Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"
Theon watches in horror as Sansa Stark is raped by Ramsay Bolton. The scene caused much controversy.
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 6
Directed byJeremy Podeswa
Written byBryan Cogman
Featured musicRamin Djawadi
Cinematography byGregory Middleton
Editing byCrispin Green
Original air dateMay 17, 2015 (2015-05-17)
Running time53 minutes
Guest appearances
Episode chronology
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"Kill the Boy"
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"The Gift"
Game of Thrones (season 5)
List of episodes

"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" is the sixth episode of the fifth season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones. The 46th episode overall, it was written by Bryan Cogman, and directed by Jeremy Podeswa.[1] It first aired on HBO on May 17, 2015.

In the episode, Arya Stark is shown the secret of the Faceless Men of Braavos; Tyrion Lannister and Jorah Mormont are captured by slavers; Jaime Lannister attempts to take Myrcella Baratheon out of Dorne by force; Petyr Baelish meets with Cersei Lannister; Loras Tyrell is interrogated by the High Sparrow; and Sansa Stark marries Ramsay Bolton in Winterfell. The episode polarized critics and viewers for its ending, depicting a violent sexual assault. It received a rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was the lowest-rated episode until "The Bells" in season 8. Nonetheless, director Jeremy Podeswa received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for this episode.[2]

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.[3]


In Braavos

The Waif tells Arya that to pass the Game of Faces she must be able to convincingly lie. Arya plays with the waif, who is able to detect that Arya is lying about her hatred for the Hound, despite her insistence to the contrary. Later, when a man brings his sick daughter to the temple so that she can die in peace, Arya lies to her that she was ill like her in the past and gives her the temple's poisoned water to end her suffering. Jaqen takes Arya to a chamber where the Faceless Men store the faces of all the people that have died in the temple and tells her that she is not yet ready to become no one, but she is ready to become someone else.

On the Valyrian peninsula

Tyrion tells Jorah that his father Jeor is dead. Soon after, they are captured by slavers. After hearing that Daenerys has reopened the fighting pits, Tyrion convinces the slavers to take them to Meereen, saying that Jorah is an accomplished warrior.

In King's Landing

Baelish arrives in King's Landing and tells Cersei that Sansa will marry Ramsay at Winterfell, and gets her approval to lead the Knights of the Vale to destroy the victor of Stannis' attack on the Boltons and be named Warden of the North. Olenna arrives and tells Cersei that her actions have put the Lannister-Tyrell alliance in peril, but Cersei claims that she had nothing to do with Loras' arrest. At Loras' inquest, the High Sparrow interrogates Loras and Margaery, who both deny that Loras is homosexual. Olyvar testifies against Loras and the Faith Militant arrests Loras; Margaery is also arrested for perjury.

In Dorne

As the Sand Snakes prepare to abduct Myrcella, Bronn and Jaime disguise themselves as Dornish guards and infiltrate the Water Gardens to rescue her first. A skirmish between the two parties ensues before Dornish guards, led by Areo Hotah, arrive and arrest both groups. Ellaria Sand is also taken into custody.

At Winterfell

Before her wedding to Ramsay, Sansa is visited by Myranda claiming she was ordered to bathe her. While doing so, Myranda tries to intimidate Sansa by telling her not to bore Ramsay like "all the other girls". After his wedding to Sansa, Ramsay brings her to his chambers and takes her virginity by raping her. A horrified Reek attempts to leave, but Ramsay forces him to stay and watch.



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.[4]

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),[5] 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."[6] 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.[7] 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."[8]

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."[6]


"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" was directed by Jeremy Podeswa. He also directed the previous episode, "Kill the Boy".[9]



"Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken" was watched by 6.24 million American viewers during its first airing.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

Critical reviews and controversy

The episode received polarized reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the episode received a 54% approval rating from 50 critics with a rating average of 7.55 out of 10, the lowest of any episode in the series at that time. The critical consensus states: "Unbalanced storytelling and unnecessary, excessive brutality add up to disturbing viewing, although 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken' still includes enough plot revelations to offer hope for future episodes."[13] 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.[14] 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?"[15] 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."[16] 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."[6] 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.[15][17][18]

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.[19] 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".[20] 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."[21]

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?"[5] 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.[22]

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."[15] 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." She had since gone on to interview for the DailyMail about it and that the scene had inspired her to work for organizations to stop violence against women and to help underprivileged girls and women in Africa in similar situations.[23] Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) agreed, referring to Turner's performances this season as "absolutely amazing."[24]

Some viewers, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, announced that they would stop watching the show because of this scene.[24][25] 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."[26] 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.[27] The season two episode "Blackwater," which also aired on Memorial Day, also suffered a notable drop in ratings.[28] No episode was aired on Memorial Day weekend in either season three or season four.[29] Whatever the reason, the ratings for the episode after "The Gift," "Hardhome," were higher than those of both previous episodes.[30]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2015 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Jeremy Podeswa Nominated [31]
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series Gregory 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 [32]
Canadian Society of Cinematographers TV Series Cinematography Gregory Middleton Nominated [33]


