In tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones, we find that broken men may be fixed, but they’re never quite the same.
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section will contain spoilers from the novels! Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you haven’t read the books yet, please check out our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
Tonight’s episode unusually had a cold open, and the reason for it was quickly apparent. After all, a long-missing name in the opening credits would’ve been a big giveaway, wouldn’t it? That’s right, the Hound has returned to Game of Thrones.
Well, Sandor Clegane has. The Hound just might be dead, after all.
In “The Broken Man,” we find that instead of dying alone after his brutal fight with Brienne at the end of season 4, Sandor Clegane was discovered by a lay holy man, and is living in a Westerosi hippie commune led by his savior, Brother Ray (Ian McShane).
Sandor Clegane isn’t quite the man we saw last- more contemplative, though he’s as gruff as ever. Ray thinks the gods have something more planned for Sandor, but the former Hound isn’t so sure.
In King’s Landing, Margaery is selling her conversion like a champ. The High Sparrow corners her for another one of his trademark chats on the Bench of Truth to confront Queen Marg about avoiding her marital bed. It’s her duty to provide an heir, he reminds her- and it’s also her duty now to bring the Queen of Thorns over to their way of thinking.
Closely guarded by Septa Unella, Margaery visit her grandmother, and explains that Loras will be released once he confesses and repents of his sins. She strongly urges Olenna to leave the city, and slips a note into her hand. Her perfect mask slips then, and if you thought her conversion was for real, forget about it. Margaery is deep into this game, and I’m not sure she’s going to find her way out, but she is brilliant.
The Queen of Thorns takes the hint, and once away from the septa’s prying eyes, Olenna finds that Margaery has slipped her the Tyrell rose, signifying her true loyalty. Growing Strong, indeed.
The wildlings Jon has been counting on for his army are asking some hard questions about marching south to fight, especially the ginger fellow who was at Hardhome (Murray McArthur). No, not Tormund- the other one.
Jon tells them that the Boltons will come for the wildlings when they’re done with Jon and his lot. Tormund backs Jon by reminding them that Jon literally died for them, and the Free Folk can’t argue with that. I mean that’s a tough one to beat in any debate.
Wun Wun adds his two cents: “Snow.”
And the wildlings are secured.
Cersei and the Queen of Thorns have one last quality spat before Olenna heads out of town. Cersei’s attempt to guilt Olenna about leaving Loras behind is a nasty maneuver, but Olenna rightly points out that this is all Cersei’s fault so screw that. The Queen of Thorns knows the High Sparrow is aiming for her, and Cersei is an idiot for not getting out, herself.
Olenna is right about Cersei losing. Cersei encouraging Jaime to take the Riverrun assignment without considering she was in any danger showed a severe lack of foresight. Cersei’s arrogance and her overconfidence in her easily swayed son Tommen will be her undoing. Probably very soon.
Speaking of Riverrun, Jaime has arrived with the Lannister troops and Bronn. Hey buddy, where ya been! He’s still waiting for a rich wife and a castle, but his sharp wit is intact.
The Freys have made an absurd mess of the siege of Riverrun, trotting out Lord Edmure Tully and threatening him with hanging to try and force the Blackfish into surrendering. The Blackfish is an old hand at war and siege, and stonily ignores the threat. (Damn, it’s good to have Clive Russell back in this role, saying more with a long silence than most actors can with a dozen sentences.)
Jaime takes command of the botched siege, and sets up a meeting with the Blackfish.
It’s great to see Jaime in a more kinetic mode, now that the siege is on. He’s been wasted in King’s Landing this season, with stagnant Jaime-Cersei scenes, and now he’s back in action, showing his strengths and reminding us of who he is, separate from his sister.
I don’t think we’re getting the infamous baby-in-a-trebuchet threat, since Roslin Frey is nowhere to be seen, but hey, fingers crossed?
Up in the North, Sansa, Jon and their retinue arrive at the first house to ask for help, the isolated Bear Island. They find House Mormont less than friendly, with the 10-year-old lady of the house Lyanna (Bella Ramsey) handing them their asses in short order. This is, after all, the same girl who told Stannis Baratheon himself where to stick it when he commanded her house’s assistance.
Davos has better luck, putting himself in Lady Lyanna’s place, using his silver tongue, and speaking frankly about the true war between the living and the dead.
With Davos’ words, Lyanna reconsiders and agrees to share her fighting men with them- all 62 of them. Jon sucks at hiding his dismay, but Davos gracefully accepts.
The Blackfish and Jaime parley at Riverrun, and it doesn’t go quite as the Kingslayer had hoped.
The Blackfish is summarily unimpressed with Jaime’s threats, and reminds Jaime of his oath regarding the Stark girls. He also points out that Riverrun can withstand a 2-year siege, and burn two years of Jaime’s life. Not exactly the rush job he thought he was signing up for.
The tough old Blackfish knew he wasn’t going to surrender when he came down to meet, but he tells Jaime, he wanted to get the measure of him. He’s disappointed.
Coming at this from a book reader’s perspective, I’m wondering where they’re going with this, since we haven’t spent a lot of time with the Blackfish, and it may not be apparent to everyone why Jaime would give a damn about this man being disappointed in him. The Blackfish is a legend, a war hero, and someone Jaime looks up to, but I don’t think the weight of that comes across if you don’t know the back story.
