05 June, 2016

Season Six, Episode Seven "The Broken Man"

There is a fair amount to quibble about in this episode, in comparison with the books. Sometimes it's just a necessary shortcut, and sometimes it subverts the story in the book significantly. I'm not going to get wrapped around the axle about it. I'm viewing this story as separate but related to the books. The Glovers, the Hound, the Greyjoys...in a way, I'm glad they're not spoiling the release (hopefully) of the books to come.

There is a lot to celebrate about this episode, too. A fantastic and all too brief appearance by Ian McShane, the grumpiness of the Queen of Thorns, Bronn's vulgar wit, an excellent scene with a 10-year old bear cub, and most of all, the return of...

The Hound

Sandor lives! He was found near death, his wounds stinking and bone sticking out of his leg (quite literally a broken man), and brought into a small community of peaceful folk. The leader of this group is a kindly man, who used to be a soldier, a committer of war crimes, and he has repudiated the doings of royalty and armies to pursue giving something positive back to the world.

He counsels Sandor, telling him that a higher power still has plans for him. Sandor wants to know, if there is a god or gods, why haven't they punished him for what he's done? The man looks at Sandor (burns on his face, misery in his countenance) and tells him that they have punished him.

Hard for Sandor to argue that.

As this nice group of people is listening to their leader tell his stories, they are approached by three men on horseback. These men want to know if the group has any horses, any steel, any food. They are told that they are welcome to stay for dinner, but that otherwise they have nothing to offer them.

Sandor realizes these three are no good, and he wants to take preemptive action, but the wise leader preaches nonviolence, and Sandor listens.

And Sandor is away doing some work when he hears a familiar noise. He returns to find everyone dead, and the wise leader hanging by the neck.

Nonviolence is honorable - the kind old man was right. But he was also right that the gods still had a plan for Sandor, and nonviolence doesn't seem to be a part of that plan. Sandor grabs an axe and sets off.

King's Landing

Margaery is such a changed woman, isn't she? She's learning her scripture, she's confessing her sins (she only pretended to love the poor), she's doing everything she needs to for the High Sparrow to be pleased with her progress in the Faith of the Seven.

She's really quite convincing. Is the High Sparrow convinced?

He has words with her about failing to do her duty in the marriage bed. She indicates that, as a changed woman, what drove her before doesn't drive her now. He tells her that sex doesn't require desire, but she must produce an heir for her king, her country, and the gods.

He also warns her that she needs to convert her grandmother, the Queen of Thorns, before harm comes to her - "body and soul". A threat, or just the concern of a pious man? In many ways, this is reminiscent of the Varys/Littlefinger conversations, only subtler. It's a joy to watch.

Margaery goes to visit Olenna, with Septa Unella as chaperone. Olenna is her typical blunt self, threatening Unella and exasperated at all this Faith nonsense. Margaery says all the right godly things, telling her grandmother that she (Olenna) received the gods' mercy rather than punishment for marching on the Faith.

What about mercy for Loras (another broken man)? Loras is going to have to admit his sins and give up any claim to his title. He'll have to live out his life as a penitent. Olenna's having none of that. She wants Margaery to leave King's Landing and go back to Highgarden, but Margaery has duties as the queen. She remonstrates with her grandmother that she, Olenna, should go back to Highgarden. Reaching for her grandmother's hands, she transfers a piece of paper to her. Olenna finally understands that Margaery is just mouthing platitudes. Embracing her granddaughter, she takes her leave. In the hallway, she unfolds the message - which is a drawing of a rose - the symbol of their house. She clearly takes heart from the picture - whether there is a deeper meaning than "I'm still Margaery", I don't know.

Margaery, for her part, let her mask slip just a bit, both times with her back turned to the good Septa. Once when hugging her grandmother, and once when taking her leave. She has to school her features and put on a pleasant face and asking the Septa to pray with her.

Later, Cersei (trailed as always by the faithful Mountain) meets with Olenna. She wants to make peace and an alliance with the Queen of Thorns...who rightly points out that all of this is Cersei's doing. And Cersei admits the truth of that (humble Cersei? Please...). Olenna tells Cersei just what she thinks of her ("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.") She also tells Cersei that her brother Jaime is gone, the rest of the family wants nothing to do with her, and that she's surrounded by thousands of enemies. "You've lost, Cersei. It's the only joy I can find in all this misery."

The Queen of Thorns indeed.

Jon and Sansa

Jon (hard to be more broken than @died) meets with the Wildlings to convince them to help in the assault on Winterfell. They rightfully protest that following him in the fight against the White Walkers is different than throwing away lives in a "Southern" war. Tormund speaks on Jon's behalf, but really it's Jon's unassailable logic that the old Stark alliance has to be rebuilt, or the war against the White Walkers is lost before it's started.

The Wildlings see reason in that, and agree to march on Winterfell. Jon and Sansa will meet them there, but they need to go do some recruiting first. (Hint; they don't seem to be getting errrrbody).

Their first stop is at House Mormont, on Bear Island. You'll recall that the 997th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch (Jon's immediate predecessor) was Jeor Mormont, the Old Bear. Jeor's son, and the heir to Bear Island, got into some trouble and was banished from Westeros, which is how Jorah ended up serving Daenerys in Essos, and how he betrayed her.

