Well, fellow Thrones geeks, I think I now understand why David Benioff and D.B. Weiss killed off so many characters at the beginning of this season of Game of Thrones…to make room for all the returning ones that have popped up over the last two episodes! Last week we got Benjen Stark, Edmure Tully, and Walder Frey (technically, Drogon too), but I’d say this week topped them all, wouldn’t you?
Because during last night’s episode, the aptly titled “The Broken Man,” we saw the return of a show favorite; Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound.
He wasn’t the only broken person to appear, however, as we also checked in with Jon and Sansa in the north (both still recovering from the things that nearly broke them), Theon in the free city of Volantis (who is finally starting to come back from being so thoroughly broken), Jaime in Riverrun (his reputation is still broken, but he made good use of his broken body…the gold hand does seem to come in handy), Margaery in Kings Landing (who is not as broken as it appears), and Arya in Braavos (who ends the episode in a worse place than she started).
So let’s dive in together as we try and avoid the High Sparrow, The Waif, The Brotherhood Without Banners, and those stinking Freys, shall we?
*Side note: There are so many good quotes from this episode (veteran Thrones writer Bryan Cogman delivered some of the best dialogue of the season) so I’ve peppered in a few on top of my usual list of Best Quotes below.
In The Riverlands
The episode begins with a cold open, (meaning, with a scene that comes before the opening titles – which doesn’t happen very often in the series). It is of a rather hopeful scene: a group of smallfolk working together to build a sept in the countryside. They are led by a jovial old man (who in the books is called Elder Brother), whose only indication of being a septon is a seven pointed star necklace around his neck (we also know he’s important because he’s played by Ian Freakin’ McShane). The camera pulls back to reveal groups of men carrying large heavy logs together, followed by a larger man carrying a log…by himself. Welcome back Sandor, we missed your burnt face!
Elder Brother reveals that he found The Hound dying in the Vale (though he at first believed Sandor was dead…as did we) and marveled at the big man’s miraculous recovery. They have a number of quiet exchanges where Sandor admits to having been left for dead by a woman (McShane’s chuckle in response was great), and also to being driven by hate. It turns out the septon is a reformed soldier who has an enlightened view of god/the gods (an interesting character to compare to the High Sparrow): it doesn’t matter who He is/They are, only that there is a higher power and that life has some purpose. He also wholly believes in redemption (“It’s never too late.”), a powerful concept for a guy who has done as many terrible things as Sandor has.
As is the case with just about any character who truly believes in the good of humankind, however, the septon and his followers are ultimately slaughtered by three members of The Brotherhood Without Banners (who, last we saw in season three, were being led by Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr – followers of The Lord of Light. Fun note for book readers: I think the leader of this trio is meant to be Lem Lemoncloak (though for a second I thought he was Thoros recast…), a Brotherhood member who discovers Arya in the book – in the show, that role was given to Thoros). This is a dark turn for the Brotherhood (they used to be a sort of “Robin Hood” type band of outlaws) and since The Hound wasn’t there when the massacre happened, I suspect an ugly confrontation is brewing (doesn’t appear he was with this group long enough for him to completely convert, and now he’s got revenge on his mind, but then, who doesn’t in this world?).
Meanwhile Jaime and Bronn (another returnee…back with many welcome one-liners), along with 8,000 Lannister men, arrive at Riverrun, where the Freys are doing a terrible job of laying siege to the castle. Walder’s sons attempt to force the Blackfish into opening the gates by threatening to kill Edmure Tully (The Blackfish’s nephew) but The Blackfish refuses (“go on then, kill him”) and the Freys, of course, back down. After witnessing this incompetence, Jaime berates one Frey brother by smacking him with his golden hand, demands that Edmure be bathed and fed, puts Bronn in charge of whipping the siege into shape, and decides he wants to parlay with The Blackfish.
The parlay doesn’t go as well as Jaime hoped, however. Despite Jaime’s assertion that the Riverrun men will be spared if they give up the castle, the Blackfish refuses, calling The Kingslayer a disappointment (“Bargaining with oathbreakers is like walking on quicksand” – ouch). They have enough supplies to withstand a two year siege (at which time…winter is coming, people!) and if The Lannisters attack such a well fortified castle, they’ll lose thousands of men.
