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Game of Thrones: Our Stories & “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

Unbowed - AryaEach one of us carry a story within ourselves.  It’s the story of our life.  It’s of where we were born and how we grew up.  Whether we were loved or abandoned or mistreated as children.  Stories full of hope and sadness and fear. They feature the decisions we made for ourselves and the choices that were heaped upon us by fate or chance or war.  In some ways, facts are secondary because we are not omniscient authors.  So each of us can only see and hear and read what is going on around us and not a world away.  Sometimes we can even be standing next to another person and not know the depths of what that person’s story goes to – until it reaches out to hurt us.

For Arya Stark, she’s having to learn how this lesson by playing the game of many faces.  Was the other female acolyte lying or telling the truth?  Was she really from Westeros – like her – or showing her how the game is played?  When Jaqen comes to her to hear his story, he’s able to easily tell what is true and what is lie.  He is, after all, a Faceless Man and they are accustomed to taking on many different stories to go with the faces and all of them are true.  He sees that Arya is not yet ready to give her identity and become “No One”.  However, in watching her console a mournful father and assist a dying girl in accepting the “gift” of the pool, Jaqen recognizes that Arya may be ready to become something else.  What that else is though is not yet certain.  It appears Arya Stark’s story is not yet done.

As for Tyrion, he manages to find common ground with his captor by telling him how he came to murder his own father while also carelessly revealing the death of Jorah Mormont’s own father.  Unlike his father, Tyrion actually admired Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and he can tell that his death wounds Jorah.  As they walk, Tyrion is finally able to start prying into the story that Jorah is telling himself in regards to his return to Danaerys and what she will accomplish.  It’s what is driving Jorah – he will bring Tyrion before her, she will take him back and he’ll help her win the Iron Throne.  But before Tyrion can help poke holes in the entire story, they’re captured by Volantis slavers, who are ready to capture Jorah and kill Tyrion, until they spin new tales to make their captors intrigued.  From them, they learn that the fighting pits of Meereen have been reopened – and that’s where they’re headed.Unbowed - Jorah & Tyrion

Meanwhile, Jaime Lannister and Bronn reach the Water Gardens in time to stop the Sand Snakes from carrying out their vengeance on Princess Myrcella for the death of their father, the Red Viper.  For the Sand Snakes, their attack is one meant to force the scion of their house, Prince Doran, into the war they feel he’s too weak to call for against House Lannister.  For Jaime, this is his chance to save one of his unclaimed children from danger and, in some small way, prove himself worthy of the man he was.  But their own stories are shortened by the quick arrival of Areo Hotah and the Dornish guard. They and Ellaria Sand are all taken prisoner and we’re left with doubt as to the future of any of them as they’ve moved against the Prince of Dorne for vastly different reasons.

But if any of Tywin Lannister’s children is having the success they wanted, it’s clearly Cersei.  Margaery Tyrell did as she expected and summoned the Queen of Thorns back to King’s Landing in hopes that Lady Olenna can free Ser Loras from the Faith’s hand.  Olenna, fully aware that it’s Cersei’s actions behind it all, goes to the Queen Mother to demand his release.  In an episode full of duplicitousness and lies, it falls to Lady Olenna to speak some blunt truth: King Tommen’s rule is held together by Tyrell gold paying its debts, Tyrell wheat filling the bellies of the people and Tyrell forces protecting the Realm.  But Cersei also knows that the Tyrells are bound to them by their marriage of Margaery to Tommen – even if that doesn’t look like it’ll last for long.  As the High Sparrow hears the evidence against Ser Loras, he manages to snare not just him but the Queen herself in perjury.  Cersei’s enemy has fallen into her trap.

However, just because she knows how to manipulate doesn’t mean she cannot be manipulated.  In her heart, Joffrey’s death was caused by two people: Tyrion and Sansa.  This is the story that she’s burnt into her being to avoid recognizing that Joffrey was a monstrous little shit who had made many enemies.  So when Petyr Baelish finally returns to King’s Landing and reveals that Sansa Stark is alive, safe and back in Winterfell – and about to marry the up-jumped Ramsay Bolton – she reacts the only way she knows: with wrath in her eyes.  It was her father who conspired to make House Bolton the Wardens of the North and they’re paying it back with treachery.  She’s so caught up in her anger that she doesn’t notice how Littlefinger quietly maneuvers himself into an even greater position – as Lord Protectant of the Vale, he can summon those armies against the traitors.  Once he defeats whoever emerges from the battle between Stannis Baratheon and Roose Bolton, the Lion will fly over Winterfell, Sansa’s head will be on a spike and Petyr Baelish will be the Warden of the North. Littlefinger knows how to play her very well.Unbowed - Margaery & Olenna

However, he may not have known what he was leaving Sansa to face alone.  While capable of seeing through Myranda’s jealousy-fueled threats, she could not have known just what kind of monster Ramsay Bolton really was.  In order to play the game, she goes through with her second wedding against her will with a family enemy.  Only this time, the marriage is consummated in a most horrific fashion.  It is but the latest horror to visit the once dream-fueled little girl who was betrothed to a handsome young prince.  But it’s not enough for Ramsay to rape his new bride.  He needs to have an audience to further humiliate her.  In this, he forces Reek – the former Theon Greyjoy, her foster brother – to stand there and watch.  For the man who betrayed the Starks due to his vanity and his desperate need to be a man respected, it’s the latest display of how everything he hoped for has collapsed into chaos and misery.

The stories these various characters have carried for so long within themselves have allowed them to survive the chaos of their lives.  It’s what’s kept Tyrion going through the mistreatment by his father.  It’s what’s allowed the Stark girls to live on, despite suffering so much pain.  It’s this internal tale that each character tells them that allows them to retain their identity and from which their strength can rise from when all seems lost.  And it’s from which plots and plans can spring anew to bring vengeance or chaos onto the world.  For if we are wronged, it can be either one more chapter in a painful life – or the defining part in which our story changes forever.

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