This week in Westeros: Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes (for reference: Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood music video)
Warning: May be triggering to some due to subject matter
In Braavos, Arya is tired of bathing bodies and wants to know what’s beyond the door. But Mean Girl (does she have a name? They are all called No One right?) shuts it down with her origin story or at least a version thereof. It turns out Faceless Men training is all about learning to lie. And it’s accomplished by beating the truth out until the lies are all that’s left. Or so I understand based on Jaquen hitting Arya with a stick every time he could tell she was lying. It’s all creepy and weird and reminds me of the Joker’s storytelling in The Dark Knight. Arya’s story is so far removed from everything that is going on everywhere else I really have no idea what is important and what is not, but we learn that a) she didn’t entirely hate the Hound, b) the Faceless Men are paid in faces they keep in a vault, c) Jaquen considers Arya ready to be someone else, but not ready to be anyone else.
In Dorne, Trystane and Myrcella are in love and it’s beautiful and adorable and they are the bright light in a dark world. The whole Dorne sequence is incredibly Shakespearean. Besides our starcrossed lovers, there is the way everyone arrives at once, Myrcella’s secret connection to Jaime, Bronn’s tomfoolery (he actually sings guys), Doran’s and Ellaria’s speech patterns (people only talk like that in Shakespeare), and the battle that consists of a lot of people running around in a very small space while shouting one liners at each other.
It’s very bright and fast and we’re left with Trystane injured and Bronn, Jaime, Ellaria, and all three Sand Snakes in custody. What happens to Myrcella is left to next week but I hope in includes Jaime trying to parent because I am Here for it! I also hope Myrcella and Trystane somehow escape Westeros Rapunzel and her Prince in Disney’s Into the Woods style but I am bracing myself for a tragedy.
On the road to Mereen, Tyrion will not stop talking. Jorah discovers that Tyrion killed Tywin — for wanting to execute him for something he didn’t do and for sleeping with the woman he loved (and also murdered but he doesn’t confess that part) — and that’s why he’s so far away from King’s Landing. I’m surprised Jorah didn’t know any of this, but I guess it’s only gossip in Westeros? Then Jorah finds out that his own father is also dead, at the hands of his men, and I’m surprised Tyrion did know that but I guess Tyrion knows everything. Anyway, Team Daenerys pauses for a drink and a tribute to dead daddy issues.
As the duo continue on their merry way Tyrion, who seriously cannot stop talking, ever, asks why Jorah switched sides from Baratheon to Targaryen and the answer is dragons. It’s not the whole truth — Jorah turned off the phone to Varys before Dany hatched her babies — but it’s a good story, and definitely my favorite line in the episode: “Have you ever heard baby dragons sing?” Tyrion, however, is unimpressed since the ability to birth dragons does not indicate any ability to rule a kingdom. He’s right but given Aerys, Robert, Joffrey and now Tommen were/are all awful for Westeros what’s his point? It’s unclear what Jorah plans to do once they get to Daenerys, but Tyrion’s questions indicate he’s at least considering offering himself as as advisor as Varys encouraged (side note: what did Varys do after he lost Tyrion?).
Unfortunately, slavers appear and plan to sell Jorah and kill Tyrion for his magical unicorn horn (yes, that is a euphemism). Tyrion’s babbling grants them a reprieve when he sets Jorah up as a Westerosi superhero they should bring to the games Dany just fortuitously reinstated instead of selling to the mines. He very nearly oversells it, but Jorah reluctantly plays along with a boast about taking down a Dothraki. To the games!
In Kings Landing Olenna Tyrell and Littlefinger arrive from Highgarden and Winterfell at the same time due to some sorcery. Littlefinger gets waylaid by Lancel but not arrested because the perversion of homosexuality is worse than the perversion of pimping I guess. Free, he meets with Cersei and inexplicably tells her the truth about Sansa. Maybe he’s covering all his bases. Maybe he’s plotting to arrive with a trusted army that then turns on the crown at the opportune moment Tywin Lannister style (though, the army will be marching on Winterfell so that doesn’t make much sense). Maybe he just has zero respect for Cersei and wants to prove he can win even when he tells her his entire plan. Maybe he really has been playing Sansa this whole time and this is some twisted revenge plot because her mother never loved him. I really have no idea what he’s doing and that is both intriguing and terrifying.
Olenna also meets with Cersei and Cersei puts on her very best Tywin but it’s kind of a draw because while Olenna doesn’t get what she wants, Cersei is riled by the talk. However Cersei comes out ahead in their next interaction: the pre-trial of Loras Tyrell for the crime of being gay. The real crime is how Loras’s characterization has been whittled down to “gay” and “gay” has been elevated to a capital crime seemingly overnight but at least it’s clear that Scarsei and her hyenas are very much in the wrong. Anyway, Margaery perjures herself to protect her brother but Loras’s boytoy from the premiere pops up on the stand to contradict them and my beautiful Tyrell siblings end up in jail. Olyvar’s appearance parallels Shae’s testimony at Tyrion’s trial and it is all quite sad for me.
Finally in Winterfell, Sansa gets married (again). The wedding itself, held at the godswood, by torchlight, with snow falling, is breathtaking. Sansa’s dress is stunning. The hesitations Theon and then Sansa make as they push through the heavy drama of the ceremony are heartbreaking. It is all simultaneously beautiful and terrible.
The rest of it is just terrible: Ramsay brings his bride, Sansa, and his pet, Reek, into his bedroom, all winter-wolfed up for her benefit (read: horror). First he asks about her virginity to drive in the fact that he now owns her. Sansa’s response that Lord Tyrion was gentle and kind and never touched her seems included only to remind the audience that Tyrion is, in comparison at least, a hero — something that I’m pretty sure no one needed reminding of. Ramsay’s response to that is to smirk and tell her to strip and bend over. He forces himself on her and requires Theon to stay and watch. The camera pans away from Sansa and Ramsay as she drops to the bed and lingers on Theon watching in horror, tears falling, Sansa screaming off screen.
I had braced myself for Sansa being assaulted. I don’t like it, I don’t think another on screen rape was necessary in any way. It’s very clear to everyone that Ramsay is cruel and Sansa is in danger. And Sansa has more than enough reasons to seek revenge on the Boltons. But I accept the choice and want to see how it plays out because I care.
I care about Sansa and her story and because of that I have a very real problem with the way it was filmed to highlight Theon’s response. Sansa’s rape happens to Sansa and it should be about Sansa not about Theon. All I need is one three second shot of Sansa’s eyes hardening as she focuses on her plot to burn it all to the ground but what I got is a thirty second shot of Theon crying about it and that is not okay.
Sophie Turner and Alfie Allen both acted the hell out of their scenes in this episode and all season. I’ve enjoyed Sansa’s return to Winterfell, I love the bravado she’s shown (earlier in the episode she stands up to Myranda, lulling us all into a false sense of safety that Sansa’s Got This). I’m not opposed to Theon helping Sansa (helping, not saving!) as his road to redemption, I even like it. But what happens TO Sansa needs to be ABOUT Sansa. And it did not have to be sexual assault. Sansa is literally surrounded by people who invaded her home and killed her entire family but this violation will now be the thing that motivates her and that is unnecessary and really disappointing.
Next week: Sansa scheming thank the old gods
Winning: Cersei Lannister
Dead: Arya mercy kills a young girl at the behest of her father