'Game Of Thrones' – The 10 Most Important Moments In "The Broken Man"

We're at the point in Game of Thrones season 6 where all hell is set to break loose. And it will. Next week. "The Broken Man" is the second table setting episode in a row, but it feels necessary with so many pieces in play. When the credits roll here, just about everyone is in a perilous and desperate position. Blood will flow next week and the week after. This week was all about preparing for battle – the swords will unsheathe soon enough.

the broken man recap the hound

The Return of Sandor Clegane

"The Broken Man" begins with a cold open, making it the fourth episode in the series so far to do so. It quickly becomes obvious why: Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, is alive (if not particularly well) and living in some kind of religious community run by Brother Ray, played by the great Ian McShane. A normal opening would have given away Rory McCann's name in the credits and spoiled the return of one of Game of Thrones' best characters, who seemingly perished at the end of season four after a battle with Brienne of Tarth. By coming before the opening titles, Sandor's comeback is treated like a proper event. The show really is so much more interesting when everyone's favorite bad-tempered-but-sympathethic monster is on the chess board. He's like a classic Universal Monster – you love him despite the fact that he's also a vicious murderer. It's just his nature.

The nature of his return is far different from the books (but we'll tackle that below). He was found dying on the side of the road by Brother Ray and he was nursed back to healthy by Brother Ray, a soldier-turned-Septon who couldn't be more different than the other religious figures on the show. Unlike Melisandre, he's no zealot. Unlike the High Sparrow, his simple ways don't fuel insane and terrifying mania. He's the closest thing Westeros has to a hippy commune leader – he's coarse but he's honest, he's gentle but tough enough to temper the Hound. And he's also dead when the credits roll, because genuinely good men don't last long on Game of Thrones.

The Starks Recruit the Wildings

A significant portion of this episode is dedicated to watching Team Stark scramble across the North, desperately seeking the aid of various houses that were loyal to Eddard and Robb before everything went to hell. Stop one was easily the most successful of the bunch: Jon Snow officially confirms support from the Wildlings after a meeting with their leaders. It's the kind of scene where the twenty-foot-tall Giant attending the meeting stands up, gives the former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch a nod of approval, says "Snow" and goes about his business, a message that everyone else in the circle can instantly translate.

However, the scene also makes it clear that this group actually owes Jon their loyalty. He rescued them at Hardhome before literally dying for them. They may be unconventional allies, but it's an alliance built on blood spilled and slowly solidifying mutual trust. How many times has Tormund seen Jon act with his people's best interests at heart? Unlike every other alliance on this show, there is no politics here and no silly back-and-forth. Winter is coming and the dead are coming and these are the only Stark allies who truly know what this means.

The Starks Try to Recruit Everyone Else

The rest of the Stark Recruitment Tour doesn't go quite as well, but it does lead to a character introduction for the ages. A visit to Bear Island, home of House Mormont, brings Jon, Sansa and Ser Davos face-to-face with Lyanna Mormont, the 10-year old Lady of the house. Bella Ramsey is incredible in her few minutes of screen time, beautifully portraying a young girl who has been forced to grow up far too quickly and takes her responsibilities very seriously (no walnut-smashing here). Like Jeor and Jorah, she proves herself very capable of representing one of Westeros' key supporting families. She's tough and she's measured and she's wise enough to take Davos' warnings about an army of the undead seriously. Most importantly, she offers House Stark her support...and all 62 of her men. But hey, it's something, right?

The visit with House Glover reflects the faltering allegiances of the North. Why should they be loyal to the family that got so many people killed when it was House Bolton that helped them take Moat Callin back from the Ironborn? Centuries of pacts were broken alongside Robb's forces at the Twins and the Stark name is melting away like snow in springtime. This isn't the first time the Starks have faced desperate odds, but all of the pluck and courage and nobility in the world can't compete with an actual army headed by a vicious psychopath.

Of course, Sansa happens to have an army hidden in her back pocket. All she needs to do is contact the man who left her in the belly in the beast. All she has to do is is trust the one man who should never be trusted. Then again, could the Starks take back the North without the help of Petyr Baelish and the Knights of the Vale?

