Game of Thrones Memory Lane 607: The Broken Man

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“The Broken Man” may well be my favorite episode in season 6. Though it lacks the grandeur of “Battle of the Bastards” or the revelations of “The Winds of Winter,” it’s full of meaningful character interactions, interesting book deviations and some of the most beautiful, underappreciated score moments Ramin Djawadi has composed for the show.

From its cold open, “The Broken Man” makes clear that it has something special in store for us. As disconcerting as it is not to hear the buzz of the HBO logo followed by the main theme, it’s effective in getting our attention. According to Bryan Cogman on the audio commentary track, the decision to breach tradition was made for practical reasons: Rory’s inclusion in the credits would have spoiled the Hound’s return. Still, the deviation from form serves the tone. Even as the camera pans across small folk building a sept and an uncharacteristically serene rendition of the main theme swells, we know something really important is about to happen. And then we see it: a crippled man carrying a massive log over his shoulder single-handedly. Even the most casual viewer can guess who he is by the time he turns around.

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We’re then introduced to Brother Ray, an amalgamation of the Elder Brother and Septon Meribald from A Feast for Crows who uses his own fast-and-loose take on the Faith of the Seven to create a peaceful community. From there we hop on down to King’s Landing where a far less loving interpretation of the same religion has forced Margery to play brainwashed for her own survival.

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Can I just say that Margery really deserves a round of applause for her chameleon skills at this point? First Joffrey, then Tommen and now the High Sparrow (I’m not counting Renly. She was honest with Renly). This woman will do and say whatever it takes to get by … or, in this case, to protect the ones she loves, as we see Margery smuggle her grandmother a doodle of the Tyrell rose to convince her to leave King’s Landing. At the time it seemed like a minor plot point but this little act of Margery’s is what saves Olenna from Cersei’s wildfire in “The Winds of Winter.” With all that in mind, Margery’s slight break in character as she hugs her grandma for the last time is a truly painful thing to watch.

Meanwhile, up North, Jon and Sansa struggle to find supporters to take back Winterfell. Davos helps them win over fan-favorite Lyanna Mormont, the Lady of Bear Island, who, at the age of 10, has already mastered balancing callousness, wisdom and heart better than most of the grown-ups. If she set her eyes on the Iron Throne, the Night King himself might rethink his strategy.

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Alas, House Mormont is one of the only Northern Houses to raise its banners to Jon and Sansa’s cause. Some fans have criticized the show’s omission of Northern Loyalty, a devotion to House Stark so unshakable it might be the basis of a Grand Conspiracy in the books. I find its absence refreshing.

Sure, it makes sense from a sociological perspective that a culture in such an unforgiving climate would value community above all else, but it runs counter to the idea that devotion must be earned through merit in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, not identity. One of the major appeals of Game of Thrones in its early days was that Westeros had no House Slytherin or Hobbiton, no surnames or club memberships by which to determine a characters’ value. The notion that the Starks deserve loyalty just for being Starks has always rubbed me the wrong way. Thus it is with some schadenfreude that I watch Lord Glover refuse Jon and Sansa’s call. He justifies his decision by pointing out that, hey, it was House Bolton, not House Stark that recaptured Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn (an interesting perspective shift on the similar Moat Cailin subplot from season 4). So, that’s where his loyalties belong, now.

An ironic bar of the Winterfell theme plays Lord Glover out as he turns his back, both literally and figuratively on House Stark.

From there we cut to Volantis where Theon and Yara have a much-needed, alcohol-fueled heart to heart in a brothel. A lot of people had a problem with Yara’s, eh, Ironborn brand of therapy in this scene

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Though it was nice to have the internet rise up in Theon’s defense for a change, I must admit my feelings on the scene remain mixed. I don’t mind the harshness of Yara’s pep talk. We’re reminded twice in this episode that the Ironborn are brutal, once by Glover and again by a sailor in Braavos. Yara’s approach to counseling her brother through PTSD would be ale and an ultimatum. Anything less than that would be out of character. The part I take issue with is that the catalyst for Yara’s “get busy living or get busy dying” speech isn’t that Theon’s instability threatens her chances of securing a pact with Daenerys or rattles her military focus but that her castrated brother is uncomfortable in a brothel.

All that said, this is still one of my favorite scenes in season 6. Greyjoy biases set aside, the music cue when Theon nods and Yara kisses his forehead is my favorite rendition of the Greyjoy theme to date:

Furthermore, I appreciate that Game of Thrones took time to acknowledge that Theon’s trauma didn’t end when he snapped out of Reek mode. I love that final close up of Theon twitching after Yara leaves him, an indication that, yeah, he’s making progress but he’s still got a long way to go.

Speaking of broken men …

Sandor Brother Ray

Sandor Clegane’s storyline bookends the episode as rogue members of the Brothers Without Banners massacre Sandor’s makeshift family and hang Brother Ray. It’s a grim twist on the Quiet Isle storyline in A Feast for Crows in which the Gravedigger, whoever he is canonically, the Elder Brother and their fellow monks continue to live in peace, away from the ceaseless violence that defines most of Westeros. Brother Ray’s community represented the same thing yet it was destroyed and I totally understand why some felt that this was a gross mishandling of A Feast for Crows‘ thesis statement on violence.

Yet, I choose to hold out hope that show!Sandor’s unresolved story has an amazing and equally satisfying conclusion in store. The Gravedigger may have found peace but this Sandor Clegane hasn’t yet and as he grabs his axe in the final shot of the episode, we are reminded of Brother Ray’s words, “the gods aren’t done with you yet.”


Memorable Quotes

“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 Tyrell

“I know I can never bring that lad back. All I can do with the time I’ve got left is bring a little goodness into the world. That’s all any of us can do, isn’t it? Never too late to stop robbing people, to stop killing people, to start helping people. It’s never too late to come back.” – Brother Ray


Brother Ray’s sermon bears some resemblance to one of the most famous monologues in ASOIAF, most commonly referred to as the “Broken Man Speech.” There are plenty of readings of it online but this one is my favorite. Grab the tissues.


Beautiful Death for The Broken Man, by Robert M. Ball

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98 responses

Jump to (and Always Support) the Bottom

    1. House Mormont is NOT the only Northern House to raise its banners to Jon and Sansa’s cause. House Hornwood and House Mazin supported them as well.

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    2. “This woman will do and say whatever it takes to get by … or, in this case, to protect the ones she loves, as we see Margery smuggle her grandmother a doodle of the Tyrell rose to convince her to leave King’s Landing.”

      To me the significance of the rose doodle was an assurance to her grandmother that she was still a Tyrell & not a brainwashed pawn.

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    3. This might be my least favorite episode of the season, but not sure. It’s between episode 1, 7, and 8. Either way, it’s still better than most tv out there.

      I always enjoy a cold opening though. With the return of Sandor Clegane no less!

      * In the North: Eh, I think enough has been said about the recruiting efforts of Jon and Sansa. I have no real dislike for these scenes, but I don’t care for them much either.

      * In King’s Landing: This is the episode where it became clear to me that the High Sparrow was corrupted by authority just as much as anyone else, if not moreso. It was clear he needed to go once he intimated to Margaery that Olenna was not safe unless she converted to the Faith. If the HS had his way, he would’ve required everyone in King’s Landing to convert to his religion. Those that refused would’ve found themselves in the Black Cells just like Margaery, Loras, and Cersei.

      * In Volantis: Some people are all about soft love and others are all about harsh love. The Iron Born are obviously the latter, so it’s baffling to understand why anyone would get a stick up their ass about this scene. They rape and pillage for a living, folks.

