Holy crow, y’all – this season is all about bringing back characters, in one fashion or another. This week we finally get to catch up with Bronn, whom we haven’t seen since Dorne. And the Hound is back! Perhaps even more exciting, we get to meet a new, fresh-faced BAMF.
“The Broken Man” opens in a location we have never seen before, where a small community of people are working together to build a structure under the guidance of a totally chill Septon. Compared to most of what we’ve seen in GoT, the scene is straight-up idyllic. And bam! There’s the Hound! Apparently, he was found half-dead by the Septon, who nursed him back to health. Gregor has stayed with the Septon and his small flock since then, chopping wood like the trees owe him something and scaring the crap out of the other congregants. The Septon and Colonel Sandor have an interesting rapport: the Septon is convinced that the gods are not done with Gregor yet and the House seems to be doing some reflecting upon his life, his actions, and his place in the world.
Down in King’s Landing, Margaery is really selling her religious conversion, reading scripture in the sept when the High Sparrow comes to speak with her. After they discuss the role of wife and mother according to scripture, he segues into lecturing her about not performing her wifely duties. As they wind down this creepy conversation that sounds like a pamphlet for the Westerosi version of the Quiverfull movement, the High Sparrow slips in a really obvious threat against Margaery’s grandmother. So, Margaery meets with her grandmother under the baleful gaze of Septa Unella. She manages to keep playing the penitent born-again for the Septa, while convincing Lady Olenna to leave King’s Landing ASAP by passing a note very clearly identifying just where her loyalties truly lie.
Clipping northward, we find Jon Snow and Tormund trying to persuade the remaining fighters among the Free Folk to join Jon in marching against the Boltons. Though most of the Wildlings seem pretty skeptical about the prospect, Jon and Tormund make a pretty convincing argument that – while it may not seem like the Free Folks’ fight now – it definitely will be later. Wun Wun is the first to agree to march with Snow, and the other Free Folk follow suit.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei confronts Lady Olenna after learning that the Queen of Thorns is planning to get the hell out of Dodge. Lady Olenna proceeds to read Cersei for filth and concludes by pointing out that Cersei is alone – abandoned by her family, her brother sent away, and the entire city hates her. Cersei has lost, and it is the only bit of “joy [Olenna] can find in all this misery.” Ouch! Lady Olenna is the patron saint of shade and the royal matriarch of giving zero damns about playing nice.
Meanwhile, Jaime and Bronn (hi Bronn!) are leading the Lannister forces marching on River Run, and witness the Freys making a pitiful attempt at strong-arming the Blackfish into surrendering the castle. Brynden Tully is also a professional giver of no damns and their threatening to cut Edmure’s throat does absolutely nothing in the way of swaying the Blackfish. When Brynden calls their bluff and their miserable dog and pony show is cut short, Jaime rides on in and rubs salt in their wounds, lambasting their piss-poor attempt at a siege. Then he backhands the crap out of Black Walder with his gold hand – which was pretty satisfying to watch – and takes over command of the siege.
Our next stop is Bear Island, where Jon, Davos, and Sansa are making overtures to Lady Mormont in the hopes of securing her house’s support. Sansa tries to make her appeal, then Jon. They attempt to appeal to honor and history and loyalty, and this kid is taking zero shit. It is not until Ser Davos lays out the facts as he sees them in his matter-of-fact way that Lady Mormont commits her house and her fighting men to their cause. Y’all, this little girl is a badass and I love her! She is the embodiment of “[and] though she be but little, she is fierce.”
Back down at River Run, Jaime has gotten word to the Blackfish that he wishes to parlay and Brynden Tully agrees to meet with him. The Blackfish spends the entire conversation referring to Jaime as “Kingslayer” and makes it quite clear that he has zero intention of surrendering. Basically, they’ve got two years’ worth of provisions; so Jaime and his army can try it if they’re feeling squirrely, but the Tullys can withstand a long-term siege. When Jaime asks why the Blackfish even agreed to meet if he had no intention of negotiating, Brynden basically says, “well, I was bored. And I wanted to get a feel for you. I’m not impressed.” While I’m totally digging the Blackfish’s steadfastness, I can’t help but notice the “Rains of Castamere” playing in the background and that doesn’t make me feel too great about the whole shebang.
Elsewhere, Jon, Sansa, and Davos approach House Glover and Lord Glover is not having any of it. He was already disinclined to jump on the anti-Bolton bandwagon after the Boltons helped him retake his castle from the Iron Born, but when he hears that he’d be fighting alongside Wildlings, all bets are off. Sansa tries one last time, appealing to the long history of their houses, to no avail: as far as he’s concerned, House Stark is dead.
Meanwhile, Yara, Theon, and the men loyal to Yara are taking a break from being on the run from Euron. They’ve made port and stopped off at a brothel. Theon is not handling the situation well. Yara proceeds to give him a seriously “tough love” kind of pep talk that basically boiled down to “drink your ale and find your intestinal fortitude because shit is going to get real. If you can’t step up, then kill yourself. If you can, then let’s do what we need to do to get revenge.” For as rough as that talk was, it does seem to get through to him and he, for now, has a renewed sense of purpose.
Having made the recruitment rounds, we catch up with Sansa, Jon, and Davos as they join their army’s encampment. Davos is convinced that though they did not get nearly as many men to join the fight as they wanted, they might have a chance—if they play it smart—and he and Jon agree that they really should go on and march before a storm traps them there. Sansa is not all about this – she is in no way convinced that they have enough people and is getting kind of resentful of the regard with which Jon holds Ser Davos. When she and Jon butt heads, she takes matters into her own hands and decides to send out a raven. The question is, who is the message addressed to? The Blackfish? Baelish and Lord Robin Arryn? I suppose we’ll find out sooner rather than later.
Then we catch back up with the Hound, listening to the Septon’s obviously pointed—but convincing to Gregor—sermon. As the Septon comes to the point of his homily, three members of the Brotherhood without Banners come riding up, demanding horses, gold, steel and/or food. The Septon tells the riders that they have no steel nor extra food to spare, though they are welcome to join the small congregation for dinner. The Brotherhood dudes ride off, telling them to “stay safe. The night is dark and full of terrors.”
In Braavos, Arya is setting things in motion to make her getaway – she finds a Westerosi ship captain and books passage home. She is visibly and understandably relieved to know that she will be homeward bound the next morning and, unfortunately, has let her guard down when an old woman approaches her. The old woman turns out to be the Waif, who stabs Arya in the gut several times before Arya launches herself off the bridge and into the water below. The Waif sees blood in the water and seems convinced that her job is done. Arya resurfaces elsewhere and drags herself back onto the streets of Braavos. She stumbles through the city, bleeding profusely, and the Braavosi she passes make no attempt to help. And that’s how we leave that situation, which is not okay. I need Arya to keep kicking! That girl’s got a lot of scores left to settle. Also, I’m pretty sure Jaqen told the Waif to not let Arya suffer and a gut wound is, like, all the suffering. I hope Jaqen finds out that the Waif pulled that crap and makes her answer for it.
Later, the Brotherhood returns while the congregation is gathering for dinner and Gregor is off chopping firewood, and slaughters every last one of them. Gregor hears a scream and returns to find the bloody scene. Upon seeing the body of the Septon who had nursed him back to health hanging from the structure they’d been building, the Hound finds some kind of resolve that is equal parts terrifying and gratifying: he grabs an axe and marches off. The last time Gregor faced off against the Brotherhood, things didn’t go that well, but he’s in an entirely different state of mind now and I’m pretty sure that means bad news bears for the Brotherhood.