Game of Thrones: The Broken Man

"You've lost, Cersei. It's the only joy I can find in all this misery."

This was a mildly frustrating episode by design. Focusing mainly on set up, everyone was basically spinning their wheels either waiting for the next shoe to drop, or actively pursuing the next stage of their story.

Margaery is playing a long game of chess with the High Sparrow, and I'm not entirely sure if he buys her charade. She has delivered him the crown in a lot of ways, yet her loyalties remain with her family whose survival is clearly her priority. Unfortunately, the result is that Tommen has been positioned to be a puppet of the faith, and that means his days are probably limited.

Cersei is having just as hard a time figuring out how to regain her power. With the Tyrells effectively removed from the game, and Jaime sent off to take back Riverrun, all she has is the Mountain. Jaime at least has Bronn to act as his right hand, not that his peaceful attempts to take Riverrun from Blackfish were at all successful. It almost seems like he doesn't care all that much, like the fight is gone from him.

Sansa and Jon aren't having any more luck getting the Northern lords to sign onto their fight.  Taking back Winterfell from Ramsey isn't going to be easy or quick, and time is not on their side, with both winter and the Night's King approaching. One thing is clear, neither of them are capable of instilling the same devotion as Robb (at least with the Northern Lords). I do hope Brienne and Sansa's secret letter find better results, or god forbid Ramsey might win.

Yara and Theon at least seem to have a goal, and it seems like it's basically the same one their uncle has. Except neither of them appears to want to take Daenerys as their bride (which was an idea so laughable that I actually snorted when Euron suggested it a couple of episodes ago). One thing has come out the siblings reunion, Yara seems to have coaxed Theon out of his Reek shell for now.

But the main story the episode kept returning to belonged to the Hound, who it turns out did survive when Arya abandoned him. The story of him being covered in bugs and half dead when Brother Ray found him and nursed him back to health was pretty effective. It made sense that Sandor followed him and tried to make a new home for himself. Brother Ray even became a kind of a new mentor to him, preaching peace. It was a much nicer story than I would've expected for Sandor. Unfortunately, this show has no mercy, and by the end of the episode the Hound had to pick up a weapon again, this time for revenge.


Arya getting stabbed by the Waif was not surprising, but I'd hoped she had learned to be more cautious.

Ian McShane was a welcome surprise as Brother Ray, and I loved his performance. But couldn't we have gotten one more episode with him?

The scene between Theon and Yara could have happened anywhere, did it have to be a brothel? It's as if the show needed to fulfill a quota of nudity for the episode.

It was kind of cool to see Walder Frey again, even though he is an absolutely horrible character. It does look like his own family is close to killing him off themselves.

Lady Mormont was a neat character, a child lord who was both competent and intelligent without being evil. I think that's a first for Game of Thrones.


Bronn: "You promised me a lordship, and a castle, and a highborn beauty for a wife."
Jaime: "And you'll get all three. A Lannister always pays..."
Bronn: "Don't say it, don't fucking say it."

Jaime: "You have better instincts than anyone else in the Lannister army."
Bronn: "That's like saying I have a bigger cock than anyone in the Unsullied army."

Jaime: "Get word to the Blackfish. I want to parlay."
Bronn: "Parlay or a fight."
Jaime: "He's an old man."
Bronn: "And you've got one hand. My money's on the old boy."

Brother Ray: "Violence is a disease. You don't cure a disease by spreading it to more people."
Sandor: "You don't cure it by dying, either."

While not a great episode, it was at least interesting from a character perspective.

3 out of 4 Unhelpful Lords

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.


Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Too little really happened in this episode. It's like... Arya gets stabbed and then we don't see what happens. The Hound is back and then they stick him in a silly revenge plot. At least like you said the Mormont child was a good character. I guess the last three ones really have to pick up the pace. Thanks for the review! :-)

Logan Cox said...

Not much happens at all in this episode. It's mostly set-up. Yet it's still very fascinating character-wise and beautiful visually: For instance, the scenes at Riverrun were all very dynamic, as are the scenes of Team Jon trying to secure alliances at The Gift, Bear Island and Moat Cailin. And they really sold the tranquility of Brother Ray's camp.

