Monday, June 06, 2016

The Broken Man

The title of this week's Game of Thrones, "The Broken Man," could well have applied to several characters in the episode. But the recurring theme that would seem to apply to everyone: "You should have known better."

It all kicked off with the first cold open the show has done in quite some time -- and I think the only one not to happen in a season premiere. The reason? To avoid clever fans spotting actor Rory McCann's name in the opening credits before the episode's big reveal: The Hound, Sandor Clegane, is still alive. Of course, to anyone who had counted that particular character as dead without seeing the body: you should have known better. (And book readers have been seizing upon any little clue pointing to where he might have ended up after Arya left him.)

This episode saw the Hound taken under the wing of Deadwood's Ian McShane in a brief but memorable one episode appearance. McShane's character here felt like the true form of the increasingly false piety projected by the High Sparrow. For a moment, Clegane started believing that he really could leave a life of violence behind. But no... The Hound should have known better.

In King's Landing, Margaery Tyrell was revealed to be playing a long con on the High Sparrow. She proved that she did not truly succumb during her captivity, by slipping a message of reassurance to her grandmother. But as a result of her masquerade, she really has delivered King Tommen as the High Sparrow's puppet. Still, at this point, I think anyone who doesn't expect she has a plan really should know better.

Cersei went to Lady Olenna with her figurative hat in her hand. In the most literal display of the episode's recurring theme, she got an earful of "you should have known better" as only the Queen of Thorns can deliver it. And every word of it was delicious, an illustration of why the show has used the character (and Diana Rigg) more than the books.

We watched as the trio of Sansa, Jon Snow, and Davos tried to recruit allies for their assault on Winterfell. There were some great moments in there, particularly in the form of the young, adorable-but-awesome Lyanna Mormont (and Davos' convincing speech to her). But ultimately, the plot thread came down to Sansa. She previously refused Littlefinger's offer of help, and now had to beg him for it. She should have known better.

In the Riverlands, Jaime arrived on the scene with a lesson to teach about making threats you won't act on. But he got schooling at the hands of the Blackfish, who seems quite beyond any form of intimidation. Jaime really ought to have known better. (Side note: is this now two weeks in a row of seeing Edmure Tully without him speaking a single line?)

We caught up with Yara and Theon Greyjoy, on the run. (Euron really should have known better than to leave a bunch of ships unguarded in his push for power.) Yara's big plan was revealed this week: to sail for Meereen and ally herself with Daenerys. In the books, it's an entirely different character on that mission, and he has visions of wooing/conquering in his head. Given how poorly I expect that to go for him, I can't forecast any greater success for Yara's plan. Perhaps she ought to know better. (Another side note: is this now two straight weeks without Tyrion? I might be disappointed, except that anything he does seems sure to be rendered irrelevant when Dany gets back to Meereen. So why waste time, I suppose?)

Then there was Arya. Clever as she is, she should have known better than to think she was more clever than the people she's been staying with in Braavos. The Waif found her, expressly violating Jaqen H'ghar's instruction to bring death swiftly and painlessly. I was moved by Arya's horrifying realization as she staggered bleeding through the streets: she can't trust a single face she sees. But if you think she's going to die of her wounds, you really ought to know better.

A week of setups, to be sure, but with clear promise of payoffs to come... and with plenty of engaging moments along the way. I give the episode a B+.

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