In a series as wicked as Game of Thrones there are many broken men.
(WARNING: Spoilers ahead.)
When we last saw Game of Thrones, Arya was hiding in tunnels (Basically the city’s sewer system) under Braavos and Daenerys was giving another inspirational speech to rally the troops. Meanwhile, Sam was leaving his castle home for parts unknown and the High Sparrow, and no one else in tv land is convinced he converted Queen Margaery to the one true faith. In the north, while Hodor was being digested by wights, Bran and Meera were making up for lost time with Uncle Benjen.
In the real world, director Jack Bender confirmed seasons seven and eight would be shorter than previous seasons. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirmed to Variety the shorter seasons, but the article also states nothing has been signed with HBO. Game of Thrones is a huge money maker for HBO. It wouldn’t be difficult to believe the powers-that-be at HBO would want three, four, or even five more seasons. However, past history has shown HBO is more than willing to let series run their course despite being massive money makers (The Sopranos, True Blood) and even grant renewals to critically acclaimed series with poor ratings (The Leftovers, Vinyl). Two shorter seasons sounds possible, but maybe unrealistic at the show’s current pacing.
Weiss and Benioff said one of the reasons for the shorter seasons was to “spend more time per episode.” This vague statement could mean a couple of things. It could mean the seasons will be shorter, but with longer episodes. It could also mean each episode will spend more time on a character or storyline. We’re crossing our fingers it means more time with a particular storyline. There are a lot of dangling threads in Game of Thrones in need of tying up if the next two seasons are shorter.
However, last week’s episode didn’t make us think the duo were in any real hurry to tie up those threads. In fact, it seemed they were even creating a new thread by making Sam’s character more than a supporting character. At one time it seemed Arya was on a course to meet up with the other Starks. Last week, her exile from the rest of the fold got a little longer. There’s no telling in what direction the Greyjoy arc will go. Last week’s episode didn’t include the other cast of characters. Who knows in what directions those storylines will go.
This week’s “The Broken Man,” extended the various storylines more and added new threads to the yarn. The episode didn’t return to the wastelands of the North or to Meereen and we don’t know where Sam is going. However, the episode did return to King’s Landing. There was more religious dialog between the High Sparrow and Queen Margaery. Margaery played her role as devout acolyte convincingly enough. Or did she? As soon as she was done spouting religious diatribe the High Sparrow made a veiled threat against her grandmother, Olena. We can read into this either way.
Margaery managed to slip a note to Olenna. Again, is this because she was never a true believer or did the threat against Olena’s life move her to act? It’s safe to say she was never a believer and used this moment to warn Olenna. There were two results to Margaery and Olenna’s thirty seconds of screen time.
The first, the storyline keeps going to a conclusion we probably won’t see until next season. If season seven is only seven episodes, Margaery, Olenna, and Cersei need to move on the High Sparrow in the next couple of episodes. The second, Olenna didn’t pull any punches when she spoke to Cersei. Olenna asks, “I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met?” She goes on to blame Cersei for everything that has happened to her family and the Lannister’s loss of power in King’s Landing. This is the reason we like Olenna, she tells it like it is. People in power though don’t have to hold their tongue. Still, it was nice to see Cersei get a taste of her own medicine.
This week’s episode returned to Jon, Sansa and Davos. Most of the time was spent trying to recruit houses to their cause. Although valuable time was spent on recruiting houses, and failing, it was needed. Jon, Sansa, and Davos need an army to fight the Boltons. House Mormont and the Wildlings are on board, but no one else. Stannis loss to the Boltons with a bigger army.
The time spent also showed more of the steel Sansa has developed this season. Snow tells her they need to move against the Boltons with the few soldiers they have in their army. Sansa stands strong in her opinion they should wait and recruit more soldiers and more houses.
It was an interesting debate between the two Starks. Jon even dropped a little Donald Rumsfeld logic on Sansa when he told her they had to fight with the army they had not the army they wanted. Not to get totally political, but we saw how that logic worked for Rumsfeld in the early years of the “War on Terror.” Ironically, Ramsay Bolton and House Bolton are basically terrors on the North.
“The Broken Man” also returned to Arya for twenty seconds. We saw her long enough to book passage out of Braavos. It seemed for the moment her storyline would be moving back towards Westeros and an eventually meeting with the remaining Starks. It seemed that is, until the last ten seconds of her segment. The Waif, posing as an old woman, guts her. What was it for? We know Arya isn’t dying anytime soon. It was thirty seconds showrunners could have used for better things. It’s thirty seconds we’ll never get back.
Many episode titles haven’t made sense. This week’s title and last weeks were clear, but who did it refer to? Was it Septon Ray, played by Ian McShane? Ray tells a story of how he killed a young boy years before and how it haunts him to the day. The killing of the boy was the reason he started the hippy like commune. If time was going to be taken away from the overall story it would have been awesome to have seen more of Ray and his hippies. Unfortunately, Ray kept his word when he told the Hound he was done fighting even if the fighting was for his own life.
Oh yes, the Hound returned! It may not have been a surprise for those viewers who have read the book (To be honest, I still haven’t read the books. Not a single word), but for the rest of us, it was an awesome moment in an otherwise average episode. Is the Hound the Broken Man?
When Ray found him he was broken, shattered, and on the edge of death. Ray asks how he managed to survive. “Hate,” he tells Ray. This is a typical Hound answer. What’s not typical is taking action against Ray for laughing at him for being bested by a woman or not fighting the riders who marched into the camp. The old Hound would have cracked heads. The old Hound would have pulled an ax from a tree stump and gone after those responsible for killing everyone in the camp. So, who is the Broken Man?
“The Broken Man” kept the storylines going towards some sort of conclusion. Unlike past episodes, “The Broken Man” made sense in its pacing. We need these types of episodes to breach the gap between the larger, bigger episodes. Compared to other episodes, “The Broken Man” was solid storytelling. Even if it means we won’t get a satisfying season finale we may be moving in the right direction towards a worthy series finale. With three episodes left in season six, the episodes need to pick up steam.
(No, we didn’t forget about the Greyjoys or Jamie. The twenty seconds of Greyjoy was filler with some boobs. Are we to believe even if Jamie takes the castle he’ll use the army to move on King’s Landing? Jamie and Cersei love their children. They’re not going to kill or harm their son and king. Twenty seconds of filler that could have been used for other characters.)