In the North
The North Remembers…sort of. Jon, Sansa, and Davos go on a recruitment tour of the north but it’s tough going to find enough fighters to take on Ramsay Bolton. After picking up the wildlings, thanks to support from Tormund and the giant Wun-wun (“Snow”), their next stop proves a bit more difficult as the trio goes up against young Lady Lyanna of House Mormont (on Bear Island), a rather formidable foe. So much so (“As far as I understand, you’re a Snow and Lady Sansa is a Bolton…or is she a Lannister, I’ve heard conflicting reports”), that it takes the little-girl-whisperer, Ser Davos Seaworth, to convince her to offer up her 62 fighting men. Davos does this by, not only relating to the young Lady, but also reminding everyone of the real threat coming down from North of the Wall.
- The real war isn’t between a few squabbling houses, it’s between the living and the dead. And make no mistake, my lady, the dead are coming. – Davos. No kidding! Can we get this copied and sent by raven to, like, every single person in Westeros?! Maybe a few over in Essos too? People need to start looking north because that Iron Chair isn’t going to mean a thing to ice zombies.
Seeing as Lyanna’s uncle, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, fought the white walkers at the Fist of the First Men, this argument wins the day.
Unfortunately, the rest of the recruitment campaign doesn’t go quite as well, as the Glovers of Deepwood Motte refuse to support Jon and Sansa (despite Sansa’s best regal attempt at commanding their allegiance). The Glovers are still reeling from Robb’s defeat (Lord Glover blames Robb for marrying Talisa (a foreigner) which caused the Frey’s to turn on him) as well as the recent Ironborn invasion (which the Boltons helped to end). Plus, they are as anti-wilding as just about everyone else in the north.
Back at their encampment (which happens to be in the same place as Stannis’ was…possibly awkward for Davos and Melisandre, who, curiously, doesn’t make an appearance here), Jon and Sansa argue about looking for more support. They have yet to hear back from the Manderlys (which is the only “great house” not yet accounted for, as the Karstarks and Umbers have already sided with Ramsay Bolton), but Sansa wants to seek out the Cerwyns (who might not have many family members left given that Ramsay flayed many of them last season…off screen, thankfully). Jon disagrees, however, because he is worried another winter storm will hit, and so decides they will attack with the force they have (by my calculations, they have less than 2,500 men, thanks to a few hundred added by the Hornwoods and Masons. Meanwhile, Ramsay has at least 5,000). Unwilling to give up, Sansa decides to pen a raven letter…to Petyr Baelish and his handy army of Valemen, perhaps? That seems likely, though I’m still wondering about The Manderlys…
In Kings Landing
The High Sparrow’s power trip continues, as he gets awfully nosy about what goes on between Queen Margaery and King Tommen in bed at night (I’m rolling my eyes at his old fashioned views on women and sex…). Margaery says all the right things to make him believe she is still a true convert and that she will do what is necessary to produce heirs. Then his High Holiness takes aim at a new target: Margaery’s grandmother, The Queen of Thorns.
When Margaery meets with her grandmother, she must do so in the presence of Septa Unella (she whose favorite saying is “Shame!”). Lady Olenna’s blustering and threats have no affect on the septa and Margaery repeatedly asks her grandmother to calm down and accept her conversion to the Faith. She also tells Olenna that she must return to Highgarden (something Olenna actually wanted Margaery to do), which the old matriarch, at first, refuses to do. Then Margaery kneels in front of her grandmother and slips a piece of paper into her hand.
After a parting hug (during which we get a fleeting glimpse of how hard this is for Margaery), Olenna opens the crumpled paper to reveal a drawing of a rose: the symbol of House Tyrell. Olenna now understands that Margaery is playing the High Sparrow (what an actress…both Margaery Tyrell and Natalie Dormer!). Olenna gets the message and, understanding that she is in danger, decides to return to Highgarden.
Before The Queen of Thorns leaves, however, she has to get a few last barbs in – at Cersei’s expense, of course. Cersei confronts Olenna about leaving, insisting that she stay because they need each other to deal with the High Sparrow situation (a situation that Cersei is responsible for, she admits). Olenna shuts that down real fast, noting how Cersei watched with glee when Loras and Margaery were locked up by The Faith. She advises Cersei to also flee Kings Landing, as she has absolutely no allies left (“You’ve lost. It’s the only joy I could find in all this misery”). Game. Set. Olenna. I’m not willing to concede the match just yet, though. The Mountain could be Cersei’s saving grace…I don’t think she’s knocked out quite yet.
