Published on June 8th, 2016 | by Bean0
Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 7 Review – “The Broken Man”
After the lacklustre “Blood of my Blood” (harsh, but I just wasn’t feeling it) comes “The Broken Man”, a televisual morsel so tasty as to wash away the disappointment I felt last week. We are inching closer to the season end, and no one could accuse Game of Thrones for not bringing it with it’s sixth season. In this seventh episode we can feel a definite shift in momentum, with all eyes turning inexorably to Winterfell as the Snow/Stark siblings rouse their best effort at an army to face the Bolton horde. The episode offers us a plethora of variously broken men attempting to forge themselves anew – Jaime, Sandor, Brother Ray, Snow (broken and rebuilt) but the most beautiful rebirth comes in the form of Theon – the archetypal wretch made new by the belief of his sister. Their sibling solidarity was not the first goose-bump-raising moment in this excellent episode.
Faith and duty feature heavily in “The Broken Man”, as each scene plays out against the backdrop of battling wills. The gods – Seven, Drowned or Lord of Light – may spur on one faction or another, as avatars for the particular goals of the ‘righteous’. The power of the gods is only as meaningful as their followers desire to uphold their dogma, but they are as nothing to the will of the individual striving to protect the masses. Jon, Sansa, Davos, Tormund and Lady Mormont all bear this responsibility, and struggle with their ability to fulfil their goal – unite and fight off The Night King. It is a pleasure to hear the world-view dilemma spelled out so simply when Davos entreats the young Mormont leader to board their war ship; Game of Thrones is never so thrilling as when it speaks baldly, casting aside the politics in favour of pleas for survival.
The Lannisters and Tyrells are still smarting from their offspring’s seeming allegiance with the Faith Militant, and Jaime makes little impression at Riverrun in his parley with the Blackfish. While he may have the canny Ser Bron at his side, still pleasingly un-rose-tinted regarding the Lannister line of bullshit, he appears if not outgunned, then outsmarted by the elder warrior he attempts to persuade out of a fight. Interestingly, the choice to talk rather than call out or play dirty shows considerable personal growth for Jaime, but he overplays his hand; diplomacy simply isn’t the Lannister strong suit.
Cersei faces similar challenges with Lady Tyrell in her own efforts to secure a profitable alliance. She shares a humbling exchange with Ollena, the latter informing the Queen Regent that her goals are futile and reminding her of her despicable ways. As ever, Cersei’s only conduit to goodness or honesty is the genuine love she bears her offspring, and it becomes increasingly painful to watch the dichotomy at the heart of her personality. It bears no fruit, regardless. Diana Rigg is peerless in all her scenes, but the weary attempt at enjoyment she displays as she drops the mic on a woman she barely deigns to consider an enemy says more about her long years of experience and her true disdain for Cersei than the dialogue itself.
The return of our beloved frenemy The Hound, or tellingly Sandor as he goes by here, is more welcome than I can describe. The conceit of Ian McShane’s appearance – particularly delicious since he recently made of show of putting down Game of Thrones as dragon-y nonsense, what leger de main! – works marvellously well; a one-two punch of such “oh! OH!” delight for the audience, I can only imagine the smugness of the producers. The calibre of acting on Game of Thrones has long been one of it’s medals of honour. McShane, a revelation since Deadwood, but an actor with a deeply interesting back catalogue that extends back much farther than Lovejoy, brings his own particular brand of gravitas to proceedings in “The Broken Man”. It is an endless joy to watch this sort of talent imbue what in other hands could be a throwaway cameo with such heart and mind, and it seems his role in galvanising Clegane is pivotal and worth getting his teeth into.
The arc Rory McGann has taken The Hound through since Season 1 is something I’ve sorely missed since his disappearance and presumed death in Season 4 (I always kept the faith). Such hopes can be tended for the likes of Gendry, and the return of Rickon, Brynden Blackfish and a host of northern lords we’ve not seen for a while has kept us guessing as to the fate of Arya’s one-time captor/ally. Is Sandor Clegane truly a broken man? He seems to harbour a residual bashed ego from having been bested by a woman, and wars with himself and Brother Ray as to what the best course of action is in response to the threat of the Brotherhood Without Banners. By episode close his mind is made however, and the BWB are gonna rue the day.
That his return collides conveniently with Arya’s decision to leave Braavos for home and resume her new and improved identity is no accident. Arya needs an ally now more than ever, and at a moment when all seems lost for the youngest Stark daughter, it is at least some comfort to know that he’s out there somewhere, ready to have her back. Should she live. By the conventions of narrative television, and particularly Game of Thrones, I think we can assume Arya will not perish. Had that been her fate she would have done so on screen; if there is ever any hope for a character’s survival we simply must not actually witness their demise. No, hang on, Jon Snow. Scratch that. Resurrection is even possible here, so I’ll allow myself the luxury of placating the horror with which I viewed that hideous obvious-Waif creeping up on and then gutting my favourite badass by believing she’ll get a reprieve. From whence, who knows, but my fingers and toes are crossed.
Review by Nina Clark
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