‘Game of Thrones’ Review: ‘The Broken Man’ Hounds Another Major Return
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “The Broken Man”:
Well, well, look who showed up after all! And in a cold open, no less! In earnest, the search for Jon Snow energized fandom to tear apart Game of Thrones’ production secrecy even moreso than usual this year, and it certainly didn’t help to have Ian McShane himself so cavalier with his one-off appearance spoilers. One wonders if the series will ever manage to keep any twist under wraps again, but it’s especially of interest to consider how strongly Season 6 seems to reward that fan-sleuthing.
The Hound’s return marks another major twist that may not necessarily unfurl on the written page, but in an HBO context, it’s certainly satisfying to catch up with a wiser, more peaceful Sandor Clegane. There’s a surrealism to all his scenes; happy congregations building a peaceful future and sharing meals against a greener-than-green backdrop, that you’d never know of a dead army raining fire and ice from the north. It’s almost a shame that Season 6 waited as long to drop this particular reveal, given once it started how inevitable it felt that tragedy would rip The Hound back to that world, History of Violence-style, that the moment ends up a bit un-earned.
Last week’s “Blood of My Blood” felt like it used these bigger moments to cover up an hour designed to pivot the back half of Season 6, leaving “The Broken Man” to actually enjoy their spoils a bit more. Likely most satisfying was Margaery’s silent confirmation to her grandmother that she remained loyal to the House Tyrell, and hadn’t necessarily converted to the Faith after all. Saying goodbye to Lady Olenna for the time being is an unfortunate consequence of that particular beat, but knowing that Margaery has a larger plan* will give these trips to Kings’ Landing so much more weight going forward. And boy, between the High Sparrow showing his true colors by insisting Margaery share a marriage bed with Tommen, desire or otherwise, threatening Lady Olenna, and Septa Unella looming everywhere, both are due for a good smashing.
*Understandably, there’s a vocal contingent insisting that Margaery’s deception was apparent all along, given the character’s history, but it seems like the show itself was at least interested in what a genuinely-converted Margaery might look like, enough that her earlier Season 6 scenes felt notably indecisive.
It was also plenty of fun getting to actually see and spend time with the Blackfish again, given his Season 3 role seemed largely reactionary to Edmure’s ineffectual acts and Catelyn’s growing uncertainty. Here, we get to see the gruff commander in all his grizzled glory, calmly dismissing threats to kill his nephew, or that Jaime could bank two years in a siege. I’ll admit, the pace of Season 6 deaths had me worried they would re-introduce the Blackfish just to kill him off and close that thread, but I liked that his confrontation with Jaime actually served enough purpose to avoid any telegraphed betrayal. Jaime doesn’t want to be the “oathbreaker” he’s known for, and however convenient, killing Brynden Tully then and there would only have fulfilled the man’s taunts.
Of course, the Kingslayer and the Blackfish aren’t the only ones gearing up for battle, and “The Broken Man” had a lot to enjoy with Jon, Sansa and Davos attempting to recruit the various houses of the North to their cause. We knew from her letter in Season 5 that Lyanna Mormont had to be someone worth meeting, and her introduction lived up to that promise and more. It also says something that Davos finds the way to reach her, given his prior rapport with Shireen, but I’m at least curious of the rift apparently forming between Sansa and Jon, that both seem to be making stupid mistakes at such a crucial point. Jon still seems the same know-it-all he’s always been, to outright dismiss Sansa’s suggestions, but she does no better to go behind his back and start sending secret messages (presumably to Littlefinger). Both seem to be setting themselves up for a fall, a daunting prospect if we know they theoretically represent a winning side to the audience.
Probably the least momentum this week came from Yara, Theon and Arya, but in the former two case at least, we got confirmation of their intent to usurp Euron’s plan and align with Daenerys. It was also nice to take some time to rebuild the actual bond between the two siblings, and accentuate Theon’s strained mindset against Yara’s tough love approach. Theon may have a point, to be better entitled to revenge than any sense of justice after his own past deeds, but I’d hope Game of Thrones isn’t interested in inflicting any more torment on the character.
As far as Arya’s current predicament, last week definitely crystallized that Faceless Man training was always something of a narrative dead-end, so it isn’t terribly surprising that “The Broken Man” would find means to draw out her time in Braavos another week or so, now that Arya’s been heavily wounded. It’s a drastic sight, one surely recalling images of Talisa’s stabbing at the Red Wedding (frankly, I’m a bit surprised Arya wasn’t more on guard), but again, there are only so many ways this particular diversion will end.
Probably not the most eventful hour overall, even with The Hound’s triumphant return, but definitely better establishment work than last week. It’s tough to imagine we’re already down to the last three episodes, let alone how some of these threads might have satisfying conclusions before the season is out.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- So, instead of Septon Meribald or the Elder Brother, we have … Ray. Sure.
- I’m admittedly curious of the decision to grant The Hound’s return a cold open, the first since Season 4’s premiere.
- I don’t place much stock in the “Cleganebowl” theory, since where else would Sandor head, but to attack the Brotherhood Without Banners?
- Unella’s presence would suggest Margaery isn’t fully trusted just yet, so did she really miss the Queen palming a note to her grandmother?
- Everytime I need to express an affirmative opinion, I hope a giant stands up and says “Snow,” and everyone knows exactly what it means.
- Cersei admitting her mistakes was a sight to behold, but Olenna has a point about her being surrounded by enemies. Is there anywhere for the character to go at this point, or is Game of Thrones gearing up to get rid of her?
- Ditto for Bronn, whose rapport with Jaime is great, but we’re outliving the character’s usefulness to luck ratio.
- I’m not sure why, I just want to see Lyanna Mormont go back in time and slap the snot out of Bran holding court in Winterfell.
- Sure, that’s the second major Brotherhood Without Banners mention in two weeks, but what should we read of them killing off a peaceful congregation? Have they devolved into lawlessness, or is their potential new leader just that stone-hearted?
- Who’s more off their game, Arya for ignoring a potential assassin, or The Waif for thinking Arya’s body wouldn’t return to the surface? Also, what should we make of everyone eying her bloody march through the streets?
Game of Thrones Season 6 will return June 12 with “No One,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on HBO.