Now that we're past the half-way point of this season of Game of Thrones, it seems some of those subtle seeds planted earlier this season are finally starting to sprout and pay off in fascinating ways. In tonight's episode, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken", easily the best of Game of Thrones Season 5, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) tells Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) about his father's passing, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) returns to King's Landing, and Cersei (Lena Headey) makes a bold power move that will surely have repercussions throughout the rest of Game of Thrones Season 5. While I don't believe there has been a "bad" episode this season yet, most were slightly more tame than we've come to expect from the show, but tonight's episode revealed a slew of stunning developments that will hopefully pay off in thrilling ways in the back half of this season.
The episode opens with Arya (Maisie Williams) washing one of those mysterious bodies when she's approached by the mystery woman known as The Waif (Faye Marsay), who tells her that she is from Westeros just like her, daughter of a lord, but she was an only child and heir to his fortune. After her mother died and her dad's new wife gave birth to a girl, she didn't want a rival, so the new wife tried to poison The Waif. The Waif found out and asked The Faceless Men for help and her father was widowed again and she's been serving them ever since. This is the most we've learned about The Waif so far, but perhaps we'll find out exactly what family she comes from by the time this season comes to an end. We then see Arya sleeping when Jaquen (Tom Wlaschiha) comes in and asks "Who are you?" Every time Arya says what Jaquen perceives to be a lie, he hits her with a woooden stick. Jaquen says she lies to the gods and to him, wonders if she really wants to be no one.
Jorah Mormont and Tyrion are continuing on their journey, but Tyrion is not quite pleased, saying they can't live on berries and roots. Tyrion says Mormont is his worst traveling companion ever. When Jorah finally asks Tyrion why he's across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion tells Mormont that he killed his father Tywin, since he was about to execute him, and he was screwing the woman he loved. Tyrion says he met Jorah's father at The Wall, and that he was a good man, while letting it slip that his father passed away, which Jorah didn't know about. Tyrion says he heard he was leading an expedition north of the wall when he was murdered by his own men. Jorah seems distraught, and Tyrion seems upset that he brought it up, while Jorah bluntly says they need to keep moving.
Back at the House of Black and White, Arya is scrubbing the floors when someone is carried into the room and set down. The man approaches Arya, saying he has no where else to go, and he's taken her to every healer and he wants her suffering to end. Obviously Arya is unqualified to care for the young girl, but he approaches her, tells her not to be afraid, and that she used to be like her. Arya was sick and dying but his father never gave up on her and he loved her more than anything in the world, just like her father loves her. We then learn perhaps why Arya truly came to the House of Black and White, when Arya says she used to be sick, but she drank the water from this fountain and it healed her. Arya scoops a cup of water for the young girl and tells her to drink, while Jaquen is watching this all unfold. Arya then watches over the young girl as she rests when Jaquen appears then disappears, Arya goes after him, follows Jaquen down stairs. Jaquen shows Arya a large room with huge pillars. As she walks closer, she sees these pillars have heads of men and women in them. Jaquen asks if the girl is ready. Jaquen says the girl isn't ready to become no one, but she's ready to become someone else.
Back to Mormont and Tyrion, Mormont says Dany is worth following because of her dragons. Tyrion says the Targaryen's are notoriously insane, but Mormont says she's the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Mormont and Tyrion come across a group of slavers, who start beating up Mormont, who is tied up along with Tyrion. This scene gives us our first look at Malko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), the slaver leader, who says to cut off Tyrion's head, and his cock, so they can sell it, since they're supposed to have magical powers. When Tyrion says he doesn't have a dwarf sized cock, Tyrion is allowed to live for now. tyrion starts telling the slaver about Jorah's exploits in battle, since they are about to go see the fighting pits in Meereen, since Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) just opened them up to free men. Jorah says he will prove his worth in Slaver's Bay, after telling him that he killed a Dothraki warrior in single combat. Malko smiles, intrigued, as it seems Jorah and Tyrion's lives have been spared, for now. Apparently this scene also clues us in that there is such an occupation in this world as a "cock merchant," which must certainly be an enviable occupation...
Back in King's Landing Littlefinger is approached by Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon), one of the Sparrows, who tells him the city has changed since he was last in King's Landing, after the Sparrows have 'cleaned up' the city, warning Littlefinger that a brothel owner such as himself isn't exactly welcome in King's Landing anymore. Littlefinger then goes to speak with Cersei. She asks if Knights of the Vale will fight for King Tommen, Littlefinger says they will, since he will always have loyalty to the throne. Shockingly, Littlefinger then betrays Sansa (Sophie Turner), telling Cersei that she has found her, alive, well and living in Winterfell, planning on marrying Ramsay Bolton. Cersei is not pleased, saying she will skin them alive, but Littlefinger says she should just wait for Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and the Bolton's fight it out, and then seize Winterfell from the winner. Littlefinger says he will bring the Knights of the Vale will fight the winner, and if he succeeds, Littlefinger says he wants to be named Warden of the North after Stannis and the Bolton's go to war and kill each other. Cersei says she knows he will be loyal when she sees Sansa Stark's head on a spike. What's ironic is she still thinks Sansa killed her precious Joffrey, and has no clue Littlefinger is actually the man who perpetrated the crime. Are Sansa's days numbered? Is Littlefinger really betraying Sansa? Or is this just another twist in Littlefinger's epic game of deceit?
