At the same time that episode seven of the sixth season of Game of Thrones was hitting the air, the Golden State Warriors were staging a red wedding of their own against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game two of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Dubs invited the Eastern Conference Champions into their castle, offered them salt and bread, and then in defiance of the olds gods and the new, directly violated guest right and wiped the floor with them. My two loves, competing for my attention, as I sat back like uber-villain Walder Frey that one fateful night at The Twins a few seasons ago. Throughout this season of Game of Thrones– which is one-upping itself each week– my thoughts have often drifted to basketball and not just because I’m watching the former instead of the latter. Season Six of Game of Thrones, both within the show and for the show itself, is very closely linked in my mind to a quote often attributed to NBA legend and broadcaster Charles Barkley.
Father Time is Undefeated.
Sir Charles often drops this giant elbow from the top rope whenever a superstar starts to show his age, and it lands perfectly every single time with Randy Savage-esque precision. While most recently lobbed at future first ballot Hall-of-Famers like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, it eventually applies to every athlete and their pursuit of a championship. There is only so much time in a career to win titles before Father Time picks you apart and goes for the kill.
Barkley’s words echoed through the heart trees in Westeros and it resounded throughout ‘’The Broken Man’’ both as an excellent episode of television and as a mile-marker for Game of Thrones as a series. This was episode seven which leaves us three more this season. If rumors are true, the next two seasons are going to be much shorter– 13 episodes split over two years. We’re deep into the back nine of this cultural touchstone; there is only so much left Game of Thrones has to give.
Much like the characters in ‘The Broken Man’, we are now faced with the inevitable end of our run, we’re realizing just how much time we have left, and the prime we thought we were experiencing, we passed miles ago.
Let’s get into it.
THIS POST IS DARK AND FULL OF SPOILERS
“Nothing can be fixed until after it is broken,” is a good way to frame ‘The Broken Man’ as an episode of television and for the arcs for each of the characters we followed in this episode. This idea is one that is often repeated throughout Game of Thrones: the strongest and most necessary relationships are those that are seemingly in direct opposition to each other.
This idea is best explained in the name of the book series itself, A Song of Ice and Fire. Can’t get more diametrically opposed than that.
Everything in Game of Thrones is happening for a reason and in it’s own time, even if that infuriates the audience to no end. Ultimately, Game of Thrones is a story that braids together revenge and redemption at every turn; themes that share many strands of DNA with both things being broken and things needing fixing.
In each of the arcs featured in this episode we saw the various stages of characters recognizing exactly what point in the R&R arcs they are on:
Being a Lannister has been a lot tougher than it looks. Two of our three favorite lions were forced to face their limitations in life altering ways in this episode as Jaime went toe-to-toe with the Blackfish and Cersei squared up against Lady Olena.
Arguably, House Lannister has had the hardest fall, and considering the lumps the Starks have taken, that is saying something. For all of the horrible things that have befallen the direwolves, they are still fighting and starting to gain ground– the audience can see them clawing their way back into the game in every episode. On the other hand, every move the Lannisters make fills me with absolute dread– there is just no way it doesn’t end painfully for their family line. “And Gold will Be Their Shrouds,” is quickly coming into focus.
After being dispatched by his king/nephew/son Tommen to quell the rebellion in the Riverlands, Jaime arrives at Riverrun to parlay with The Blackfish, and boy oh boy, did this not go well for Jaime. Jaime Lannister is a warrior– perhaps the most famous knight in all of the seven kingdoms– and the Blackfish couldn’t care less that he is at his front door. Throughout the series, Jaime has survived being defeated in open battle, being held prisoner, being dragged through all seven kingdoms, has lost his hand, faith in himself, and buried his father, his son, and his daughter. All Jaime has had to sustain him while has rebuilt himself is his name and the veil of The Kingslayer. In going face-to-face with the Blackfish, he realized he doesn’t have that to hide behind anymore either. Jaime and the Lannisters as a house are only powerful because people assume they are powerful. Now that their opposition are calling the Lannisters bluffs, how much power do they have left?
Coming face-to-face with one’s limitations is again explored back in King’s Landing as Lady Olena Tyrell basically played Nas to Cersei’s Jay Z and ETHERED her back to the Age of Heroes.
No friends. No family. No supporters. Surrounded by enemies. Left to clean up a mess she is entirely responsible for with only a mute zombie to follow her around. Gold will be their shrouds indeed.