      * In Braavos: The less said about the stabbing scene, the better.

      * In the Riverlands: I enjoyed the scenes with the Blackfish. I kinda wish we got a little bit more of him, but he’s not particularly important to the end game, so whatevs.

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    4. “The notion that the Starks deserve loyalty just for being Starks has always rubbed me the wrong way.”

      Word. I loved this “North doesn’t care” bit.

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    5. The episode I plan to watch today. I remember how nervous I was in those days when it aired due to the approaching wave of exams. I must say brother Ray now leaves me a bitter taste in my mouth due to McShane’s quite rude comments about the show and its fans. And here I share my old review again:

      Lord Parramandas’s 7th reviewwritten on June 6th 2016

      Another week begins and Lord Parramandas is back for his review. Well to be honest, considering that the exams are approaching, I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to write a review. But don’t worry. Sooner or later, the review will show up.

      Again, I can describe this episode as “Calm before the Storm” and again, the build-up scenes were pretty good.

      Ray/Sandor Clegane: I absolutely LOVED the opening and they managed to reintroduce the Hound as the main character in his own storyline instead of through a shocking reveal in someone else’s storyline. It somehow reminded me of Jacob’s introduction in LOST (my favorite TV show). Brother Ray’s presence was simply amazing. He is no septon Meribald and he is no Elder Brother. On the other hand, he is a cheerful and lighthearted person and I love the fact that they didn’t give him septon robes. Like I said many times before, I don’t care about broken men’s speech at all and I will probably never understand the love for it. I found it really dull in the books and it contributed almost nothing to the storyline itself, unlike the one we got from Jaime. I’m sure that many show-only watchers would be bored as well. Back to brother Ray: Considering that he only appeared in one episode and I was sad when he died, this can simply mean that Ian McShane’s performance was as perfect as it should be (and again I would compare him to Jacob from LOST). Also, was that Lem?

      The North
      Another confirmed death – lady Maege died fighting Robb’s war. Little Lyana was perfect. Nothing more to say. As it concerns lord Golver, I liked the bit that the Boltons helped him liberate WF and I can understand his reasons. This is still GoT and the characters are grey. Another small bit, was the wildling elder the same one we’ve seen at Hardhome? Thanks God that I included him in my Character apperianceslist.

      King’s Landing: The tension is still rising…. I wonder what will happen to Olenna… I also have to praise septa Unella. She brings such an amazing presence without speaking a word.

      Riverrun: I can honestly say that I’m not a fan of this stuff in the books, mostly because of all filler that happened. But on TV, I was pleasantly surprised with it. The hanging scene was hillarious and I like the fact that Black Walder was given some more lines. He was mostly in the background in season 3. While Blackfish/Jaime confrontation was basically the same as in the books, I really loved the soundtrack in that scene.

      Volantis: …Yara is bisexual… Nothing else to say.

      Braavos: What the … just happened? If Arya was truly stabbed, she won’t get very far and considering that she is running away in next episode, this couldn’t have happened, could it? No, I don’t think it was Jaqen as someone else suggested and I don’t think he is just testing the Waif. Arya violated (again) a sacred rule and she now knows too much to be just let away. I perfectly understand that the FM cannot afford that and that they want her dead. Like someone suggested, she could as well be dreaming, considering that she blew the candle in previous episode…

      And now the verdict: Like I said, this episode was again a good build-up episode and is pretty much tied with the one from previous week. So the rating would again be a good 8 and this episode earned its place one step ahead of the previous episode (mainly because of brother Ray and Sandor Clegane), so I placed the episode on rank 30 before Blood of my Blood (rank 31) and behind Mockingbird (rank 29).

      Well, that would be all for this week. I sincerely hope I will be able to continue writing my reviews in future weeks and I don’t think I will be much on this site due to upcoming exams. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll return to studying spectroscopy and physical chemistry….

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    6. Mr Derp,

      In earlier drafts I included them but wound up cutting them, partly for length but also because I felt that, since those storylines were wrapped up in the next episode, “No One,” I’d leave those plotlines for Luka to address in his Memory Lane

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    7. Yaga: “The notion that the Starks deserve loyalty just for being Starks has always rubbed me the wrong way.”

      Word. I loved this “North doesn’t care” bit.

      Not only the “North doesn’t care” but also “the North will sneer at the Southrons for they supposed lack of loyalty.” (The irony is subime.) Mormont’s and Glover’s scenes really put into question the “Norhern exceptionalism.” And I liked it!!

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    8. I absolutely adored this episode… for its visuals, its dialogue, and music.

      Every single scene was powerful to me, and I remember being so drawn into this episode and listening so intently.

      – The cold open, wow… I will never forget that for a minute, my sister and I thought we were on the wrong channel and were freaking out that it was 9:01 and we were likely missing the actual episode… finally you see this man with a seven pointed star necklace, and then the music kinda gave it away. I was so happy to see Sandor Clegane back and im very excited for what he will bring to season 7. I knew his story was not finished. All these scenes were fantastic.
      – Marg was incredible in this episode, and her goodbye to Grandma gives me the feels, especially knowing what happens in EP10

      – Arya’s scene was super intense and had me dying to know what happens next.
      – I believe we see the Blackfish as well in this episode?? Was exciting to see him.. Nostalgic.
      -Jon and Co in the north… every scene was amazing… (those and the Hound scenes are my faves) I loved how they were done… Lyanna Mormont speaks for herself, fantastic. And as much as it was hard to watch, the scene with Lord Glover was 11/10 …. it brought tears to my eyes but everything he said was valid. 🙁

      Just amazing!!!! wow!

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    9. From its cold open, “The Broken Man” makes clear that it has something special in store for us. As disconcerting as it is not to hear the buzz of the HBO logo followed by the main theme, it’s effective in getting our attention

      Totally…the cold open rivaled Two Swords in its effectiveness. For book readers, the title was the spoiler but to see the familiar figure chopping wood (instead of the more ominous ‘grave-digging’) was an interesting adaptation.

      I was so-so with the characterization of another one-episode wonder, Brother Ray. For some reason, he didn’t sit well with me (neither did the actor’s comments afterwards).

      I was rather surprised that the show demonstrated that the BwB is indeed a chaotic, fractured group (I almost expected to see the Hound’s helmet too! 😉 ) but still led by a “moral compass” of Beric & Thoros. Great turn of events, imho.

      Then there was Lyanna Mormont, a stunning adaptation of a character that we have only noticed via an assertive letter sent to Stannis. So many amazing child actors on this show.

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    10. The best thing in this episode was Jon saying his mum’s name lol.I also loved Brother Ray’s Violence is a disease.That and what Varys says to Tyrion in the season 5 opener how there must be another way are two of my favourite bits of dialogue in the show.

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    11. Mr Derp,
      I also liked the Arya scene no matter how severe the stabbing was made to look. I’ve discussed that whole topic more than enough in the past year so I’m going to try to limit it tomorrow. I still think some people downgrade “No One” solely because they didn’t find it realistic for her to be able to run from the waif. Whatever.

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    12. Clob,

      Yea, I know what you mean. I personally thought the Arya/Waif stabbing scene was clumsy for reasons already covered ad nauseum. I’m not interested in beating a dead horse.

      However, I’ve made my peace that the stabbing scene wasn’t very well done. I’m over it. Arya’s a main character and she isn’t gonna die by some chump in Braavos. At least, not yet. I don’t know if she will ultimately live or die, but either way she should be around until the denouement.