Back in Dorne, young Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian) is walking with Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), who wonders why he wants to marry her. Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig) watches from afar, telling his main guard Areao Hotah (Deobia Oparei) that it's been a long time since he's used his axe, wondering if he remembers how, Areo cunningly says he does. Then we see Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) dressed as Dornish dudes, while Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) gives the Sand Snakes something of a pep talk as they head out, perhaps to avenge Oberyn. Then Jamie finds Myrcella, but as he tries to get her to go, the Sand Snakes attack Bronn and Jamie in a fantastic fight scene. One of the Sand Snakes takes Myrcella, when the Areo comes in with his troops, telling everyone (even the Sand Snakes) to drop their weapons. Bronn tells one of Sand Snakes that she fights well for a little girl, as she tries to attack him. Then more troops find Ellaria and surround her, as it seems her plans to avenge Oberyn's death have backfired. It seems clear that Doran knew of Ellaria's plans and vanquished this strike before a full-fledged war can break out, but it remains to be seen what Doran plans to do with both Jamie and Bronn, who are certainly in Dorne uninvited.
Back in King's Landing, Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) meets with Cersei, telling the Queen Mother that she knows Cersei is behind the arrest of Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), and she is obviously not pleased. Cersei insists she is not behind Loras' arrest, adding that the Lannister/Tyrell truce brought peace to the kingdoms. Cersei says an inquest has been scheduled, where she's certain Loras will be freed, and their truce will live on, before abruptly dismissing Olenna, which pisses her off. We then see the High Sparrow's inquest of Loras, as Loras denies that he has ever laid with another man. While they think the inquest is over, High Sparrow calls Queen Margaery forward to ask her some questions. Margaery says the charges against her brother are all lies, then they dismiss her and call forward Olyvar (Will Tudor), the young squire Margaery caught Loras with in the season premiere. He says they engaged in intimate relations, Loras says he's lying. Cersei is outraged (likely a ruse), as Olyvar says Loras has a birth mark, High Sparrow thinks that's enough evidence for a formal trial against both Loras AND Margaery, who are both sent away as Margaery screams at Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) to help her, who looks powerless and confused. After this inquest, it's clear that Cersei is really the one wielding all the power in the family, but her actions may have started yet another war with the Tyrell's.
Back in Winterfell, Myranda (Charlotte Hope) comes to Sansa's chambers to draw her a bath, so she'll be fresh for her new husband, on her wedding day. Myranda says that Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) gets bored easily and tells her and the other girls Ramsay has bedded. Sansa asks how long she's been in love with Ramsay, says Winterfell is her home and she can't frighten her, and sends her away. Now fully dressed, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) comes to Sansa's door, saying he is supposed to escort her. He wants her to take his arm, but Sansa says he won't touch her. Theon says Ramsay will punish him, but Sansa doesn't care about what Ramsay does to him. Theon and Sansa walk through a lighted path, where she finds Ramsay and Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton). Theon says Sansa has come to be wed, asks who comes to claim her. Ramsay steps forward, as we see a distraught Myranda in the crowd. Theon says he is giving her away, since he was Sansa's father's ward. Sansa steps forward, saying she will take him. This is probably the most low-key wedding than others in the show's history, but the truly shocking moments come right after the wedding.
Then we go inside Ramsay and Sansa's chambers, where Ramsay asks if she's happy, she nods, he says he wants her to be happy. He asks why she's a virgin, if she's afraid of dwarfs. Sansa says that her former husband, Tyrion Lannister, never touched her, but Ramsay thinks she's lying. Ramsay thinks man and wife should be honest, then tells Sansa to take off her clothes, and when Theon/Reek starts to leave, Ramsay tells him he has to stay and watch. Ramsay says he hates to ask a second time, so Sansa starts to take off her clothes, as Sansa starts to realize what a mistake she has made. Theon is distraught, Ramsay says he's known Sansa since she was a girl, now he gets to watch her become a woman. Ramsay rips the back of her dress and bends her over and consummates his marriage to a terrified Sansa. Theon is forced to watch, visibly distraught, shaking, crying. Fortunately, we don't actually see any of this heinous act take place (unlike the controversial Jamie/Cersei rape scene last season), but watching Theon's reaction is shocking enough. What's interesting is, since Littlefinger set this whole thing up in the first place, he must have known what a monster young Ramsay is, given all of his spies and sources. With that being said, perhaps it was Littlefinger's plan to betray Sansa all along, after getting her to trust him, but then again, Littlefinger is clearly always several steps ahead of everyone else, so it's hard to tell what his real plans may be.
HBO has also released a preview for next week's episode of Game of Thrones, "The Gift", airing one week from today on Sunday, May 24 at 9 PM ET. This teaser shows Jon Snow (Kit Harington) going on an important mission with Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), one that Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) thinks is reckless and an insult to all of the Night's Watch brothers who have died fighting the Wildlings. We also see Stannis (Stephen Dillane) continuing his march to Winterfell, while Sansa tells a still-distraught Theon that her family still has friends in the north. We also see Margaery in prison, which doesn't seem to suit her, as the High Sparrow says he serves the Gods, who demand justice. What do you think about this week's episode? Check out the trailer below, and chime in with your thoughts below, or reach out to me on Twitter at @GallagherMW, and be sure to check back for next week's recap.