If there’s one thing this season of Game of Thrones has reminded us of, it’s the magic of fiction, wherein death is a small, easily surmountable hurdle for imaginative screenwriters. Jon Snow was stabbed repeatedly and died a bloody death, but he came back, good as new. In fact, he seems barely troubled by having been temporarily dead. This week marked the return of The Hound, formerly missing, presumed very much dead after a lengthy battle with Brienne of Tarth. The episode concluded with Arya Stark being stabbed in the gut by The Waif, jumping into a river, and staggering about the streets with surprising energy given the circumstance. Similarly, Hodor’s body was never seen, giving the writers a suitable ticket to resurrection should they choose to use it.
The Hound, as we find him several seasons on, has joined the rural pacifist community of Brother Ray (Deadwood’s Ian McShane), working the land as a wood chopper. Unfortunately, this perfectly idyllic setting is disrupted when the Brotherhood Without Banners, failing an extortion attempt, come back and murder all the villagers. The Hound, having been fortuitously away in the woods, returns to find amid the carnage the lifeless body of Brother Ray hung by the neck from a gallows. The finality of Brother Ray’s death is all too apparent, and this makes The Hound mad.
Another person who should rightly die, but whose life is prolonged by the small technicality of not actually having died yet, is The High Sparrow of King’s Landing. Granted, he now has King Tommen in his pocket, but up until now, it has always seemed egregious that an entire king’s guard could not eradicate one old man. Alas, the genius of The Sparrow’s rhetoric is that he makes his own murder seem like a convincingly bad idea to anyone who would propose it. This week, momentarily free from mortal threat, he turns his attention to baby making. Having gifted the Queen his personal Barry White mix tape, he instructs Margaery on her duty to give the King an heir. To lighten the mood, he also insinuates that Olenna’s life is dependent on Margaery’s converting her to the faith.
Meanwhile, having departed King’s Landing for Riverrun, everyone’s favourite incestual, filicidal, one-handed heartthrob Jaime Lannister attempts to parley with The Blackfish for the return of Walder Frey’s holiday home. Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers, with Edmure Tully as their captive leverage, try their best to bait him into surrender, but he refuses, instead calling their bluff.
Elsewhere, in the north, Jon Snow, Sansa, and Davos continue seeking support for their would-be siege on Winterfell. After Lord Percy from ‘Blackadder,’ aka Lord Glover, turns them down, they successfully secure the support of House Mormont, whose ten-year-old monarch promises them the aid of sixty men. Despite their lack of a cunning plan, Jon is adamant that they attack Winterfell as soon as possible before the Ramsay and Michael Boltons increase their defences.
With only two episodes left before the 69-minute finale in week ten, it is fair to say that season six is passing by far too quickly. Unlike, say, The Walking Dead, which flounders around for fifteen or sixteen episodes while barely justifying the length of its seasons, Game of Thrones could really use an extra couple of episodes without sacrificing quality. The number of characters and plots alone mean that it is rarely in danger of stretching its stories thin. Alas, future seasons are rumoured to be decreasing in episodes.
The most memorable aspect of ‘The Broken Man’ was probably the return of Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, whose duality of pathos and brutishness always made him a memorable character. Ian McShane’s Brother Ray was disappointing in as much as his appearance was brief. While he made a good, momentary sounding board for Sandor’s moral quandaries, it seems rather a waste to incorporate such a compelling actor into the cast and kill him off before the opportunity to do anything substantial with the character.
Meanwhile, Arya’s stabbing at the hands of The Waif, disguised as an old woman, was as predictable as the fact that she won’t die from the injury next week.
Like last week’s episode, ‘The Broken Man’ acts primarily as a set-up for impending events, i.e. the battle between Ramsay and Jon Snow, rather than any kind of denouement, but it was nevertheless a lively affair with more than a hint of welcome humour, and the subplots meshed together agreeably. Low key but exciting nevertheless, ‘The Broken Man’ merely hints at the big moments to come.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10