'Game of Thrones' Recap: Get Your War On
This article contains massive spoilers for "The Broken Man," the seventh episode of Game of Thrones' sixth season. Proceed accordingly.
As it so often does this time of year, Game of Thrones hype bookended the weekend. On Friday night, 2016's best selfie hit Twitter, showing Hamilton creator and noted Thrones fan Lin-Manuel Miranda standing backstage next to George R.R. Martin.
News of GRRM's New York City pit stop quickly fueled speculation that he'd come to town to deliver the manuscript for The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire saga -- a sentiment that gained traction yesterday when someone claiming to work for Martin's publisher posted a photo of a white-bearded man fitting the author's general description walking through the lobby of the Random House building.
With the show's impending season finale also reportedly titled "The Winds of Winter," the book's publication date will obviously be announced soon -- right? The Game of Thrones hype-train never stops, and it's chugging even more furiously down the tracks in the wake of last night's surprising episode, "The Broken Man."
As everyone's favorite new character, Lyanna Mormont, would undoubtedly say regarding the above: "I think we've had enough small talk. Why are you here?" And with that, let's start this recap off with a trip to Bear Island.
The North: grin and Bear it
Few Game of Thrones characters have been introduced as gloriously as Lyanna Mormont. The no-nonsense 10-year-old ruler of Bear Island will see you now -- and she will also stop you cold mid-sentence should you make any attempt at chitchat. "Get to the Point" are the unofficial words of House Mormont from here on out. On a per-second screentime basis, Lyanna's badass quotient is challenged only by that of Smalljon Umber, who memorably razzed Ramsay Bolton earlier this season. But Lyanna wipes the floor with that guy, too, because Lyanna is undoubtedly the greatest character in the history of Game of Thrones.
Jon and Sansa learn all too quickly that you can't bring weak stuff to Lyanna. As the Stark kids dance hideously for Mormont table scraps, only to be bailed out by the wisdom of Davos, they're served all of the following rejoinders by the littlest Mormont (who happens to be Jeor Mormont's niece and Jorah Mormont's cousin):
"I think we've had enough small talk. Why are you here?"
"My mother was no great beauty, or any other kind of beauty."
"If you say so. In any case, you don't just want my allegiance -- you want my fighting men."
"I understand that I'm responsible for Bear Island and all who live here. So why should I sacrifice one more Mormont life for someone else's war?"
The indignities Jon and Sansa suffered on Bear Island to net a measly 62 Mormont fighting men! Long live Lyanna Mormont (who will probably die soon, because it's Game of Thrones).
Jon, meanwhile, seems to be unusually dead inside. While grimly beseeching the wildlings to join in their cause to take back Winterfell, he looks like he's about to cry. This may be because the wildlings are looking more and more like extras from the "Dancing With Myself" video, or he may be bummed out about shit getting into his stab wounds, or it might be because he no longer thinks he has a righteous cause on his side. Jon is (rightfully) more concerned with the danger lying to the North than the political morass he's being sucked into in the South, and he's Mr. Gloomy Gus about the enormity of it all. Whatever the reason, Sansa's not helping to cheer him up.
I'll say it: what the hell is Sansa doing? First, she reminds a borderline hostile Lord Glover of his obligation to rally behind the Starks, a poor decision that causes Jon to sigh and Lord Glover to refer to Robb Stark's dead wife as a "foreign whore." Then Sansa disses Davos snarkily to Jon's face after the Onion Knight had single-handedly won Lyanna Mormont over to their cause. Finally, Sansa schemes. Without telling Jon or anyone else of her plans, she fires off (quills out?) a letter, destination unknown, after being seemingly upset with Jon's insistence that they march on Winterfell as-is, with only 2,000 wildlings, 200 Hornwoods, 143 Mazins, and 62 Mormonts. No one puts Sansa in the corner.
So whom did she send the letter to, via Mormont raven? It can't be going to any of the Northern houses already mentioned, including Houses Glover, Mormont, Manderly, Mazin, Hornwood, and Cerwyn. It can't be the Blackfish, because Sansa has already dispatched Brienne to Riverrun to enlist her great uncle and his men in their fight. Did she send it to Littlefinger? Possibly -- but the letter was signed a bit too formally, not to mention that asking for his help would undermine everything she said to him during their showdown earlier this season.
My three guesses for where the raven is heading: to her cousin Robert Arryn, aka Sweetrobin, who is partial to her vs. Littlefinger and who is presumably still holed up at the Eyrie; to Yohn Royce, who hates Littlefinger with a passion, who was a regular hunting partner of Ned Stark, and who is conveniently camped out with the Knights of the Vale south of Winterfell at Moat Cailin; or to Howland Reed.
