We start off with Arya in Braavos at the House of Black and White. There she washes and scrubs bodies all day live long day. And it’s just as boring as it looks. When she gets curious and tries to find out where the bodies actually go, creepy girl who works there tells her to get back to work. A defiant Arya says enough with the body washing already and asks when she’ll get to learn the game of faces? Creepy girl retorts she tried already and failed. Then she asks Arya that all important question: “who are you?” When Arya hesitates, creepy girl tells her to get back to work–again.
But Arya shoots back like, who the hell are you? How’d you get here?” Creepy girl stops and her face gets wistful. She tells a story about her life as the unwanted daughter of a lord, who hired the faceless men to kill a stepmother, and that she has served them ever since. It sounds convincing, until her face reverts back to form. Stoic, she asks Arya whether her story was a truth or a lie? Arya is all like, “whut?” Creepy girl gives her that, “yeah, just what I thought,” look and tells her once more to get back to work.
That night as Arya sleeps Jaqen H’ghar shows up and asks the 10,000 gold coin question “who are you?” Arya decides that the way forward is to tell the truth about who she is and how she got there. So she does, starting from the beginning. Only each time she strays from truth, Jaqen strikes her with a switch. Hard. When Arya starts talking about the Hound however, she strays often–perhaps even from herself. When she claims to have “hated” the Hound she gets struck especially hard, again and again. When asked if she really wants to be a faceless man and she replies yes, and gets struck so hard she falls to the ground. Having had enough, she yells that she doesn’t want to play this game a moment longer. An unmoved Jaqen replies, “you’ll never stop playing.”
Fast forward to another scene, we see Arya doing her scrubbing the floors thing when a man walks into the House of Black and White with his daughter. He explains she’s suffering from some incurable illness, and only wants that suffering to end. Arya meets the girl who tells her “it hurts.” She then tells the girl a well crafted
lie story to get her to drink the poisoned water, that will bring death.
Later, as Arya stands over the body of the girl she helped Dr. Kevorkian, Jaqen shows up. He says nothing, as usual, but leaves the door ajar. Arya takes his as the cue to follow, and for the first time is led into the further heart of the temple. Past flames and workmen, she’s taken to a chamber of walls, towers and alcoves–all filled with human faces. Many faces. Jaqen (the creepiest Yoda ever) says a girl may not be ready to become no one, but she is ready to become someone else.
Somewhere in Essos, Tyrion and his kinda-captor Ser Jorah Mormant (who done gone and got himself infected by a Stoneman) plot their next move on the way to Meereen. Though Jorah pleads with Tyrion to just shut up, we know that ain’t happening. In the ensuing banter Tyrion reveals why he’s on that side of the world–the daddy killing and all. Between all of that, he lets slip that Jorah Mormant’s pops, the former Lord Commander, is dead. Bummer of a way to find out. Jorah takes the news much as he takes the news of his impending debilitating illness–with little emotion.
Later as they’re walking, Tyrion asks why Jorah even follows Daenerys? Given the Targaryen’s history of rule, he questions whether they even have the right to the Iron Throne? And just about then they’re captured by slave traders. Well we were wondering where all the black people in Essos were–turns out they’re slave traders. Because there ain’t been that many black folk in one shot in this show since the Dothraki Twerk Team.
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, dwarf-cocks are highly prized in the bizarre, exotic, Orientalist Essos (of course), and it seems Tyrion’s about to suffer an awful fate. He only manages to stay an execution and castration by passing Jorah off as a great warrior who can make a lot of money fighting in Dany’s recently reopened fighting pits in Meereen. And now they’ve got a ride–as captives–to the Khaleesi’s city.
In King’s Landing, Littlefinger returns to find Sparrows roaming the streets, being all fanatical. He’s confronted by none other than young cousin Lancel, who warns him the city’s changed since he’s been gone. Littlefinger takes the threat in stride, likely cuz he knows Lancel’s own secrets. He meets with Cersei Lannister and warns her about having Ser Loras Tyrell arrested. She tries to act like she don’t know, but he sees right through it. He turns the subject to the issue of the North, particularly Sansa Stark. But he weaves an interesting tale, saying he’s just had confirmed sightings of Sansa and her alliance with Roose Bolton as part of some nefarious plot. He manages to twist Cersei’s fears of enemies at every turn, cajoling her to promise him the Wardenship of the North in exchange of working against Roose, Stannis Baratheon and who ever else may be getting in the way.
