Monday, June 6, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Broken Man

Well well. Everyone's favorite anti-hero is back. We open up with a group of people making a new building. I think it's going to be a church. Folks are cutting wood, moving stones and sanding lumber. This is hard work. It takes a number of men and women to lift a tree trunk. Usually this seems to be about a four or five person job. And then from behind we see a large man with a limp and a big head carrying a tree trunk all by himself. Well you know who it is don't you. Sandor Clegane, aka The Hound, is alive and well! This episode included a lot of storylines from book 4 of George R.R. Martin's series, A Feast For Crows. That is my least favorite book. Nonetheless I think the show creators did an adequate job bringing these scenes to life-in some cases. In others I think they missed by a country mile. More on that in a second. Anyway Ian McShane, former star of Deadwood, is playing the Septon (Religious leader) of this small group of, well what should we call them? Hippies isn't quite the word I'm looking to use here. Rehab members might be more accurate. Survivors might be the best word to use. Yes, these are people who have survived the wars and found strength in the Faith of The Seven. Some of these people were victims of brutality. Others inflicted brutality. But they all are trying to turn the page on the past and get right with God(s) or more importantly themselves. The Septon found the Hound near death. He was surprised that the Hound didn't die. The Hound says hate kept him going but the Septon thinks that's just deflection. He says that God(s) has(have) a purpose for The Hound. The Septon is a former military man with a profane nature. But he is also spiritual. He says that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you know there is something greater. The Hound still eats and works alone because many people are scared of him. The Septon would like to change that. The Hound spends a lot of time chopping wood and no that is not a euphemism for anything else. I suppose it (hard physical labor) could be a way for the The Hound to purge the evil and fear from himself. The Hound doubts that any god would want to work thru him.  The Hound says that the Septon doesn't know what's he's done. The Septon says he's heard stories.

Margaery is reading and learning religious texts backwards and forwards in order to show The High Sparrow (THS) her devotion. She also confesses that she pretended to love the poor. THS says that the poor are scary because they show humanity stripped of illusions. THS also would, strictly out of love for the kingdom, like to know why Queen Margaery isn't giving King Tommen any. That's a problem because after all the kingdom needs an heir. As Margaery is taken aback by this slimy priest asking about her sex life she hems and haws. She says that she felt that transitioning past physical desire was a good thing. THS scoffs and says that for women anyway physical desire is not required, just patience. And oh by the way THS is impressed with Margaery's religious fervor. He only hopes that Margaery's grandmother can see the light. Otherwise he's worried about her soul. In fact he's worried about her physical safety. Get the picture? The fact that he's smiling while making such a blatant threat is quite creepy. Margaery meets with Grandma but won't (can't??) dismiss Septa Unella. Margaery tells Grandma that she (Grandma) should leave. Also Loras will be fine. All he has to do is confess his crimes and renounce his claim to Highgarden. The Queen of Thorns is outraged and threatens all sorts of bloody violence. Margaery repeats what she says. The Queen of Thorns is confused and upset but Margaery slips her a torn piece of parchment which I believe she ripped from one of the holy books. Later on the Queen of Thorns looks at it. There's a drawing of a rose. So it looks like Margaery really is playing the long game. After this reveal Cersei and FrankenGregor go to see Grandma Tyrell. The Queen of Thorns is about to leave but she's currently busy writing letters. Hmm. Cersei is all I'm sorry about getting your grandkids hemmed up but that's all in the past. Right now these two women who love their children and grandchildren need to work together. The Queen of Thorns barely pauses from writing her letters (shades of Tywin?) but scoffs at Cersei's outreach. 

