The Broken Man

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This will be the EUGOTSOC Committee review of Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 7: ‘The Broken Man’ written by myself – Alexander Petkov: Publicity Officer.

This was the episode I most anticipated out of the whole season. Of course, I did want to see the Hound back on the show, but I was looking forward to seeing the show’s version of Septon Meribald’s ‘Broken Men’ speech a lot more. The theme of ‘the broken man’ is actually one of my favourite ones in literature. It ties in quite well with the ideas of the horrors of war, alienation from the world and the path toward achieving inner peace.

The episode starts with our first pre-credits scene for this season revealing the return of the Hound on the show. And it makes perfect sense as a more observant fan might notice Rory McCann’s name during the opening, which would take away the fun of the reveal. The whole episode was centred mostly around Sandor Clegane and his interactions with Brother Ray (the show’s version of The Elder Brother / Septon Meribald), who was played by Ian McShane. Those scenes were very well-paced and incredibly well acted. Brother Ray is a very likeable character – a pacifist who preaches doing good to others and even delivers my favourite line from the episode, ‘Violence is a disease – you don’t cure a disease by spreading it to others’. If I should have any criticism for that portion of the episode – It would be that some of the dialogue felt slightly forced – it was somewhat obvious that the characters are only having this exchange for the sake of giving some exposition and subjecting us, the audience, to relevant themes. To be fair, there is really no way around this as the show needed to reintroduce a character from 2 seasons ago and to quickly make him relevant. So this is quite a minor complaint. The show’s version of Meribald’s speech was a bit weak in terms of substance, as it was mostly manifested in Ray’s telling of his backstory before the first arrival of the men from the Brotherhood without Banners. However, I do respect the decision the showrunners made in conveying most of the actual speech’s meaning through the plot – in faith with ‘show, don’t tell’.

It is quite interesting how the Hound’s character will be affected by his time spent with Brother Ray. At the end of the episode we see Sandor getting his call to action in the form of seeing all the innocent villagers slaughtered by the Brotherhood. The Hound is not yet ready to be a pacifist, earlier in the episode he even claims that it’s hate that had kept him alive. The whole series should be headed towards a compromise which will be the end to violence – and this portion of the episode is a good testament to that idea. Of course, Brother Ray’s way of dealing with the injustices of the world did not work out for him, and the actual resolution of the overall conflict of the series will not be so simple (and that’s part of the beauty of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire). In the end it will be interesting to see how the Hound will make peace with the hate in his heart, but for now his path is with an axe in hand – and that’s something to get excited about!

Down in King’s Landing we first get a weird scene between Margaery and the High Sparrow. Their exchange is quite logical in the context of the time period but sounds quite unsettling when put into modern day perspective. It makes me wonder whether the scene was included for that specific reason. Well, at the end of the day, Margaery seems to be the only character in King’s Landing with any sort of plan. When she reunites with her grandmother, the Queen of Thornes, she secretly gives her a piece of paper with a rose drawn on it – the sigil of House Tyrell – to show her that her true allegiance is to her family. We also learn that the High Sparrow is working specifically to bring down all the great houses – as he’s demanding Loras to renounce his name and inheritance. The whole King’s Landing plot and Margaery’s scheming have been built up all season and I honestly don’t want to sit through another scene of setting up the conflict. The show has teased us with hints of a spectacular endgame and it had best deliver and soon!

One last scene of note in King’s Landing this episode was the meeting between Cersei and Lady Olenna right before the Queen of Thornes would leave the city for good. The Matriarch of House Tyrell verbally breaks Cersei and with no fake courtesy does not spare her any of her actual thoughts on the former Queen. At the end when Olenna says ‘You lost, Cersei’ – you can actually see Lena Headey’s character shaking. This unprecedented sign of weakness in Cersei is another testament to the incredible performance of the actress, which really stood out for me this episode. Cersei’s situation is truly quite dire – she is all alone with no support and surrounded by enemies – just like The Queen of Thornes said. At this point this character has nothing holding her back and it’s safe to say that we’ll see Cersei choosing violence as soon as next episode – I’m hyped!

