This review contains spoilers.
6.7 The Broken Man
Game Of Thrones typically doesn’t do cold-openings. The premiere episode had one—remember our introduction to the White Walkers?—and a couple of other episodes have also had them, but when it happens, it’s something that you need to pay attention to. This surprise cold opening isn’t Tywin Lannister grinning as he forges two Valyrian steel swords, but it’s something even better. It’s the return of one of the show’s most beloved characters, long after he was assumed dead. As if that return isn’t enough, he’s got a friend with him in the form of Ian McShane playing a septon.
Of course, the returning character (you already know who it is if you’re reading this) isn’t the only pleasant surprise in this episode, which is loaded from top to bottom with excellent moments. We also get several returning members of the Tully family, as Jaime leads a host of Lannister soldiers (and a returning Bronn, hooray!) to reinforce the Frey siege of Riverrun. Of course, the Freys have Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), but apparently, Brynden The Black Fish (Clive Russell) knows that either a) he won’t get out of the castle alive or b) without Riverrun, there’s not much point to being a Tully.
The good thing about being behind castle walls is that it helps keep the bad guys outside. When you have walls, you know who your real enemies are: they’re the other guys trying to knock down said walls. It’s not the same in the rest of Westeros. In King’s Landing, oftentimes your biggest enemy is also your only ally. See also Cersei Lannister and Olenna Tyrell, who are brought together by outside forces despite their mutual hatred of one another. Sure, they’re not getting along, but they have a common enemy in the High Sparrow.
That confrontation is one of many great scenes from Bryan Cogman’s pen this week. Olenna works no matter who she’s put up against, but with Cersei she has a natural foil. Brynden is a great foil for Jaime (so is Bronn for that matter). However, the best moments of the episode involve none other than the returning Sandor Clegane and his many interactions with Septon Meribald (Ian McShane). The septon, like Clegane, is a soldier, and the two have a natural rapport. The Septon reformed himself; he thinks that Clegane can do the same, even when confronted by the Brotherhood Without Banners. Even at the cost of his own life, he holds true to his principals. However, the Hound has principals of his own, and they’re mostly centered around revenge and killing people with an axe.
The scene in which poor Sandor discovers that all the people he’s been working alongside are dead is directed beautifully by Mark Mylod and performed well by Rory McCann. The staging is incredible, making the slaughter look that much worse, with the final shot of the hanged man being just a knife in the belly. By the time we see him turn away and pick up his weapon, it’s clear that the peaceful Sandor Clegane is gone, and the Hound is back in full force. (Mylod also does a great job with the confrontation between Jaime Lannister and the Black Fish; drawbridges have never looked so threatening.)
The Northerners would be lucky to have Clegane’s drive. They’re squabbling, divided. The Glovers stay with the Bolton, along with the Karstarks and Umbers; the Mormonts and Hornwoods and a few others have given weapons and warriors to the Stark cause to retake Winterfell and reunite the North under the dire wolf banner. As Jon tells the wildlings, they all need to pull together, and if the Boltons have their way, they’ll be nothing more than reinforcements for the Night King’s army.
That’s a clever way to both make the squabbles of the great houses important, but also to make them completely unimportant all at the same time. They need to unite, because otherwise they’ll die, and to unite, they need to put the north back under Stark control. If the Tyrells and Lannisters can’t stop insulting one another, will they be able to hold back several hundred thousand wights? If the Greyjoys do forge an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen, will the rest of the Westerosi—who have fought with the Greyjoys multiple times—band together with them to force back the oncoming hordes, or will they turn on the only person in the world with dragons?
There are a lot of interesting developments, but the only thing people are going to be talking about is the potential for a Cleganebowl. That’s the thing people have been drooling over, the source of many memes, and used as a good excuse to get hype since the show began. It just might happen; but first, the Hound’s got a Brotherhood to slaughter.