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    13. Slight correction – Lord Glover doesn’t tell Jon & Sansa that the Boltons helped liberate Moat Cailin, he tells them that the Boltons helped liberate his own home of Deepwood Motte.

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    14. Jenny:

      The best thing in this episode was Jon saying his mum’s name lol.

      Loved that part too! I remember watching this episode for the first time wanting to yell at the screen that’s your mother’s name!

      I loved the scenes with Jon and Sansa trying to put together an alliance. The scene with the Free Folk was a great contrast to the parlay scene in Hardhome – this time round Wun Wun speaks for them all when he says Snow, rather than Tormund. And I do think Jon finds it easiest speaking to the Free Folk. The scene with Lyanna Mormont is revealing – partly because she accepts the existence of the White Walkers and partly because of her marks against Jon and Sansa, the former because he is a Snow, and the latter because of her marriages. Again, a great scene to contrast with another – the King in the North scene in Winds of Winter. Lyanna seems to have changed her mind about Jon, though I’m not too sure on Sansa.

      I have to admit that the first time I watched this episode, I was disappointed with the lack of the Broken Man speech from the books. When I re-watched it without the expectation of that speech from the books, I enjoyed it a lot more. And ultimately I think it fitted really well with the Brother Ray amalgamation they came up with of the Elder Brother and Septon Meribald – and it did retain the tone of the book speech.

      It was amazing to see the Hound back. Again, like a lot of book readers both Ian McShane’s comments and the episode title had me anticipating it. But it was a fitting way to reintroduce the Hound and make his story a center-piece of the episode. I missed Sandor Clegane so much! I hope we get to see a lot more of him in season seven than the two episodes he got in season six.

      The women are the strong ones, truly – this is a line from A Feast for Crows and is the thought of a POV character who didn’t make the cut, Arys Oakheart. It is a line I thought about a lot myself when watching Book of the Stranger, and it passed through my mind again when watching the Yara/Theon scene in Volantis. A brothel seems an unlikely place for a therapy session, but Yara pulls it off. And I love the reconstruction of Theon we begin to see in season six. He isn’t there yet, but as long as his sister is his therapist I’m hoping he’ll finally get there.

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    15. Off the top I have to be honest and say that “The Broken Man” is actually MY #10 for season 6, or about even with “Oathbreaker.” That isn’t to say that I didn’t like it of course, but considering entire episodes, that is where it lands for me. There are some really good pieces in it but much of it felt a lot like a “setup episode” for the remainder of the season.

      Highlight moments… cold open of Sandor’s return, Jaime’s “Frey slap,” and Olenna’s “worst person” talk with Cersei

      I don’t really want to mention Sansa but you have to admit she was back in full frustration inducing mode this entire episode.

      McShane is a great actor but no matter how many times I watch this episode he always feels out of place and a bit off to me. The green valley was pretty to look at but the entire arc was a little strange. I also had a hard time believing those three rogue brothers would kill every single man, woman and child in the clan just to rob them.

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    16. fine, I’ll scrap the rest of my original post and just write:

      I have to be honest and say that “The Broken Man” is actually MY #10 for season 6, or about even with “Oathbreaker.” That isn’t to say that I didn’t like it of course, but considering entire episodes, that is where it lands for me. There are some really good pieces in it but much of it felt a lot like a “setup episode” for the remainder of the season.

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    17. “Yet, I choose to hold out hope that show!Sandor’s unresolved story has an amazing and equally satisfying conclusion in store. The Gravedigger may have found peace but this Sandor Clegane hasn’t yet and as he grabs his axe in the final shot of the episode, we are reminded of Brother Ray’s words, “the gods aren’t done with you yet.” ”
      ————

      • There was also Ray’s preceding words (echoing Beric after Sandor’s trial by fire in S3(?)): “There’s something greater than us and whatever it is, it’s got plans for Sandor Clegane.”
      And Beric’s “recruitment” speech to Sandor in 6×8 also mirrors Ray’s “it’s never too late” sermon. Beric told Sandor something like: “You can still help a lot more than you’ve harmed, Clegane. It’s not too late for you.”
      I don’t need to be hit on the head more than three times to get the message: I too am convinced The Hound’s story line will have “an amazing and equally satisfying conclusion.”

      •. Though the episode title was kind of a giveaway, I couldn’t help but get amped up when I saw the cold open scene of a bunch of men carrying a log give way to…a solitary, limping man carrying a log all by himself.
      Having him dump the log, and catch his breath as he turned around to reveal his face, right before the theme music + intro was a magnificent moment.

      • The show has been prematurely killing off book characters, omitting many others entirely, or bringing back characters from prior seasons merely to give them a quick send-off (eg Osha, Rickon, Blackfish). There HAS to be a reason why they brought back the Hound when it would’ve been just as easy for him to be “left for dead” and to stay that way.

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    18. Mr Derp,

      It’s not a recap. Petra wrote about the things that interested her, and imagined (correctly) the Arya storyline would be addressed in the next Memory Lane.

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    19. Of all the great moments that didn’t make it into the fantastic Top 100 list, the opening of this episode is the one I missed the most. As Hodors Bastard notes, its title was a giveaway for book readers, and the Hound is one of my three favorites in both the books and show. But I thought it merited a top-100 honor based on the reactions of three non-book readers with whom I’ve watched it, all of whom were both shocked and thrilled.

      Daughter (Wolf Pup #2): Screamed in glee.
      Husband (Saner Half): “He’s alive??? F***, yeeeaaahhh!!!>*
      BFF #4 (Eccentric Artist): Gasped, caught breath, started whisper-chanting “OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod.”

      *Unlike yours truly, Saner Half very rarely drops f-bombs. He saves 99% of them for Giants games and news coverage of the Mangled Apricot Hellbeast.

      Moving on…

      I agree with Ryan about the significance of the Tyrell rose; that was my immediate reaction to it as well. I also agree with Mr Derp about the Blackfish, whose characterization I absolutely love (and will miss), and with Yaga and A Dornish Tyrell in regards to Northern loyalty. The sooner the Starks learn that Northerners are no more special than anyone else, the higher their chances of surviving the endgame.

      Petra, I looovvve how you’re just going to let Luka deal with the fallout of Stabby-Stabby. LMAO!!! 😛

      Seriously, though: In this episode, the opening scene with Sandor immediately cuts to Arya, and in the following episode Arya cuts to Sandor. Not a coincidence—they will meet again, and their next meeting will be of a very different nature than the last. A Girl is not confused any more.

      Like Hodors Bastard, I also was disappointed with Ian McShane’s comments about GoT, although I didn’t object to his characterization of Brother Ray. To be honest, I was always far, far more disappointed with Stephen Dillane, both his acting on the show and his attitude towards it. I’ve loved Dillane in a few other things I’ve seen him in, so it was especially disappointing to simply not care, one way or the other, about his Stannis. Yes, he played a dour, humorless, duty-driven character. But so did Owen Teale, and somehow, I found Alliser Thorne to be incredibly compelling; whenever he was onscreen I had my eyes on him, despite the usual presence of the world’s cutest male hair model.

      There are people who take issue with the Yara and Theon scene? Really? Pleeeaaase. It’s incredibly well acted, written, scored, and edited. I’m with Mr Derp on this: “They rape and pillage for a living, folks.” Yara gave Theon the punch in the gut he needed. As for taking him to a brothel—well, all the other Ironborn on shore were presumably there too; should he have wandered the streets alone? Echoing Yara’s tough-love approach, a castrated man must learn how to live in a world where most men go to brothels just as an alcoholic must learn how to live in a world where most people drink far more alcohol than water. /end rant

      And finally… Lady Lyanna. I’ll just quote Saner Half’s reaction: “I love this girl!!!”