My hope is that Sansa sent the raven to Howland, father of Jojen and Meera Reed. He's among the loyalest Stark bannermen who, remarkably, has gone unheard from for the entire series (in the books and on the show), save for helping Ned beat Ser Arthur Dayne in the flashback Bran had at the Tower of Joy. It's unclear how many men Howland Reed commands, but his surfacing on the side of the Starks would no doubt draw any noncommital Northmen toward the Stark cause.
But yeah, she probably just sent it off to Littlefinger.
Camp Deadwood: Swearengen swears again
In his breakdown of the Hound's return and what it means for Cleganebowl, my colleague Septon Patches made a strong case against the much-hyped fan theory that Sandor and Gregor Clegane will square off. And based on "The Broken Man," I'm decreasingly certain that it'll happen, either. Co-creators and co-showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had to be trolling fans when they placed an actual bowl of gruel in Sandor Clegane's giant mitts. You want Cleganebowl? Here you go: Clegane + a bowl!
But that wasn't the only snarky visual joke in this inspired segment of the episode. Our old HBO chum Ian McShane made an inspired visit to Game of Thrones in the form of Septon Ray, a character cut from the same mold as Deadwood's foulmouthed Al Swearengen. So many trees were being chopped to bits in this episode that I couldn't help but think: dead wood. And of course Septon Ray winds up hanging from wooden rafters.
This exchange between McShane and Rory McCann, who plays the Hound, makes me particularly sad that McShane's arc wasn't extended:
Septon: "When I found you, I thought you'd been dead for days. You were stinking already and you had bugs all over you, and a bone was coming through [points to leg] right there. I was going to give you a proper burial and then you coughed. Nearly shit myself. I reckoned you were going to die by the time I loaded you on the wagon. But you didn't. And I reckoned you'd die a dozen more times over the next few days, but you didn't. What kept you going?"
McShane: "No, there's a reason you're still here."
Hound: "Yeah, there's a reason: I'm a big fucker and I'm tough to kill."
McShane: "No. A reason: gods aren't done with you yet."
Hound: "I've heard that before. Man was talking about a different god, though."
McShane: "Well, maybe he was right. I don't know much about the gods."
Hound: "You're in the wrong line of work."
McShane: "There's plenty of pious sons of bitches who think they know the word of God or gods. I don't. I don't even know their real names. Maybe it is the Seven. Or maybe it's the Old Gods. Or maybe it's the Lord of Light. Or maybe they're all the same fucking thing. I don't know. What matters, I believe, is that there's something greater than us. And whatever it is, he's got plans for Sandor Clegane."
With the Hound setting off to exact his revenge on the Brotherhood Without Banners outlaws who killed the septon and his followers, I propose that it's time to open the floodgates on crossovers with other HBO shows. Next week, let's see him team up with an Omar-esque vigilante played by Michael Kenneth Williams. The week after that, let's have T.J. Miller turn up as quasi-Erlich Bachman, with the sole purpose to pepper Walder Frey with put-downs while the Hound wields his ax to chop down some more Freys. And who wouldn't want to see Ann Dowd of The Leftovers appear as one of the Silent Sisters?
For now, I'm happy just to have been able to hear McShane say, "I'm a fucking septon. What was I supposed to say?" And that Cleganebowl still has legs. (Get hype!)
King's Landing: a personal matter
You know that Cersei must suck big-time for Olenna to hate her more than the High Sparrow. Maybe the Queen of Thorns has forgotten what a nozzle the manipulative religious nut has been when she says to Cersei, "I wonder if you're the worst person I've ever met."
Of course, she didn't overhear the scheming High Sparrow ask her granddaughter, the equally scheming Margaery, about a "personal matter." If Olenna had, there's no way he wouldn't top any and all lists she ever makes regarding the worst people she's ever met.
First, the High Sparrow says to the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, "The king mentioned that, since your reunion, you haven't joined him in the marriage bed. You have a duty, Your Grace. To your husband, your king, the country, to the gods themselves." And then when Margaery effectively says that Tommen is yucky, he says, "Congress does not require desire on the woman's part. Only patience."
It will be good to see him die.
Now that Olenna is departing and Jaime is booted from King's Landing, too, and her own family and any former allies have all turned their backs on her, Cersei is, as Olenna strongly suggested, "surrounded by enemies, thousands of them." The smoldering look on Cersei's face when Olenna says, "You've lost" would be priceless if I thought that was the least bit true.
