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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Broken Man” (S6, E7)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Broken Man” (S6, E7)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.

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Season 6, Episode 7: “The Broken Man”

Original Air Date: June 5th, 2016
Director: Mark Mylod
Written by: Bryan Cogman

The Hound‘s surprising* return in this episode feels like it was forever in the making, but he was only gone for a season and a half, having been left for dead by Arya in the season four finale. That’s nothing compared to the shocking reappearance of Benjen Stark in the last episode-he’d been lost since the third episode of season one. Even Edmure Tully’s recent reemergence for the first time since season three’s Red Wedding took longer. Unlike them though the Hound is one of the show’s best, most compelling characters, which is why his absence felt even bigger than it was.

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*Not as surprising if you’ve read the books. The novels strongly hint that The Hound was healed by a septon. His return on the show supports that theory, but it’s still unproven.

But why did he come back? To make us happy? Uh, this is Game of Thrones, so no.

He came back because the gods aren’t done with him yet. At least that’s what he was told for the second time in his life by a holy man, this time by Ian McShane’s septon, Brother Ray. And Ray’s larger lessons about the gods might be enough to help Sandor Clegane fulfill whatever purpose they have for him.

The Hound was rescued from near certain death by Ray, and since then had became one of Ray’s followers, a peaceful group of people trying to rebuild in a war torn country. The violent, solitary Hound we knew has changed, though he’s still wary of the world. He knows that talk of peace is nice, but it is also naive because most men are dangerous. Sadly he is proven right when three members of the Brotherhood Without Banners murders everyone in the congregation, including Ray.

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But while Ray was wrong about refusing to fight, he taught The Hound two important lessons. One is that it is never too late to atone for past mistakes, and the second is that devotion to the gods has nothing to do with knowing anything about the gods.

“Oh, there’s plenty of pious sons of bitches who think they know the word of god or gods. I don’t. I don’t even know their real names. Maybe it is the Seven. Or maybe it’s the old gods. Or maybe it’s the Lord of Light. Or maybe they’re all the same fucking thing. I don’t know. What matters, I believe, is that there’s something greater than us. And whatever it is, it’s got plans for Sandor Clegane.”

Unlike almost every other religious figures in Westeros, Ray doesn’t claim to know or speak for any of the gods, or god, or whatever power exists. Beric Dondarrion, Melisandre, the other red priestesses, the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant, they all claim to know exactly what god/the gods want from us. That certainty has often had terrible consequences, just as poor Shireen.

brother-ray-ian-mcshane

Ray just thinks we should be good people because we’re in service of something greater, even if it is unknowable. It’s a message that rings with more authenticity than anything Melisandre has said or done, and the same goes for the High Sparrow (who in this very episode threatens Olenna Tyrell). It especially rings true since we know the Great War with the White Walkers is coming. Being in service to a greater cause has never been more literal or important.

The Hound heard before that god had a greater purpose for him, from Beric Dondarrion after their Trial by Combat. “The Lord of Light isn’t done with you yet,” he said to the Hound. Beric might be more certain about who god is and what he wants, but he agrees with Ray that Sandor Clegane has something important to do. Seeing him still standing after Arya refused to end his life, despite being on her list, makes us think so too.

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Whether that means defeating the Mad Queen’s violent beast, his brother The Mountain, in CleganeBowl, or heading north of the Wall to fight against the dead, or something entirely else remains to be seen. But you don’t come back from near certain death and a Trial by Combat against a man who can’t die–just like you don’t come back after a season and a half–without a real purpose.

The episode ends with him grabbing an axe, pulled back into the life he was trying to leave behind, but this time with the lessons he learned from Ray. He can never be the hate-filled man he was, not after finally experiencing some kindness in the world, but he still knows what must be done when the time comes.

The gods aren’t done with Sandor Clegane yet, because the world still needs The Hound.

What role do you think The Hound will play going forward? Howl your thoughts in our comments section below.

Images: HBO

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