“The Broken Man” is I think the first(?) Game of Thrones episode to open without the map credits. We’re plopped in the middle of Ian McShane as a Faith missionary leading a commune in the construction of a tower somewhere in the Riverlands. For a second, it’s like a different show, with a kind of unjaded joy so rarely seen, if ever, in this world. And into this world of sunshine and daises steps the broken man himself: one-eared Sandor “The Hound” Clegane! If you’re gonna preempt the iconic opening credits, bringing back a fan favorite is a good reason to do it.
Sandor has become a simple man thanks to McShane’s Elder Brother character (whom the creators name “Ray” in the Inside the Episode). His job is to relate the exposition and hey, if you’re gonna have a guy get one of your main characters from point A to point B and look classy doing it, get guys like McShane or Max von Sydow. Unfortunately, both roles have more than a little in common.
As Ray delivers a sermon about coming back from war to deliver good, aimed rather unsubtly at the Hound, cue the interrupt as three riders come up who appear to be Brotherhood Without Banners members. Ray’s pacifism is unyielding, even in the simple self-defense terms the Hound uses. For reasons unknown, the Hound ignores his own advice and hangs out chopping wood while Ray returns for supper, promising to save him some.
Sure enough, the Hound’s decision to hang out elsewhere while an obvious threat he warned about lurked turned out poorly as the commune is destroyed and its inhabitants slaughtered. Ray himself was hanged. His unwillingness to spread the disease of violence is fatal. With his home destroyed and anger reawakened, the Hound picks up the ax and goes looking for violence.
For simplicity’s sake, these reviews will be formatted thus: by clicking Next, we start in the furthest north and go south – covering the Wall, the North, King’s Landing and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms – and then east, to the Free Cities of Essos and finally, the Dothraki Sea and Slaver’s Bay. I’ve linked to the various sections below if you prefer to skip around with the episode’s storylines. The storylines that were not touched on this episode are italicized.
- Beyond-the-Wall: Bran, Meera and Uncle Benjen
- The North: Jon, Sansa, Tormund, Davos, Melisandre, Ramsay
- The Vale: Littlefinger
- The Iron Islands: Euron Greyjoy
- The Riverlands: Jaime, the Tullys/Freys, Brienne
- King’s Landing: Cersei, the Tyrells, the Sparrows
- The Reach: Sam & Gilly
- Dorne: The Martells
- Braavos: Arya
- Volantis: Yara & Theon Greyjoy (plus Episode 8,9,10 titles and episode 8 preview)
- The Dothraki Sea: Daenerys and Daario, Jorah
- Meereen: Tyrion & Varys