“If the gods are real, why haven’t they punished me?”
Everybody is thinking about the past this week on Game of Thrones, as “The Broken Man” brings back characters—the Hound!!—and calls back to storylines that we haven’t talked about in years. The past lingers everywhere, from the Riverlands, where the Blackfish sneers at Jaime’s attempt at a parlay, to Braavos, where the Waif reminds Arya that escaping the Faceless Men won’t be so easy. Too many things have happened—too many debts have remained unpaid—for these characters to continue living their lives as easily as they would please. Westeros doesn’t work like that.
So aside from seeing the Hound again, getting reacquainted with the Brotherhood Without Banners (another tease for LSH, right?!), and witnessing Arya’s best-paid plans turn to dust, what else happened in the very-busy “The Broken Man”? Let’s get into it.
+ “What matters, I believe, is there’s something greater than us. Whatever it is, it’s got plans for Sandor Clegane.” OH HEY, IAN MCSHANE/AL SWEARENGEN! The best whorehouse owner in all of HBO’s history pops up this week, traveling from Deadwood to the Seven Kingdoms to appear as a Septon who saves and befriends the Hound after he was left to die by Arya, after his fight with Brienne. What has the Hound been up to since then? Traveling with the Septon and his merry band of disciples, building seven-sided temples, sharing meals together, and generally scraping together the best life they can.
But that can’t last, of course. Good things never do. But before Swearengen and his followers are massacred by the Brotherhood Without Banners—who not only want the resources the group has, but if you recall, also worship a different god, R’hllor, the Lord of Light, who supposedly allowed for both Beric Dondarrion’s and Jon Snow’s resurrections—he tries to appeal to the Hound’s better nature in a nicely dirty-mouthed way. “There’s plenty of pious sons of bitches who think they know the word of God, or gods,” he tells the Hound. But what’s important isn’t necessarily one kind of religion, but that each person tries to “bring a little goodness into the world.”
It’s “never too late to come back,” he tells the Hound, but it’s clear that what he’s trying to tell Sandor, and what Sandor understands, are different things. For the Septon, it’s not too late for Sandor to fully leave his murderous past behind, to stop being a warrior, to transition into something else. But for Sandor, when he finds the Septon and his followers slaughtered by the Brotherhood Without Banners, it’s clear that to “come back” is to actually embrace the person he used to be—to use those skills for vengeance.
What kept the Hound going was hate, and it’s obvious he’s back on that path. Now let’s just wait and see whether he makes his way to King’s Landing to battle evil big brother the Mountain as the Faith’s representative for Cersei’s trial, or if he’ll run into the Brotherhood Without Banners again—and perhaps Brienne, too. Aren’t they all just loitering around the Riverlands? Please, JUST LET US HAVE THIS.
+ “You’re surrounded by enemies, thousands of them. You’re going to kill them all by yourself? You’ve lost, Cersei. It’s the only joy I can find in all this misery.” God, I will miss the Queen of Thorns, won’t you? Olenna Tyrell tears Cersei a new one this week, blasting her for how her most-recent mistakes have escalated to catastrophic levels. She’s not wrong when she points out, again, that the Lannisters and Tyrells are both in serious danger because of Cersei’s foolish decisions to let the High Sparrow accumulate such power, both from popular support and the armed Faith Militant, and you know things are seriously bad when Olenna—usually not one to back away from a fight—takes Margaery’s advice to flee to Highgarden rather than remain in King’s Landing.
And yup, I say “Margaery’s advice” because it’s clear now, I think, that Margaery is trying to play the High Sparrow, a move that I guessed at last week but is made more obvious in “The Broken Man.” Look at her face when the High Sparrow threatens her with “I only pray your grandmother follows your lead … I fear for her safety, body and soul.” Margaery thought she was ahead of the game, but the High Sparrow isn’t going to stop at Margaery and Tommen. He’s going to come for every Lannister and every Tyrell, and probably every other member of every other high-born house, in his fundamentalist quest to dismantle what he considers to be their sinful nature—and you know that if Margaery were to become pregnant, he would be all over that kid, Rumpelstiltskin-style. Keep drinking that moon tea, Margaery! Hard pass on that whole carrying-Tommen’s-heir thing.