In the North Sansa, Jon and Davos are campaigning to earn the support of the northern lords for their coming conflict with the Boltons. We get a short scene of Jon and Tormund persuading the wildlings to join under them, followed by what’s undoubtedly my favourite bit of the episode – the conversation with Lyanna Mormont at Bear Island. The dialogue was very well-written, all the performances were brilliant and the exchange between Davos and the Lady of Bear Island was truly heart-warming. It reminded me a lot of the way he would interact with Shireen (when she was alive). In any case, Lyanna Mormont has become my new favourite character on the show and I’m quite certain that other people feel the same way.

This scene is in contrast with our heroes’ attempt at getting the support of House Glover, who refuse to answer Jon and Sansa’s call. It is another good scene, which works to escalate the feeling of direness and urgency for that storyline. It all leads to Sansa sending a message to an unknown recipient (a.k.a. Littlefinger) asking for help. Sansa’s journey this season has been very interesting. She started heading in a direction of becoming a strong leader figure and quickly descended upon a path of violence. All of her innocence is lost, but so is her compassion. She thinks that she’s in charge, but it’s clear now more than ever that she’s still dependent on Littlefinger. And now that Peter Baelish is no longer obliged by the season’s plot to make nonsensical decisions (such as giving Sansa to the Boltons without any prior research) it is intriguing to see who will end up truly on top – Sansa or Littlefinger. It’s surely a confrontation to look forward to.

On the topic of Stark children – in Braavos Arya’s storyline this week felt almost surreal. After booking passage for herself back across the Narrow Sea she gets brutally stabbed by the Waif. After that she escapes into the canals and re-emerges on the streets of Braavos bleeding, with the denizens of the city giving her strange looks but otherwise paying her no mind. This scene served its purpose of providing some shock-value to the episode and to set up the exciting conclusion to the Faceless Men plot this season. Next episode is called ‘No One’ so we’re likely to get to know where this is all going.

One interesting theory that I read about was that Arya and the Waif are in fact the same person – ala Fight Club. I should say that while this is certainly not true and has overwhelming evidence against, it still caught my attention with it’s curious implications. As in that case Arya could be defeated by the Waif, which would result in her becoming No One. And as much as that’s not the case, it leaves me to wonder if there’s a chance that Arya leaves Braavos as an actual Faceless Man. We’ll have to wait and see.

Another very interesting scene is the exchange between Yara and Theon in Volantis. The showrunners had chosen to put the literal interpretation of the episode title in this storyline. Much like Jon’s arc this season, Theon’s story is a quest for peace taken control of by his sister, who is pulling in a direction which may or may not lead him farther from his goal. You can tell that Yara does mean nothing but the best for her brother and wishes to see him restored to his former self. I personally doubt that’s possible but there’s also many more possibilities for him. I should say that as of now Theon is perhaps the character whose personal arc I’m most curious about as thus far in the season Alfie Allen’s performance has been absolutely amazing.

Near Riverrun Jaimie is now leading the Lannister army and we finally get to see Bronn again. The sell-sword does get his chance to shine as he provides a lot of the humour in the Riverrun scenes, being true to his character. The ‘broken man’ in this story is in fact Jamie as his ‘Oathbreaker’ title still haunts him. He does just fine dealing with the comically incompetent Freys (to the show’s credit, the writers did not go too overboard with making fun of them and left it at a very good balance in my opinion) but things are quite different when he faces the Blackfish. You can tell that Brynden Tully’s disappointment in The Kingslayer does cut deep and it’s going to be interesting to see whether Jamie’s path will resound his book plot – heading to diplomacy and peace. Certainly it’s a nice touch that both the Blackfish and Cersei are in similar situations – as both have pretty much nothing to lose and everything to gain. And somewhere in the middle is Jamie – being broken by the discrepancy of how he and how other people perceive his honour.

Overall this was another episode mostly devoted to setting up storylines, but felt much stronger than last week’s. There was a good balance of both shocking and fun moments, clever dialogue, great new characters and consistently good acting. Despite the fact that earlier episodes this season had a lot of big moments, ‘The Broken Man’ manages to still hold up by comparison. I really liked the amount of green landscapes we got in this episode as it’s something that we rarely see. Also I should point out that this episode had by far the most stunningly beautiful cinematography of Season 6. The theme of ‘the broken man’, while not thoroughly explored this week, provided a good few revolving points for our beloved characters’ moralities. We’ll have to wait to see where this change of view will lead each of them in the future as the ‘broken man’ conflict is far from resolved.

Thank you for reading my review of ‘The Broken Man’ and I hope you are as excited as I am for the last three episodes.

 

Alexander Petkov

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