Warning: This recap for “The Broken Man” episode of Game of Thrones contains spoilers.
Aside from gratuitous nudity and its reluctance to admit it was a fantasy show, Game of Thrones initially caught everyone’s attention for its willingness to kill off main characters. Not just main characters but beloved main characters. But there was a real genius to its mayhem: In killing off people like Ned Stark (and later Robb Stark), Game of Thrones shook up the usual narrative viewers have come to expect of epic sagas while making us care even more for the surviving players. That’s just good strategy.
But despite its unpredictable kill list, Game of Thrones has always been a serialized story at heart, and sometimes there’s no better, more crowd-pleasing turn of events than the reappearance of a familiar face. I don’t know what’s in the air in Westeros these days, but people just don’t stay dead! Is it like that famous line from Dawn of the Dead about how this is what happens when hell is full? Obviously Jon Snow and The Mountain experienced actual resurrection from death, but Season 6 has also generously brought back faces we maybe never expected to see again. In a rare cold open, “The Broken Man” brought back no less than The Hound, last seen dying in the countryside after a full-on brawl with Brienne. No complaints here: This show is approaching its endgame, and the curtain call has already begun.
Hey, I have an idea: Let’s talk about “The Broken Man”!
We began in the countryside where a gaggle of pious brutes were erecting a quickie temple. But this wasn’t Pennsylvania, and these weren’t any damn Amish! Also one of the workers looked a little familiar.
THE HOUND! I’d recognize that semi-Freddy Krueger face anywhere. But how was he alive? And why was he super into manual labor now?
As it turned out, Ian McShane (as himself) had discovered The Hound’s body a few days after he’d had his a** handed to him by Brienne, and he was so near death that he’d begun to decompose already. But he was The Hound, and The Hound doesn’t simply die! From there, I guess Ian McShane nursed him back to health via TLC and probably spooning. But Ian McShane was a religious leader now, and he’d been working on getting The Hound to stop loving murder and vengeance so much and to start embracing the gods. Good luck with that.
Back in King’s Landing, Margaery’s descent into religious fanaticism had reached a new low, at least if her denim gown was any indication. Even more upsetting, the High Sparrow was now visiting her and encouraging her to f*** more children. Or, at least King Tommen, whom the High Sparrow believed was ready to sire heirs. It’s like, relax, old weirdo. That’s not your business.
The High Sparrow also really needed Margaery to tell her grandmother, Lady Olenna, to either repent her sins or leave King’s Landing, so Margaery (accompanied by the mean nun as a minder) paid her grandmother a visit. But after about 10 minutes of tense arguing about how great this religion s*** was, Margaery finally passed her grandmother a secret note:
It was a hand-drawn rose, the House Tyrell sigil. But it also translated to “Relax, Grandma, I’ve got this.” Because, duh: It’s all a scam and always had been. Queen Margaery remains QUEEN.
Elsewhere Jon Snow and his posse of Sansa and Ser Davos were running around trying to get people to join their army in the fight against the Boltons. First stop was this Wildling campground where all the bearded dudes seemed wary of joining up. It wasn’t until the wisest among them finally pledged his support that the rest of them fell into line.
The Giant is the best. Everyone else was being really difficult with Jon Snow, but the Giant said “Snow” and dropped the mic harder than anybody previously thought possible. Nobody drops a mic like a literal giant. So yeah, the Wildlings were now Team Stark.
I loved when Lady Olenna decided to leave King’s Landing (per Margaery’s “advice”) and, on her way out, completely dragged Cersei.
Though it was to Cersei’s credit that she completely owned up to the fact that she’d caused all this High Sparrow nonsense, it was still so satisfying to hear Lady Olenna read her like this. In the same way that Sansa’s angry speech to Littlefinger a few weeks back was a long time coming, this moment felt truly righteous and earned. And despite Cersei’s pleas for Lady Olenna to stick around and fight the sparrows with her, Lady Olenna was ready to bounce. You’re on your own, C.