Also, Septa Unella totally guesses at Margaery’s duplicitousness, right? Also, please re-live Olenna’s straight read of Cersei, because it is excellent:
“I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met. At a certain age, it’s hard to recall. But the truly vile do stand out through the years. You remember the way you smirked at me when my grandson and granddaughter were dragged off to their cells? I do. I’ll never forget it.”
So what is Cersei’s next move against the “shoeless zealot”? I’m curious, especially since Tommen is being pulled in so many directions already—between his mother, between Margaery, and between the High Sparrow. I’m saying the kid dies by the end of this season. I need to put some money on this.
+ “I served House Stark once. But House Stark is dead.” Jon, Sansa, and Davos’s uphill climb to raise banners against House Bolton isn’t going well, and honestly, is anyone surprised? What the North storyline got right this week is a reminder of how devastating these wars have been, and how endless. The War of the Five Kings and Robb’s uprising against the Lannisters involved thousands of men, many of whom are now dead, and drained resources, food, and enthusiasm from practically every house. Sansa scoffs at the 62 men House Mormont offers after their lengthy, arduous back-and-forth exchange, but can you blame little Lyanna Mormont? Bear Island has barely rebuilt itself. Can they really afford to support a family who seems practically dead?
Because let’s not get it twisted—what we know about the Starks is not what anyone else knows about the Starks. Jon Snow isn’t a legitimate heir. Sansa has, as Lyanna points out, been passed around like a piece of meat, married off to Tyrion first and to Ramsay next—she’s the property of her husbands in the eyes of many. Arya is assumed to be dead. Bran is assumed to be dead. Rickon is alive, allegedly, but captured. And Robb’s death is a tragedy, but one many people think of with a sneer and “good riddance”—Lord Glover clearly has no sympathy when he says Robb was “getting himself and those who followed him killed” by betraying the Freys and marrying for love. Is someone like that ever going to be loyal to House Stark again?
But at least Jon has Tormund, the wildlings, and the giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun (loved his single-word affirmation, “Snow,” that he would support Jon), and at least fierce little Lyanna Mormont is providing 62 fighters. As always, though, I have questions. If Sansa is desperate enough to send ravens behind Jon’s back to House Cerwyn, is she also willing to accept Littlefinger’s offer of the Knights of the Vale? Is Davos going to stay with Jon when he, now that they’re camping where Stannis did, possibly stumbles upon Shireen’s body burned at the stake? And can people STOP calling the Night’s King the “Night King”? His name has a goddamn apostrophe and it has a goddamn letter s. Stop saying it wrong, Benjen and Davos! Stop ruining things I love, show!
+ “Come on, then. Cut his throat.” BRYNDEN “BLACKFISH” TULLY DOES NOT FUCK AROUND, YOU GUYS. Jaime learns that shit the hard way this week when he arrives in the Riverlands (in record time, using those magical methods of Seven Kingdoms travel) to attempt to retake the Tully castle for the Freys. We haven’t seen Jaime in battle mode in a long time (uh, and he also hasn’t looked THIS GOOD in a long time, hot damn), but it’s clear that his knowledge about what the Freys should be doing far outstrips what the Freys actually are doing.
They have no perimeter built up, no sense of order in their camp, and no threat against the Blackfish other than parading out Edmure every so often and half-heartedly pretending to hang him. What does the Blackfish care? He calls their bluff practically immediately, and how the Freys crumble, with no other plan in mind, is pretty pathetic.
But Jaime is here to do a job (a job tasked to him by Cersei, so it’s extra-important because his sister-lover has placed her trust in him, ugh), and so he and Bronn (OF COURSE BRONN CAME, GUYS) start whipping the siege into shape. His first attempt at ending the siege, though, by offering Brynden a peaceful option, ends terribly, with the Blackfish practically laughing in his face.
“As long as I am standing, the war is not over. This is my home. I was born in this castle and I’m ready to die in it. So you can either attack or try to starve us out. We have enough provisions for two years. Do you have two years, Kingslayer? … Sieges are dull, and I wanted to see you in person, get the measure of you. I’m disappointed.”