Cersei is far from finished. What Lady Olenna doesn't seem to factor in is that Cersei has the Mountain to defend her and Qyburn operating in the shadows -- under the right circumstances, that trumps thousands of less-crafty enemies. And next week could bear that out. In the teaser for Episode 8, she finally delivers the line "I choose violence," as the zombified Gregor moves into seemingly impervious action against Lancel Lannister and his brainwashed chums.
Even if Cersei were to submit to a trial by combat, she has a behemoth to defend her. (And it's not like the Hound is alive or anything, right? Oh, wait...) And remember that scene in Bran's vision that appeared to show wildfire exploding underneath the city? I'm putting my money on Cersei having something to do with that. Here's hoping that she survives long enough to take out the High Sparrow, so that we can get back to the days when she was clearly the worst person Olenna has ever met.
Riverrun: Tully loaded
"Now that is a sorry attempt at a siege," says the upjumped sell-sword we know and love by the name of Bronn. "Someone needs to teach those sad twats how to dig trenches."
Theory: Bronn should be in every scene. (Another theory: bring back Shagga. Remember Shagga? Whatever happened to Shagga?) For now, we'll have to settle for a handful of scenes with Jaime. The exiled Lannister lacks a righthand man as much as he does a right hand, so he taps Bronn to help him win back Riverrun, the Tully stronghold officially owned by the Freys that Catelyn Stark's uncle Brynden Tully, aka the Blackfish, refuses to hand over. Enter that sorry siege attempt by the Freys -- followed now by the 8,000 Lannister soldiers who have arrived to clean up the mess.
The only notable moment of this storyline -- this episode provided setup for consequential events sure to happen next week -- happens during the drawbridge parley between Jaime Lannister and Brynden Tully, and it's all about the armor. Jaime's samurai-style gear features glowing metal lions etched into the shoulders, while the Tullly armor resembles the scales of a fish. Do Jaime and Brynden need to wear armor to the parley? Not really -- they're only exchanging banter, per the rules of war. So they're just peacocking. The verdict: the Blackfish clearly wins the parley (in a nutshell: no way do the Tullys leave that castle of their own free will), but the competition for best armor is House Lannister by a landslide.
Volantis: the official Ironmen rally song
Two things were confirmed by the scene at the brothel bar in that wretched hive of scum and villainy known as Volantis. The first is that Yara is an inveterate, slap-ass horndog. And the second is that we now know for certain that she and Theon are heading to Meereen to win over Daenerys and her dragons for their vengeful plans to retake the Iron Islands. On the plus side, Dany could use their ships. On the downside, Dany's advisor, Tyrion Lannister, is no fan of the Greyjoys, and Euron Greyjoy is in hotheaded pursuit. So while Theon seems to have been reborn through that flagon of ale (chug it!), his prospects are still looking mighty grim to me.
Braavos: that's just the Waif it is
The good news: Arya's tedious Braavos storyline is almost certain to be wrapping up soon, one way or another. The bad: our favorite Stark kid might die!
While we're skeptical that Arya Horseface will depart this plane of existence without slapping the smirk off the Waif's face, things weren't looking too good for her at the end of this episode. When we last see her, after she'd booked passage back to Westeros, she's bleeding out and stumbling through the crowded, uncaring streets of Braavos. Braavosi, you're so harsh to a girl!
Not surprisingly, the sudden development of her getting stabbed in broad daylight by her arch-nemesis while gazing at the Titan of Braavos, followed soon after by the teaser for next week's episode that features a girl who looks much like Arya jumping acrobatically somewhere in Braavos, made lots of viewers scratch their heads instead of worry that Arya might be a goner. The biggest question: was that even Arya who the Waif slashed once in the gut and then stabbed twice more, the second with an evil twist of the knife?
What if that's really Jaqen H'ghar posing as Arya, because he isn't testing Arya at all but is in fact testing the Waif? What if that's Arya in the ship-booking scene but not the nearly fatal bridge attack scene? What if Arya, having spent time with the mummers of late, stole a bladder of fake blood from the acting troupe, and that's what the Waif stabbed? What if the Waif is actually Arya and the person we think is Arya is Jaqen H'ghar -- only Arya thinks that Jaqen-Arya is actually the Waif pretending to be Arya? What if?
We'll have to be content with waiting for answers to arrive (hopefully) next week. Speculation here leads to madness, and I know this because I'm teetering on the brink of insanity.