Olenna Tyrell says she's not certain if Cersei is the worst person she's ever dealt with, getting old tends to cloud your memory after all, but Cersei's up there. She remembers how Cersei smirked when Margaery was taken. So f*** Cersei and any alliance with Cersei. This current situation is all Cersei's fault as far as the Queen of Thorns is concerned. Grandma Tyrell is leaving Kings Landing before she gets arrested and advises Cersei  to do the same. This is especially the case since Cersei doesn't have control over the Lannister forces or the king or assistance from her brother. The Queen of Thorns says the only good thing to come out of these horrible events is that Cersei has lost. Jon Snow and Sansa Stark are doing the Northern equivalent of the Blues Brothers task of trying to put the band back together. They have mixed results with this as they discover that oaths of allegiance and trust only go so far. People who helped and bled for their father and brother aren't necessarily eager to do so for them. Jon is quickly able to get the wildlings to fight for the Stark restoration by pointing out that even though it's not their fight the Boltons will eventually come for the wildings' women, children, senior citizens and other non-combatants.  Tormund reminds everyone that Jon literally died for the wildlings so the least they can do is return the favor. The giant Wun-Wun agrees and the wildlings are in. Things are a little dicier at Bear Island, currently under the leadership of the 10 year old Lyanna Mormont.  Lyanna Mormont is unmoved by Sansa saying she remembers when Lyanna, named after Sansa's aunt, was born. Although Lyanna previously had expressed unbreakable loyalty to the Stark King in the North she's very abrupt and hostile with Jon and Sansa. Lyanna points out that her mother died at the Red Wedding. Several Mormont soldiers have died fighting for Robb Stark. And the Mormonts fought for the Starks. Strictly speaking Jon is a Snow while Sansa is either a Bolton or Lannister at this point.
Lyanna Mormont appears unmoved by Jon's reminder that he served with distinction under her grandfather at the Wall. Business is business. Lyanna has to consider her own people. She's about to ask Jon and Sansa to leave when Davos steps in, much as he did for Stannis at the Iron Bank. He says he understands her situation and point of view. But the real war between the living and dead is coming. And the Boltons can't win that war. Impressed, Lyanna softens. Well she softens as much as a ten year old bada$$ can soften. She agrees to support House Stark. But she will only provide 62 men. Mormont is a small house, has already lost a lot of men, and as mentioned each house needs to look after its own. But she assures them with a child's fierce certainty that each Mormont warrior is worth tens of any other house's. The wheels fall off the reunion tour when Jon and Sansa turn up at Lord Glover's spot. He agreed to see them out of respect for Ned Stark. But he has no interest in dying for any more Starks. He especially won't fight aside any wildlings. Sansa reminds him of oaths to House Stark. Embittered Lord Glover reminds Sansa and Jon that he and his provided soldiers to Robb Stark, who got them all killed at the Red Wedding. He also reminds the siblings that his wife and family were imprisoned and abused by Ironborn, again thanks to Robb Stark's foolish gamble. And it was the Boltons who helped eject the Ironborn, not the Starks. So much respect to Ned but Ned is dead. House Stark is dead. Now please leave. Jon and Sansa discuss the situation. They have only a few very small houses and a small wilding force. Jon says they need to march on Winterfell now before their army falls apart in feuds. Sansa says they need more men. Seeing a raven Sansa writes a letter without telling Jon. I think you can guess to whom she's writing.
The Lannister army arrives at Riverrun which the Freys are ineptly attempting to siege. Although the Freys are excellent at backstabbing people they're not so great at open military affairs. Bronn and Jaime note with disgust that the Frey force has no scouts, no perimeter security, no pickets, no ditches, no nothing. Anyone could just ride up just like Bronn and Jaime did. Two of the Frey sons, Black Walder and Lothar, who murdered Talisa Stark and Catelyn Stark, at the Red Wedding are threatening to murder Edmure Tully unless his uncle, The Blackfish, yields Riverrun. But the Blackfish knows they're bluffing. And what's more he appears not to care. He refuses to yield. Bronn and Jaime pull rank on the Freys, slapping one. Jaime takes control of Edmure and the siege and directs Bronn to get everything organized. He arranges a parley with The Blackfish. The Blackfish walks out and calmly asks Jaime where is Sansa and Arya? My niece let you go on your oath that you'd bring them back. Jaime has to respond that he doesn't have them. The Blackfish looks at Jaime with something worse than contempt. Jaime says that the war is over. So the Blackfish needs to surrender now and save lives. Referring to the Red Wedding and Jaime's previous act of murdering his king, The Blackfish says that why in the world would he ever trust the word of a Lannister or Frey. Riverrun is his home. As long as The Blackfish is alive the war is not over. So come get some or try to starve them out. The Blackfish doesn't give a flying f***. Theon and Yara are at a brothel/inn. We see that Yara likes the ladies. Theon would just as soon not be there. After making a few jokes about her brother's missing equipment  Yara reminds Theon that she loves him but that he needs to man up, even if he no longer has a man's parts. Otherwise he should just kill himself. The plan as Yara sees it is that they will go ally with Daenerys. But in the meantime she's going to go get laid. With a woman. Which Theon can't do.

