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Winter is Blogging 6.7: The Broken Man [Contains Spoilers]

Winter is Blogging

Writers: Bryan Cogman.

Directors: Mark Mylod.

Cast: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Sophie Turner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gwendoline Christie, et al.

Synopsis: The High Sparrow eyes another target. Jaime confronts a hero. Arya makes a plan. The North is reminded.

In The Riverlands

In ‘The Broken Man,’ everything is coming together. Or at least, that’s the sense that’s lingering in the air. It’s very much an episode where a lot happens, but nothing really does. Recently we’ve just been so used to dragons, rampaging ice-armies, and general badassery that an episode without these things feels slow, or potentially boring – and whilst it may feel it – ‘The Broken Man’ isn’t any of these things. This episode starts, rather unusually before the opening credits, with an idyllic scene located somewhere within the Vale, where a small encampment – led by Brother Ray, (Ian McShane) a septon of the Seven-Pointed Star  – is building what appears to be a church. Of course, it’s not before long that the scenic beauty and relentless calm is interrupted with the on-screen appearance of a fan-favourite long assumed to be dead – The Hound. Cue credits.

This is already a lot to take in, and understandably so. Back in Season 4, The Hound, or as his friends know him, Sandor (or Sandy), had a little bit of a scuffle with Brienne and he was left for dead by Arya – who also features briefly this episode. Actually, ‘The Broken Man’ very subtly reminds us of the directions their characters were set to take and how far or how little they’ve developed since then. After The Hound was found by Brother Ray, he was apparently healed – though to what extent is unclear – and now lives his life chopping wood whilst other men notably fear him – presumably for his stature and facial scarring. Remember that this isn’t the life he was planning to lead, this is a man thrown into unfamiliar waters, simply trying to survive and having previously had a bounty on his head at the hands of Tywin Lannister, seclusion might be his only choice. He did, after all, plan on leaving Westeros to fight as a sellsword in the Free Cities after ransoming Arya – to her aunt in the Eyrie – who also wanted to see Braavos (but more on Ayra later).

Brother Ray refers to The Hound by his actual name, and it is implied, both by the pathetic fallacy of the location and the way that Brother Ray treats him, that he is in some way freed from his past misdeeds. We have to ask ourselves then, is this Sandor’s redemption story? It forces us to consider whether or not this new life has changed him, and for a while, it succeeds in doing so, but with the arrival of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a flicker of what we might describe as his true nature begins to shine through and then, the doubt creeps in. This isn’t the first time that Sandor has met the Brotherhood Without Banners either, having defeated Beric Dondarrion in combat before. With their arrival, it signals a change in pace and tone that sees a pivotal turning point for Sandor, one that forces him to take arms once again by the episode’s end.

Meanwhile, the inevitable collision of the unstoppable force and the immovable object is beginning to unfold. The huge Lannister army marches on Riverrun and Jaime pursues a parlay with the Blackfish. As their meeting continues, we watch Jaime and he seems to have an air of self-entitlement about him, but as it ends, he is quickly deflated by the Blackfish’s disappointment, a man who – despite being an enemy – he seemingly respects as a strategist and warrior. Out of all of this though, Blackfish presents himself now as a man who has lost everything, or at least – indicative of his opinions on Edmure, everything of value, bar Riverrun itself. This is a man who could do with the news that his great nieces and nephews are still very much alive and kicking, and with that in mind, it may very well be Blackfish (as opposed to Littlefinger) who Sansa is sending a raven to, having recently learnt of Riverrun being recaptured. How this situation plays out remains to be seen, but I certainly hope Frey’s men get a good kicking regardless.

At King's Landing

Just like that, we go from the down-to-earth Brother Ray to the incredibly convincing false-believer, Margaery Tyrell, who is studying the Seven-Pointed Star. Much happens in King’s Landing throughout the episode, even if much of it is happening off-screen, and the political landscape is quickly changing thanks largely to the High Sparrow who enters Margaery’s chamber to discuss the necessary intimacies of marriage with her. (Fans of the books might note that Tommen is actually around 9 years old at this time, though his age has been retconned in the TV series so that as of Season 5, Tommen is actually around 18.) Not long after their conversation, however, The High Sparrow boldly makes a rather thinly-veiled threat against Olenna, stating that she too needs to atone for her unrepentant sins. Margaery quickly realises the danger that is present here in a man who – this time last season – confronted Olenna himself and spoke of what might happen when the many rise up against the few.