Last week Tommen banished Jaime to a side quest of reclaiming the Tully stronghold for Cersei (or something?) but on the upside, guess who joined him? Bronn! As great as this season has been so far, it had been desperately lacking Bronn, so this was a pretty great turn of events. He’s still so shady and hilarious.
Jaime and Bronn arrived just to witness the tail end of the Walder Frey gang attempting to get The Blackfish to open his gates and hand over the castle by threatening to murder his nephew if he didn’t. But The Blackfish don’t care!
Speaking of amazing: The Blackfish. Obviously he was still pretty steamed about the Red Wedding and therefore had no real willingness to hand his castle over to Walder Frey or Jaime Lannister. I’m still not 100 percent sure why anybody wants this castle, but The Blackfish and Jaime growled in each other’s faces about how they were both willing to lose a thousand men in order to have control over it, so it must be serious. (Team The Blackfish, obvs.)
If you were thinking that Westeros needed more child emperors, look no further than this girl ruler from Bear Island! But unlike Joffrey or Tommen, she actually seemed like an amazing leader? Smart, articulate, and so full of ’tude, she did not make things easier for the trio of beggars who arrived in her palace.
Ultimately though, Ser Davos was able to appeal to her sense of human decency by talking about how he himself sometimes feels like a frightened child (basically), and she eventually agreed to lend him a few soldiers. Sixty-two, to be exact! It wasn’t a lot, but it was a start.
Unfortunately, Jon and Sansa’s quest to build an army didn’t get much traction elsewhere, as this mean dude from the House of Fisting proved. His main argument against helping them was pretty compelling: Was House Stark even a thing anymore? In his opinion it was not.
Meanwhile Theon and his sister and their stolen navy made a pit stop at a hooker village, where they kissed on topless hookers and sipped booze.
They needed a plan, and the one Yara came up with was pretty great: They were going to sail to Meereen — stay with me here — and team up with Daenerys! That’s right, one of the strangest teamups in this show’s history was about to form, and I am here for it. (Too bad about the Meereen part, though.)
Realizing that they simply didn’t have very many troops, Sansa pulled the equivalent of sending a late-night text to a sexy frenemy. We didn’t get to see exactly to whom she was sending this Raven DM, but my guess is it was Littlefinger. She wasn’t proud of herself, but sometimes you just get the urge, you know?
Back in Braavos, Arya had decided that betraying the House of Black and White was probably a good reason to skip town. But just when she’d finished throwing two bags of money at a local sailor (being a blind urchin must’ve been lucrative!), she was suddenly accosted by an old lady with a shiv!
It was The Waif, wearing an old-lady face! If we’re being honest, Arya probably should have seen this coming, but she didn’t, and now she was full of stab wounds and dragging herself out of the river bleeding to death.
In a chilling moment, she walked through the town square looking like a bleeding, drowned rat, and everyone just sort of gave her the side-eye. What a cool town!
We concluded back at the construction zone where The Hound had been enjoying some alone time chopping wood. But when he returned to the camp for dinner, he noticed that everyone else had been murdered!
Even Ian McShane! Earlier in the episode their camp had been visited by a trio of bandits on horseback, and Ian McShane had refused to simply hand over their food, so apparently the dudes came back and murdered everybody. Just bad times all around.
And if The Hound had been convinced AT ALL to become a more pious and peaceful man, that time was now over. In the final moment, he plucked an axe out of a stump and disappeared into the horizon. The Hound hadn’t died in his fight to the death, but now his sense of vengeance was fully alive as well.
“The Broken Man” was a fun one. Again, this season has felt chock-a-block (what is a chock-a-block?) with satisfying payoffs for long-running issues. Not that I’ve ever had a problem with Game of Thrones’s pacing per se (this has always been a pleasingly sumptuous and immersive world to spend time in), but it’s thrilling to get so much action this season. Between fan favorite characters returning and all the unexpected alliances, Game of Thrones feels as vibrant and inventive as it ever has. But with that excitement comes fear: Are there really only 16 episodes left of this series? My stomach just turned thinking about it! Anyway: Yeah. What a show.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.