Now we have the Empire Strikes Back of Game of Thrones season five. Not in terms of quality, though it wasn't all bad, but in terms of it being a middle act (episode six of a ten episode season) that ends badly for our heroes, such as they are. This being the case, it wouldn't surprise me if this season ended on an abnormally positive note.
Most people are talking about the end of the episode where Sansa is raped by Ramsay on their wedding night and Theon/Reek is forced to watch. Once again, the show's creators are indulging in the same fantasy rape they've been showing a love for since Daenerys was raped in the first episode, though the rapes of Daenerys and Theon (funny how no-one complains about that latter one) were lingered over with far more affection. I'm not personally into rape fantasy but I recognise what's happening on Game of Thrones as so divorced from the reality of rape I don't look down on Martin, Benioff, and Weiss for their particular kink. Sansa's rape is presented as a far more solemn affair, with sad/horrified strings in the soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi, and we don't actually see the rape, only Theon's horrified reaction which puts emphasis on character pain rather than watching two attractive, well lit actors pretending to have sex. Nevertheless, it wasn't an especially realistic depiction of rape, mainly because there was no-one in the room written like a human being.
The whole Ramsay/Theon relationship has been pure fantasy. Having your dick cut off will not make you a complete willing slave to the man who did it, and a man who'd do that would never expect you would unless he's too divorced from reality to get an accurate psychological impression of other people. Ramsay and Theon are as thoroughly pornographic cardboard characters as the pizza guy who's unexpectedly paid in sex.
And poor Sansa? I had some hopes for her when she dyed her hair black and she appeared to be becoming Littlefinger's apprentice. I don't object to the idea of her failing miserably as a master manipulator but she didn't even try. She's supposed to be trying to wrap Ramsay around her finger and we've never seen her ask him to so much as pass the salt. She just putters around looking shocked all the time, like she's always done. She has a moment of self-assertion when she tells off Myranda for trying to own Sansa's man. Which was kind of nice for a moment but is all kinds of disappointing in retrospect. Sansa the emerging femme fatale is still being written like the naive thirteen year old girl. Maybe the rape is meant to kickstart her conniving, which doesn't make any sense, but then, neither does Reek. Personally, I'm hoping Brienne comes in and slaughters everyone like Lancelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Meanwhile, Tyrion and Jorah are building some nice chemistry. When they discuss their dead fathers it's another nice opportunity to reflect on the show's impressive scope and cohesion. The bit about the cock merchant (though wouldn't that just be someone who sells chickens?) was funny. Is this Tyrion's sarcasm about dwarf cock a couple episodes earlier coming back through the grape vine to haunt him? Great idea, if so.
Also on the subject of chemistry the show needs to focus more on, Jaime and Bronn in Dorne, though the segment also features one of the worst choreographed fight scenes in the series. Though, to be fair, it's hard enough making half naked children wielding knives and a whip look like a threat to armoured men with scimitars without putting those two men in identical outfits. I kept thinking, "Wow, Bronn's getting his ass kicked--oh, that's Jaime" or "Hey, Jaime's doing pretty well--oh, that's Bronn". I did love Bronn at the end good naturedly saying one of the Sand Snakes was "not bad for a little girl" and his laugh when she tried to attack him again. I'm looking forward to seeing these two guys play off Alexander Siddig whose role has been pretty minor up to this point.
But the other celebrated acting powerhouses on the show, Diana Rigg and Jonathan Pryce, had a little more to do in the episode in King's Landing, though sadly, mainly for Pryce, it was largely taken up by a dumb inquest. Olenna trading intimidations with Cersei was great and it'll be fun seeing Rigg's revenge, which I assume is coming, but Pryce's High Sparrow continues to be a sloppy concept. What's with all the soot on his face, for one thing?
Is he a chimney sweep? Puritans and Inquisitors did wash their faces. Once again, the show hazily skips over the vague mass of poor people as no-one stops to wonder why the Sparrows would imprison the supposedly massively popular Queen Margaery who canvassed in the poor neighbourhoods the Sparrows are presumably feeding now. Just a few episodes earlier we heard people in a crowd cheering for their beloved queen. So what's the High Sparrow's purpose in entrapping her? Thanks to Cersei for arming his men? Which would mean he isn't the humble hardliner he claims to be. What's he going to say to people in the soup line now? "You see, she might possibly have lied about having never seen her brother possibly having sex with a man. So naturally she needs to be in prison. Here's your soup."
And, finally, we got back to Arya in the House of Black and White. The idea of training to be a Faceless One requiring a person to really commit to a false story is nice, making the place seem sort of like a deadly actor's workshop. I like all the faces of dead people stored on columns.