The Broken Man

(24 comments)

A tremendously effective tone piece of rising action. The decision to do a cold open to dispatch the episode’s headline event sets the tone well, and seems where you have to start in looking at the episode. First, the obvious criticisms, which are numerous: they literally bring him back after sixteen episodes with nothing more than a Missy-esque “well I escaped”; there’s nothing like room to actually build his arc this episode; it amounts to a Martin-esque “I BROUGHT YOU ANOTHER VIEWPOINT CHARACTER I HOPE YOU LIKE IT” of exactly the sort that the show historically does poorly (and for that matter so does Martin). Fine. But of at least equal weight is the sort of bloody-minded televisual efficiency with which it’s done. The Hound does Unforgiven and we got Ian McShane to be the walking cliche needed to do it. Fair enough. It’s hard to complain about an eleven minute western shot in Northern Ireland with Rory McCann and Ian McShane.

Aside from giving the episode a sense of oddness from the get-go, it sets an almost necessary theme; one that’s fairly quickly emphasized as we deal both with fellow religious fanatics (and Maribald is definitely a religious fanatic, even as he’s a somewhat more straightforwardly sympathetic one than the High Sparrow) and old wars. The relatively large number of parts and of hard cuts belies the tightness of the episode, with scene after scene of people preparing for battles and getting dragged into old conflicts. Things like the cut from Lyanna Mormont to the Kingslayer and Blackfish’s parlay and back to Jon Snow are elegant things. And it’s difficult to seriously call the Hound-Arya-Hound sequence at the end a set of arbitrary “hard cuts” even as they don’t quite fit into any of the standard categories of transition. 

There’s also a stripped simplicity to the majority of scenes. All of them have straightforward stakes and a clear structure of someone trying to get what they want. For once the profusion of short scenes is simply an episode moving quickly and with pace. Even the quiet scenes have great moments - Olenna’s “I wonder if you’re the worst person I’ve ever met” is fantastic, as (once again) is Natalie Dormer’s performance of “I am very clever and two steps ahead of everyone else in the room.” And the Yara/Theon scene is a small delight, with some of the best chosen nudity in the series’ history, a bunch of great lines (Gemma Whelan’s delivery of “fuck justice then, we’ll get revenge” is perfect) and a throwaway line about Daenerys that does a lot of larger structural work for the season. And the short Arya scene is quite effective, abruptly putting Arya in a very new sort of danger - she’s literally never had any sort of serious injury before, and seeing Maisie Williams get to do a very standard bit of Game of Thrones acting for the first time in season six is a delight. 

Seeing Jaime in a decidedly different place, at once taken down a few notches and put in a new position of power, is similarly rewarding, and having both Clive Russell and Jerome Flynn back after absences of varying lengths is satisfying. The establishing shots of Riverrun are wonderfully effective at quickly giving a sense of what’s going on even if you don’t remember the three-year-old character they don’t even bother to introduce in the previously segment (it seems obvious who After the Thrones will be picking for “who the fuck was that” this week). And even if you don’t, Clive Russell is just a lot of fun in his slightly disheveled effectiveness. And again, there’s some nice larger season structure in play with the knowledge (confirmed in the trailer for next week) that the situation we’re seeing set up here will get Brienne added next week.

But the real point of the episode’s structure is simply to get in four separate Jon Snow scenes, as the “rally the northern Houses” plot is done with considerable haste. On the whole this is efficient - it’s worth noting the odd narrative structure for Jon’s plot this episode - two victories, a defeat, and an ambiguous bit that’s really more of a Sansa scene in the end. It’s not quite rising action. The episode is structured around it, just as much as it’s structured around the Hound’s return (so the two resurrected characters, then; and note the sinister return of the Brotherhood; Lady Stoneheart truthers must be going wild), but it’s on the whole underplayed - a story that’s still a long way from climax. Still, it is again consistently fun. The Lyanna Mormont scene is an utter treat - funny without being light. Jon and Tormund are at this point as reliable as Tyiron and Varys (and I don’t believe we’ve ever had two consecutive Tyrion-free episodes before). The House Glover bit is a nothing, and as I said the last segment is anticlimax, but it’s a really effective motor driving the episode forward.

