As long as I'm standing, the war is not over.
Written by: Bryan Cogman
Directed by: Mark Mylod
Way back in season two, Game of Thrones made a crucial mistake in the episode "Blackwater", a mistake that gave away a massive spoiler: Charles Dance's name appears in the opening credits, letting it be known that Tywin Lannister would show up and affect the pivotal battle between Stannis Baratheon and the Lannister army. Now, I think HBO and Game of Thrones had some sort of contractual obligation that they had to uphold, meaning they could not just take one of the actors' names out of the opening credits. I doubt Charles Dance would agree to do the episode for free, even if he appears for all of a minute or two. I bring this up because such a mistake is not made again when, had it not been for a cold opening, the credits would have spoiled the return of a much beloved character: The Hound! He's as cynical and vulgar as he always was, and you know what that means: more hilarious insults! I think it was always reasonable to assume The Hound never died. Game of Thrones' has a recurring habit of making characters disappear for a long stretch, and then have them show up again in a surprising fashion. I guess that's what happens when you've got so many characters, it is impossible to juggle them all with two hands.
So yeah, it turns out The Hound was rescued by a warrior-turned-septon named Ray (Ian McShane), and now the two live together along with a small group of villagers. Of course, we know the drill: something will come along to disrupt the peace, and sure enough, some members of the Brotherhood Without Banners show up to try and extort the villagers. The Hound's cynicism ends up making him the only survivor when the Brotherhood returns and slaughters all the villagers. The Hound is not just a big brute who knows how to fight and kill; one reason he's been able to last as long as he's had is because he understands how unfair the world of Westeros is, that it is a dog eat dog world where only the strong will survive. He's not cruel for the simple sake of being cruel. The Hound likes to be selfish because he knows it's necessary to look out for oneself if he plans on living long-term. This was at the heart of several conversations he had before with Arya, and this is part of what he tries to tell Ray after the Brotherhood shows up. If the Hound is ever going to die, I imagine whoever or whatever kills him will have a hard time of doing it.
So The Hound's return is definitely the big takeaway from "The Broken Man", but there's a lot else happening, and like in "Blood of My Blood", hardly any of it comes off as set-up for season six's penultimate episode. The only part that is pure set-up is Jon, Sansa, and Davos Seaworth searching for more allies to help retake Winterfell. We do get an introduction to Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey): the fierce young girl in charge of Bear Island. I think she instantly became everyone's new favorite character, as she talks with Jon, Sansa, and Davos like she could snap off somebody's head at a moment's notice. This is also another example of Davos proving himself to be one of Game of Thrones' greatest unsung heroes, explaining the threat of the White Walkers to Lyanna and convincing her to send her fighting men to help in the upcoming battle for Winterfell. Davos has always been one of the greatest talkers in all of Game of Thrones, and he would make for an extremely talented politician, because he seems to have a knack for convincing people to support a certain cause. If there was any sort of spinoff series in which Davos went on to live as a politician, I would be all for it.
Of course, Davos is not the only one who has proven capable of swaying someone to support a certain cause. The High Sparrow has essentially taken over King's Landing, now that he has put both Tommen and Margaery under his influence. Actually, Margaery seems to be putting on an act, as she slips a secret piece of paper to her grandmother with a drawing of House Tyrell's sigil. The nature of this scene is a bit perplexing. Knowing what is to come of Margaery in the season six finale, this scene is led us to believe that Margaery has some sort of secret agenda in mind that will help her and Loras break free of the High Sparrow's control. How could she do that though if Tommen is faithful to the High Sparrow and his teachings? I suppose the other way to think about is that Margaery is proving to Olenna that she has not completely lost herself to her newfound faith, and Olenna can leave King's Landing knowing a part of her granddaughter is still in her. I know Cersei would love to get a similar kind of message from Tommen.
So while tensions continue to rise in King's Landing, Jaime and the Lannister army enter into an already-tension filled situation, as the incompetent Freys try to convince Edmure Tully to surrender the Riverrun castle. Jaime steps in and is able to have a conversation with the Blackfish, but it ends up going nowhere. What I love the most about this scenario, which will continue into the next episode, is that it's a shining moment for Jaime, a moment for him to prove the fresh sense of honor and duty that he acquired after losing his right hand. If this was the Jaime Lannister from seasons one and two, he likely would have ordered a siege of the castle without hesitation. Despite the fact that Edmure Tully is a clear enemy of his, Jaime knows he can find a way to resolve the situation without calling for senseless violence or committing some kind of heinous act that would bring dishonor to his House. It likely means we won't get any of thrilling action sequence between the Tullys and the Lannisters, but hey, not everything needs to be decided by a large-scale battle.
Meanwhile, Arya survives a violent encounter with the Waif, and whatever sort of core/ab workouts that Arya has been doing, please sign me up for them. I am baffled about how to properly discuss this scene. How long can a person survive multiple stab wounds to the abdominal area, especially when the stabbing knife gets twisted? I am no expert in the kind of stab wounds a person can survive, and had Arya been been cut just once or twice, I don't think anyone would ever make too much of a fuss of this scene. But multiple stabs, plus a knife twist: this just reeks of plot armor. If Arya is going to survive such an attack from the Waif, could it be something a little more....plausible?
Overall though, "The Broken Man" transcends being just filler material until the action heats up big time in the final three episodes of season six. Jaime's arrival in Riverrun, the growing tension in King's Landing, and the return of Sandor "The Hound" Clegane make for a pretty well-rounded Game of Thrones hour, even when we know bigger and better things are right around the corner. It's amazing how the scene with Arya, which lasts all but a few minutes, can give us such a vivid display of plot armor and not feel the least bit guilty about it. I know it wouldn't do any good to just randomly kill her now, but we should never violate logic so much that it defies simple common sense. Seriously, what has Arya done to keep her core in such tip-top shape that it can survive multiple stab wounds? If only her brother and her parents followed the same routine.
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