Show: Game of Thrones
Watched: Episode 57 – June 5, 2016
Title: The Broken Man
Summary: Lots of great character development
NOTE: SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING. This review/discussion contains tons of spoilers about the episode and even ones crossing over from the books. It’s really my free-for-all musing given all the information at my disposal.
Plot threads are unraveled and discussed one by one.
The Hound – Guess what, or favorite Clegane is back! Turns out like so many GOT characters when Arya left him to die… the Hound only “mostly” died. The mysterious Septon Ray (name changed from the books where he was Septon Meribald) found him where Arya left him and nursed him back to health. The Septon is played by vetran British actor Ian McShane, who was so awesome as Swearengen in Dead Wood (and countless other roles).
This thread is broken into several segments, but essentially Seption Ray runs a kind of refuge commune of various regular folks made homeless by the war. He inspires them to live well (he does wear a Septon’s star) and works alongside them as they build a tower, prepare food, cut wood etc. He’s a humble guy and keeps engaging the Hound in conversation. They’re both amusing. Ray: “What kind of big f**ker was man enough to take you down?” Hound: “a woman.” It’s also clear even from the beginning that Sandor is changed man, less angry than before. Septon Ray talks of his past as a warrior and his transformation into a holy man. One could parallel this with the High Septon’s story but overall Ray is certainly less manipulative and fanatical. During one of these speeches three men from the Brotherhood arrive on horseback. They ask for money, food, etc but are nicely turned away. The Hound is touched by Ray’s sentiments, but speculates that they should be prepared to fight.
Next time we see him he is cutting wood off by himself when he hears screaming. He returns to camp to find every soul shot through with arrows. The Septon dangles from his tower by a noose, even his star having been taken. The Hound grabs up an axe, set back on the warrior’s path.
While I’ve always liked the Hound (not as a person, but as a character), and I enjoyed McShane’s Ray, I was not totally satisfied with the handling of the group’s demise. It looked as if a magical force swept in, shot everyone, and vanished. Stuff was still laying about, and it takes some “dedication” to kill everyone. Even the Mongol Horde missed stragglers (and sent back a special party to mop them up). This sort of atrocity certainly wouldn’t be in character with Dondarian’s Brotherhood, but more work of the ilk that clustered around the older, bigger, meaner Clegane (aka Fraken-Gregor before Quburn got to play with him).
It should be noted that this whole segment is so much clearer (as usual) in the show than in the books where it’s told from the POV of Brienne, who doesn’t know the Hound. In fact, the written interaction is mostly between her and the septon and the presence of the Hound is only inferred, and the septon technically says he is dead. But he may be speaking metaphorically, implying that the hound changed — which given what the show is doing is presumably the case.
Margaery & Olena – The younger Tyrell is back hanging with the High Sparrow in his chapel. She is reading from one of the seven holy books, and quotes from the “The Mother.” If, as suspect, she’s acting, she’s doing a great job of it. She discusses her “new self’s” views of her “old self” in a very convincing way. The Sparrow inquires about her sex life, mentioning that she and the king haven’t “been together” — despite having been together. He encourages her to do her duty, as the king must have an heir. Certainly, medieval royalty were pragmatic about this, but it felt slightly forced. He also implies that Marg’s grandmother, the Queen of Thorns, had better watch out.
Later, Marg is back in the Red Keep with her Grandmother and under the watchful eye of Septa Unella. Olena is furious at her granddaughter’s pious stance and wants the septa gone — clearly they haven’t been alone. Marg sticks to the holy program, responding to Olena’s suggestion that she return to Highgarden that her grandmother should do the same. Then Marg slips her a note.
Oleana, never a dunce, instantly changes her tune. Outside, she opens the note which is revealed to be merely the Highgarden rose. Still, this is proof that Marg still sides with her house.
Later, Cersei and Franken-Gregor visit Olena, who is packing to return to Highgarden, finally having gotten the message to move out of the Sparrow’s reach and leave the scheming to her protege. They have an amusing exchange where Cersei, continuing to be subdued after her walk of shame, argues for an alliance. Olena blames her for the mess, which Cersei, in a bit ofrelatively new self awareness, agrees. But Olena reminds her that they have both lost, and that Cersei is without any support. Her uncle forsakes her, her son has gone to the Sparrow, and her brother is off fighting.
Jaime – and his Lannister army arrive at a Riverrun which due to budget, has grown more elaborate and picturesque since we last saw it way back in season 3. And Bronn is with him to continue their bromance. Jaime “convinces” Bronn that he should take over command of the siege and play his right hand man — since he’s short in the hand department. The Frey army investing the castle is as lame as the Freys themselves. The hooded creeps are taunting the Blackfish (who watches from the battlements) with his nephew, the hapless Lord Edmure. Threatening to kill him if the gates aren’t opened. The Blackfish isn’t about to flop.
