Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
|"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
Theon watches in horror as Sansa Stark is raped by Ramsay Bolton. The scene caused much controversy.
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Jeremy Podeswa|
|Written by||Bryan Cogman|
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Cinematography by||Gregory Middleton|
|Editing by||Crispin Green|
|Original air date||May 17, 2015|
|Running time||54 minutes|
"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" is the sixth episode of the fifth season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 46th overall. The episode was written by Bryan Cogman, and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.
The episode polarized critics and viewers for its ending, depicting a violent sexual assault. It received a rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was the lowest-rated Game of Thrones episode until "The Bells" in season 8. Nonetheless, director Jeremy Podeswa received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for this episode.
The name of the episode comes from the House Martell motto Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, words about strength that are put in contrast with the fates of several main characters, especially women, as these take a turn for the worse.
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The Waif tells Arya that to pass the Game of Faces she must be able to convincingly lie. When a man brings her sick daughter to the temple, so that she can die in peace, Arya lies to her that she was ill like her in the past and gives her the temple's poisoned water to end her suffering. Jaqen takes Arya to a chamber where the Faceless Men store the faces of all the people that have died in the temple and tells her that she is not yet ready to become no one, but she is ready to become someone else.
Bronn and Jaime disguise as Dornish guards and infiltrate the Water Gardens to take Myrcella, but are attacked by Sand Snakes. Dornish guards, led by Areo Hotah, arrive and arrest both groups and Ellaria Sand
On the Valyrian peninsula
Tyrion tells Jorah that his father Jeor is dead. They are captured by slavers, led by Malko. After hearing that Daenerys reopened the fighting pits, Tyrion convinces the slavers to take them to Meereen, saying that Jorah is an accomplished warrior.
In King's Landing
Petyr Baelish arrives in King's Landing and tells Cersei that Sansa will marry Ramsay at Winterfell. He asks her to lead the Knights of the Vale to destroy the victor, after Stannis’ attack on the Boltons and be named Warden of the North. She agrees. Olenna arrives and tells Cersei that her actions have put the Lannister-Tyrell alliance in peril, but Cersei tells her that she had nothing to do with Loras’ arrest. At Loras' holy inquest, the High Sparrow interrogates Loras and Margaery, who both deny that Loras is homosexual. Olyvar testifies against Loras and the Faith Militant arrests Loras and Margaery.
Theon takes Sansa to the Godswood, where she is married to Ramsay. At his chambers, Ramsay orders Sansa to undress and rapes her, to Theon's horror.
This episode was written by the series producer Bryan Cogman, who has written at least one episode in every season of the show. It contains some content from George Martin's novel A Feast for Crows, chapters Arya II, The Queenmaker, Cat of the Canals, and Cersei X and A Dance with Dragons, chapters the Ugly Little Girl, Tyrion X, and the Prince of Winterfell, though series consultant Elio Garcia describes the portrayal of some of these events as "vastly different" from the original.
Like other episodes this season, it also included content and storylines written specifically for the television adaptation. Myles McNutt of A.V. Club points out that this changes the way the viewers interpret the showrunner's decisions. When describing his opinion of the decision to show Sansa raped by Ramsay on their wedding night (a storyline given to a different character, Jeyne Poole, in the books), he compares the scene to a similar one between Daenerys and Drogo in season one (which was consensual in the novels): "While we could frame the shifted events of Dany and Khal Drogo’s wedding night in light of where we knew Dany’s story was going, here we have no idea what this does to Sansa’s storyline." Most critics questioned the decision to show Sansa raped on her wedding night, but, as Business Insider pointed out, "The book version of this scene was much, much worse," with Theon ordered, graphically, to participate in Jeyne's mistreatment. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, show writer Bryan Cogman was asked about the decision to decrease the level of violence, responding, "Lord no. No-no-no-no-no. No. It’s still a shared form of abuse that they have to endure, Sansa and Theon. But it’s not the extreme torture and humiliation that scene in the book is."
However, in other ways, the episode veers back to book canon: "Whereas Loras’ arrest suggested the show was replacing Margaery's alleged dalliances with his homosexuality, here the show gradually builds to Margaery's arrest for lying on her brother's behalf."
"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" was watched by 6.24 million American viewers during its first airing. With Live+7 DVR viewing factored in, the episode had an overall rating of 8.79 million viewers, and a 4.5 in the 18-49 demographic. In the United Kingdom, the episode was viewed by 2.285 million viewers, making it the highest-rated broadcast that week. It also received 0.126 million timeshift viewers.