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    20. Lord Parramandas,

      Uuuggghhh, the same thing happened a few days ago with a long comment I wrote about Tyrion. I’m hoping I can try again with that one in the Ep10 recap. Sorry you’re having the same trouble.

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    21. My longer comment was disappearing as well. Hate when that happens. I ended up cutting 2/3’s of it and that went. 🙁

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    22. Luka Nieto,

      I for sure will read and look forward to your perspective. And as I mentioned before, I had no issues with how it went down…

      I mean mostly with others. lol

      But I truly look forward to your piece 🙂

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    23. Dee Stark:
      Luka Nieto,

      I for sure will read and look forward to your perspective. And as I mentioned before, I had no issues with how it went down…

      I mean mostly with others. lol

      But I truly look forward to your piece

      Haha, I surely know what you’re talking about. I won’t follow the thread much either… unless I want to spend my evening frustrated but I think my real-life thesis work is frustrating enough and I don’t want one of my favorite shows to become another reason for frustration. 😅😅 I actually really like that episode.

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    24. (Posting in parts because of comments being lost in the ether otherwise)

      1.

      Of all the great moments that didn’t make it into the fantastic Top 100 list, the opening of this episode is the one I missed the most. As Hodors Bastard notes, its title was a giveaway for book readers, and the Hound is one of my three favorites in both the books and show. But I thought it merited a top-100 honor based on the reactions of three non-book readers with whom I’ve watched it, all of whom were both shocked and thrilled.

      Daughter (Wolf Pup #2): Screamed in glee.
      Husband (Saner Half): “He’s alive??? F***, yeeeaaahhh!!!>*
      BFF #4 (Eccentric Artist): Gasped, caught breath, started whisper-chanting “OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod.”

      *Unlike yours truly, Saner Half very rarely drops f-bombs. He saves 99% of them for Giants games and news coverage of the Mangled Apricot Hellbeast.

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    25. 2.

      Moving on…

      I agree with Ryan about the significance of the Tyrell rose; that was my immediate reaction to it as well. I also agree with Mr Derp about the Blackfish, whose characterization I absolutely love (and will miss), and with Yaga and A Dornish Tyrell in regards to Northern loyalty. The sooner the Starks learn that Northerners are no more special than anyone else, the higher their chances of surviving the endgame.

      Petra, I looovvve how you’re just going to let Luka deal with the fallout of Stabby-Stabby. LMAO!!! 😛

      Seriously, though: In this episode, the opening scene with Sandor immediately cuts to Arya, and in the following episode Arya cuts to Sandor. Not a coincidence—they will meet again, and their next meeting will be of a very different nature than the last. A Girl is not confused any more.

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    26. 3.

      Like Hodors Bastard, I also was disappointed with Ian McShane’s comments about GoT, although I didn’t object to his characterization of Brother Ray. To be honest, I was always far, far more disappointed with Stephen Dillane, both his acting on the show and his attitude towards it. I’ve loved Dillane in a few other things I’ve seen him in, so it was especially disappointing to simply not care, one way or the other, about his Stannis. Yes, he played a dour, humorless, duty-driven character. But so did Owen Teale, and somehow, I found Alliser Thorne to be incredibly compelling; whenever he was onscreen I had my eyes on him, despite the usual presence of the world’s cutest male hair model.

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    27. 4.

      There are people who take issue with the Yara and Theon scene? Really? Pleeeaaase. It’s incredibly well acted, written, scored, and edited. I’m with Mr Derp on this: “They rape and pillage for a living, folks.” Yara gave Theon the punch in the gut he needed. As for taking him to a brothel—well, all the other Ironborn on shore were presumably there too; should he have wandered the streets alone? Echoing Yara’s tough-love approach, a castrated man must learn how to live in a world where most men go to brothels just as an alcoholic must learn how to live in a world where most people drink far more alcohol than water. /end rant

      And finally… Lady Lyanna. I’ll just quote Saner Half’s reaction: “I love this girl!!!”

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    28. Brother Ray’s community represented the same thing yet it was destroyed and I totally understand why some felt that this was a gross mishandling of A Feast for Crows‘ thesis statement on violence.

      I’m glad Petra mentions this. AFfC is a dire depiction of post-war/pre-war Westeros.

      The Quiet Isle is a rare peaceful moment (but loaded with ominous portent) along Brienne’s journey through the seven levels of Westeros Hell. Considering Brienne’s remaining horrifying moments as she desperately searches for Stark girls, with a brutally macabre climax, it’s almost a cold shower. Only one other scene in AFfC is relatively peaceful, when Doran is overlooking the children playing in the water gardens, but even that scene came loaded with pretense as well.

      The Quiet Isle camp is filled with inactive warriors with dark pasts and consciences and the “Broken Man” speech represents them well. When the show brutally destroyed the village and villagers, I expected the outrage…another TWoW spoiler…but much like Shireen’s destiny, GRRM doesn’t let these peaceful, comforting situations last too long.

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    29. This is my favorite of s06 too. I’m really hoping for that Arya and Sandor reunion. It would be so interesting to hear what they say to each other.

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    30. I must say I never understood the big love for “broken men” speech… it was a pretty casual thing for me when I read the book and I doubt TV-watchers would pay much focus on it.

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    31. I absolutely loved the ‘cold open’. Very well planned and performed, just what was needed there.
      Later, I was wishing for Septon Meribald’s ‘broken men’ speech. What Brother Ray said was good, but the original was better – in the books. The reading Petra posted is indeed excellently done, very moving – except for the accent which puts that Septon Meribald into the ‘ruler’ rather than ‘ruled’ (and himself a broken man) category. It’s a Brit thing, and almost any regional accent would have done very well. Warwickshire or Nottingham would be good there 🙂

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    32. I must say I really agree with original post about the omission of “Grand Northern Conspiracy”.

      Side note: I see my original comment finally got posted now.

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    33. Some fans have criticized the show’s omission of Northern Loyalty, a devotion to House Stark so unshakable it might be the basis of a Grand Conspiracy in the books. I find its absence refreshing.

      Sure, it makes sense from a sociological perspective that a culture in such an unforgiving climate would value community above all else, but it runs counter to the idea that devotion must be earned through merit in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, not identity. One of the major appeals of Game of Thrones in its early days was that Westeros had no House Slytherin or Hobbiton, no surnames or club memberships by which to determine a characters’ value. The notion that the Starks deserve loyalty just for being Starks has always rubbed me the wrong way.

      The devotion was earned through merit, though. The Starks are popular because they were good rulers, beloved by their people (not all, of course, as ADWD also shows). The Northern rising in ADWD is a vital part of one of GRRM’s overarching themes in the series, which is the bearing out the legacy of Ned Stark as a man and leader. That thousands of Northerners rally through a blizzard to save “Ned’s girl” is the ultimate tribute to what he stood for, and what his subjects valued in him.

      It’s especially important that this storyline is set alongside AFFC/ADWD’s parallel theme of the condemnation of Tywin Lannister, who inspires the title quote of the former novel. AFFC opens with Tywin’s corpse literally stinking up the place, and throughout we see that he left a rotten legacy befitting his rotten character.