About the only thing I’m genuinely disappointed by - and forgive me for becoming a momentary book purist - is that the “broken men” speech that the title comes from doesn’t actually make it into the episode. The bits Ian McShane does get are lovely in their own right, but it’s a speech you can properly understand why Martin is proud of - one where he actually pays off the materialist promise of his approach with a bracing explanation of how war’s systemic devastation extends long after the battles are all over. It’s a bit that would have gone in very nicely within this episode of looming battles in old wars. Alas, it’s instead an instance where the show’s instincts go just a bit more soap opera than is actually wise.

Still a great episode though.

State of Play

The choir goes off.

There is a cold open of two minutes. It is set in the Riverlands. The opening image is of a nail being forged.

The board is laid out thusly: 

Lions of Riverrun: Jaime Lannister

Lions of King’s Landing: Cersei Lannister

The Direwolves, Jon Snow, Sansa Stark

Roses of King’s Landing: Margaery Tyrell

The Ship, Davos Seaworth

The Dogs, Rory McCann

Direwolves of Braavos: Arya Stark

Stars of King’s Landing: The High Sparrow

The Paw, Tormund Giantsbane

Chains of Riverrun: Bronn

The Kraken, Theon Greyjoy

Winterfell, The Wall, and Meereen are empty.

The episode is in parts. The first runs three minutes and is set in the Riverlands, picking up directly from the cold open. 

The second runs five minutes and is set in King’s Landing. The transition is by dialogue, from Septon Maribald and the Hound talking about the gods to the High Sparrow and Margaery doing so.

The third runs three minutes and is set at the Wildling camp in the Gift. The transition is by hard cut, from a satisfied Olenna Tyrell to an establishing shot. 

The fourth runs two minutes and is set in King’s Landing. The transition is by hard cut, from Tormund to Cersei. 

The fifth runs six minutesand is set at Riverrun. The transition is by family, from Cersei to Jaime Lannister. 

The sixth runs five minutes and is set on Bear Island. The transition is by image, from Riverrun to Mormont Keep.

The seventh runs three minutes and is set at Riverrun. The transition is by hard cut, from Lyanna Mormont to Jaime riding through the camp.

The eighth runs two minutes and is set at Deepwood Motte. The transition is by image, both being scenes of men meeting at the gate of a castle. 

The ninth runs four minutes and is set in Volantis. The transition is by dialogue, from Lord Glover speaking of the Ironborn to Yara and Theon.

The tenth runs two minutes and is set in the North. The transition is by hard cut, from Theon to Jon Snow’s camp.

The eleventh runs five minutes and is set in the Riverlands. The transition is by hard cut, from Sansa to a wide shot of the framed sept.

The twelfth runs two minutes and is set in Braavos. The transition is by hard cut, from the Hound splitting wood to Arya walking down the street.

The thirteenth runs one minute and is set in the Riverlands. The transition is by hard cut, from an injured Arya to the Hound chopping. The final image is of the Hound picking up his axe.

Ranking

  1. The Door
  2. The Broken Man
  3. Book of the Stranger
  4. Home
  5. Oathbreaker
  6. The Red Woman
  7. Blood of My Blood

Comments

The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

'And the Yara/Theon scene is a small delight, with some of the best chosen nudity in the series’ history'

No, it's rape actually, and it's disgusting.

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Carl Churchill 1 year ago

Game of Thrones and its toxic rape culture, when will they ever learn!

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

Can't tell if sarcastic or not, but the decision to make Yara a rapist in particular is even more egregious for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the only other representation lesbian/bi women have is Ellaria, who is almost as bad.

Secondly that doesn't play into a dangerous stereotype at all, nope.

Thirdly, they specifically rewrote (admittedly inadvisable, but the show somehow ended up being worse because it made the sex slaves randomly jealous and willing not to accept payment) book scenes set in Volantis last season so as not to portray Tyrion and Jorah as rapists.