But at least we got that reminder of Catelyn, and Jaime’s vow to send the girls back. That should lead to an interesting discussion with Brienne next week.
At stop #2 on the Great Northern Recruitment Road Trip, Sansa, Jon and Davos don’t fare as well. Lord Robett Glover only got his castle back with the Boltons’ help, and doesn’t think highly of Robb Stark, who threw it all away and got everyone killed for his foreign wife. Sansa challenges Glover but his refusal is final: to him, House Stark is dead.
Over in Volantis, Theon and Yara are celebrating their getaway from the Iron Islands. Well, Yara and her men are. Theon is shaking and uncomfortable, surrounded by the prostitutes and festivities.
Yara can’t take it any more, him behaving as if he’s broken. She gives Theon a hardcore pep talk, full of tough love. I know some people will give Yara shit for not being sensitive enough but she’s an Iron Islander, not a psychotherapist, and she does love her brother in the only way her people know how.
And it works. Theon chugs his ale, makes a decision, and lifts his head, meeting her eyes. Perhaps he isn’t broken, after all. Theon will have a long road ahead of him, but his way back to himself begins here. Now the Ironborn siblings will be off to approach Daenerys with an offer.
There’s one more check-in with the Great Northern Recruitment Road Trip, as they set up camp. They’ve acquired a few more soldiers along the way, happily, but not nearly enough. After disagreeing with Jon over how to proceed, Sansa makes a decision of her own. She sends a raven, and I’m guessing this is to Littlefinger, because those Knights of the Vale would make a fantastic addition to any army. And they will come for Sansa Stark.
Okay, so let’s get this out of the way. Brother Ray is talking again and this is still not the Broken Men speech. You can’t call it a condensed version of it either; it’s something else, and damn it’s hard sometimes as a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire to let go and take in only what we are seeing onscreen. I would’ve liked to see/hear it performed because it’s a fantastic speech from A Feast for Crows, but once you recognize the feeling, then you have to set aside your disappointment and examine what is there, not what isn’t. And what is there is still very good.
Alright, moving on.
At Brother Ray’s HappyFunTime Commune, a trio of strange men come sniffing around and they’re clearly bad news. (Yeah I see you, Lem Lemoncloak.) They appear to be from the Brotherhood without Banners, only they’re not as fun as they were in season 3. Sandor can see it, and Ray can, being the ex-soldier that he is. But he is still looking to avoid a fight.
“Violence is a disease; you don’t cure it by spreading it to more people.”
“You don’t cure it by dying either,” Sandor replies.
Smart words, on both accounts. So much of the violence in Game of Thrones is the direct result of another act of violence, an endless cycle of vengeance and strategic retaliation that will never end until everyone involved is dead…or simply stops, as Ray has done.
Pacifism is an attractive option, but it isn’t the way of Westeros (that’s ignoring the larger problem of White Walkers who definitely don’t respect pacifism). Ray’s philosophy, while beautiful in its way, is impractical for their current war-stricken society. These people are sitting ducks.
In Braavos, Arya is acquiring passage back to Westeros. With that arranged, she has a day to kill. If that day doesn’t kill her first, which it might. Standing on a bridge, she’s approached by an elderly woman who suddenly stabs out at her- it’s the Waif in disguise, of course. She stabs her a few times in the stomach before Arya is able to break away from the Waif, and jump over the bridge into the water below.
She disappears into the water, and the Waif is satisfied she’s done. Arya surfaces nearby, bleeding badly. Staggering through the streets of Braavos alone, there’s no one to help to her, and this may be the end of Arya Stark.
Or so we’re meant to think. I’m fairly sure she’s not going anywhere anytime soon so my real questions are:
Why is Arya walking around undisguised in broad daylight, apparently unarmed, when she knows the Faceless Men intend to kill her now?
Jaqen ordered the Waif to carry out the assassination but to not let Arya suffer. Clearly multiple stab wounds to the gut is suffering, confirming once and for all that the Waif is a lousy Faceless person. So my question, how can Jaqen not be aware of this? I wondered before if he was testing her as well as Arya, and I’m still waiting to find out. I hope this is truly resolved, and not a gaping plot hole.
Heading back to Westeros, one last time: to no one’s surprise, the sketchy men from earlier return while Sandor is out chopping wood and butcher the entire commune. Sandor comes back to find everyone dead, and Ray strung up.
Sandor walks away from Ray’s body and the peaceful life, and grabs the axe.
- Having the Hound back, I just grinned like an idiot whenever he was onscreen. I like that he isn’t exactly as he was, because he’s gone through a lot and change is believable. I’m looking forward to seeing how the old Sandor Clegane meshes with the new.
- I’m stoked for the show to have Yara be interested in women. It’s not important to the plot but I appreciate it.
- Ian McShane’s face is a wonderland. Are you sure we can’t keep him, Game of Thrones? I mean you recycled Dean-Charles Chapman… (yeah, yeah I know.)
- Lyanna Mormont spinoff, please. Bella Ramsey is amazing. I could watch her tear people down all day.
- Was that two weeks in a row with no Tyrion OR Ramsay? Is that a record? I can’t say I missed either one of them.
- The Broken Man- There are several in this episode: Theon, Sandor, Loras, disappointing Jaime, Edmure (so far a shadow of the lord we knew in season 3) and House Stark itself seems to be rather broken. But everyone and everything is fixable, until it’s dead.