      Ned Stark was loved (as was Robb Stark), Tywin Lannister was feared, and when they’re both dead, the former’s memory can mobilize armies, while the latter rallies nobody.

      Moreover, ADWD’s Northern storyline is not just about the legacy of the Starks, it is about the legacy of the Boltons. The Boltons committed the most unforgivable sacrilege at the Red Wedding, and the North remembers. Simple as that. It is clear that the people in the North will not sit idle and let them get away with that, not just of murdering Robb, but of murdering his bannermen, the people’s fathers, brothers, sons, and cousins. That is a direct rebuke to the Boltons’ belief that they can behave however they want and never suffer any consequences for it, that they can murder Lord Manderly’s son and demand that he show up at their court and pay them obeisance. This isn’t just loyalty, it’s self-interest and self-respect.

      What does the show give us instead? A North where nobody cares about all the good the Starks did or all the evil the Boltons have done, and where violating guest right and murdering thousands (including one’s own parents and son) is a smashing success.

      And that’s purely on a thematic level, without getting into how framing the arc this way totally undermines any sort of arc for Jon and Sansa as characters, neither of whom, as a result, do anything to merit the ultimate conclusions of their stories (which are, respectively, being made king and supposedly being a great player of the game of thrones).

      Nobody is suggesting that they shouldn’t have faced any challenges in rallying support. Talking people out of their reservations is the stuff of a good drama, and good character growth. But we don’t get that; instead, we just get a succession of doors slammed in their face, and the one actual Northern recruitment we’re shown is given to Davos. And, much as I like Davos, and much as Liam Cunningham is a great actor, giving Davos this moment is a terrible choice on a writing level, because he is the only character of the three present who does not need this moment to build an arc. We need to see Jon do something to sell us on why he’s going to be made king; we need to see Sansa do…anything, really, to show that she’s a skilled player and diplomat. Davos is already established as an all-around solid guy, and he’s not getting a promotion at the end of the season.

      And, as a final comment on the notion of “the North forgets” as a reminder of how you have to earn loyalty, Jon and Sansa win at the end of this season because:

      1) Littlefinger wants to fuck Sansa because she looks like her mom.
      2) Sansa’s mom was Robin’s mom’s sister, so he’s willing to help her out.
      3) The Vale lords liked Jon and Sansa’s dad a lot.

      In other words, Jon and Sansa didn’t earn any of that. That’s entirely because of stuff their parents did or were. It’s just that in GOT-Westeros, it’s the Vale that is the beating heart of pro-Stark sentiment, whereas the people the Starks actually ruled are fine with being ruled by a bunch of flay-happy psychopaths.

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    34. mau:
      House Mormont isNOT the only Northern House to raise its banners to Jon and Sansa’s cause. House Hornwood and House Mazin supported them as well.

      I imagine that’s why the article says “*one of* the only Northern Houses to raise its banners to Jon and Sansa’s cause”.

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    35. Apologies to everyone for the duplicated posts!!! I’m sorry!!! (I thought the original one hadn’t made it through the ether at all.)

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    36. To me the significance of the rose doodle was an assurance to her grandmother that she was still a Tyrell & not a brainwashed pawn.
      Ryan: Ryan

      Um, yeah, Petra clearly got that.

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    37. That beginning caught me out also! I had to check I was on the right channel – Then of course the episode started with the astrolabe and the opening music 🙂

      We all knew The Hound was coming back, but just not when. It will be great if Sandor and Arya meet up again in S7, but quite how that would go down between them I can’t say.

      I think Sandor would be impressed by Arya’s skills as an assassin! He taught her well and of course – Where the heart is 🙂

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    38. Sean C.:
      In other words, Jon and Sansa didn’t earn any of that.That’s entirely because of stuff their parents did or were.It’s just that in GOT-Westeros, it’s the Vale that is the beating heart of pro-Stark sentiment, whereas the people the Starks actually ruled are fine with being ruled by a bunch of flay-happy psychopaths.

      Yes, and that’s exactly what makes the resolution perfect. The heroes did not win because of some untapped reservoir of exceptional Northern loyalty for their family – a storyline that would better fit on The Lord of the Rings. The heroes won because Littlefinger has the hots for Sansa. It dirties the victory. Smudges it. Debases it. Makes it more real. More perfect.

      And, above all, it’s still a victory – because in the world of Thrones, you don’t look the horse in the mouth; you take victories as they come, and are happy that you get a break at all. There are no points for style.

      e: I don’t agree with the Vale being particularly pro-Stark, though.

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    39. Yaga:
      Yes, and that’s exactly what makes the resolution perfect. The heroes did not win because of some untapped reservoir of exceptional Northern loyalty for their family – a storyline that would better fit on The Lord of the Rings. .

      It’s not “exceptional”, as I said. It was earned, and logical given their history. And, as well, the North’s enmity for the Boltons was more than earned.

      Whereas in the show, nobody cares that the Boltons are behaving in ways that logically should inspire a backlash, and which the show itself keeps saying will inspire a backlash (to the point where, one assumes, the writers imagine they paid that off). Claims to “realism” go out the window with regard to Ramsay, because Ramsay should not have been able to hold power the way he did.

      Incidentally, look forward to my Friday essay tribute to Ramsay, who is, and I say this wholly unironically, the most successful politician and strategist of the entire series.

      As well, the show itself doesn’t really suggest that “Littlefinger wants to fuck Sansa” was the only reason they won and that they totally suck otherwise, that’s just what actually happens. We’re supposed to take from this arc that Jon is the sort of person you would want to make a king, and that Sansa is a skilled politician, but the arc never actually gives either of them the opportunity to show that.

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    40. Sean C.,

      Absolutely well Written. And we do not have to’ forget that umbers and karstarks fight and die for ramsay with no problema. Nihilism is what damages the show

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    41. Sean C.: It’s not “exceptional”, as I said.It was earned, and logical given their history.

      You’re assuming here, though, that the Starks objectively used to be good, beloved rulers. I think that what we’re discovering through these scenes is that they probably used to be average at best, and kept in place hugely due to feudal inertia. They weren’t atrocious, of course. Just unexceptional.

      So, when Robb messed up and got a lot of people killed for the sake of a romance, and then Roose actively attempted to make amends (retaking Deepwood Motte and whatnot), that was enough to get a lot of people off the Stark train. Until they won, of course.

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    42. Yaga: You’re assuming here, though, that the Starks objectively used to be good, beloved rulers. I think that what we’re discovering through these scenes is that they probably used to be average at best, and kept in place hugely due to feudal inertia. They weren’t atrocious, of course. Just unexceptional.

      “Feudal inertia” isn’t a thing (as this series shows). To maintain a dynasty for 8000 years is an act of astounding acumen. There were bad apples in that lot, of course — that’s inevitable. But the Starks as a whole are an incredible success, politically.

      And, as I said, it’s very specifically about Ned, the Stark who ruled longest in living memory, as well as Robb (though he was a warrior king who sadly didn’t get much chance to leave an imprint). Ned was beloved by his people, because he was a good and just man. That’s why his memory still moves people after he’s gone, and very pointedly this is contrasted with Tywin, who inspired mostly hate and fear, and as a consequence cannot mobilize much of anyone when he’s gone.

      So, when Robb messed up and got a lot of people killed for the sake of a romance, and then Roose actively attempted to make amends (retaking Deepwood Motte and whatnot), that was enough to get a lot of people off the Stark train. Until they won, of course.

      This, again, goes back to the show changing things to suit its own more shallowly cynical view of things.