So when the Frey’s back down on their threat, Jaime approaches them and takes command by one part royal order and nine parts confidence. He orders them to have Edmure bathed and fed. His putting the smack on the Freys is quite amusing. They don’t put up much of a fight.
The same can’t be said of the Blackfish. Jaime goes to the castle gates alone and unarmed and treats with him. Kingslayer and Blackfish. They take the measure of each other, and the Blackfish is not impressed. Jaime offers terms (letting the Tully men go free if they surrender) and the Blackfish states that he was born in the castle, and he’s prepared to die in it. The walls are high, the fortress well provisioned, and the commander is seasoned. This won’t be a quick siege and Jaime knows it.
These are fun scenes, even if Bronn is merely amusing and not in prime form. But the Jaime / Blackfish interactions are great as is him putting the Frey’s in their place.
Theon – and his sister Yarra party in Volantis, allowing us to again check out the cool shop-covered bridge and the whore houses. And while the Theon of old was a big brothel lover, alas, the newly trimmed version isn’t so keen on the carnal affairs. Which can’t be said of the enthusiastically lesbian Yarra — apparently instact Greyjoys are a lusty sort. But for all her bravado, Yarra is fairly sympathetic to Theon’s plight, in her Ironborn way. Still, as she puts it, if he’s so far gone he ain’t coming back he might as well end it all. Euron (sounds like urine) is hunting them, and they’re going to sail all the way to Meeren to ask Dany for help talking the Iron Islands back (little do they know she’s out horseback — I mean dragonback — riding). This tough love works on Theon, and he nods, on his way back from the reeky depths.
Jon, Sansa, Davos – are trying to get the north back together. First step is to convince the Wildlings to join them in this fight. Here Jon does pretty well, making a big speech about the Wildlings being toast if they don’t knock Ramsay out. Tormund acts as backup singer and Wun Wun the giant chimes in by saying “Snow!” Victory one.
Next up is Bear Island, which is a cool spot with icy waterfalls. There Jorah’s cousin-he-never-met, the 10 year-old niece of the Old Bear (the Lord Commander before Jon) is the lady. At first, the going is tough convincing her (and her Maester). Despite centuries of loyalty to the starks, She isn’t buying Jon. Nor Sansa. Then Davos pops in with a “I grew up in a shack” story and wins her over. Of course she only has 62 men, but she’s so cute she’s become an instant internet sensation — sort of like the Tormund/Brienne forbidden love.
Stop three is Lord Glover. He listens to them, and might even have a grain of sympathy for the old days, but he’s still a big no despite the trio’s efforts. Robb did them no favors with the way he screwed up, ruined everything over a foreign girl, and then left them to the Bolton’s tender mercies. Now fear of flaying and keeps them in the Ramsay camp.
And speaking of camps, the meager forces of Snow, Start, and Seaworth make camp at that exact unlucky spot where Stannis was blizzarded in, then “forced” to burn his daughter at the stake. A grim locale. Sansa wants to gather more men, even though they have tried and failed at all reasonable options. Jon thinks they need to win with what they have. But Sansa secretly writes a letter (presumably to Littlefinger) and signs it with her direwolf sigil.
Arya – Finally back to our favorite little Stark. She’s got a new outfit and hairstyle more in her traditional “hanging out at the Red Keep with her Dancing Master” style. Confident and bold, she strides up to some Westerosi ship captains and buys a cabin with stolen coin, then heads up to a bridge to take in a gorgeous view of Bravos and the Titan (the giant statue). Worth noting that this episode has been full of great views. Anyway, an old lady approaches, and we know what’s coming, it’s the Waif wearing a mask, and she stabs Arya 5-6 times nastily in the belly (shades of that other Stark, Robb’s wife). Arya, still being Arya, knocks herself free and over the side of the bridge to disappear into the lagoon and a pool of bloody water.
Shortly after, she pops up somewhere nearby, swimming in pain, climbs out and staggers through the market clutching her bloody guts.
I was loving this whole sequence until her post-stabbing athletics. I have to imagine that a half dozen long bladed stabs to the intestines and then a bath in bacteria laden waters is pretty much a certain date to meet the real master of the House of Black and White. So, unless she gets some magical intervention next week, I’m having a hard time imagining my suspension of disbelief will hold. The walking at all after such a stabbing already has it strained to the breaking point. But we shall see.
Episode Body Count: Septon Ray and his whole crew. Arya’s guts.
Overall, a quieter episode than most, but with a lot of good character development. Really Arya’s encounter was the only major on screen action, but the show doesn’t need constant action for good drama. Containing only 4 major threads, this week moved those stories forward in a meaty way. They are deliberately merging more characters. And this trend will continue next week as Brienne seems to be hopping from the Jon thread to the Jaime thread — and it will be great to see them back together again.
Also thematically, the Broken Man is apt. We have the Hound and then Jon’s party, full of broken men. Jaime and Blackfish both. Or at least damaged. Hell, Edmure too. Theon is pretty much the definition and even Cersei and Marg have been “broken” (or bent) in their own ways.