Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers. It also contains speculation about upcoming events in the show, with explicit reference to a significant storyline from George R R Martin’s books that is yet to be adapted in the television series
Before I get into my thoughts on the episode, a note of apology for not logging a review last week: a busy travel schedule didn’t leave much time for writing, but it’s back to business as usual this week. That out of the way, let’s go over the tidings from the Seven Kingdoms and the Eastern Cities:
Somewhere in the Riverlands
In television parlance, a ‘cold open’ is the technique of opening an episode directly with the story, as opposed to starting with the title sequence or opening credits. It is a device that Game of Thrones had only used on three occasions before this week, each time for a season premièring episode (Seasons 1, 3 and 4). With The Broken Man, we got the first mid-season cold open in the show’s history. Why? Because the opening credits contained the name ‘Rory McCann’, and we would have known the actor’s long absent, presumed-dead character was going to show up. By making the slow, dramatic revelation of his return in the cold open and then cutting to the credits, the show gave us one of the most exciting and memorable openings in its entire run.
I was thrilled when dead Jon responded to Melisandre’s call
And gladdened when half-dead Benjen reappeared beyond the Wall
But my joy knew no bound
When I found that the Hound
Had not even died at all.
OMG da Hound is back yayayayayayayay 😀
On another note, did you know that I’m a Hound fanboy? I’ve long been prophesying his return, and now that I have been so sweetly vindicated, I’m laying a confident bet on him being Azhor Ahai, reborn from the flame and all. You can laugh now, but you won’t be laughing when he finishes ahead of Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City. See you at next year’s CleganeBowl: Gregor vs. Sandor, ‘Cersei on a Pole’ Match at Wrestlemania 33.
Let’s stay in the Riverlands for a moment, and savour these two golden exchanges of dialogue:
Jaime: “You have better instincts than any man in the Lannister army.”
Bronn: “That’s like saying I have a bigger cock than anyone in the Unsullied army.”
Bronn: “You promised me a lordship, castle and a highborn beauty for a wife.”
Jaime: “You’ll get all three. A Lannister always – ”
Bronn: “Don’t say it. Don’t fucking say it.”
Ah, Bronn. I’m quite sure I enjoyed your return more than Clegane’s. Never change.
On the other hand, poor Jaime is continuing to perform below Lannister expectations. While the mission in Riverrun is a welcome change of scene for him, he has been publicly embarrassed for two consecutive weeks now. Last week, he impressively marched his horse up the sept stairs, only for the High Sparrow and Tommen to undo his bravado and make him look foolish. Even worse, Tommen would later strip him of his Kingsguard duty. This week was no better, as the Kingslayer was at the receiving end of some top-class condescension from Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully. Knowing Jaime, these slights will have rankled, and he is at risk of doing something reckless in an attempt to soothe his ego. Hmmm. The Brotherhood Without Banners and the Hound are roaming a Riverlands that’s already crawling with Freys, and Brienne of Tarth is headed that way too. Seems to me that there’s soon going to be no end of unwise things that Jaime could do…
On the subject of unwise things. Brace yourself, there’s a long sentence coming up. Lots of commas and clauses. Here we go. Would Arya of House Stark, wielder of Needle, former trainee of Syrio Forel, recent student of the House of Black and White and survivor of five goddamn Game of Thrones seasons, merrily stroll about a city famed for faceless assassins, speaking of passage to Westeros, throwing around sacks of money and casually standing on bridges with her back to the crowd?
No. She would not. I just don’t buy it. I also don’t understand the personal hatred that The Waif seems to have for Arya – it suggests an element of individuality that doesn’t quite gel with what we know of the Faceless Men so far. Is there some deeper secret here that explains this animosity? Also, what has been the whole point of Arya’s stint in Braavos if she is going to leave exactly as she entered? I feel there needs to be more to this storyline than meets the eye, or else it will have been nothing more than a stalling tactic to keep her away from Westeros. Surely Game of Thrones is better than that.
Oh, and of course Arya is going to survive the stabbing. Come on, Waif. You train assassins, but you can’t puncture a little girl’s vital organ? You know what they say: Those who can, do…
Oh look at that, a neat segue. Speaking of those who can’t, Theon Greyjoy was looking thoroughly miserable as the other Ironborn engaged in what can be described as an evening of uninhibited merriment. After an unsettling episode last week that contained neither death nor nudity, it was just like old times this week with topless prostitutes wandering about the screen, and an apparently lesbian Yara counseling her brother between mouthfuls of Volantits to get over his PTSD, or alternatively, commit suicide.