      One of the points GRRM is making with the Boltons is that they don’t care about anyone other than themselves. They didn’t help the Glovers retake Deepwood Motte, because they are not the sort of people who do that, who defend the realm. Instead, they play their own games in Winterfell and demand obeisance.

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    43. As I just finished watching the episode I’m again saying that I really appreciate how Northern story was handled on a lot more “grey level” on TV rather than “good and unquestionably loyal Northerns teaming against evil Boltons”.

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    44. I’m running into the same commenting problem that many in this thread seem to be experiencing. Alas. If I can’t get anything else through, I just want to say great job with the write-up, Petra! Also, I agree with your thoughts on the North’s loyalty and how it should be earned.

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    45. Sean C.: “Feudal inertia” isn’t a thing (as this series shows).To maintain a dynasty for 8000 years is an act of astounding acumen.There were bad apples in that lot, of course — that’s inevitable.But the Starks as a whole are an incredible success, politically.

      Honestly, I think it’s more GRRM’s inability with numbers at play here.

      And, as I said, it’s very specifically about Ned, the Stark who ruled longest in living memory, as well as Robb (though he was a warrior king who sadly didn’t get much chance to leave an imprint).Ned was beloved by his people, because he was a good and just man. That’s why his memory still moves people after he’s gone, and very pointedly this is contrasted with Tywin, who inspired mostly hate and fear, and as a consequence cannot mobilize much of anyone when he’s gone.

      You’re reasoning in a circuitous manner, though. You’re starting from the assumption, absolutely unproven and one that you present with no evidence, that Ned was ‘beloved’. Extant evidence – as in, Ned’s memory clearly doesn’t move people that much – shows that Ned actually couldn’t have been that exceptionally beloved. More like, he was probably pretty OK, people thought fondly of him/thought that he was basically unintrusive, followed Robb out of feudal duty and because war probably seemed like fun (to people who spent a lot of time at peace and forgot that it’s actually hell), but lost interest when things got real.

      You’re starting from a faulty assumption.

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    46. Yaga:
      You’re reasoning in a circuitous manner, though. You’re starting from the assumption, absolutely unproven and one that you present with no evidence, that Ned was ‘beloved’.

      No, the evidence that Ned was beloved is all over the books. That’s the core of the ADWD Northern story, as I said. GRRM is contrasting Ned and Tywin’s legacies quite extensively in AFFC and ADWD. Can you imagine Lannister bannermen doing for Cersei what the clansmen, Glovers, Mormonts, etc. do for Arya in ADWD? No, you can’t, because Tywin Lannister did not inspire that sort of love and affection, but Ned Stark did, and GRRM is making a point there. Just like he is when Tywin is repeatedly associated with shit and when his final appearance in the books is literally stinking up the place at his own funeral, to the point that people are vomiting (somewhat amusingly, this setpiece has not infrequently been used as the launchpad for speculation as to whether Tywin was secretly poisoned, as opposed to its much more obvious metaphorical meaning).

      If your argument is just that the show changed all that, and the Ned wasn’t a particularly good ruler or well-liked by his people, and the Northmen all hate Robb more than the Boltons, and the Boltons are better politicians than the Starks, well, sure, the show can change all that. And they did. But in doing so, they cut the heart out of GRRM’s Northern story (in addition to torpedoing the arcs they were trying to tell with Jon and Sansa, and even with Ramsay, who is constantly foreshadowed to suffer consequences for his barbarity but never does).

      Lord Parramandas:
      As I just finished watching the episode I’m again saying that I really appreciate how Northern story was handled on a lot more “grey level” on TV rather than “good and unquestionably loyal Northerns teaming against evil Boltons”.

      The Northern story on the show isn’t grey, it’s black. For it to be grey, that would require the Boltons to be less evil, but they weren’t; Ramsay was a one-dimensional moustache twirler. What the show changed was GRRM’s idea that there’s any consequences for acting the way Ramsay and Roose do, or any value in acting like Ned did. That’s “nothing matters” nihilism.

      The Stark side in the books is already grey. The people on the Starks’ side are not all upstanding and virtuous (hell, Wyman Manderly is pretty savage, when you think about it).

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    47. Nicely done, Petra, especially your comments on Sandor, who is indeed a broken man but not beyond fixing.

      Clob,

      Dee Stark,

      About a month ago, I wrote several posts with a theory as to how and why Arya planned the whole thing, even taking the inevitable wounding. I still stand by that theory, but the other day I saw an overlong video arguing that the show actually had Arya mimic Jaqen so it was him testing the Waif. It also posited that they later tossed the consequences on the chase scene. The video blamed the director, even mentioning that Maisie tried to get the scene toned down. I agree the director was a bloody knob. But who can deny that occasionally the show does drop a ball and that some directors get carried away. So that theory too is plausible. BTW, on re-watch last night we saw No One and BoB, and this time No One didn’t seem as excessive as it had last year, perhaps because in many show matters I’ve now accepted plausibility issues (like Sansa’s lies to Jon).

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    48. from there we cut to Volantis where Theon and Yara have a much-needed, alcohol-fueled heart to heart in a brothel. A lot of people had a problem with Yara’s, eh, Ironborn brand of therapy in this scene

      Seriously? Its not like there was a psychologist along for the ride. ! Talking about it, workiing it out would done bumkis. She knew her brother was badly abused, but she had to get him back so he could help the fight. Yeah, she gave him a cruel (to our standards) ultimatum. Fortunately he picked the right one and it worked.

      Ok haven’t finished reading all the comments, just wanted to put this out there

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    49. Furthermore, I appreciate that Game of Thrones took time to acknowledge that Theon’s trauma didn’t end when he snapped out of Reek mode. I love that final close up of Theon twitching after Yara leaves him, an indication that, yeah, he’s making progress but he’s still got a long way to go.

      Yes. And also loved the kiss on the forehead. Like I said earlier about the sibling episode – it showed that while she could be rough, she does love him

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    50. Sean C.,

      Reading your comments one might conclude that the Northern houses are OK with Bolton rule. The thing is, only Karstarks and Umbers actually support them. No one else out of all the other houses showed up to help them either now or against Stannis. So I would say that most of Northerners chose to stay on the sidelines rather than pick a side. I’ll grant you this dynamic is still different to the one in the books.

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    51. Mr Fixit,

      Not doing anything isn’t a neutral action, in this context. It’s facilitating the Boltons staying in power, since they’re currently the ones running the place and to whom the lords are paying their taxes, etc. They have the choice of either allowing the Boltons to run things unopposed or trying to unseat them, and they choose the former. This is particularly significant since, if the Starks are crushed permanently, the chances of ever removing the Boltons dwindle further, as far as anybody knows. And Glover, in this episode, as much as endorses the Boltons on the basis that they helped him out (which they didn’t in the novels, where Glover is working with Wyman Manderly to overthrow the Boltons, and his wife separately has committed her soldiers to Stannis’ cause to help rescue “Arya”).

      Hell, Lyanna Mormont basically rubs this in the lords’ noses in the 610, pointing out how they refused to do anything about all their murdered kin.

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    52. Mr Derp

      unless she converted to the Faith. If the HS had his way, he would’ve required everyone in King’s Landing to convert to his religion.

      House Tyrell (along with just about all Westerosi other than Northerners & Ironborn) are already adherents of the Faith of the Seven, even recognizing one church. There’s no “conversion”, just submission. The “Humiliation of Canossa” was not a matter of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV converting to Catholicism (as the name of his empire indicates, he was already Catholic), but submitting to the Pope and performing penitence after being excommunicated. The High Sparrow has power because he’s seen as the legitimate, incorruptible representative of a Faith the Westerosi (particularly near the center of power) already adhere to.