The Septon gives a speech to his flock where he talks about being a soldier and all the evil things he did or saw via indifference and following orders. Every atrocity you can imagine he either saw or participated in. Age or sex was no protection. He can't bring those people back. And he will have to carry that shame for the rest of his life. But life goes on. And it's never too late to change. His mission now is to do good in the world. He's looking directly at The Hound while he gives this speech. Near the end of this speech some shady looking horsemen ride up. They don't identify themselves but ask if the Septon and his group have any steel or gold. The Septon says no but the men are welcome to share their love of the Lord if they like. The men say that they protect people. They tell the Septon that the night is dark and full of terrors. Stay safe. They leave. The Hound says those men were from the Brotherhood without Banners and will be back. The group needs to either leave or get ready to fight. The Septon says that violence is a disease. It won't be solved by spreading it to others. The Septon has made his choice. The Hound grunts disapproval, saying that violence won't be solved by dying either. In Braavos, Arya has booked next day passage on a ship to Westeros, smartly keeping the payment until she actually gets on the ship. But it's an open question as to whether she'll be on that ship. The Waif, disguised as an old woman, has located Arya. She stabs Arya a number of times in the belly before Arya falls over the bridge into the below canal. The Waif waits and watches until she's satisfied that Arya is dead. 
But Arya is not dead. She surfaces and stumbles through the streets. She's bleeding out fast.
The Hound is away chopping wood when he hears distant screams. He runs to the camp. The Brotherhood without Banners has attacked. It looks like everyone is dead. The outlaws have hanged the Septon from his own unfinished sept. The Hound doesn't exactly cry but you can see a number of emotions playing across his face. He picks up his axe.

What I liked

  • No Daenerys
  • I would fight and die for The Blackfish. Home team has got heart
  • Lady Lyanna Mormont
  • The ugly reality that people who either loved, worked for or were afraid of your parents will not necessarily relate to you in that way. For a lot of people such obligations terminate with death.
  • The fact that the Freys are shown as inept and disliked by all.
  • That The High Sparrow is getting so arrogant and pushy. I think he's coming up for a big fall.
What I didn't like
  • Although I didn't care for the book on which the Hound's scenes were based, there is a pretty well written speech that the Septon gives on how war breaks men. You can listen to it here if you like. This episode only had poor echoes of it. I thought Ian McShane was underutilized. I thought there should have been more than one episode to show how The Septon was important to his flock and how any man or woman can struggle with non-violence in a violent world. That was mostly skipped just to turn The Hound back to violence.
  • Similarly it would have been worthwhile to get a little more explanation of how the Brotherhood Without Banners changed from protecting the smallfolk to robbing, raping and murdering them. This is actually somewhat important in a critique of war and violence. Again maybe just some previous mentions of trouble in the Riverlands or showing them robbing someone under the guise of "protection"?
  • Short episode
  • Again, no one outside of the Wall knows or would believe that Jon returned from the dead. Last they knew he was Lord Commander. So shouldn't the tricky issue of desertion come up?
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