‘The Broken Man’ was a marked departure from the fast, direct pacing we’ve recently been treated to in Game of Thrones. This week’s episode slowly serpentined through various story checkpoints. At just forty-three minutes long, it was much shorter than its proceeding episodes, which are roughly an hour each. You’d be forgiven, then, for wondering whether this episode was the victim of budgetary restraints, in order to ensure that the season will end on a high note, bereft of financial barriers. With that being said, this was by no means the worst episode we’ve seen, with various highlights that will live long in the memory.
Five seconds into the episode, many may have wondered whether or not they were watching the right show. The evergreen setting, the smiling faces, the lack of incest and murder – it didn’t feel like Westeros. Not until Ian McShane appeared, anyway. For anybody who read his interview with the Telegraph, one or two surprises would have been ruined – he not only revealed that a character whom we assumed dead would return, but also that he would be dead by the end of the episode. Nor did he seem to care, as Game of Thrones is ‘just tits and dragons’. Despite this blasé, reductive opinion of the show, McShane was excellent. He created believable rapport with the returning Hound in minutes, and his was one of the best performances in the episode.
In King’s Landing, a mini-Cold War seems to be developing between Margaery and the High Sparrow. A drawing the former handed to her grandmother suggests she is entirely aware of what she is doing; enough so that the Queen of Thorns agreed to return home for the time being. On the other hand, it is difficult to be convinced of the sparrow’s ignorance – rather, it is more believable that he and his Septon, Olenne, are aware of Margaery’s machinations.
If there was one scene we didn’t need, it was Jon Snow and Tormund convincing the Wildlings to fight. Tormund could have simply said to Jon that the Wildlings would fight. It felt like filler, as it was clearly implicit that they would fight, to the point nobody would have questioned writers had that scene not existed.
In King’s Landing, Cersei was briefly subject to the barbs of the Queen of Thorns. As cutting as it was, there wasn’t much to see here
Back up north, House Frey attempted a siege at Blackfish’s castle, with absolutely no success. Blackfish actively encouraged the Freys to execute his son – their only bargaining chip. At that point, Jaime arrived to take over, along with one of the show’s most entertaining characters, Bronn. Despite one or two exchanges re: penis size, they failed to really ignite the scene, which was left, for now, at a standstill.
Outperforming Ian McShane in your debut is some feat. That it was achieved by a ten year old only enhances that. Lyanna Mormont was wonderful, a ferocious young leader making mincemeat of Jon and Sansa. Thankfully for House Stark, Ser Davos stepped up once again, persuading the young girl to offer her men – all sixty-two of them.
After their success with their ursine friends the Mormonts, Sansa and Jon progressed to House Glover. It began to feel like a Comic Relief version of Dragons Den, as the two tried to persuade powerful people to invest in them. Nonetheless, Glover, played by …, gave an entertaining tongue-lashing to Sansa, and rejected her advances for aid, leaving House Stark somewhat low in numbers. As a result, Sansa appeared to send a note to Lord Baelish requesting the help of the Vale, despite her actions earlier in the season. Again, things moved relatively slowly here, but there was enough quality in some of the acting to avoid it being a huge issue.
As we moved to Yara and Theon, we were offered an homage to the more traditional idea of Game of Thrones – indeed, one half of ‘just tits and dragons’. Theon appears dejected as ‘whores’ surround him, offering their services to anybody willing or able (and paying). Yara gave Theon a short, inspirational Coach Carter speech which can be boiled down to ‘find your bollocks or kill yourself’. She went on to confirm her intentions to sail to Meureen to ally with Danaerys – essentially, nothing happened that we didn’t already know. Theon’s resurgent was unnecessary after his actions in the last episode, and felt like more filler.
The end of the episode offered some much needed excitement, which appeared in the form of the
witch from Snow White Waif, with the face of an old lady. After Arya booked her place on a boat to Westeros, she was unceremoniously stabbed by this old lady, before rolling off a bridge, appearing to the Waif to die. She did not pass yet; it is likely that she will seek the help of the actor who had played Cersei, Lady Crane. It could, however, be Jaqen who was stabbed, having taken the face of Arya from the hall. If this were the case, he would be subject to the Waif’s broken promise, that she would make Arya’s death as painless as possible. Additionally, two episodes ago, he asked Arya ‘does death only come for tge wicked and leave the decent behind?’. If Jaqen (as Arya) was discovered and saved by Lady Crane, it could be an interesting to see how he dealt with her. of course, it is all conjecture at this point. Regardless, Arya has too much left in the series for death: she has her list, Melisandre said they would meet again, and she has just spent far too long training to immediately be killed off.
Remarkably, there was not a single confirmed death in ‘The Broken Man’. That is, until the final scene, where scores were left bereft of life. After a couple of stirring philosophical conversations with Ian McShane, the Hound was left chopping wood in his Emersonian paradise. Then the Brotherhood Without Banners murdered every last person in his entourage, leaving him with a thirst for vengeance somewhat reflective of Arya’s own. It’s interesting to note that this wasn’t the usual modus operandi for Thoros’ sect, which leaves us wondering, what has changed perhaps it’s nothing, but it may be a hint at a new leader – the eagerly awaited and so far ignored Lady Stoneheart.
This episode failed to match the quality of the previous four or five, but this shorter chapter of the story may just be the perfect catalyst for an exciting finish to the season.
Dir: Jack Bender
Scr: David Benioff, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Liam Cunningham, Carice Van Houten, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, John Bradley, Hannah Murray, Art Parkinson, Natalia Tena.
Prd: David Benioff, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss, Duncan Muggoch, Peter Welter-Soler
Music: Ramin Jawadi
Episode Number: 7 of 10