Margaery Plays the Long, Deep Game

The past few episodes of Game of Thrones have suggested one of two outcomes for Margaery Tyrell. Either the Queen of Westeros fully gave into what the High Sparrow has been preaching and has embraced her new role as a chief speaker for the faith...or she's been playing a long con, essentially remaining undercover to keep her enemies (which now include her husband, King Tommen) nice and close. And "The Broken Man" made it obvious – Margaery is still the greatest politician in King's Landing and her newfound faith is a sham and she has everyone wrapped around her finger. Getting her brother out of church jail and removing the High Sparrow from power isn't going to be easy and it isn't going to be a brief process, but there's no one more capable of getting it done.

Her scene with her grandmother, Olenna, is a highlight in an episode with many. Diana Rigg's Queen of Thorns has always been on of this show's greatest assets for her scorching wit and clever mind, but now, she's being utilized in a far different capacity. That rage and vicious humor are gone, replaced with a deep sadness and anger – a woman who once had the perfect response to anything is practically rendered speechless by her brainwashed granddaughter. Of course, Margaery does slip her a note bearing the Tyrell sigil, which says more than a thousand words. She may be the Queen, as she has always wanted, but she is also a Tyrell woman and Tyrell women are strong and smart and aren't anyone's fool. Her note is the Westeros equivalent of "I've got this." As Olenna departs King's Landing, maybe for the last time, she actually allows herself a hint of a smile. Her granddaughter is still in there and she's playing the game better than anyone.

The Queen of Thorns and Cersei Have a Little Chat

Now that she's seemingly free of any obligation, Olenna has a brief meeting with Cersei Lannister on her way out of the Red Keep and she holds nothing back. The Queen of Thorns has often been utilized as an audience surrogate, the woman who tells it like it is without fear of repercussion, but this is next-level stuff. In just a few minutes, Lady Olenna lets the Queen Mother know what she really thinks about her...which is exactly what the audience thinks about her. Listening to Olenna tear Cersei a new one is profoundly satisfying and if this is Diana Rigg's final scene on the series (and it truly feels like it could be), then it is one helluva way to go out.

The scene also drives home just how hopelessly alone Cersei truly is. With her list of allies dwindling to nothing, she can really only rely on herself at this point...well, herself and that hulking, zombified version of the Mountain.

The Return of Ser Bronn

Last week, Jaime made a passing reference to Bronn, his loyal-when-paid sellsword-turned-knight companion who has provided so much color and humor over the past six seasons. At the time, it felt like a little twist of the knife. We hadn't seen Bronn, er, Ser Bronn at all this season and the last time he played a role on the show, he was embroiled in season five's truly awful Dornish subplot.

As it turns out, that line was more about reminding us that he exists so he could make his grand return in "The Broken Man," riding alongside Jaime Lannister to assist in the siege at Riverrun. Knighthood hasn't changed Bronn in the slightest – he's still crude and ruthless and every single line that comes out of his mouth is hilarious. Jerome Flynn is a treasure in the role, showing no concern for anyone other than himself while also proving himself to be more competent than anyone else. Watching him and Jaime chastise House Frey's piss-poor siege techniques is a genuine treat and hearing Jaime describe him as his new right hand suggests that he'll be sticking around for awhile. That's good news, because Jaime and Bronn are as much fun together as Tyrion and Bronn ever were.

Jaime Parlays With the Blackfish

The last time we saw Brynden "Blackfish" Tully in the flesh, he was narrowly escaping the Red Wedding with his life. Now, he's back at Riverrun with enough food and supplies to survive a siege for two years and he hasn't changed a bit. Watching most of his family get wiped off the map hasn't weakened him in the slightest. If anything, it's only made him stronger, more unbreakable than ever. Jaime's parlay with the acting head of House Tully is hilariously futile. The Blackfish isn't moving and he's thoroughly unimpressed by the Kingslayer. The siege will continue and not even frequent threats to execute the captured Edmure will budge him. What House Frey doesn't realize is that they're dealing with a man who has already lost just about everything – his buffoon of a nephew doesn't carry as much weight as his family's home.