Yara and Theon are hiding out in the free city of Volantis where Yara makes out with a whore and Theon looks incredibly out of place and uncomfortable. Yara promises never to hurt her little brother but then forces him to drink a tankard of ale…she needs him to find himself again, to be Ironborn again, to be Theon Greyjoy again. Their Uncle Euron will be looking for them and they need to beat him at his own game by getting to Dany in Mereen first. Theon still believes that justice would be for him to die for burning the two farmboys in season two, but Yara tells him to focus, instead, on revenge (join the club, Theon!). This seems to work, as, for the first time, Theon looks his sister in the eyes with conviction. Seeking revenge can be the thing that breaks us but it may also be the thing that brings a broken person back, or so Yara, and now Theon, seems to believe.
That is also something Arya probably believes, but whether or not she will continue hunting those on her kill list when she returns to Westeros is undecided. First, she must escape Braavos and The Faceless Men, and to do so, she throws a couple of (stolen) bags of money at a Westerosi ship captain who she demands leave the following morning (with her getting her own cabin, of course). Then, instead of returning to her safe little underground hole, she pauses on a bridge to gaze at the Titan of Braavos (the giant statue guarding the entrance to Braavos). An old woman approaches and slashes Arya across the stomach.
Of course it’s The Waif wearing a face, and she then proceeds to stab Arya twice more before Arya manages to jump into the canal below. Though The Waif doesn’t see Arya resurface (only the blood), I have to assume she knows Arya survived…I mean, as a Faceless Man (person?), she must know what a killing blow actually is…so, if she really intended to kill Arya, right then and there, why didn’t she just slit her throat? I may be overthinking this (never a very good thing to do on this show as the simplest answers tend to be the correct ones), but I’m guessing she ignored Jaqen’s command that Arya not suffer in death. Instead, she decided to cause Arya pain (and, eventually, death – whether at her hand or not, is beyond my current deductive skills). In any case, Arya does survive and we last see her staggering down an alley in Braavos, bleeding from the stab wounds in her abdomen. My guess about what she does next? I think she will seek out the mummers troupe for aide. I also think it’s safe to assume that if Arya survives this (who am I kidding, of course she’s going to survive this), then The Waif officially goes on the kill list (it’s time for some more revenge!)?
- The Hound is alive!
- Lyanna Mormont for Queen of Westeros! And I totally wish Davos had lots of daughters because he is soooo good with young girls (sniff, Shireen…speaking of which, the Melisandre/Davos showdown about the whole burning Shireen thing is coming, right? Right??).
- Yara makes Theon believe he can come back from what Ramsay did to him.
Most Shocking Moments:
- The Waif stabs Arya in the gut (multiple times).
- The Blackfish nonchalantly tells the Freys they can kill his nephew, Edmure (come on, he knew they wouldn’t…).
- Ian McShane is on the show! Oh…and his character is dead…
- We are not a large house, but we’re a proud one. And every man from Bear Island fights with the strength of ten mainlanders. – Lyanna Mormont. If they’re half as ferocious as their lady, the Boltons are doomed. – Davos
- We’re not clever like you southerners. When we say we’ll do something, we do it. – Tormund
- I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met. At a certain age, it’s hard to recall, but the truly vile do stand out through the years. – Olenna to Cersei
- I think some of the men are afraid of you. – Septon. I’m used to it. – The Hound
- A Lannister always pays… – Jaime. Don’t say it, don’t f*cking say it. – Bronn
- F*ck justice then, we’ll get revenge. Drink. – Yara to Theon
- Who did Sansa write to (or, to put it another way: Who will be arriving late to the Battle of the Bastards, but just in time to save the good guys?)?
- What will The Hound do next: go after The Brotherhood Without Banners (remember, he defeated Beric Dondarrion in season three…)? Or possibly head back to Kings Landing…and see his zombified brother, The Mountain (#CleganeBowl – yay or nay?)?
- Are we rooting for Jaime or The Blackfish?! So confusing…
So that’s a wrap for “The Broken Man,” another episode that proves being happy and good just isn’t going to get you very far in this world…but revenge might. There are some glimmers of hope, though, as time and again, the show has given us characters that show resilience and fortitude. Even the most broken can find a way back, but the question is, how much are they changed by those experiences?
Be sure to check back in, here at Geeknation, as we continue to try and answer that question as we enter the home stretch of season six of Game of Thrones!
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