Game of Thrones 6×07 ‘The Broken Man’: The cruelty of reality

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“The Broken Man” is a massive leap in quality from the previous episode, not simply because Sandor Clegane is back (even though that is ridiculously exciting), but because the episode as a whole cohered into something more complete than the last. This episode revolves around the idea that people are often the source of their own pain because they expect something only to realize that the systems around them are propagating something different.  Whether it’s a misplaced sense of hope, a thick layer of delusion, or a miscalculation, people run into disappointment and tragedy as a result of this disconnect, often because reality is too difficult to contend with.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Just look at Sandor Clegane.  He’s clearly remorseful for the actions he committed in his past.  He realizes that he has lived off of hate for as long as he can remember.  He wants some semblance of peace in his life.  And he seems to have found it in this small, peaceful religious group that is open to dead of spirituality over organized religion.  But, of course, one organized religious group (The Brotherhood Without Banners) finds offense with their approach and slaughters all of them, except for Sandor, who finds them all dead.  He realizes that his life of peace is a delusion, that he’ll always have to fight.  And so he sets off, ax is hand, to live the life he knows is laid out for him.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

The Starks don’t do much better.  Arya, in her one scene in the episode, believes that she’s tough enough to just walk away from the Faceless Ones, only to be badly wounded by The Waif, stabbed multiple times and left for dead.  Sansa believes that her Stark name is enough to call the North to  Jon’s side, but is shut down when reminded of her marriage to Tyrion and then her marriage to Ramsay.  Sure, she might be doing what she has to in order to survive, but some people only care about the technicality of the situation.  Her perfectly reasonable explanation and her plea for fealty to the Starks doesn’t account for the reality that Robb wasn’t great for the North, his campaign essentially a disaster.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

And that leaves Jon with a small army to go up against Ramsay’s larger army, not to mention that Jon’s army is far more fragmented.  Jon assumed that he could talk more houses into siding with him, but his lack of resources and his standing as a bastard were working against him.  Sansa goes behind his back and writes a letter (presumably to Littlefinger), but this all shows how desperate Sansa and Jon really are after making such an egregious miscalculation.  Instead of storming Winterfell and quickly taking it from Ramsay, they’re at a clear disadvantage, the outcome unclear (though we can probably guess that, based on storytelling conventions, Jon will probably be victorious somehow).

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

The Lannisters are also having a particularly tough time, as Cersei has essentially lost King’s Landing to the Sparrows and Jaime is forced to fight a worthless siege on Riverrun.    He wants the siege to be over quickly so he can return home to help Cersei, but the Blackfish is set on fighting the siege to the death of every man.  And considering how heavily fortified Riverrun is, Jaime would expect a bloody battle if he were to directly attack.  He’s an outcast now instead of the warrior he once was, forced to fight the scraps of an old war that somebody else (the Freys) messed up.  Cersei, as Olenna points out, is completely surrounded by enemies, hoping that the Mountain is somehow going to save her.  Her house and House Tyrell are on the edge of collapse, and Cersei is about to see if her own delusion is going to destroy her as well.  It’s entirely possible that Jaime is going to return to a graveyard when he comes back to King’s Landing, the Sparrows and the Lannisters and he Tyrells having essentially torn each other to shreds.

But it’s telling that only one person really spoke the truth: Davos.  He tells Lyanna Mormont that the dead are coming, that the real war is between the living and the dead.  And he’s right.  Everybody else is fighting petty battles, the battle of Riverrun and the chaos in King’s Landing essentially a dumb joke.  Because when Davos cuts to the heart of it, Jon needs to take Winterfell because the apocalypse is coming to wipe out Westeros. And somebody has to see reality in order to save the world from it.
What did you think of “The Broken Man”?  Who do you think will end up dead by the end of the season?  Let me know in the comments!
Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • Gui

    This episode definitely was an improvement over Blood of my Blood, much as I enjoyed it (mainly because of Arya’s scenes). Sandor’s return is definitely very promising, and I’m honestly wondering if they’ll introduce a certain book element that involves the BWB before the season ends. I wasn’t feeling it in prior seasons, but the way Ian McShane’s character was hung and the story he told about why he stopped fighting got me thinking there’s a chance they might actually go for it this time around. We’ll see, though, it’s hard to say right now.

    I suspect Arya’s mercy towards Lady Crane will pay off soon. She’s in pretty bad shape, but I could see her being helped by someone whose life she spared. Her overconfidence ended up biting her, but in the end her mercy will be what saves her and gives her a chance against the Waif. I feel the Waif has now lost tactical advantage and there’s another layer to this Faceless men storyline that we can’t see right now.

    Then we have the North. Lyanna Mormont was amazing and that’s some of the best child acting I’ve seen in a while. I’m glad things aren’t gonna be as easy for Jon and Sansa and we can see the effects of how badly Robb’s campaign hit the north. I’m still with a question mark over the Umbers (seems a bit less likely to me but still possible), but I’ve concluded that Sansa sent the letter not to Littlefinger but Yohn Royce. That would still give her support from the Vale and yet it’d undermine Littlefinger’s control over her. It’s easy to tell the Vale’s gonna join the fight in one way or another, so I think the twist is in the specifics there. The scene with Littlefinger and Royce a few episodes ago and now the contents of the letter being vague even though it’s pretty obvious it’ll be related to the Vale somehow makes me think there’s a twist on a subtler level.

    And finally, the Lannisters. On one end, we have Jaime fighting an ultimately pointless battle. And we also have Bronn, who’s clearly had it with the Lannisters claiming they always pay their debts. Clearly they have no way of even doing that right now, it’s such a fragmented and weakened family that they couldn’t possibly pay all of their debts. And Olenna made it clear to Cersei as well: She’s lost, she’s surrounded by enemies and there’s no chance for her to do anything. She claimed that in the game of thrones, you win or you die. But this proves you don’t need to die to lose in this game. And I have the suspicion that this event will push her into the “Mad Queen” territory that I’ve suspected they’re headed towards with her. I think the Great Sept of Baelor will be burned by wildfire before the end of the season.

    As for who’ll die? Right now, I’m placing my bets on Tommen, Ramsay, Rickon, the Waif, Bronn, either Edmure or the Blackfish, a bunch of the Freys including Walder, Lancel, Pycelle and Kevan. Maybe Margaery if her plan doesn’t pan out and ends up a victim of Cersei’s madness, but I see her a bit more likely to survive.