Fourthly, if the Inside the Episode is any indication, we are actually supposed to like Yara as a person, apparently. And now we have the same problem as last year's Stannis vs Ramsay plot, that both Yara and Euron are about as abhorrent as each other, and why the fuck should we actually care?

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Phil Sandifer 1 year ago

This is purely down to Volantine prostitutes being slaves, right? Such that Yara is a rapist in the same sense that Tyrion would have been a rapist if not for his vast quantities of angst over Shae, and that probably everyone to use Littlefinger's brothel is given the fundamental coersiveness of his methods.

(More broadly, the Ironborn practice of taking salt wives makes the entire culture rapists by default, so it's not really new information.)

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Phil Sandifer 1 year ago

(Which isn't, to be clear, to deny that Yara is a rapist - just to note that this seems within the general level of rapiness that, six seasons into Game of Thrones [and especially post-Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken] I just sort of figure one has either come to terms with or stopped watching.)

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

Hmm, no. Because critics who vehemently criticised Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken are still watching, and the complaints are curiously absent this time. And no, that's not because 'expect rape, it's GoT'. It's because of the cultural view that women can't rape. And the argument that Game of Thrones isn't helping shape cultural narratives regarding this can't be denied at this point as you can find any number of idiots willing to defend it.

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Phil Sandifer 1 year ago

I suspect they're not speaking up because hardly anyone remembers that detail about Volantis, which is mentioned in one scene of one episode over a year ago.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

The massive iron collar's kind of a fucking big hint if you have though.

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Phil Sandifer 1 year ago

It's still simply not part of what the episode was communicating to an overwhelming majority of viewers. I mean, the show's having enough trouble making sure the audience remembers who the fuck the Blackfish is; if an entire 1% of the audience recognized that the unnamed prostitute is a slave it would be massive.

You are looking for objections. Which is fine - I get that absolutely fucking hating everything about Game of Thrones is a huge part of your fandom, and more power to you. But it's absurd to expect that anyone else is interested in playing that game with you. Or at least that I am.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

The implication that I'm looking for objections (it's more accurate to say that I'm looking for things not to object to) in regards to this in particular is unfair. I noticed this back when the trailer aired and I saw the tattoo, which I knew what it meant. I was angry about it then and I'm angry about it now. Not because I'm looking for things to object to, but because I'm both a lesbian and a sexual assault victim and this is what passes for lesbian representation on this show. Then the scene managed to be worse in context, mixed in as it was with emotional abuse of Theon, because I'm a victim of emotional abuse as well.

(That does not mean I am against depiction of sexual or emotional abuse, but this condones/endorses both.)

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Phil Sandifer 1 year ago

I mean, that would carry more weight for me if I hadn't had to unfollow you on Twitter a few weeks ago because the constant stream of petty complaints about Game of Thrones became unbearable.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

(in reply to your comment below so it's not just a string of letters)

Well, even if I'm not looking for things to object to, there's still quite a lot I do find objectionable. On a show only basis, that includes unnecessary violence against women and background misogyny, the utter lack of logic in most plots, the total stagnation or regression of a number of character arcs and the impossibility of the timeline. A few of my complaints might be petty but if these issues weren't present I wouldn't be mentioning them as my attention would be elsewhere. I wish it wasn't the case but sadly it's not.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

Yara is a rapist in that sense (assuming you mean show Tyrion). But if it's not meant to be a problem to the likability of the character, why not keep Tyrion and Jorah doing it (Tyrion is actually wronged by Shae in the show's context what with the attempted murder so it makes more sense, and if it's the timeframe that's unrealistic, Loras jumped into bed with Olyvar a similar amount of time after Renly's death)? The fact they weren't willing to do one but were the other doesn't exactly say good things.

Littlefinger's brothel may be on a case by case basis, but every Volantene sex slave has the tattoo, so nobody could rape them and not know there were consent issues (to put it mildly). They just don't care.

