Season Six, Episode Seven — “The Broken Man”
By Jarrod Jones. Benjen Stark must be taking Bran and Meera the long way around to Castle Black, because we’ve gone two weeks with nary hide nor hair of the wee Stark and his bananas-crazy visions. Bran has been hopping around the entire timeline of Westeros all season long, past and present, giving all us wildly impatient Thrones die-hards a peek at a few pertinent things: the pre-Trident life of his ill-fated father, Ned Stark, and, more disastrously, what the heck those White Walkers have been up to since their siege at Hardhome.
Most tantalizing was Bran’s visit at the Tower of Joy, scant hours after Robert Baratheon’s victory at the Battle of the Trident. That little skirmish took place an entire generation ago, but Bran’s visions were as clear as day: Prince Rhaegar Targaryen had run off with Bran’s auntie Lyanna, a moment that is widely considered to be the most critical in the Song of Ice and Fire, and here we are, watching the very moment where Ned arrives to rescue his now-departed sister, screaming in pain inside a tower I can only imagine was henceforth referred to in Winterfell with a twinge of bitter irony.
What was it that made Lyanna cry out so intensely? Was it a mortal wound that pained her, or was it the cries of labor? This week offered us no resolution.
Instead “The Broken Man” introduced us to another Lyanna, the young but no-less-hardened Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island, greeted this week by Jon Snow and Sansa Stark. The Starks are having one hell of a time getting an army together to properly smash Ramsay Bolton — Lyanna, after some gentle words from cool uncle Ser Davos, has only 62 soldiers to spare. That disappointment, coupled with Jon’s failure to galvanize House Glover to action, leads Sansa to write a letter. Who is that letter meant for?
It’s probably for Littlefinger, but that’s another development for another week. Besides, there’s the small matter of welcoming Sandor Clegane back to Game of Thrones, which would have been quite the surprise had Ian McShane, this week’s guest star, kept his famously foul mouth shut when talking to the press. This week’s cold opener was a startling indicator that something monumental was right around the corner. One Al Swearingen later, and there he was, wielding an axe and helping a parish build what appeared to be a church, like The Hound ever had any business helping people. If the gods are real, why haven’t they punished me? Clegane asks. They have, you big dummy, McShane’s Brother Ray assured him. You just need to reacquaint yourself with the concepts of punishment and pain.
It didn’t take him long.
WHAT WORKED: It probably wouldn’t do to have Jon and Sansa stride through the North collecting bannermen and armies like it was no big thing. The North Remembers, we’ve been told, but these days the North seems to be adopting a more selective memory. (The Starks are still here, Sansa insists. And the North is all, Yeah? And what have you done for me lately?) Davos still thinks Jon has a shot at dethroning Ramsay: “We still have a chance, if we’re careful and smart.”
WHAT DIDN’T: For anyone who’s seen at least a single hour of television, “The Broken Man” must have felt painfully familiar. The violent man, cast out. Found by a band of the optimistic faithful. A bargain is struck: labor for room and board. Shifty-eyed strangers come to the door. The violent man’s true nature comes barrelling back into his life. Sandor Clegane’s arc would have had far more potency had most of the episode been dedicated to watching the Hound come back around to what comes natural. (After all, it worked for Morgan over on The Walking Dead.) Instead, it felt like Game of Thrones was taking a page from Batman: The Animated Series. (Which is a weird thing to consider.)
Arya Stark has always been a proud one. It’s often been her bullheaded demeanor that made the lessons of life all the more difficult to learn. Last week we saw Arya blow out a candle in some dark corner somewhere, cradling Needle and waiting for the Faceless Men to come and attempt revenge murder. But this week, we find her waltzing around the docks, booking passage back to Westeros like there wasn’t a certain Waif lurking about, waiting for just the right moment to strike. You forgot to bring Needle with you, Arya… did you actually think you wouldn’t need it?
Brother Ray: “He must have been some kind of monster.” Sandor: “She was a woman.”
“Shall we pray?” – Margaery, to Septa Unella.
BEST MOMENT: The other Lyanna. Just when we thought that Sansa and Jon’s union would bring the entirety of the North running to help them, we’re reminded that most bannermen have more than a few animosities towards Wildlings. But House Mormont, led by young Lyanna Mormont, has a problem understanding where Sansa’s loyaties really lie: “Is she a Bolton, or is she a Lannister?” Lyanna asks. “I’ve heard conflicting reports.” A hard-assed demeanor and the right touch of sass will only get you everywhere on this show, Lyanna. Welcome.
EPISODE’S MVP: Davos Seaworth. Once again, Davos proved that whenever you find yourself in an intellectual bout with grumpy people, the only guy you need in your corner is a six-fingered pirate with a charming accent. (Though, why did you clam up at House Glover, Dave? Come down with a sudden bout of laryngitis?)
– It’s official: Yara and Theon sail for Meereen. Maybe Theon can compare notes with Varys and Grey Worm?
– Family time: Lyanna is Jeor Mormont’s niece (or *sniff* she was), which means her cousin is Ser Jorah. Will there be a family reunion at some point? It’s looking pretty grim.
– Jamie: “After all, a Lannister always…” Bronn: “Don’t say it. Just don’t fucking say it.” Welcome home, Bronn. We missed you.
– Cunning will win the war between the Starks and the Boltons, absolutely, but who is there that Jon and Sansa can turn to who is just as wily as the Bolton Bastard — and has more than a few years of duplicity on him, to boot? Littlefinger would only be too welcoming for Sansa’s pleas, methinks. (And now methinks I’ll go take a shower. Ick.)
– Not present for this week’s skirmish: Elaria, Melisandre, Euron, Ghost, Jaqen, Dany, Jorah, Daario, Sam, Gilly, Tommen, Bran, Benjen, Meera, Tyrion, Varys, Littlefinger, Brienne, Ramsay.
6.5 out of 10
Next: “No One”, soon.
Before: “Blood of My Blood”, here.