  1. ^ "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken". HBO. Home Box Office, Inc. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  2. ^ "Emmy Award Winners 2015 – Full List". Variety. September 20, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  3. ^ "Character Traits Explained by Game of Thrones House Words". AleHorn. August 28, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  4. ^ Garcia, Elio; Antonsson, Linda (May 17, 2015). "EP506: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken". Westeros.org. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Stewart, Sara (May 19, 2015). "It's a Stark reality: Outrage over Sansa rape scene misses the point". New York Post. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c McNutt, Myles (May 17, 2015). "Game of Thrones (experts): "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"". AV Club. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  7. ^ Renfro, Kim (May 18, 2015). "The biggest scene on Sunday's 'Game of Thrones' was toned down dramatically from the books". Business Insider. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  8. ^ Hibbard, James (May 17, 2015). "Game of Thrones producer explains Sansa's wedding night horror". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  9. ^ Hibberd, James (July 15, 2014). "'Game of Thrones' season 5 directors chosen". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  10. ^ Kondolojy, Amanda (May 19, 2015). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'Game of Thrones' Tops Night + 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians', 'Mad Men' & More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on May 21, 2015. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  11. ^ Kondolojy, Amanda (June 1, 2015). "'Game of Thrones' Leads Adults 18-49 & Viewership Gains, 'Orphan Black' Tops Percentage Increases in Live +7 Cable Ratings for Week Ending May 17". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on June 2, 2015. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  12. ^ "Top 10 Ratings (18-24 May 2015)". BARB. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  13. ^ "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken at Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  14. ^ Runcie, Charlotte (May 17, 2015). "Game of Thrones: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, season 5 episode 6, review: 'raw emotion'". The Telegraph. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  15. ^ a b c Robinson, Joanna (May 17, 2015). "Game of Thrones Absolutely Did Not Need to Go There with Sansa Stark". Vanity Fair. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  16. ^ Kornhaber, Spencer; Orr, Christopher; Sullivan, Amy (May 17, 2015). "Game of Thrones: A Pointless Horror and a Ridiculous Fight". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  17. ^ Leon, Melissa (May 19, 2015). "The Rape of Sansa Stark: 'Game of Thrones' Goes Off-book and Enrages Its Female Fans". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  18. ^ Pantozzi, Jill (May 18, 2015). "We Will No Longer Be Promoting HBO's Game of Thrones". The Mary Sue. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  19. ^ Collins, Sean T. (May 17, 2015). "'Game of Thrones' Recap: Stark Reality". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  20. ^ Hughes, Sarah (May 18, 2015). "Game of Thrones recap: season five, episode six – Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken". The Guardian. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  21. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa (May 17, 2015). "'Game of Thrones' Season 5, Episode 6 review: "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  22. ^ "The Problem with the Backlash to the Game of Thrones Rape Scene". Time. May 21, 2015. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  23. ^ Hibberd, James (May 17, 2015). "Game of Thrones: Sophie Turner says she 'loved' that horrifying scene". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  24. ^ a b Pallotta, Frank (May 19, 2015). "I'm done with 'Game of Thrones' over gratuitous rape, says Senator McCaskill". CNN. WarnerMedia. Archived from the original on August 18, 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  25. ^ Tani, Maxwell (May 20, 2015). "A US senator says she's going to stop watching 'Game of Thrones' over 'gratuitous' rape scene". Business Insider. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  26. ^ Acuna, Kirsten; Renfro, Kim (May 28, 2015). "'Game of Thrones' ratings are falling: Here are two possible reasons why". Business Insider. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
  27. ^ Martin, Rebecca (May 28, 2015). "Game of Thrones Ratings Drop — Is It Because of Sansa Rape?". Wetpaint. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  28. ^ Hibberd, James (May 30, 2012). "'Game of Thrones' ratings dip for 'Blackwater'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  29. ^ Sanchez, Josh (May 24, 2013). "Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 9: No Show on May 26 During Memorial Day Weekend; Will Air June 2". Fansided. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  30. ^ Bibel, Sara (June 2, 2015). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'Game of Thrones' Tops Night + 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians', 'Silicon Valley', 'Naked and Afraid' & More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on June 3, 2015. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  31. ^ "Game of Thrones". Emmys.com. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  32. ^ Pedersen, Erik (January 31, 2016). "Art Directors Guild Award Winners". Deadline.com. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  33. ^ "CSC Awards 2016". Canadian Society of Cinematographers. Archived from the original on April 9, 2017. Retrieved April 9, 2017.

External links