As we build to the climax of season six of Game of Thrones, The Broken Man was a surprisingly subdued episode. But that’s not to say there weren’t a few unexpected twists.
TWO old friends make a return to the Seven Kingdoms. One of whom we all assumed was long dead, while the other has been MIA since last season.
The Broken Man opens with a group of villagers building a tower and it would appear it’s another of Bran’s Dream Walks back in time as everything is so green and ‘summery’.
That’s until the camera pans up and reveals…. the Hound! The last we saw of Sandor Clegane, he was left for dead after an epic sword fight with Brienne. And here he is in the flesh. Apparently ‘hate’ kept him going.
But unlike Gregor, he hasn’t been revived through hocus-pocus. He’s been carefully nursed back to health by a peace-loving preacher called Ray (Ian McShane).
Without being told, Ray knows exactly who he’s dealing with and tells the Hound that he’s been marked by the gods. He tries to convince Clegane that he doesn’t need to walk the path of death and destruction.
“Never too late to stop robbing people, stop killing people and start helping people. Never too late to come back”.
Sandor may be tempted to live the ‘loving life’ but that resolve is tested when Ray and the entire village is slaughtered.
The Hound is the sole survivor of the massacre and seems bent on revenge when he picks up and axe and heads off.
Ray’s brand of religion is very different to that of the High Sparrow’s. Ray lives the simple life, while the High Sparrow talks of it. But in reality, he’s playing the Game of Thrones.
In a meeting with Margaery, he tells the Queen to hop into the Royal marital bed, even if she no longer has those old ‘desires’.
“Congress does not require desire on the woman’s part, only patience. The King must have an heir if we are to continue our good work”.
Yes, Margaery, be a good wife and go forth and multiply.
He also moves to remove another threat to his power; the formidable Lady Olenna Tyrell. He warns Margaery that her Grandmother is an unrepentant sinner, whose safety, body and soul are in jeopardy.
Outwardly, Margaery is playing the role of the pious and malleable follower of the High Sparrow. But is she really?
In a meeting with her Grandmother, she forcefully tells Lady Olenna to ‘go home’ and find comfort in prayer and good works. As if!!
But all is not what it seems. As she mouths the words, she slips a note to her Grandmother. It’s a picture of a rose – the family emblem. The message is clear she’s still the Margaery of old and she’s doing what she needs to in order to survive.
Cersei on the other hand is as ineffectual as ever. She tries to build bridges with Olenna, but is rejected.
“Our two ancient house face collapse because of you and your stupidity. You’ve lost Cersei. It’s the only joy I have found in all this misery”.
While the Old Girl hightails it back to High Garden, Cersei is left alone to fight her battles. Her son has been lost to the High Sparrow and her brother/lover has been banished from King’s Landing.
Speaking of Jaime, he’s making his way to Riverrun to take back the Tully stronghold from the Blackfish. And with him is that other old friend; Bronn.
We last saw him with Jaime in Dorne, trying to retrieve Myrcella from the vengeful Sand Snakes. We thought he was dead, but he’s back on the scene.
They arrive at Riverrun, where the Freys have well and truly botched the siege. They make threats to kill the Blackfish’s nephew, but lack the guts to follow suit.
Disgusted by what he’s found, Jaime takes control of the situation and begins by meeting with the Blackfish, urging him to surrender peacefully and avoid unnecessary deaths.
“If you surrender, I’ll spare the lives of your men. On my honour”
“On your honour? Bargaining with an Oathbreaker is liking building on quicksand”.
“The war is over. Why sacrifice living men to a lost cause”?
“As long as I’m standing, the war is not over”.
So, Jaime’s facing a long drawn out siege. At least it gives him something to do. His storyline has been going nowhere since he and Brienne went their separate ways.
Jon, Sansa and Ser Davos haven’t been idle. They’ve begun the task of rallying the North to the Snow-Stark cause with varying degrees of success.
Jon and Tormund convince the Wildlings to join the fight against Ramsay Bolton. As Jon points out, while Ramsay is around the Wildlings will never be safe.
They’re still not convinced, so Tormund has a crack at winning them over.
“The Crows killed him because he spoke for the Free Folk. He died for us. If we’re not willing to do the same for him, then we’re cowards”.
With the Wildlings joining the cause, they head to Bear Island, where the 10 year old grand-niece of the former Lord Commander Mormont now rules and is determined to protect her people.
It’s Davos who convinces her to remain loyal to House Stark, telling her that the ‘real’ war is not between squabbling houses but between the living and the dead.
“As long as Bolton holds Winterfell, the North is divided and a divided North won’t stand a chance against the Night King”.
So, that’s a thumbs up for Jon and Davos. What about the Lady Sansa? No luck there.
She overplays her hand and manages to piss off Ser Robett Glover at Deepwood Motte. She demands the loyalty owed to House Stark, which is exactly the wrong approach to take and is sent packing.
Sansa’s maturity may have been forged in the hellish experiences with Ramsay Bolton, but that doesn’t necessarily make her any wiser than the Sansa of earlier seasons.
Jon wants to march on Winterfell straight away, but she wants to meet with more former allies of the Starks. He insists they act now.
So, what does she do? Rather than listen to someone who’s actually been in a fight, she sends a raven with a message bearing her sigil. You just know it’s going to wind up in the wrong hands.
Sansa you could ruin EVERYTHING.
As Sansa hatches her plan, Yara and Theon are making their own plans for the future. They’re holed up at a brothel/ale house (cue the obligatory boob shots).
Theon’s finding it hard to remember who he was before Ramsay Bolton went to work on him. He’s still cowering behind Reek, refusing to meet his sister’s gaze and refusing to have a drink.
She’s had enough and gives Theon an ultimatum. Either end it all or stay and fight for a future with her.
"If you’re staying Theon, I need you. We’re going to sail to Meereen and make a pact with this Dragon Queen and we’re going to take back the Iron Islands”.
And with those words, Reek is banished and Theon is back. He sits up straighter and looks more commanding.
Arya is also looking more in control. She’s made the decision to leave the Faceless Men and Braavos. She finds a Westerosi captain and pays him to set sail as soon as possible.
As she crosses a bridge to say goodbye to Braavos, an old woman approaches her, pulls out a knife and stabs Arya over and over again. The old woman peels off her face to reveal The Waif.
After tumbling into the water, Arya eventually drags herself to shore, clutching at her stomach. With the blood pouring from her, she wanders through the streets.
And we’ll have to wait until next week to see if she survives. But I’m saying it right now; if another Stark dies I might stage a GoT boycott.
Nikole Gunn has been a watcher of TV since the 70s. A writer of words since the 80s. A reader of the news since the 90s; mostly on Triple M, Nova and Gold.
Twitter - @NikoleGunn