[For Game of Thrones “The Broken Man” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
The Broken Man. The High Sparrow considers another target; Jaime confronts a hero; Arya makes a plan.
“The Broken Man” opens on an idyllic pastoral scene. People in a field of green raising a frame of wood. At first I thought it might be the Ironborn building one of the ships that they plan to pledge to the Mother of Dragons… But no. These people look way happy and this landscape is way too pleasant for the Iron Islands (or the frozen North in Winter).
We don’t recognize any of the players on this greenery, not unless you count Ian McShane — hard-swearing, vice-peddling, alum of some HBO Sunday nights past — until, oh shit IS THAT THE HOUND?
It turns out the Hound is alive!
Sandor Clegane was nursed back from grievous injury by McShane’s character; a Septon of the Seven named Brother Ray* … Presumably after his encounter with Brienne the Beauty.
Though she’s never front and center in “The Broken Man” Brienne’s memory (and her Valyrian steel sword) cast a tall shadow that bring us to my Top 8 badass women of “The Broken Man”:
I. Brienne of Tarth
Given the terror that the Hound’s name inspires in the Riverlands — and all the Seven Kingdoms — as the un-Knight, the Kingsguard, the vicious lapdog of a more vicious king, and the scarred kid brother of the Mountain… the warrior — in this case woman — who beat him must inherit a pretty badass reputation.
After seeing him swing an axe, Brother Ray asks Sandor how many men it took to take him down (the answer being one); and if only one, he must have been a monster (not even a “he” but Brienne). Badass.
II. Margaery Tyrell Lannister
When we see Margaery once again with the High Sparrow, we learn a lot about both in a typically compact span. We find out that Margaery hasn’t been intimate with young King Tommen since their reunion last episode… She just doesn’t feel the desires she once did any more. We also find out (perhaps predictably) that the High Sparrow doesn’t consider a woman’s desire is necessary for participation in the marital bed… “only her patience.”
Margaery seems completely mesmerized by the High Sparrow still, a far cry from the woman who pleaded for Loras to hold on to his resolve and sanity earlier in the season, but matters turn when the High Sparrow tells her that her grandmother, the Queen of Thorns, is an unrepentant sinner. The young Queen’s true allegiances quietly resurface when Margaery passes grandma a secret rose-note and a message to get the hell out of dodge; or rather, King’s Landing.
III. Olenna Tyrell, The Queen of Thorns
Speaking of grandma Tyrell — seeing that she is about to leave the mess that Cersei made and calls the capital of the Seven Kingdoms — we finally get to hear out loud what everyone else has been thinking since Season Two. Cersei is a stupid woman who has done nothing but make mistakes, handed King’s Landing to a fanatic army, brought low to ancient houses, and is probably the worst person Lady Olenna Tyrell has ever met.
Olenna expresses joy though, in seeing that Cersei has actually, finally, lost.
IV. Lyanna Mormont
As suggested in the last couple of episodes, Jon and Sansa hit the Kingsroad to drum up support for their neo-Stark anti-Bolton revolution. The first noble house they hit is the Mormonts… Who are led by a ten-year-old Lyanna (named for dead Ned’s sister, natch).
The diminutive Lady is a firecracker. Though she said that Bear Island knows no King but the King in the North (and his name is Stark) she points out that Jon is a Snow and Sansa is either a Bolton or a Lannister. She rejects the idea of being a “beauty” of any kind, noting that her loyal mother was a warrior; and though only ten, she thinks first, always, of the well being of her Bear Island subjects.
It is only the Onion Knight’s impassioned speech that sways young Lyanna. Her own Uncle Jeor — the former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard — chose Jon as his steward and heir back at the Wall; for the true battle is not between petty houses but between the living and the dead. And against that enemy, Jon is the man who can lead humanity to victory (and survival). For the living to stand against the undead they will need a united North, which is impossible if Bolton banners fly over Winterfell.
Lyanna is in!
After all her bluster Lady Mormont can offer only sixty-two fighting men (but she assures the Stark delegation they all fight like ten mainlanders apiece). The Onion Knight says that if they’re half as ferocious as their Lady, the Boltons are doomed.
We all hope so.
V. Sansa Stark Lannister Bolton Stark-I-Guess?
The next stop on the Jon and Sansa train is Glover. The previous Lord Glover died beside their brother Robb; and though he acknowledges the pledge Glover owes Stark, considers the true House Stark dead. Yes — Glover is supposed to come when Stark calls, but where was Stark when the Ironborn were toppling his castle? King Robb was off getting Glover’s brother killed and taking up with “a foreign whore”.
Sansa gets sternly up in Glover’s grill (to no avail); but she did it.
… And when Sansa realizes Jon has not nearly enough men to take Winterfell she does something more: She sends a letter (presumably to Littlefinger) for help. Curiouser and curiouser.
VI. Yara Greyjoy
We learn a bit of what kind of King of the Iron Islands Yara might have made in a brief scene between her and her brother Theon, across the Narrow Sea. Theon doesn’t know why they sailed to where they are… As Yara slaps the backside of a beautiful young woman (presumably a slave girl prostitute by her facial tattoo and state of undress). Why are they there? Because “nothing on the Iron Islands has an ass like that.”
Yara and her crew are on shore leave and she is going to enjoy herself before the trials to come. She knows Uncle Euron will be after them, but Yara plans to sail for Meereen and treat with Dany first. In the meantime? Recreation.
All across this episode we are left to wonder who the titular “broken man” is… Is it the Hound, living in a [doomed] pacifist community, himself running on hate? Is it Jon, who was dead, and now is accused of representing a dead family? Is it Jaime, separated from his family, a fighting man with no right hand? Is it the Blackfish, damning himself and his people to a lengthy siege against superior enemies, but defiant throughout? Or Lord Edmure Tully, who is paraded about, impotently, as a prisoner? In the end, I think that it is Theon… But that badass Yara goes a fair distance in un-breaking him.
VII. Arya Stark
Arya books passage on a ship back to the Seven Kingdoms… And looks good doing it. Arya has somehow not just a pocket full of money, but two pockets full.
Throughout Game of Thrones Arya is badass over and over again. I think her defining characteristic is adaptability. She trains herself to become a water dancer; when her dancing master falls, she becomes a self-sufficient runaway. She outsmarts a Faceless Man and knocks over a fortress almost all by herself. She travels the world at the side of one of the world’s most noted murderers, then joins a holy priesthood of murderers. All along the way she does what she needs to do to survive, thrive, and learn.
But when booking passage, we see a different Arya. The Arya we have been cheering for all these years succeeded (or at least survived) constantly on the brink of disaster. She didn’t know what she was doing most of the time; but here we see a rich girl, raised in a noble house, telling a merchant what to do because she can buy what she wants. This is a completely different side of Arya… Not unlike one of those rare moments when we get cheer for Bruce Wayne instead of Batman.
Our badass heroine takes one last look as the Braavos skyline, when…
VIII. The Waif
The Waif appears in guise of an old woman… So she can sneak up and stab Arya! The Waif stabs Arya repeatedly! But Arya jumps away into the river, admittedly a bloody mess. The foolish, foolish, Waif thinks herself victorious and walks away.
Arya stumbles around the streets of Braavos, bleeding everywhere (and no one helps)… But she’s still alive. And if there is one thing that a living Arya Stark has shown us, it’s adaptability. If she’s still breathing she will be as immovable as her Uncle Blackfish. You won this round, but watch out, Waif.
* “Named” but never called, I think; I found that in this Entertainment Weekly article; I can’t say I noticed him called that all ep, and IMDB didn’t know his name.