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    53. Sean C.,

      But Jon and Sansa have earned the Stark legacy. They’ve earned Robb Stark’s legacy. You say that the Northern lords should follow them out of their love for Ned, but they followed Robb out of their love for Ned, and look how that turned out. Lord Glover put it better than I ever could. Robb royally screwed them and caused the deaths of thousands of his people. I told you in another thread, this storyline was all about the Starks, or in this case, Jon Snow, earning back the Northern lords’ trust and respect. Jon led the northern army against the Boltons, he risked his life to save his little brother, he, Tormund, and Wun Wun stormed Winterfell and broke through the gates before the Boltons could prepare for a siege, and Jon personally captured Ramsay Bolton himself.

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    54. Sean C.: No, the evidence that Ned was beloved is all over the books.

      Well, I think that you’re mistaken at this point and so unnecessarily glorifying Ned. It’s OK for Ned to have been just an OK guy. It’s OK for Jon and Sansa to have to work for the restoration of their home. It’s OK and extremely realistic if they somewhat fail – get some people on their side, but not all, with most deciding to sit the conflict out. It’s OK if they win because of Littlefinger’s less than high-and-mighty intentions. And it’s *extremely* OK if, in doing so, they strip off the veneer of “Northern loyalty” exceptionalism, and show that the Northerners play the Game as well. That’s what Petra and I and those who agree with us respond so positively to in the show storyline. I would argue that it was GRRM’s mistake to unrealistically glorify Ned… except, again, I don’t think he does or he will; I think you, and the fans who do so, are misinterpreting the books because *you*/*they* were attached to Ned.

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    55. Some fans have criticized the show’s omission of Northern Loyalty, a devotion to House Stark so unshakable it might be the basis of a Grand Conspiracy in the books. I find its absence refreshing.

      Sure, it makes sense from a sociological perspective that a culture in such an unforgiving climate would value community above all else, but it runs counter to the idea that devotion must be earned through merit in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, not identity. One of the major appeals of Game of Thrones in its early days was that Westeros had no House Slytherin or Hobbiton, no surnames or club memberships by which to determine a characters’ value. The notion that the Starks deserve loyalty just for being Starks has always rubbed me the wrong way.

      I know you guys on this site love to praise this show no matter what. Whether the Northerners should unconditionally love the Starks or not could be another story. However, the Northerners(except for Boltons and Karstarks) should “logically” and “practically” despise the current rulers for what they did at the Red Wedding. It’s not just the Stark men that were massacred; the entire army included Mormonts, Umbers, Manderlys, Glovers, Dustins, Ryswells, Hornwoods, etc. The worst part was indeed Smalljon Umber. Here is a man who hates Wildlings yet keeps Osha alive who has no real value. The same guy who “loves” to kill Wildlings, refuses to help the Night’s Watch when 100,000 wildlings were about to attack Castle Black with Mole’s town already sacked.

      The Northern plot was a mess as they focused on making BotB one-sided till the last moment. I love this site for the scoops and I usually don’t care how you like to overlook certain things for entertainment. But, this was a very poor excuse to justify a bad plot.

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    56. You only have to look at the Wars of the Roses from which GRRM drew much inspiration to see that shifting loyalties were part and parcel of the feudal world, no matter what oath or pledge a noble might have made.

      Not just the Wars of the Roses in English history: “The Anarchy” of King Stephen’s reign, the “First Barons’ War” which elicited the support of the French King (traditional enemy of England)against King John, the uprising of Simon de Montfort against Henry III,; and others.

      The aristocracy was nothing if not pragmatic, and the idea of fealty was a movable goalpost.

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    57. Wolfish,

      Umm, people just have different sensibilities. Nobody is better than the other for being “open minded”, vs uncomfortable at openly sexual display popping up like that. Face it, they didn’t need to show Yara put another woman’s boob in her mouth. Other than that, it was a very good and emotional scene.

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    58. Young Dragon:
      Robb royally screwed them and caused the deaths of thousands of his people.

      No, he didn’t. That, again, is something the writers have imposed on GRRM’s narrative. In ASOIAF, the North puts the blame where it belongs: on Tywin Lannister, Walder Frey, and Roose Bolton, the people who did the betraying and murdering, not on Robb for getting betrayed and murdered. Robb was imperfect, but he tried to do the right thing, and he tried to make amends for his mistakes. This followers recognized his good qualities, and they understood that the things that went against him were largely outside his control.

      And, again, any flaws that might have been to be found were wiped over by the manner of his death, which made him into a martyr. That’s another way GRRM explores the legacy of the Red Wedding. The perfidy of the Freys, Boltons and Lannisters was so infamous in the North and the Riverlands that it made Robb and his men into tragic heroes.

      Yaga: Well, I think that you’re mistaken at this point and so unnecessarily glorifying Ned. It’s OK for Ned to have been just an OK guy.

      But he wasn’t “just an OK guy”. He was a great guy, and his people knew it. That’s a hugely important part of ASOIAF, thematically.

      It’s OK for Jon and Sansa to have to work for the restoration of their home.

      I explicitly said that them having to overcome reservations is inherently necessary for there to be drama.

      It’s OK and extremely realistic if they somewhat fail – get some people on their side, but not all, with most deciding to sit the conflict out.

      It’s not OK, because it completely undermines the arcs that the show is trying to tell with them. And they don’t “somewhat fail”, they totally fail. Sansa, in particular, is entirely incompetent.

      And it’s *extremely* OK if, in doing so, they strip off the veneer of “Northern loyalty” exceptionalism, and show that the Northerners play the Game as well.

      Once again, it’s not about “exceptionalism”. I don’t think the North is anymore loyal, intrinsically, than any other region. Their affection for the Starks is borne out of their history and the deeds and character of the Starks. And the way the Northerners feel about the Starks is the same way that, say, the Valemen feel about the Arryns (and about Jon Arryn), or Dorne about the Martells (in the books…). Indeed, the way we see so many Arryn bannermen rally consistently to Jon Arryn’s legacy is another way that GRRM tells us the value of character of the sort that Jon Arryn was said to have.

      That’s what Petra and I and those who agree with us respond so positively to in the show storyline. I would argue that it was GRRM’s mistake to unrealistically glorify Ned… except, again, I don’t think he does or he will; I think you, and the fans who do so, are misinterpreting the books because *you*/*they* were attached to Ned.

      What is “unrealistic” about it? ASOIAF has the full spectrum of rulers in it, from the likes of Jaehaerys the Wise to the likes of Maegor the Cruel and Aegon the Unworthy. Ned was much closer to the former than the latter.

      As to the idea that this is a misinterpretation, no, I don’t think so. You don’t write moments like “Ned’s girl” if the idea is that Ned was just an okay guy. People don’t do things like that for an okay guy.

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    59. The cold open with Sandor Clegane really is some beautiful filmmaking. In fact, the entire arc, told over three scenes, is really quite lovely. It’s unconventional for Game of Thrones, but that’s part of the reason it’s so effective. It’s awesome to have Rory McCann back, and Ian McShane was great as Brother Ray. I know that some were upset that he was killed off after one episode, but that overlooks the fact that McShane only agreed to take this particular role because it was a one-episode part. If Ray had stuck around longer, it would be another actor portraying the character. I’m happy we got McShane on the show at all, playing this small but pivotal role. It was worth it for “tits and dragons” comment alone (which I take no offense to – it was funny, and McShane has more than earned the right to give no fucks).