While well aware of the situation she finds herself in, Queen Margaery is now being forced to confront her revenge/redemption obstacles head-on she tries to out puppet master the High Sparrow. We can all agree she’s up to something, right? Since first meeting Margaery in season two, we’ve seen her angling towards her ultimate goal of being THE queen in Westeros. While she now has the crown squarely on her head (which looks a lot better than the potato sack she’s been forced to wear for the last 10 or so episodes), she must deal with the cost of wearing it.
Margaery is the Westerosi equivalent of Andy Dufresne– locked away in a prison for a crime she didn’t commit and smiling at her captors while she slowly but surely chisels away at the wall with a rockhammer. Her escape from this mess should be equally as satisfying, and hopefully she won’t have to swim through a river of feces to do it… although I wouldn’t put that past the Faith Militant. Flea Bottom, I bet, doesn’t smell great.
Every once in awhile, Game of Thrones begins and episode with a cold open– a scene before the opening credits. This usually happens to signify that something very important is about to happen. They did this to begin the series with the debut of the White Walkers and again in the middle of the series with Tywin Lannister melting down the Stark’s ancestral Valyerian sword, Ice. They used this move again tonight, which tells me the home stretch towards the series finale has begun. They also gave us back the Hound– the literal Broken Man– to punctuate it.
Emotionally, spiritually, and physically broken by the War of the Five Kings, the Hound died on the side of a mountain, and Sandor Clegane rose from the ashes. I could write 2,000 words alone on his bottle-episode-within-an-episode, but I’ll cut right to the point by circling back to the central theme of this recap: You cannot fix what isn’t broken. To expand on that, you need to realize what is broken before you can try fix it.
Despite taking place in a mythical and magical medieval land, tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones was a classic Western. There was a lot of Clint Eastwood being channeled tonight, specifically William Munny from Unforgiven. A man broken by the weight of his previous actions takes strides to distance himself from his old life, only to get pulled back in after drastic circumstances occur.
I’ve seen this movie before and I don’t like anyone’s chances of survival. You can call him the High Plains Drifter, call him Unforgiven, or call him Old Man Logan– a Hound by any name would be just as violent.
Revenge and redemption both begin and end with acceptance of the situation in which one finds themselves. Sandor grabbing the axe and heading off into the woods is about as emphatic a ‘yes’ as we could ever hope to get.
Just a few days after the Internet gave us the Hotdog Princess, Game of Thrones gave us one of our own: Lyanna Mormont. I’m all in on her being the flip side of the Princess Shireen coin, with hopefully less burning at the stake.
Sansa and Jon going on tour through the minor Northern Houses was a rude awakening. Who was she writing letters to? I’m willing to bet that Littlefinger is going to get one of those ravens, which is probably super bad news for the Starks.
The Brotherhood without Banners showed up again tonight. In a very interesting move, they have morphed from being the Westerosi version of Robin Hood and his Merry Men to a raiding party terrorizing the Riverlands, or at the very least the religious hippies setting up shop there. I wonder if their dire change of attitude has anything to do with a change in leadership at the top of the Brotherhood?
Ian McShane playing the High Septon was an absolute treat, and it’s a shame it was a one-shot performance. I am reminded of Robert Forrester’s one-shot appearance on Breaking Bad which was easily one of the most memorable of that series. If nothing else the inclusion of such a famous actor in such a small role tells the audience that his actions, while limited, will have massive repercussions down the line. Best Supporting Actor Award material for sure.
I’m not sure we’re going to get the highly anticipated showdown between the Mountain and the Hound aka CleganeBowl. I have a feeling they’re going each be very busy next week and not with each other.
Theon and Yara’s picnic table bonding session really encapsulated the full Revenge & Redemption theory in a very short period of time as Theon had to pack awareness, confrontation, and acceptance into one gulp of ale.
Even though Sansa and Jon are teamed up right now, Jon and Arya are the closest two of the Stark children. Last season at The Wall, Maester Aemon advised Jon Snow to, “Kill the Boy so the Man Can Live,” and unbeknownst to her, the Waif said the same thing to Arya tonight. She killed ‘a girl’ so that Arya Stark can live. Like any redemption story, our hero lost the first round, but is going to come back very strong.
I don’t like the Waif’s chances one bit and I’m willing to bet Arya doesn’t even have to change her travel plans to be on the red eye back to Westeros.