However, Jaime is far smarter than anyone in House Frey, whose representatives don't know the first thing about preparing a siege. While the High Sparrow and King Tommen sent Jaime to the Riverlands to get him out of King's Landing first and foremost, they actually sent the right man for the job. Jaime may not be as clever as his younger brother, but he's certainly more ruthless. He's the kind of guy who finds a crack in the wall and exploits it.

the broken man recap greyjoy

A Greyjoy Pep Talk

It only took six seasons, but Game of Thrones has officially revealed its first lesbian character. Yara Greyjoy, the most competent of the Greyjoys, is really into the ladies...and she's also really into not letting her mutilated younger brother drown in self-pity. While in port, Yara pauses from drinking and whoring with the rest of her crew to give poor, miserable Theon a pep talk. However, this is House Greyjoy, so this pep talk essentially boils down to "Drink a whole bunch of booze and find your courage or you might as well go kill yourself." It's hilariously direct, insensitive, mean and maybe, possibly, exactly what Theon needs if he's going to survive. She then leaves her brother to stew in his thoughts so she can go get laid, possibly for the last time. After all, their psychotic uncle is in pursuit.

Before she goes, she does reveal her grand plan. She has essentially hijacked Euron's stump speech – Yara's fleet is sailing to Meereen to offer their allegiances to Queen Daenerys, who will surely help them re-take the Iron Islands in exchange for their assistance in Westeros. Of course, Yara and Theon don't know just how much they're needed. They have the one thing the Mother of Dragons, with her loyal advisors and gigantic army, doesn't have. Boats. Lots and lots of boats.

Arya Meets the Pointy End

Arya Stark is not dead, because there's no way Game of Thrones lets its all-time best character go out like that. However, stabbed in the guts by her assassin school rival and left wandering the streets of Braavos without a single friend in the world is a pretty terrific cliffhanger. It's safe to say that this is the worst situation Arya has ever found herself in and that is saying a lot.

The show twists the knife (both literally and figuratively) after setting young Arya up for a victory. She has reclaimed her name and she has booked passage back to Westeros. She has money. She has confidence. She has acquired a specific set of skills that will allow her to fight for her family. The girl who left Westeros was running away from her identity – the young woman who wants to return has accepted her responsibilities. She won't back down. She is very much a Stark: brave, plucky, and easily ambushed by enemies she should have seen coming from a mile away.

Can Arya Stark recover from her wounds, defeat the Waif, and finally return to Westeros? Since next week's episode is apparently titled "No One," we'll probably find out soon enough.

The Departure of Sandor Clegane

Did anyone think Sandor Clegane returned just so he could live in a peaceful community of church-building folks and try to live a life of non-violence? Of course not. All the Hound needed was that single, sharp push, an excuse to return to his previous ways. Naturally, that excuse is now revenge against the Brotherhood Without Banners, the outlaws who murder Brother Ray and the rest of his congregation. This isn't the first time Sandor has tangled with these guys (remember his duel with Beric Dondarrion back in season three?), but a lot has changed. He was a desperate highwayman back then, a brigand with a nasty reputation. Now, he's a man who something to fight for. Something to kill for. And Sandor Clegane is really, really, really, good at killing.

Spoiler Corner

Random speculation and book spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.

  • Book readers have suspected that Sandor Clegane was still alive ever since A Feast For Crows, where Brienne and Podrick Payne visit a religious commune at the Quiet Isle and meet a monk known as the Elder Brother, who claims to have buried the body of the Hound. However, context clues suggest that Sandor is still alive and living as a mute monk under the Elder Brother's protection. The show takes the same basic concept of Sandor getting a second chance with an offbeat religious leader but tweaks it significantly. His quest for vengeance against the Brotherhood is entirely invented for the show.
  • Yara Greyjoy sailing to Meereen to recruit Daenerys Targaryen is an interesting riff on the books, where Vicatarion Greyjoy (Euron's cut-from-the-show brother) is the one making the voyage. Compressing this storyline and allowing familiar faces like Yara and Theon to make contact with her instead is a wise move.
  • The siege of Riverrun is in the books, but it's more than a little anticlimactic. However, it also doesn't involve Brienne showing up with a conflict of interest. From the look of things, the show is going to tweak the outcome of this situation to be a little more cinematic.