Later on, who should arrive in King’s Landing but the matriarch of House Tyrell–the Queen of Thorns. She confronts Cersei about the imprisonment of Ser Loras Tyrell, and ain’t buying any of the queen mother’s innocent protestations either. But Cersei seizes the upper hand, and we next see Ser Loras under an inquisition by the homophobic Sparrows. There, he denies the charges of any intimate affair with the late Renly Baratheon.
Then Margaery Tyrell is called to be questioned. She balks, pointing out she’s the friggin’ Queen. But the High Sparrow insists no one is above the gods. She takes the stand, and similarly denies the charges against her brother. Then the High Sparrow calls in someone else–one of Ser Loras’s lovers. The same one Margaery walked in on previously. Uh oh. It’s all downhill from there. By the end Ser Loras is arrested–and so is Margaery. She calls out for help from King Tommen, but he’s like the punkest-ass-king in the history of punk-ass-kings. Though to be fair, he’s all of 12. And she gets taken away. Cersei gives the Queen of Thorns a triumphant look, having skillfully defeated her enemies. She best bask in that glory while she can, because blowback is coming. And I’ll say no more…
Down south in Dorne, Prince Doran Martell and his royal bodyguard Areo Hotah watch as Myrcella Baratheon and her Dornish betrothed get all lovey-dovey in the garden. Prince Doran remarks that such a union is going to have enemies and the two willl need protecting. Somewhere near, the dynamic rescuing duo Jaime and Bronn (disguised in the garb of Dornish soldiers–the ones they killed) make their way to the capital. Simultaneously, the Sand Snakes are plotting with Ellaria Sand–who utters the words “unbowed, unbent and unbroken” as an oath to their loyalty to Dorne. Jaime and Bronn make it to the garden in time to rescue Myrcella–just before the Sand Snakes show up. It’s a battle royale–with swords, whips and all else between the two. In the middle of it all, seems one of the Sand Snakes is going to make off with Myrcella.Then Areo Hota shows up with the local Dornish fuzz, wielding a big ass blade. And e’rbody gets arrested.
So… this leaves us with Winterfell on a wedding night. Ramsay Bolton’s lover gal and weird-psycho-killer Myranda shows up at Sansa Stark’s rooms to draw her a bath. Once there, she begins regaling Sansa with stories of what Ramsay’s done to other women who displeased or tired him. Sansa sees through it all though, and calls Myranda out as a spurned ex-lover. She tells her defiantly that she’s a Stark. Winterfell is her home, and she ain’t scared.
Sometime later, poor Reek (Theon) shows up to escort Sansa to her fated wedding with Ramsay. She refuses to take his hand, but treks out into the snow for some Northern nuptials. And before you can throw up in your mouth just a little, they’re husband and wife.
It gets creepier of course, as Ramsay escorts his new bride to her bedchamber and becomes…the full on sadist he is. After asking if Sansa is a virgin, he has her undress. And then the rape happens. We are left with Sansa’s horrific cries as Theon–forced to watch–looks on.
Yeah… so for readers of the book, we all know that Sansa isn’t raped by Ramsay. Instead, a character named Jeyne Poole is passed off as Arya Stark for Ramsay to marry. She’s both tormented and raped in much the same way–with Theon being forced to strip her of clothing in the process. It seemed this season that the writers at HBO decided to amp up Sansa’s character (to which there was much applause), only to have her take Jeyne Poole’s role and share her fate. Talk about an inspiring trip to nowhere.
After the infamous Jaime-Cersei rape scene last season (also not in the book), you’d think the writer dudes at HBO might not wanna whip up the firestorm bound to ensue by having another main woman character get raped. But naaaah. Dude writers gonna dude write. It’s not like the book doesn’t feature rape–quite prominently and disturbingly, of everyone. Yet it tends to happen (for the most part) to background characters or as past events. It doesn’t happen to main characters, you know, the ones whose names head up the chapters–not to Sansa or Cersei. It doesn’t even happen to Daenerys (despite what viewers saw on the first episode) where HBO writers quite blatantly refashioned her wedding night into her being raped by a big, bad, exotic looking Khal Drogo.
I suppose what the writers are doing is trying to point out (in Sansa’s and Dany’s case anyway–that Cersei bit was wholly contrived) that a forced marriage is in the end “rape.” But the book managed to show Dany skillfully turn what could have been a sexual assault into something consensual, even if the power dynamics were imbalanced. Making her wedding night a rape scene actually undermined her character. Deciding to go that route with Sansa, who accepted the Ramsay Bolton marriage at least with some level of consent (and scheming) comes off as…lazy. HBO’s writers seem to be comfortable with repeatedly rolling out a troubling trope, though without any clear purpose other than shock value. Good luck with that fellas.
Till next week…