Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
|"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
Theon is forced to watch in terror as Sansa is raped.
|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 mixed rating of 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest rating received to date by a Game of Thrones episode. 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.
Arya Stark continues her training with the Faceless Men, washing the bodies of those that die in the temple. She asks the Waif what they do with the bodies after they're clean, but the Waif tells her that she is not yet ready to know. Arya then asks how to pass the Game of Faces. The Waif hints that in order to pass, she must be able to convincingly lie. When Jaqen H'ghar comes to test Arya again, she tells him how she came to join the Faceless Men, but lies about several key facts. Jaqen is able to tell when Arya is lying, including when Arya claims that she hated Sandor Clegane. Jaqen tells Arya that she is lying not only to him, but to herself.
Some time later, a man brings his sick daughter to the temple so that she can die in peace. Arya talks to the sickly girl and lies about how she was ill like her in the past. Arya then gives the girl the temple's poisoned water to end her suffering. After she cleans the body, Arya is taken by Jaqen to a chamber underneath the temple, where the Faceless Men store the faces of all the people that have died in the temple. Jaqen tells Arya that she is not yet ready to become "no one", but she is ready to become "someone else".
Trystane Martell and Myrcella Baratheon walk through the Water Gardens, and make plans to marry one another, much to the concern of Trystane's father, Prince Doran. Meanwhile, Jaime Lannister and Bronn disguise themselves as Dornish guards and infiltrate the gardens. Bronn knocks out Trystane and Jaime moves to take Myrcella but they are ambushed by the Sand Snakes: Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene. Jaime and Bronn battle with them briefly before more Dornish guards, led by Areo Hotah, arrive and arrest both groups. Ellaria Sand is also arrested for orchestrating the planned kidnapping.
On the Valyrian peninsula
Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister continue to make their way to Meereen on foot. Tyrion tells Jorah how he is on the run from Westeros after killing his father Tywin, and also tells Jorah how his father, Jeor Mormont, was killed by Night's Watch mutineers during an expedition north of the Wall. Shortly afterwards, they are captured by slavers, who plan to take the pair to Volantis for sale. After the leader of the slavers, Malko, mentions that Daenerys Targaryen has reopened the fighting pits in Meereen, Tyrion convinces the slavers to take them to Meereen instead, saying that Jorah is an accomplished warrior and can earn the slavers more money in the pits.
In King's Landing
Petyr Baelish returns to King's Landing at Cersei Lannister's request, where he is confronted by Brother Lancel and a group of Sparrows. Lancel warns Petyr that the Sparrows have purged King's Landing of all vices, and they will not tolerate his prostitution business, though Petyr is unperturbed. Petyr then meets with Cersei, who has started to question where his loyalties lie. He assures her that he is loyal to the throne, and informs her that Sansa is alive in Winterfell and is set to marry Ramsay Bolton. Cersei is infuriated at the Boltons' apparent treachery, but Petyr convinces her that he has already set up a plan to deal with the situation. He informs her of Stannis Baratheon's impending attack on the Boltons and asks to lead the knights of the Vale to Winterfell to destroy whatever is left of the victor. In return, he asks to be named Warden of the North, a condition Cersei agrees to.
Olenna Tyrell arrives in King's Landing in an effort to free Loras Tyrell from the Sparrows' custody. She warns Cersei that her actions have put the Lannister-Tyrell alliance in peril, though Cersei insists that she had nothing to do with Loras' confinement and expresses confidence that there will not be enough evidence to convict him. At Loras' holy inquest, the High Sparrow interrogates both Loras and Margaery Tyrell, and they both deny that Loras is homosexual. Olyvar is then brought in and testifies against Loras, citing a unique birthmark that Loras has, and also noting that Margaery had seen them in bed together. After Loras, enraged, attempts to attack Olyvar, the High Sparrow is convinced that there is enough evidence to proceed with Loras' trial. He also orders Margaery arrested for lying during the holy inquest. As Margaery is taken away by the Faith Militant, she calls for Tommen Baratheon to do something about it, but he is too intimidated by the presence of the Faith Militant to respond.
While Myranda bathes Sansa Stark, she attempts to intimidate her by telling her about Ramsay's former mistresses, whom Ramsay later hunted and killed with his dogs. Sansa boldly replies that she is not frightened. Later, Reek arrives to take Sansa to the Godswood, where she is then married to Ramsay. Afterward, Ramsay takes her to his chambers and orders her to undress. When Reek tries to leave, Ramsay orders him to stay and watch, and proceeds to rape Sansa, to Reek'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 58% approval rating from 31 critics with a rating average of 7.5 out of 10, the lowest of any episode in the series. 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." 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||Greg 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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