A girl is stabbed … a couple characters return … and a newcomer steals a scene. In “The Broken Man,” the chess pieces continued to edge into position in King’s Landing and the Riverlands for climactic confrontations to come, while the drama stepped back to ask some major philosophical questions about the nature of violence.
We start with…
Cold open: Duh-na, na-na-na nah, duh na-na-na nah — hey, hold the door, that’s not the Game of Thrones opening credits! We’re just starting an episode with a scene, shaking things up with a cold open, like this is the start of season 4 instead of halfway through season 6. We see a series of scenes that’s Witness meets Westeros. Temple building, simple life, plain dress, and one very large man carrying a very large log who’s revealed to be… The Hound. Why the cold open? The production has to put The Hound actor Rory McCann’s name in the opening credits and, as GoT writer Bryan Cogman explains, that would have spoiled the reveal if fans saw his name before his character appeared. We’ll come back to this story line in a bit.
King’s Landing: Sure, it’s a series of meetings … but they’re rather awesome meetings.
— Margaery and the High Sparrow: Margaery shows off her scripture memorization. What I love about Margaery’s character is she tends to masterfully play any hand she’s given and this season she’s doing her best with the worst cards she’s been dealt yet. The High Sparrow expresses his concern that she’s no longer sleeping with Tommen, which leads to something we’d never thought we’d hear, and certainly something we never wanted: a High Sparrow sex tip (“Congress does not require desire on a woman’s part, only patience”). This exchange also indicates that Tommen is whining to the High Sparrow that his wife won’t sleep with him, which is perhaps the head-shaking saddest thing Tommen has done yet, and that’s really saying something.
The High Sparrow begins to express concern about Margaery’s grandmother, “I fear for her safety” — as if her safety isn’t entirely up to him. This is like a mob boss casually worrying about whether one of his men is loyal; it sets off all sorts of alarm bells. Naturally, the Sparrow is getting rid of anybody who might be a perceived threat — last week it was Jaime’s turn, now Lady Olenna, and soon Cersei with her trial.
— Margaery and Lady Olenna: Margaery bewilders the hell out of her grandmother by spouting pinwheel-eyed New Gods testament. Olenna is offering Margaery a chance to escape all this, but she’s staying committed to her role (presumably for her brother’s sake — she figures at some point she can get the High Sparrow to release him). Margaery urges her grandmother to go home lest there’s a Walk of Shame for the Queen of Thorns. Margaery then slips her something: a Tyrell rose. Olenna is relieved — no matter what she’s saying, she’s still a member of the family.
— Olenna meets with Cersei and they finally have a truly open and blunt conversation with all their cards on the table. It would be so great to see these two team up, but it’s far too late for that. Olenna rips into Cersei for her blunders last season that empowered the High Sparrow, and Cersei candidly admits she’s wrong. Has she ever done that before? And then she even says: “We need each other right now.” This is, once again like in last week’s episode, a newly calm and calculating Cersei. It’s like Qyburn started spiking her wine with Lexapro. Olenna gets in a couple last barbs on her way out the door: “I wonder if you might be the most horrible person I’ve ever met,” she says, managing to sound genuinely curious if that’s the case. Then Olenna runs down precisely how screwed Cersei’s situation is here. “You’ve lost, Cersei — it’s the only joy I can find in all this misery.”