This weekâ€™s Game of Thrones “The Broken Man” reminded us how literally damaged many on the show really are. The Hound, Jaime, and Theon, physically. All of them and then the entire cast of characters when you take in consideration mental and emotional damage. But for all the broken men we see every episode, things actually arenâ€™t going that poorly. The Hound is alive. Theon is a Greyjoy again. Jaime is still the Kingslayer. On top of that, in general, bigger things sort of seem like theyâ€™re on the up and up. Sure, thereâ€™s a fascist theocracy in place, and a sadistic psychopath is the Warden of the North, but remember when Joffery was king? Those were dark days.
But as Ramsay Bolton once said, â€œIf you think this is going to have a happy ending, you havenâ€™t been paying attention.â€ Weâ€™ve been lulled into a sense of safety, and I donâ€™t think that feeling is going to last. When is the last time we were really afraid a core character would die? Jon Snow? We all knew that things werenâ€™t going to be as they seemed with Melissandre nearby. But in “The Broken Man,” there was a heaviness that hasnâ€™t been present much this season. It didnâ€™t hit all the notes I expected, but overall I was pleased with how much it felt like the early seasons; returning to Riverrun, talking about long dead characters, playing with more subtly. Above all else, it made me think about actual mortality of our characters, which hasnâ€™t been in the forefront of my mind in a while.Â
There was a lot of moving and plotting with Sansa, Jon, and Davos trying to get an army together on a quickly tightening deadline. Their visit to House Mormont was, on the surface, just a chance for us to laugh about the badass 10-year-old Lady Mormont. But what it actually did was show just how hopeless this all is. For all the pushing and pulling, for all the weight that the Stark name has, and for all the rousing speeches you can give (this weekâ€™s MVP goes to Davos, and thanks for bringing up the zombies that no one’s concerned about for some reason), itâ€™s only going to get you 62 soldiers. And sometimes your family name is what destroys your chances, in this case House Glover refusing to provide support due to Robb Starks failures.
Sansa and Jon have been through a lot more than Robb at this point, and I think theyâ€™re actually fit to be leaders (unlike Robb was). But no one gives a damn. They scoff at Jon and Sansa — a bastard and a woman. Iâ€™m coming to Sansaâ€™s defense every week, and Iâ€™m ready to do it again. Itâ€™s especially great seeing her interact with Jon, since they are actually much more equals than anyone else weâ€™ve seen her deal with in a long time and because of it, we get to see her actually driving decisions. Sheâ€™s an adult now! And sheâ€™s slowly being treated as one. As a girl who grew up blindly thinking she would marry the king and live a cushy life as a royal, to a woman whoâ€™s building an army to take back her home and save her brother? Hell of a jump. Mad props every damn time, even though as time passes, this plan seems like a worse and worse idea, not that thereâ€™s a viable alternative.
The biggest surprise in “The Broken Man”Â is the reintroduction of The Hound, in an unusual, cold open that felt like it belongs in another universe. It was sort of a mini arc, giving us enough information about how Sandor ended up living within a commune in a the middle of nowhere, but wasting no time killing everyone to compel The Hound to join the rest of the world. It was during these scenes that for the first time, Game of Thronesâ€™ schtick of each episode being a series of scenes instead of a more linear story felt frustrating. It can be exhausting to jump around from plot to plot when sometimes we just want to spend some time chopping firewood. Although it felt isolated, it also felt significant. For one, why are the Brotherhood without Banners ruthless killers now? And we know The Hound is out for revenge. Which brings us to another story about someone getting stabbed and left for dead.
Letâ€™s be straight: Arya is in some deep shit. I mentioned last week how I really didnâ€™t feel like Arya would die in what was the inevitable Waif v. Arya battle. I think I still feel the same way, but when Arya got stabbed by the Waif as an old woman, it was like we all got stabbed. We knew it would happen this way; none of this is a surprise. And yet, it felt impossible.
Why would we spend years watching Arya work towards becoming an assassin to not only have her abandon her desire, but get killed for it? Of course, this could actually be the endgame. But, seriously? That canâ€™t be it. We have real, serious magic on this show now. There was no hope for Ned, or for Robb, or Catelyn. But there was hope for Jon. Game of Thrones plays hot and cold with death. Is it too common? Maybe itâ€™s too easy to dismiss since we know people can be brought back. It does seem like this could be it. Simultaneously, Iâ€™m not convinced this is the end for Arya, especially with The Houndâ€™s return. I have no idea how sheâ€™s going to survive four stab wounds to the abdomen, but she has to. Itâ€™s not just for the sake of preserving a beloved character; it has nothing to do with that. Itâ€™s about preserving the integrity of the story we, the audience, is devoted to.
To end on a lighter note, Kingâ€™s Landing was fun this week, with Cersei and Olennaâ€™s regular banter getting more heated, with good reason. The High Sparrow has a giant target right on Olenna head and thanks to Margaery passing notes like sheâ€™s in homeroom, Olenna is getting the hell out of Kingâ€™s Landing while she can.
The High Sparrow feels like a real villain now; his threats arenâ€™t even veiled anymore. Itâ€™s pretty rich of Cersei to ask Olenna to stay and work with her, but most importantly it led to Lady Olenna laying down the best string of insults in all of Game of Thrones history. A few favorite barbs include â€œI wonder if youâ€™re the worst person Iâ€™ve ever met. At a certain stage itâ€™s hard to recall. But the truly vile do stand out through the years.â€ And never before speaking so clearly for all Game of Thrones fans, Olenna finishes with, “You lost, Cersei. It’s the only joy I could find in all this misery.â€ I couldnâ€™t have said it better myself.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
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