As for the Ironborn taking salt wives, also, maybe Yara, as a woman, experiencing discrimination in that culture should possibly feel empathy for her fellow women? Especially if the audience are supposed to like her (and they are, even her emotional abuse of Theon is framed as a good thing, both in and outside the episode). There's a fairly important point of Asha Greyjoy being disgusted by men using the word 'cunt' to demean women when it's the only part of a woman they value. But maybe wanting or expecting women to show empathy or respect each other at all on this show where so many hate or are catty to each other for no reason is just me being a terrible book snob.

And finally, marital rape is kind of not unusual in Westeros. And we already knew Ramsay was a rapist and an abuser of women prior to Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (as the Myranda the battered wife scene the previous episode attested). So, that wasn't new information either, but you never deigned to defend that. Why does it apply now, exactly?

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Phil Sandifer 1 year ago

I'm not so much deigning to defend it as suggesting that you don't really have a substantive insight here so much as an obscure bit of trivia about Volantis that you're wielding as a cudgel to justify your frankly pathological hate-watching of the show.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

Fine, let's take rape out of the scene. You are still left with Yara who emotionally abuses her brother. The music and Theon's reaction, as well as the Inside the Episode all frame this as a good thing, so this isn't being played as values dissonance here. The audience is supposed to like her. Something here does not add up.

If you're going to insult me about 'lack of insight' the last time you offered a genuinely insightful comment on the show was when you suggested Ramsay should have made Sansa flay someone. And maybe I wouldn't be hate-watching the show if it wasn't basically impossible to avoid, particularly within nerd spaces, particularly for fans of ASOIAF, but if I am going to see those discussions, I prefer to have context (ditto for fates of characters I'm attached to even if they bear no resemblance to their book counterparts). You can find that as weird or as not weird as you like, I don't particularly care. Quite often, the failures are amusing too, and that's entertaining. And occasionally, there's a scene actually done decently (the Jaime/Blackfish scene this week's an example) and that's nice too.

Oh, and it's particularly ironic that you say Theon's the only character it's remotely possible to care about in the ADWD Winterfell plot, when Theon actually is the only character it's possible to care about in this plot, and I'd take almost the entire ensemble over every one of these awful people in the show.

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Dan 1 year ago

So you only watch GoT because you want context for the discussions about it on the internet?

Do you think Yara Greyjoy is supposed to be an uncomplicatedly nice person, kind and empathetic to her brother, with a trained counsellor's nuance and ear? She is not meant to be that character.

Actually, I really like Arya. I objectively disapprove of much of what she does, but I understand why she does them, and I'm still rooting for her.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 1 year ago

...You're actually talking to an ASOIAF fan about whether they think nuanced characters should exist. Brilliant use of your time, that.

You know what, I'd be fine with it if this was actually framed as part of Ironborn culture, and not what Theon actually needed, because surprisingly enough, no trauma victim has ever needed emotional abuse, and it does not make you better. This is not a fact that has changed throughout history, funnily enough. The episode frames it as what was needed. The showrunners spew abuse apologia in the Inside the Episode and the writer does the same on Twitter.

Here's an idea, how about you don't tell emotional abuse victims how to think about depictions of it, because there's just a chance we know a damn sight more about it than you.

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SpaceSquid 1 year ago

Wasn't a huge fan of three scenes of attempting to secure alliances, given Jon and Davos both managed to carry the day but Sansa couldn't make a dent in Lord Percy Glover-Percy's sulking. Even Jon is talking over her now. Let's hope the payoff to her letter makes this work in hindsight, because it was fairly annoying at the time.

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Dan 1 year ago

The letter to that wonderful chap Petyr Baelish? Which I assume it is.

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SpaceSquid 1 year ago

Oh, Seven Hells. I was thinking she was sending it to the Cerwyns, since she'd mentioned them, but you're almost certainly right. If you'll excuse me, I need to flip over every table I can find.

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SpaceSquid 1 year ago

(Um... that should have gone above, obvs.)

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