Jeor's niece became heir. She died fighting for Robb, and her daughter now sits as the head of the House. And she's a feisty, smart young lady. Jon has no success pleading their case. Neither does Sansa. It's Davos who presents the winning case. If this were a squabble between houses, then Mormont sitting on the sidelines makes sense. But the Night King is coming, and nobody gets to sit on the sidelines. The young bear cub acknowledges the need to support House Stark, and she pledges the full might of her House to that end. Unfortunately, the full might of House Mormont is 62 fighting men.

Sometimes you've got to start small.

62 men would have been a big victory from House Glover, their next stop. They get nada. Lord Glover has bitter feelings toward the Starks. After all, while Robb was marrying a "foreign whore", Deepwood Motte (home of the Glovers) was being taken by Yara Greyjoy. His wife and children were imprisoned and his people were treated poorly.

And, oh yeah, Jon's army is made up chiefly of Wildlings - ancient enemies of all Northern houses. Too much risk for the Glovers, and no assurances that Jon and Sansa will be on the winning side, so the answer is a resounding, bitter "no".

Back with their army (they managed some minor other recruiting wins - 200 Hornwoods being the most numerous, but they likely joined because Ramsay locked their Lady in a room and she starved to death).

Sansa is the naysayer. She wants to go to Castle Cerwyn to get more men. She doesn't trust Davos' capabilities as a chief advisor.

Jon can't wait. Time is running out to prepare for the Night King, so he can't be goofing around trying to add a few more men. He needs Winterfell and he needs it now.

Sansa goes behind his back...again... and sends a raven to...whom? Baelish? Cerwyn? Tully? She's sent Brienne south to try to get help from Riverrun (good luck with that). What's her game?

Theon and Yara

Talk about the Broken Man - Theon is broken in ways even Jon wouldn't have traded places with. They are in some port enjoying the company of nice young naked ladies, and Theon is Ill equipped to participate.

Theon is his normal haunted self, and Yara is sick of it. She wants him to dig deep and find the old Theon, or he (in her opinion) should just slit his wrists. She needs his help, if he can find some determination to help her find Daenerys, secure an allegiance, and take the Iron Islands back from Uncle Euron.

Is he in?

Yes, he is.

We'll see.

The Kingslayer and the Blackfish

Jaime (sort of broken) and Bronn lead the Lannister army to the siege at Riverrun. Bronn has some choice comments about the way it's been waged thus far, and Jaime suggests that he put it right. Bronn's cynicism and wit shine as they always do.

The Freys, who are shown uncharitably in this exchange (even their clothing makes them look idiots). There are so many Freys in the book, that nuance is lost when consolidation for TV occurs. Yes, the Freys have their idiots and cowards, but they also have their cunning, smart, and strong elements, none of which is in evidence on the show (but I said I wouldn't get wrapped around the axle).

The Freys are currently threatening to hang Edmure Tully (Catelyn's younger brother, uncle to Ned's children, nephew to Brynden the Blackfish). The Blackfish isn't nibbling at that bait (he knows that Edmure's life isn't worth a plugged nickel, whether or not he surrenders the castle.

And the Frey's were bluffing. They have zero leverage without Edmure, so they don't follow through on hanging him, cutting his throat, etc.

Jaime steps in and takes over. He seals it by backhanding the mouthy Frey. Bronn orders proper military protocol be instituted immediately. Pickets, trenches, trebuchets and siege towers. Time to get serious. Jaime wants a parley with Brynden.

He gets his parley, but he doesn't get the outcome he's looking for. He seems eminently reasonable - the war is over, so why should so many die for this last little conflict?

Because Riverrun doesn't belong to the Freys - that's why. Brynden is prepared to die to defend his home, and he'll take thousands of Jamie's men with him. Riverrun is protected by water - it's hard for armored men to storm those walls. They also have enough provisions to last for 2 years. Brynden rightly believes that Jamie has no interest in hanging out in the Riverlands for 2 years.

Jamie wants to know why the Blackfish was even willing to meet with him if he already had his mind made up. Brynden replies that sieges are boring, and he wanted to meet Jamie and take his measure. He's disappointed in what he sees.


In a big stretch to maintain the broken man theme, Arya has broken faith with the Faceless Men. Does that count?

She is booking passage back to Westeros, and she wants to leave on the morning tide. What she's not considering is that the Waif is on the hunt for her. A frail old lady approaches her on a bridge. Arya turns to find out what she wants, and the old lady pulls a shank and drives it into her abdomen twice. She twists on the last one ("see that she doesn't suffer" ignored). Arya head butts her, shoves her away, and dives off the bridge into the water.

The Waif watches the water. Apparently the blood and the duration convinces her that Arya is dead, and she moves away. Arya surfaces, stumbling through the streets, bleeding badly and unsure which stranger might be the Waif in disguise.

Was the Waif deliberately non-lethal in her attack, in order to draw out the pain? Does a girl have skills/connections to get healed, get Needle, and get on the boat? Surely Arya can't be another casualty?

Scenes From Next Week:

  • Cersei and the Mountain choose a confrontation with the Faith Militant
  • Brienne and Pod arrive at Riverrun, and Brienne still serves the Tullys/Starks...which makes Jaime an adversary
  • Jaime talks scorched earth
  • The Waif on the streets of Braavos, chasing a screaming Arya
  • Sandor chopping wood...and by wood I mean heads
  • Pod seized from behind
  • Tyrion hears something large land overhead
  • The Mountain grabs a Faith Militant's head...probably going to hug him and pet him and call him George


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