Interesting to see how much of this storyline the show adapts from the books, but Jaime showing some kind of decorum to Edmure Tully is a good first start. Jaime may not be able to reason with the Blackfish, but what about Catelyn’s brother? He’ll probably do whatever he can to stay out of the Frey dungeons—and Jaime should be able to use that to his advantage.
+ “Sweet girl.” Was there anyone who DIDN’T shriek in shock at Arya’s storyline this week? After loitering in Braavos for years with Arya, the show finally speeds up her storyline phenomenally with “The Broken Man,” having her book passage on a ship back to Westeros and then practically immediately being attacked and stabbed by the Waif in disguise.
I hate to be a jerk, but is Arya an IDIOT? Why would you take a leisurely walk around Braavos instead of immediately going back into hiding after booking travel? Why would you continue hanging out on in-the-open bridges without being in disguise? The first installment of this final altercation between Arya and the Waif was certainly shocking, but it’s frustrating how Arya’s maturity and self-awareness seems to disappear whenever the writers feel like it.
But anyway, does anyone else think that Arya will end up at the House of Black and White, ready to give up her face to the Faceless Men? And maybe that will cause them to retract their decree that she has to die? I’m totally pulling things out of thin air here, but I don’t get how Arya can somehow miraculously recover from this terrible injury and then continue outrunning the Waif. Perhaps this is actually some kind of final test from Jaqen? That would seem like an easy way out for this storyline, but I could see it happening, I guess. We all know stupider things have happened on this show.
And some odds and ends:
+ “I’m a fucking Septon, what was I supposed to say?” RIP, Swearengen. I miss you already, you salty bastard.
+ “If they’re half as ferocious as their lady, the Boltons are doomed.” I want a spinoff where Davos’s charming ass runs an orphanage for young badass girls. Make it happen, HBO!
+ “Don’t say it. Don’t fucking say it.” Not to disobey Bronn or anything, but when WAS the last time someone said “Lannisters always pay their debts”? I feel like that was mostly a Tyrion line, and with him in Meereen, I think it’s kind of exited the show’s dialogue rotation.
+ What was the Hound doing that he didn’t hear the Brotherhood Without Banners LITERALLY KILLING EVERYONE? Was he just chopping wood? I was unclear about the mechanics of that. I might have been flipping between Game of Thrones and the NBA Finals; don’t judge me.
+ “Do you wish to resume your captivity?” STOP IT, BLACKFISH, YOU ARE PERFECT.
+ “The poor disgust us because they are us, shorn of our illusions.” The High Sparrow is the king of spin, honestly.
+ I love the High Sparrow’s description of the kind of sex Margaery should be having with Tommen, and his stern directive that it “does not require desire on the woman’s part, only patience.” Yes, patience because Tommen is still like FOURTEEN and it’s GROSS.
+ “I’m a Stark. I’ll always be a Stark.” I’m all for this self-actualized Sansa, but I swear that if she is hiding a Bolton pregnancy under all those furs, I will set the world on fire.
+ Lyanna Mormont’s got burns: “As far as I understand, you’re a Snow, and Lady Sansa is a Bolton. Or is it Lannister? I’ve heard conflicting reports.”
+ Tormund may be Jon’s best hype man: “He died for us. If we are not willing to do the same for him, we’re cowards. And if that’s what we are, we deserve to be the last of the free folk.” NO YOU DON’T, TORMUND, STAY ALIVE!
+ Didn’t feel any real way about the interaction between Yara and Theon in the brothel in Volantis (more history: remember that Volantis is where Robb’s wife Talisa was from), even though it had Yara’s best line of dialogue ever: “Fuck justice, then. We’ll get revenge.” Something about the scene just felt very college bro-y to me, possibly because of all the forced drinking? But Theon seems to be coming more into his own, which is nice. Also, worth noting that the show changes Yara’s sexuality from the books (“Nothing on the Iron Islands has an ass like that!” was the writers screaming “LESBIAN!” at us viewers); not a huge deal, but Yara kissing that prostitute was a clip that was included in the season six trailer, so at least we see the scene where that was pulled from.