Critical reviews and controversy
The episode received polarized reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the episode received a 54% approval rating from 50 critics with a rating average of 7.55 out of 10, the lowest of any episode in the series at that time. The critical consensus states: "Unbalanced storytelling and unnecessary, excessive brutality add up to disturbing viewing, although 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken' still includes enough plot revelations to offer hope for future episodes." The majority of professional criticism concerned the decision to have Ramsay rape Sansa on their wedding night, with most critics describing the scene as gratuitous and artistically unnecessary. "This grim scene was difficult for the show to justify," said Charlotte Runcie of The Daily Telegraph. Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair added, "this rape scene undercuts all the agency that’s been growing in Sansa since the end of last season. [...] I’d never advocate that Game of Thrones (or any work of fiction) shy away from edgy plots out of fear of pushback or controversy. But edgy plots should always accomplish something above pure titillation or shock value and what, exactly, was accomplished here?" Christopher Orr wrote in The Atlantic, "I continue to be astonished that showrunners Benioff and Weiss still apparently believe that their tendency to ramp up the sex, violence, and—especially—sexual violence of George R.R. Martin’s source material is a strength rather than the defining weakness of their adaptation." Myles McNutt of The A.V. Club wrote, "The issue with the show returning to rape as a trope is not simply because there have been thinkpieces speaking out against it, and is not solely driven by the rational concerns lying at the heart of those thinkpieces. It’s also that the show has lost my faith as a viewer." Writers from Vanity Fair, The Mary Sue and The Daily Beast all disapproved of the decision to use Sansa's victimization as a motivating agent for Theon, saying that the scene undermined Sansa's character development: "Was it really important to make that scene about Theon's pain?" wrote Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair.
Other critics responded positively to the scene. Sean T. Collins of Rolling Stone wrote: "[B]y involving a multidimensional main character instead of one introduced primarily to suffer, the series has a chance to grant this story the gravity and seriousness it deserves. Sarah Hughes of The Guardian wrote: "I have repeatedly made clear that I’m not a fan of rape as a plot device – but the story of Ramsay and Sansa’s wedding was more than that. [...] The writers are walking a very fine line here. They handled it well tonight, telling a gothic tale of innocence sacrificed". Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post wrote that the scene "managed to maintain a fine balance, employing a dignity and care for the experiences of victims that Game of Thrones has not always demonstrated."
Some critics questioned why this scene in particular should generate outrage when similar scenes have not. Sara Stewart of the New York Post pointed out that the rape and sexual abuse of both female and male characters is typical for Game of Thrones: "Why are we suddenly so outraged about the rape of Sansa Stark, when this show has served up a steady diet of sexual assault and violence against women since its first season began?" Cathy Young of Reason magazine, writing in Time noted what she calls a lack of complaint in response to the sexual mistreatment of male characters in earlier seasons, specifically the literal emasculation of Theon Greyjoy and the sexual assault of Gendry.
Criticism of the scene has not extended to the quality of the acting. Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair wrote, "And if we can say one positive thing about that scene it's that Allen nailed his performance. Theon's horror mirrored our own and the camera—focusing on his reaction—let our minds fill in the blanks." Sophie Turner defended the scene as an artistic challenge for herself as an actor, saying, "When I read that scene, I kinda loved it. I love the way Ramsay had Theon watching. It was all so messed up. It’s also so daunting for me to do it. [...] I think it's going to be the most challenging season for me so far, just because it's so emotional for her. It’s not just crying all the time, like seasons 2 or 3, it’s super messed up." She had since gone on to interview for the DailyMail about it and that the scene had inspired her to work for organizations to stop violence against women and to help underprivileged girls and women in Africa in similar situations. Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) agreed, referring to Turner's performances this season as "absolutely amazing."
Some viewers, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, announced that they would stop watching the show because of this scene. According to Business Insider, this scene and increased use of streaming services are likely reasons why ratings dropped from 6.2 million viewers for this episode to 5.4 million for the next episode, "The Gift." However, there is some question as to how much of this drop is attributable to its Memorial Day weekend air date. Rebecca Martin of Wetpaint maintains that the air date was probably the only reason for the decrease in ratings. The season two episode "Blackwater," which also aired on Memorial Day, also suffered a notable drop in ratings. No episode was aired on Memorial Day weekend in either season three or season four. Whatever the reason, the ratings for the episode after "The Gift," "Hardhome," were higher than those of both previous episodes.
Awards and nominations
|2015||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series||Jeremy Podeswa||Nominated|||
|Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series||Gregory Middleton||Nominated|
|Outstanding Production Design for a Fantasy Program||Deborah Riley, Paul Ghirardani, Rob Cameron||Won|
|2016||ADG Excellence in Production Design Award||One-Hour Single Camera Fantasy Television Series||Deborah Riley||Won|||
|Canadian Society of Cinematographers||TV Series Cinematography||Gregory Middleton||Nominated|||
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