McShane was awesome; and he was exactly the type of guy the Hound would relate to. I loved that he served as the lighter side of religion, in contrast to this show's more cynical take on it, specifically the High Sparrow (who has never been creepier: "Desire is not required on a woman's part. Only patience."). Ray's speech about that mother screaming for the son he killed was very moving, especially with Sandor present.

I like the revenge plot because a) it's believable, b) it gives us what we want, which is Sandor Clegane wrecking men who deserve it, and c) it reintroduces us to the now very different Brotherhood Without Banners; apparently they no longer defend people unless those people follow the Red God and give them their shit. Those who've read the books know where this is going, but that's for the spoiler section.

Logan Cox said...

Also Jaime and Brynden Tully looked like a couple of medieval superheroes during their parlay, with the armor and the emblems and the way they addressed each.

TheShadowKnows said...

It was hilarious how Jorah's little cousin wasn't having any of their BS.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked that people do not think this was an amazing episode. What makes this universe compelling are the complex characters that are both good and evil. The Hound and Jamie Lannister are fan favorites precisely because of their complexity and their character arcs. This was the best episode in weeks. I feel like the show is reverting to the brilliance of earlier seasons.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Another slightly dumb thing: I didn't get the intentional comedic moment of Lady Mormont answering how many men she could send with "62". If House Mormont and House Stark has been allied and fought together for a millenium, you'd think they'd know the Mormonts don't have a lot of men.

Anonymous said...

They continue to ignore the source material to their detriment. So we get Yara telling Theon to kill himself if he can't get over his deeply-ingrained PTSD, Sansa failing at everything because apparently only men can convince people and some cliched crap about the Hound going off on a rampage of revenge because that's the only story D&D know how to do, as opposed to the more interesting and valuable story of finding something to live for besides hate.

Docnaz said...

Anonymous, I agree! This was the best episode since Arya left the Hound without mercy killing him! I don't recall any previous episodes that began before the opening credits. I was crying, yelling and screaming for my family to come see. At long last, my hopes had come true.

The most traumatic scene for me from Game of Thrones was " The Children". A review from Rolling Stones summarized my feelings about the horrid fight between my two beloved characters.

"By contrast, Brienne and the Hound should theoretically be spared this kind of final reckoning. They're both ronin, masterless misfits who don't fit in with any side in the War of Five Kings. They even have the same motive: protecting the Stark sisters. Yet the show concocts a confrontation for them that's nowhere to be found in the source material, taking two beloved characters and crushing them against one another until only one's left standing. It basically weaponizes the affection we feel for them."

When I first saw that episode, I was screaming "NO! at the TV, something I normally only do during football games. It is rare a TV show makes me so emotional. Both Brienne and Sandor were noble people, just different in how they looked at life. The Hound was wounded as a child and kept his emotions in and hid his goodness as he saw it as a weakness in this world. His past traumas caused him to hide his true self behind the facade or an uncaring brute. This was easy to do because of his appearance, but was not really him.
Brienne, on the other hand, was able to see see her honor and nobility as a strength, having escaped the brutal abuse her opponent suffered. As they battled, I was caught up in the fear that either might be hurt. If only each had known the others motives.
Then, when Aarya turned her back on him and did not put him out of his misery as they had the man in a previous episode, I was devastated. I cried and was so upset my husband and children went and bought me a Hound action figure (the first of many) to cheer me up. The day after the episode, I scoured the Internet, looking at reviews, mourning the loss. I came across a comment that suggested "Maybe the Hound is not dead" and I was relieved.

Sunday afternoon, I was discussing the show with someone and mentioned, maybe the Hound wasn't dead. And then, there he was.
The scenes with Clegane reminded me of Lost, John Locke at the hippie colony, the island with the building holding the bomb, the feeling of happiness followed by despair. I just hope the Hound and Arya make their peace and don't hurt each other.

Docnaz said...

And I applaud that in this alternate universe women and girls continue be shown as strong, as little Lyanna is.

mazephoenix said...

Of course we had a brothel scene where Yara tells Theon to kill himself if he can't get over his trauma..of course. Eugh.
It was like a bad parody of the once great series. I'm not sure I'll be back for the next series..
Why is there so little Cersei and what was the point of Arya's plot?
Where is loras and why is Bronn only around now?