      Lyanna Mormont is an amazing new character, perfectly portrayed by an extraordinary young actress in Bella Ramsey. Seeing her pledge her 62 men to the cause remains unequivocally badass, no matter how many times I watch it. But I also want to pay tribute to Tim McInnerny as Robett Glover. He was also great, conveying the opposite perspective as a Lord who wasn’t quite ready to follow House Stark into war once again. That paid off splendidly in the finale, when he expressed genuine remorse (after being shamed by aforementioned Lyanna) and drew his sword to follow Wyman Manderly and lead the others in proclaiming Jon as “THE KING IN THE NORTH!”

      Jaime and the Blackfish’s parlay is great, as is every scene involving Jaime and Bronn taking the Freys to task for their utterly pathetic attempts at a siege. The Kingslayer and the Knight of the Blackwater are two of my favorite characters in the show, and every scene that they have together is a gift in my eyes. King’s Landing, Dorne, Riverrun – it doesn’t matter. Pair those two up and let them bounce insults off one another, and I’ll be happy. Better yet, give them someone else to insult together – and I’ll be happier still.

      Jaime’s scenes at Riverrun in the following episode are some of my favorites in the entire show. More on those tomorrow, I guess.

      On my initial viewing, it didn’t occur to me that Margaery and Olenna’s exchange in this episode would be the last time that they ever saw one another. That makes their last embrace all the more emotional on rewatch. On a show renowned for its dynamic character pairings, Natalie Dormer and Diana Rigg were truly a worthy addition to the pantheon, even if they never took a roadtrip together, as the best dynamic duos usually do 😉 Also, Olenna’s utter contempt for Septa Unella is hilarious. (“Does it move or talk?”)

      And of course, Olenna asking Cersei if she plans to kill all of her enemies herself is chilling in retrospect. Whether or not Olenna’s words sparked the wildfire idea, or merely tracked with a plan that Cersei was already forming, it’s a magnificent bit of foreshadowing. And as ever, watching Diana Rigg and Lena Headey verbally spar with one another is an honor and a privilege.

      Nice to see Volantis again. Petra already summed up the tough love scene between Yara and Theon perfectly. I have nothing further to add.

      As for Arya’s stabbing, it’s not the show’s finest hour. But I don’t hold it in the same ill regard as some. I do think that if the Waif’s initial attack and the eventual pursuit in the following episode had been amalgamated into a single sequence, it might have been better received. The week-long layoff between the two certainly didn’t help. But ultimately, it doesn’t bother me all that much, then or now. Part of the reason for that could be that I didn’t indulge in any of the increasingly wild theories that were flying about the Internet that week. Unfortunately, those theories were so ubiquitous that I did something that I virtually never do when Game of Thrones is in season: I signed off. I opted out of the online discussion, in favor of processing the episode for myself. Because I hadn’t spent 7 days twisting myself into convoluted knots about theories that I knew weren’t going to pan out, I was set up to take in whatever resolution the following episode without such cluttered hopes and preconceptions. As a result, I enjoyed it well enough.

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    60. Wow, reading certain comments here, I’m so happy I completely “let go” of the books during S5 as I’m still able to be a big fan of a show without complaining. on every step.

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    61. Sean C.,

      Most of the North puts blame on the Boltons as well, which is why only two other houses assisted them in their fight against the Starks. But they also hold Robb accountable for the Red Wedding, as they should. He swore a vow to marry Walder Frey’s daughter, he broke that vow, and then the Red Wedding occurred. Saying Robb isn’t partly responsible is a gross misunderstanding of the text.

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    62. Sean C.: N
      But he wasn’t “just an OK guy”.He was a great guy, and his people knew it.That’s a hugely important part of ASOIAF, thematically.

      Yeah, Ned was great. That didn’t mean his children were, until Jon Snow showed them and earned back their trust and their respect.

      Sean C.:
      It’s not OK, because it completely undermines the arcs that the show is trying to tell with them.And they don’t “somewhat fail”, they totally fail.Sansa, in particular, is entirely incompetent.

      Jon Snow didn’t fail at all. He was the reason the wildlings joined in the fight, which made up the bulk of their fighting force. And he was very respectful to Lady Mormont and helped Davos convince her to join.

      Sean C.:
      Once again, it’s not about “exceptionalism”.I don’t think the North is anymore loyal, intrinsically, than any other region.Their affection for the Starks is borne out of their history and the deeds and character of the Starks.And the way the Northerners feel about the Starks is the same way that, say, the Valemen feel about the Arryns (and about Jon Arryn), or Dorne about the Martells (in the books…).Indeed, the way we see so many Arryn bannermen rally consistently to Jon Arryn’s legacy is another way that GRRM tells us the value of character of the sort that Jon Arryn was said to have.

      The Northerners did feel that way for the Starks, until Robb Stark betrayed their cause and caused the deaths of 3500 Northmen. Robb Stark besmirched the Stark name, until Jon was able to make things right again.

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    63. Young Dragon,

      Robb went to the Red Wedding to make amends, under a sacred truce. The violation of that is a sacrilege of the highest order, and one that the North is eager to avenge. That’s part and parcel of GRRM showing why the perpetrators reap the whirlwind of their breaking guest right. Whereas in the show, the Boltons completely get away with it.

      Jon absolutely failed. He was an abysmal general, to the point that his men would have been better off if he’d fallen off his horse just before the battle started and spent the next few hours unconscious.

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    64. Sean C.,

      The Boltons didn’t break guest right, the Freys did. And Robb’s attempt to make amends wouldn’t have been necessary if he didn’t break his vow in the first place. This isn’t lost on some of the Northern lords. That’s not to say the Northern lords also don’t hold the Boltons accountable, because they do. But Ramsay has also had plenty of time to conduct a reign of terror in the North. Should the rebellion fail, it would mean the deaths of thousands of Northmen. The lords’ reluctance to join another losing fight is completely understandable considering the hell they’ve been through.

      I see you completely overlooked my post about Jon. He absolutely did not fail. He convinced 2,000 wildlings to join his cause, more men than Davos or Sansa got to fight for them combined. He led the army to Winterfell, risked his life to save his little brother, stormed Winterfell with Tormund and Wun Wun, took the castle before the Boltons could prepare for a siege, and captured Ramsay Bolton himself.

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    65. Young Dragon,

      I didn’t overlook your comments about Jon, I was responding to it. Jon was as solid a soldier as ever, and he did okay on the circuit (though I think the writers seriously undersold him in the Mormont scene, which should have been a slam dunk for him), but as a general he was an unmitigated disaster and would have gotten his entire army destroyed but for deus ex Vale.

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    66. Young Dragon,

      Yes, any general could have done better, by not precipitating a charge right into the enemy’s ranks.

      Though that’s also on Davos, for sending anybody after him.

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    67. ygritte,

      I didn’t claim to be “better” or more “open-minded” than anyone else, and I apologize if my comment came across that way. Having said that, I’m shocked that people with “different sensibilities” didn’t stop watching after S1. This scene was nothing compared to the brothel scenes in King’s Landing!

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    68. For some reason I didn’t receive any email notification of this article being published (I checked my spam box too) like I do for all other articles, thought I would flag that in case others had the same issue.

      As for the episode, I enjoyed it. Nice to have an episode focusing on one of my favourite secondary characters and solid through out. I’d give this another 7/10.

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