***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Game of Thrones through Season 6, Episode 7, including book discussion. Spoilers***
This week’s “The Broken Man,” alludes to an excellent speech about the cost of war, made in the books by a character named Septon Meribald. Many fans, when hearing of Ian McShane’s appearance this season, made the jump that he’d be playing either Meribald, or another book character — the Elder Brother. As it turns out, Brother Ray is probably a combination of the two, and a nod to George R. R. Martin’s affecting speech. Though his appearance proved to be devastatingly short, McShane’s man of peace left a lasting impression, reminding that anyone can change and choose to be a different person at any point in life; unfortunately, though his words did seem to reach in and wrap around a certain old friend’s brain, the Hound — THE HOUND! —
seems more likely to revert to his old way of doing things. Just how he’ll end up fighting his Mountainous, reanimated brother in CleganeBowl we can’t be sure, but “The Broken Man” certainly lent a good bit of credence to that fan dream. Honestly though, this isn’t a throwdown I can stand to see if our dog (*sniff OBERYN sniff*) is going to suffer the same sort of terrible fate as a beloved Red Viper, but maybe with his newly inspired fight, Sandor will finally emerge the winner over his awful brother, in some small way, triumphant.
If this hour proved anything, it is the indomitable strength of its women. In a battle of wills and a constant fight to stand up against those who would push them back and drive them down, it is the female spirit that keeps rising again and again. No matter who would imprison them, humiliate them, rape or brutalize, compartmentalize them; regardless of age or what anyone tells them what they can and can’t do or who they may or may not be, Sansa, Cersei, Margaery, Yara, Olenna, Brienne, Lyanna Mormont (!), Daenerys, and even Arya (whose guard was oddly, inexplicably dropped) prove they will never give up or in. Beginning with Margaery’s — who last week pretended to have completely converted both herself and Tommen to the Faith — clever ruse, reciting scripture and kowtowing to the High Sparrow and even Septa Unella, all the while working to gain their trust until she can escape their watchful eye. House Tyrell: Growing Strong.
Presumably, the Queen plays a part in that *Spoilerish* upcoming surprise Jonathan Pryce revealed; the combined Tyrell and Lannister armies will bring the Faithful to their knees in a way they’re not accustomed to. Perhaps the High Sparrow should fear for his own safety…
There isn’t much better than the Queen of Thorns verbally sparring with ever-obstinate Cersei (who’ll never cede her own regency); the Lannister matriarch’s rage as Lady Olenna points out her “loss” — “It’s the only joy I can find in all this misery” — is palpable. She may be down, but Cersei will never be out.
Likewise, Sansa ostensibly lets her brother and eloquent Ser Davos take the lead as they go from House Mormont to House Glover to reiterate fealty to the Starks and to gather greater numbers to take back Winterfell — and later defend the North against the Night King and his undead warriors. Speaking of House Mormont…not since the days of Joffrey have we seen such presence and confidence in a young leader —
Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) was nearly as fearsome, but thankfully she isn’t horrible and cruel, though she does get in a clever crack (“You’re a Snow, Sansa’s a Bolton or is she a Lannister? I’ve heard conflicting reports.”) Sansa takes it in stride and informs Lady Lyanna she did “what I had to do.” Either because of Jon’s resurrected state or simply, a lack of faith in himself after his own men turned against him, Snow faded into the background as Sansa and Davos took up for House Stark. Later, though her reminder to Lord Robbett Glover (Tim McInnerny) that House Glover is pledged to House Stark is met with Robb’s failings flung back at her, Sansa realizes she can — and must — do more.
Whether its uncertainty as to how Jon will react to the idea of Littlefinger’s involvement, or that Sansa wants to see the Knights of the Vale herself before telling Snow of Baelish’s promise, she still keeps her message secret. Presumably that note is either on its way to Littlefinger requesting his aid, or she’s contacting Brynden aka The Blackfish to ask for a commitment of Tully forces. While Jon is counseled by Stannis’ — “Who lost the Blackwater, who murdered his own brother, who doesn’t have a head” — advisor (no disrespect, Ser Davos!), Sansa knows she needs to follow her own gut and summon all the help they can get.
Like Euron, Yara has a plan to hook up with yet another powerful woman (Daenerys); “We’re going to sail to Meereen, make a pact with this Dragon Queen, and we’re going to take back the Iron Islands. Are you with me? Are you really with me?” Yara’s frank understanding and strong, tough love approach toward her brother is just what Theon needs to find himself again. As much as we’ve complained about Game of Thrones‘ gratuitousness, in this particular situation, Yara’s genderless swagger at the Volantis brothel was a thing of beauty. Her rescue mission, her forgiveness and her ability to inspire Theon’s desire to help his sister reclaim their home demonstrates Yara’s clear leadership abilities, and I have no doubt she’ll be the next Greyjoy ruler.
Though it took us all by surprise the Waif’s old woman took Arya by surprise (last week’s episode ended with her on high alert), I don’t believe anyone thinks a girl is truly out. Watching that approach, every viewer knew exactly who was in disguise; that Arya somehow completely dropped her guard is unthinkable. That said, we know her flying leap is yet ahead, and we know from Maisie Williams’ two truths and a lie that it’s entirely likely the younger Stark sister is headed back home. She may be seriously injured, with no one to trust but in Arya, in all these women, we see that spirit which never gives up. Rising up from the water, climbing those stairs, holding herself together as she looks to escape Bravos and all that she knows she must leave behind, we have every reason to believe Arya will go on. As the men — Jaime, Theon, Euron, Dothraki Khals, Jorah, Brother Ray, Jon Snow…(and soon, Ramsay Bolton and High Sparrow) — fall by the wayside, it is powerful females we see continually climbing, refusing to bow down or give up. When the claims to their respective thrones are made, when the Game is finally won, it will be women we see holding power over the Seven Kingdoms — and maintaining with a strong, peaceful rule.
Kudos to Ramsay for her excellent and mature performance, and the perfectly serious delivery of the number “62”. I’d love to see more of Lady Mormont.
Speaking of perfect delivery, Diana Rigg gets so many fantastic lines, and every single Queen of Thorns’ quip is earned. “Does it (the Mountain) move or talk?” To Cersei: “The truly vile stand out over the years. Our two ancient houses face collapse because of your stupidity. I’ll never forget the smirk on your face…”
Likewise, Alfie Allen’s ability to convey so much with facial expressions alone — his discomfort at the brothel, his determination when his sister’s words got through to him — has exploded this season. As glorious as it is to see Reek fall away, it’s also been a beautiful time of growth in Allen’s acting career.
That moment when Wun-Wun stood up for Jon, leading the way to Wildling support, was poignant perfection.
Oh, to have McShane around for more than one episode! Though we’re exceptionally grateful to have him at all, it’s a little crushing to have him taken so quickly. His philosophizing was a joy, and I’m pretty sure we’d all watch a Brother Ray standalone prequel, wherein McShane does nothing else. Rory McCann in that final scene…was heartbreaking.
Fantastic seeing the two Outlanders together on Thrones — Clive Russell’s delightful Blackfish, and a very sedate Tobias Menzies aka Edmure Tully. It was rather satisfying to see Black Jack Randall in a different position.
And, welcome back, Bronn! Jerome Flynn always delivers, and the Jaime/Bronn comedy hour would be a welcome series’ epilogue. “He’s an old man. You’ve got one hand. My money’s on the old boy.”