Of course, Margaery meets with her grandmother, though under the watchful and rather intimidating eyes of Septa Unella in a subtle attempt to warn her of the impending danger. To everyone’s liking, she clocks on rather quickly and decides to nope right out of King’s Landing, albeit not before giving Cersei a mouthful. For many of us, it is so satisfying to watch Cersei feel the weight of her actions, even if she herself has lost so much. It’s the same for Olenna too, who takes complete satisfaction in the defeat of Cersei in ruling her kingdom. Olenna isn’t wrong either, and in the Game of Thrones, it’s win or die – and King’s Landing and the characters that live within it are eerily close to being held hostage to a ‘join or die’ mentality.

What’s perhaps more interesting though is that the Faith Militant – like much of the series – is grounded in reality. George R.R. Martin has said that the inspiration for the Faith Militant and the High Sparrow was actually the medieval Catholic Church, and the events that we’re seeing in King’s Landing unfold right now take elements from the Protestant Reformation. For those not keeping track, the High Sparrow is the third High Septon that we’ve had in the series, the first was horribly crushed in the food riots of Season 2, and because of Cersei’s distrust of the second – appointed by Tyrion, in essence, she has in some capacity let the need for a trusted High Septon fester in the public mind, all while the High Sparrow skillfully manipulated his way into being seemingly appointed by the people.

In the North

As expected, Jon, Sansa and Davos have started their roadtrip to gather roadies to take out Ramsay in the upcoming Battle of the Bastards. Their various stops along their route bring them to forum with the Wildlings, House Mormont, and House Glover, and only manage to sway two of the three. It may seem obvious that the Wildlings will side with our Northern protagonists, but as we cycle through the potential sources of support, we hear a significant selection of logical arguments from all parties.

The Wildlings are understandably terrified that the fight with House Bolton and his surrounding support may eradicate the Wildfolk, and in doing so, will wipe them from the history books. Once upon a time, the Wildlings were seen as the enemy, and Jon employs some ‘enemy of my enemy’ logic as he sways them, and perhaps their greatest weapon – Wun Wun. What’s interesting about Season 6 though is the development of the Wildlings and the establishment of their place in Westeros, inspired by the Caledonians/Scots being closed off from the rest of the world with The Wall (inspired by Hadrian’s Wall) it’s completely understandable how their feelings for those on the other side were largely distrust, hatred, and an intense disgust for not seeing them as people. But here, we’re seeing them slowly being reintegrated into what may eventually become a far more accepting society.

For little Lady Mormont, who Davos manages to persuade, it is the imminent threat of the White Walkers that sways her. Thanks to the drip of information regarding the White Walkers that we’ve been fed over the series, those who aren’t familiar with the books are gaining a unique insight into who, and what they are, and how they were created. Yet, what remains to be seen is how they will play into the future of Game of Thrones. Created by the Children of the Forest to combat the First Men, the White Walkers have presumably wandered the lands after their intended purpose, aimlessly recruiting. As men that have been turned, they retain their intelligence and are servants of a deity known as the Great Other, the God of darkness, ice and death who is locked in eternal warfare with R’hllor, the Lord of light, fire and life, the very same Lord of light that Melisandre, the other Red Priestess’ and Thoros of Myr worship. Perhaps they are unable, however, to distinguish between the First Men and the men that followed, and believe themselves to be doing exactly what they were created for by amassing an army and marching upon Westeros. We shall see.

Though the support of House Glover was not acquired, assistance was gained from some of the smaller houses, with unfavourable numbers. We see that Sansa and Jon are in disagreement about when to act and with what numbers. Both have valid points, but Davos notes that Stannis was defeated just as much by the weather as he was the Boltons. With fewer numbers than expected, the episode lingers on Sansa writing a raven to an unknown party – though logically, it must be to Littlefinger asking for the support that he said he would pledge, should she need it. With that in mind, Sansa knowingly plays into his hands as his plan unfolds exactly as he intended it to. Look, let’s not pretend she has any other choice. She knows she’s getting herself into a whole heap of unwanted Littlefinger trouble, but for the sake of the Snow-Bolton fiasco that’s about to unfold, she has to make it. Fascinatingly, Game of Thrones is often thought of as a game of chess with many players, and the analogy isn’t wrong. Consider the mortal hand guiding events, such as Littlefinger and Olenna in cavorts regarding Joffrey’s assassination to restore House Tyrell as a power-player, or the High Sparrow’s not-so-hostile takeover of King’s Landing. Now consider the unnatural hand, the one we can’t see, the Old Gods and the New, guiding Westeros; what with the Lord of Light’s bestowal of visions and healing powers, the apparent resurrection of Euron Greyjoy at the hand of the drowned God, or the Great Other that guides the White Walkers. Either way, there are significant forces at play that still evade some viewers, but it is as sure as seven hells interesting to watch unfold.