So yeah, looks like Yara and Theon are going to beat Euron to Meereen. I am curious to see what happens if/when they meet Daenerys. Is Yara’s lesbianism an indicator that she intends to offer herself in marriage to Dany? That could be cool.
The big news from the capital is that my girl Margery isn’t brainwashed after all. She’s just been playing the High Sparrow, as she clandestinely tells her grandmother by slipping her that awesome note with a rose on it. Roses are difficult to draw, so five points to Slytherin, Miss Tyrell. Another twenty-five points for using your spiritual awakening to avoid sleeping with Tommen. The poor Hufflepuff.
The question now is whether the High Sparrow has been taken in by Margery’s subtlety, or whether he has figured her out and is double playing her. He seems like a very shrewd character, so I wouldn’t put it past him. Either way, I am loving the politics in King’s Landing again.
Also, Lady Olenna gives Bronn close competition for the best lines of the episode with her casual burns on Cersei – “I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met. At a certain age, it becomes hard to recall.”
Khaleesi as always is dormant
The Starks are enduring years of torment
Tyrion is alone
So the Iron Throne
Belongs to Lyanna Mormont
Ab Ki Baar Mormont Sarkar
If this girl had been gifted three dragons, Game of Thrones would have been a six-episode miniseries and we’d all be speaking Valyrian by now.
Did I mention that I’m a Lyanna Mormont fanboy? You had better use those 62 Bear Island soldiers well, Jon Snow.
After a streak of three breathless episodes that climaxed with the brilliant Door, the last two weeks have seen Game of Thrones slow down for a breather before launching into end-season acceleration. The show has smartly used the two latest episodes to carefully position its players for the season’s climax. The result has been excellent, well-written television that lacks the action and edge-of-the-seat suspense of the earlier episodes, but is no less compelling.
Is it fair to say that this GoT season has been unusually kind to its characters? Jon was resurrected. Benjen came back from the dead too, in a manner of speaking. Now the Hound joins the ranks of the presumed dead but alive. I don’t even think we’ve seen the last of this theme, because it increasingly looks as though the series will visit a popular storyline from the books that till now was assumed to have been cut. READ NO FURTHER TO AVOID SPOILERS.
In the books, we learn that Catelyn Stark’s corpse was fished out of the river by the Brotherhood Without Banners and reanimated Melisandre-style. The resurrected Catelyn is a dark, dark version of her previous self, and comes to be known as Lady Stoneheart, assuming command of the Brotherhood and mercilessly executing anybody associated with the Lannisters of Freys. Later, Lady Stoneheart captures Brienne and accuses her of turning traitor because she carries Jaime Lannister’s sword. If Brienne wants to prove her loyalty, she must bring Jaime to face the Brotherhood’s justice. With Jaime now in the Riverlands, the Brotherhood suddenly resurgent and Brienne on her way, all signs seem to point to the Lady Stoneheart storyline.
However, I wonder if the show will pull a twist and have Robb Stark be the one who is brought back instead. There have been multiple mentions of Robb in the last few episodes, and an image of him was featured prominently in one of Bran’s visions a couple of weeks ago. Surely there has to be a reason behind this? The line this week about “House Stark being dead” and the references to “The King in the North” deepened my suspicion. Moreover, Benioff and Weiss have praised Richard Madden’s charisma in the past, crediting his performance for making Robb more prominent in the series than he was in the books. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Seven hells, I hope I’m right.
Regardless of whether its Robb or Catelyn who is brought back, it would mark yet another resurrection on the show – the fourth this season, by my count. By diminshing the finality of death, is the series starting to go soft? I was thinking earlier that the axe is an apt symbol for Game of Thrones, considering how the show has disposed of so many characters with such shocking ruthlessness and violence. However, with so many characters coming back, something has changed this season, and this change is mirrored by the last shot of this week’s The Broken Man, which features Sandor Clegane pulling his axe out of a tree and walking away. The weapon swings up, not down – a reprieve as opposed to an execution. However, after he has retracted his axe the Hound walks – towards a purpose. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow. We haven’t seen the last of that axe.
Overall Rating: 4 / 5 Stars