels patience. Stannis is about to attack the Boltons. Cersei should wait and then seize Winterfell from whomever survives.
Even if Cersei had the men, “Winterfell is a thousand miles away and the weather has already begun to turn.”
“That is why it is critical to strike soon while the victor is still licking his wounds,” Littlefinger advises.
Littlefinger offers the Knights of the Vale, who have training fighting in snow, to fight the victor of the Stannis-Bolton war. His price? If Littlefinger succeeds, he wants to be named Warden of the North.
Cersei agrees; she will speak to the king and have him issue a royal decree authorizing the mission.
Littlefinger professes he will not rest until a lion flies over Winterfell.
To which Cersei replies, “I will know that you’re a man of your word when I sees Sansa Stark’s head on a spike.”
Olenna Tyrell arrives in King’s Landing and pays Cersei a visit. The Queen of Thorns sees right through Cersei’s claim that she had nothing to do with Loras’ arrest.
Although Olenna threatens to pull House Tyrell’s financial support (which is all that is keeping King’s Landing afloat), Cersei won’t bend.
She smoothly distances herself by claiming she has no love for the Faith Militant and that she is only the queen mother.
Olenna comments that although she didn’t trust or like Tywin, he knew how to work with his rivals.
Cersei’s arrogant reply? “House Lannister has no rival.” Tough words from the family who only sits on the throne because of the Tyrell’s money.
The result? Cersei brushes off Loras’ arrest – she claims that it is only an inquest to see if the charges against Loras have merit. Olenna leaves, but I highly doubt that she is bent, bowed, or broken.
At the inquest, the High Septon probes Loras’s relationship with Renly Baratheon.
The High Septon calls Margaery to the stand. Although Margaery protests that she is the queen and not subject to the Faith’s authority, Olenna indicates she should cooperate. Big mistake.
The High Septon makes Margaery perjure herself. He forces her to swear that she has no knowledge of Loras’ homosexual relationships.
The High Septon brings in Olyvar, who testifies that he had a relationship with Loras. He weaves Margaery into his testimony. To “prove” his claims, Olyvar tells the Faith about a Dorne-shaped birthmark on Loras’ upper thigh.
The High Septon pronounces that there is enough evidence to bring a formal trail against Ser Loras and Queen Margaery. The Faith arrest Margaery as she screams for Tommen.
Olenna glares at Cersei as the faintest smile appears on the queen mother’s face, and the scene ends.
Princess Myrcella and her betrothed Prince Trystane Martell stroll in the Water Gardens. He tucks a flower behind her hair. These royal children are smitten. Trystane is eager to marry the lovely Princess Myrcella and plans to ask his father, Prince Doran, for permission.
Myrcella is concerned that he wants to marry her simply because it is arranged. Trystane reassures her that he cares.
Prince Doran and the head of his guard, Captain Areo Hotah, watch the scene from the prince’s balcony. He warns Captain Areo Hotah that they need to protect this lovely couple.
Disguised as Dornish guardsmen, Jaime and Bronn follow a herd of travelers into the Water Gardens. Meanwhile the Sand Snakes begin their assassination attempt, urged on by the grieving Ellaria.
The Sand Snakes sneak into the Water Garden just as Jaime and Bronn arrive. Jaime finds his “niece” making out with Trystane.
Jaime implores her to leave with him, but Myrcella hesitates. Her feelings for Trystane are too strong.
The Sand Snakes attack.
Just as one of them pulls a dagger on Myrcella, Aero and his men arrive and stop the fight. Aero commands Obara to drop her weapons. Aero marches all of them off but not without Bronn getting the last word, “You fight pretty good for a little girl,” he tells one of them.
The scene closes in Dorne as Aero’s men arrest Ellaria.
Sansa hears a knock on the door. It is Myranda, who claims Ramsay sent her there to bathe her.
Reluctantly, Sansa lets Myranda enter.
As Myranda washes the black dye out of Sansa’s hair, she warns Sansa not to let Ramsay get bored.
Myranda describes the fates of the women who bored Ramsay: Kyra, the blacksmiths daughter; Violet, the mother of Ramsay’s child; and Tansy, whom Myranda helped him hunt.
Sansa quickly figures out that Myranda is trying to frighten her: “And, how long have you loved him Myranda? Did you imagine that he would be with you forever, is that it? And then I came along and ruined it. I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home and you can’t frighten me ((47:00) .”
Sansa dismisses Myranda, telling her she can finish bathing herself.
Winter is now beginning. As the snow falls outside Sansa’s window, Theon arrives to escort Sansa to the Godswood for her marriage ceremony.
When Sansa refuses to take Theon’s arm, he pleads Ramsay will punish her.
To which, Sansa coldly (yet fairly) replies, “Do you think I care what he does to you?”
The Godswood is beautiful and sad. Lanterns illuminate the snow-swept pond where Catelyn once sat with Ned as he cleaned his sword.
The gathered witnesses appear to be mainly a dozen or so Bolton retainers.
Theon gives away Sansa and recites the traditional lines.
Roose asks, “Sansa do you take this man?”
“I take this man,” she replies.
Ramsay looks thrilled. Everything is falling into place.
Sansa and Ramsay arrive in the marital chamber. Dozens of candles glow everywhere in chandeliers and candelabras.
Ramsay asks if she is still a virgin. He proclaims the need for honesty. Ramsay says “We are man and wife now. We should be honest with each other.” And, then, Ramsay the charming psycho emerges.
Ramsay instructs Sansa to take off her clothes while he makes Theon watch.
Ramsay tears off the back of her gown and rapes Sansa as she cries out in pain. Theon doesn’t dare look away, but he cries the whole time.
In many ways, tonight’s episode is about the fall out of arranged marriages. As the showrunners note in the series extras, arranged marriages are primarily political institutions. This may be stretching it, but Cersei targets Loras because of his attitude towards his arranged marriage with the queen. It certainly didn’t help that he didn’t keep his relationships with men quiet.
Myrcella is in Dorne (and vulnerable) because of her arranged marriage to House Martell.
Ramsay rapes Sansa ostensibly to consummate their marriage. Sadly, this was not an unusual event in the Middle Ages.
Given the misery of unhappy arranged marriages, it’s interesting that the other two themes in tonight’s episode are slavery and death.