In Volantis

Both Yara and Theon make an appearance after we all learned a couple of episodes back that their uncle Euron plans on sailing his ships to meet and wed Daenerys across the Narrow Sea. Since then, some people are curious as to their plan, having stolen the majority of the Iron Fleet. But it’s here that we learn they plan on reaching Daenerys and siding with her before Euron has the opportunity to. Perhaps most importantly, we’re starting to see the dots as they connect. Daenerys is in need of a thousand ships to cross the Narrow Sea with the Dothraki, and with Drogon in tow, it’s fairly safe to say that she would be one of the most prominent threats and contenders for the Iron Throne. Better yet, we have to consider what may occur if this proves to be the case, or at-least what the journey may be to that outcome.

It’s a long considered – albeit not particularly well known – legend that dragon-fire is magically infused and assists in the creation of Valyrian steel, one of the two known substances that can kill White Walkers. Dragons both occupied the spaces of Dragonstone and Valeria in the history of Westeros, both rich with Obsidian or Dragonglass – the other substance known to kill White Walkers. It very well may be that dragon-fire itself may kill, or seriously harm White Walkers, despite them seeming completely unaffected by normal fire. No official confirmation has ever been made of this link, but if it proves true, it makes Daenerys – the mother of dragons – one of the most valuable assets in defeating the oncoming Winter.

In Braavos

Finally, we return to Ayra, who is seemingly chipper for a girl who should be aware that she is going to have some faceless assassins come for her. That’s the thing though, she actually does know – it was heavy implied by Jaqen two episodes back that should she fail this third and final chance, she would be punished with death. However, even if she doesn’t know that she has a target on her head, she does know that she has upset some powerful people – which is reason alone to bribe a sea-captain with two bags of silver for a return trip to your native homeland at the crack of dawn… Right?

This particular scene for some reason reminded me of the attitude that Ayra sported when travelling with The Hound, and this is why I mentioned her beforehand. She seems cocky, or haphazardly arrogant, and perhaps this is because she just successfully stole two bags of coins to pay for a trip home. The coins, in conjunction with her attitude though, are likely symbolic. Here’s why: The first episode we get featuring Ayra and Sandor again shows them as two very different people to the ones we knew before, and perhaps their paths will meet again, but when they left one another, Ayra took Sandor’s coin and left him for dead, Ayra is never really seen with much money throughout the series since then, yet in ‘The Broken Man,’ she departs with coin herself and is confronted with the Waif who in turn, leaves her for dead.

On top of this, Ayra taking the coin from Sandor and leaving him for dead puts her on her new path, to head for Braavos and seek out the Faceless Men. Similarly, Sandor began his new path after being found by Brother Ray, healing him, perhaps both physical and emotional – and guiding him to a place where he may finally have atoned for his sins. When it turns out that Ayra finally has to step up and kill innocent people, she turns her back and struggles internally with comprehending her true nature and the competing idealogies she’s presented with. Likewise, When Sandor’s ties to a new life are severed at the hand of the Brotherhood Without Banners, he too, after giving new idealogies a consideration, chooses to turn his back to them, though I can’t help but wonder if he will now seek revenge for the innocence of Brother Ray and his communion as opposed to killing for the sake of killing. What we see is a rejection of selves, in some form or another, and the internalised struggle of these two characters that once travelled and killed together. By the Old Gods and the New, if this isn’t some sense of universal karma, cosmic irony, or the elegance of dual narratives then I don’t know what is.

Also, was I the only one that thought the Waif was going to come for Ayra in her sleep? I mean, at the end of the last episode, when she retrieves Needle and stashes it in her bed as she tucks in for the night, I was absolutely certain that the Waif was going to come for her and Ayra would kill her instead. Regardless, it’s going to be rather interesting seeing how Ayra gets out of this one… We want to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to discuss with us, and enjoy the seven sleeps between this episode and the next but remember, the night is dark and full of terrors. Until next time.

Game Of Thrones airs on HBO in North America, and Sky Atlantic in the UK and Ireland.

A 20-something scribbler with an adoration for space, film, existentialism and comic books. He consumes the weight of the Empire State Building in tea, enjoys the buzz of large cities and can blow things up with his mind.

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