“Game of Thrones” Season 6 is slowly winding down, which means certain storylines need to start making some forward progress. There's the big battle of Winterfell that has been teased, but there are storylines in Meereen, Braavos, King's Landing and the Iron Isles that need to be wrapped up. It appears Dorne has been forgotten, which many viewers may not mind. “Game of Thrones” Season 6, episode 7, “The Broken Man,” focused on the recruitment efforts in the north, but there was plenty of time to reintroduce an old favorite.
Warning: “Game of Thrones” Season 6 spoilers ahead.
Who is Brother Ray?
Goodbye, Brother Ray, we hardly knew you. Ian McShane had one very specific task to complete as the traveling warrior-turned-priest, but it was incredibly challenging. “Game of Thrones” Season 6, episode 7 wasted no time introducing a new character as well as reintroducing an old favorite. Brother Ray, serving as Septon Meribald of sorts, was a former soldier who did terrible things out of duty. It didn't matter if he was told to be a thief, arsonist or murderer as long as long as it was an order from his commanding officer. McShane's character was not revealed before the season, but the episode's title, “The Broken Man” was an easy enough clue to decipher as it's a reference to Septon Meribald's speech in response to a question posed by Brienne and Pod in George R.R. Martin's “A Feast for Crows.”
Brother Ray is at the end of the same path the Hound was navigating before losing in battle to Brienne of Tarth. Ser Sandor Clegane was the attack dog for House Lannister but would flee King's Landing. Haunted by his past deeds, the Hound hated himself almost as much as he hated his older brother, Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane.
As Brother Ray explains, the Hound was near death several times before making a full recovery. Despite the close call with the afterlife, the Hound remains as bitter as ever. He chops wood like it did him wrong in the past. He even says hatred is what keeps him going. Meribald, trying to atone for past sins, is spending his remaining days trying do as much good as possible.
When three members of the Brotherhood Without Banners arrive seeking to extort the group of devotees, the Hound knows they will be back. Clegane is quickly proved right as the group is slaughtered and Brother Ray hanged.
The Hound grabs his axe before stomping away for vengeance. This may be the most predictable storyline, but it's because of good characterization. Viewers have seen the Hound's journey, so it's easy to see how that parallels the life of Brother Ray. Knowing there are bad people still out there, including his resurrected brother in King's Landing, the only path to salvation for the Hound is through violence.
With Cersei's insistence on a trial by combat with her undead champion, the path is set. The Hound intends to provide some swift justice to the men who killed Brother Ray. After that, he is likely to return to King's Landing. He could have heard tales of the High Sparrow from Brother Ray or overhear something interesting about his brother being named Cersei's champion. No matter how they get there, the Hound and the Mountain will be fighting to the death by the end of “Game of Thrones” Season 6.
Margaery Tyrell's conversion to the Sparrows is just a ploy by the resourceful queen. She plays the part well, spending time studying the Book of the Mother while having spiritual chats with the High Sparrow. Under the supervision of Septa Unella, she tells her grandmother to return to Highgarden for her own safety. The Queen of Thorns is shocked by her granddaughter's transformation. She understands it's a losing battle and leaves with her head held high. The Queen of Thrones can rest easy, as Margaery manages to slip her a piece of paper with a drawing of a rose. It's a clear sign she's trying to play the High Sparrow, but that's a dangerous proposition. Brute force has failed, so maybe clever subterfuge could work. It's a risky plan, but those in power are getting pretty desperate.
Another important development involves the Queen of Thrones' verbal takedown of Cersei Lannister. Cersei brought the High Sparrow into power, managed to lose her son to the faith and had Jaime shipped to the Riverlands. Cersei is completely surrounded by enemies, but she remains defiant.
House Stark Wants You
The House Stark recruitment effort is off to a shaky start. The Wildlings were hesitant to join Jon Snow against Ramsay Bolton, but it's hard to argue with a giant. Once Wun Wun sides with Snow, the rest of the Wildlings quickly follow suit. Snow, Sansa Stark and Ser Davos are traveling to allied houses in the north to gather a large enough army to defeat the forces at Winterfell. At House Mormont, Davos' speech convinces the 10-year-old Lyanna Mormont to pledge her army to the Stark cause. It turns out that means just 62 men, but it's better than nothing.
At Deepwood Motte, House Glover refuses to join the fight. Lord Robbett Glover notes they just reclaimed their stronghold from the Ironborn, while many other Glovers died in the service of Robb Stark. With only a few northern houses serving as reinforcements, Snow thinks they should go into battle with the army they currently have, but Sansa does not want to have any doubt when confronting House Bolton. Sansa takes it upon herself to send a raven, but the recipient was not revealed during the episode.
The Siege of Riverrun
The Freys are not great at siege tactics, which is why they should be excited to have Jaime commanding the effort to reclaim Riverrun from the Blackfish. The large Lannister army manages to enter the Frey camp without any resistance. The Blackfish sees through the threat to kill Lord Edmure Tully, which leads Jaime to hold an impromptu lesson on following through with one's threat. With Jaime in command of the siege, he seeks to parlay with the Blackfish, but the old soldier refuses to yield any ground. Whether they want to fight or wait two years to starve them out, the Blackfish is not leaving Riverrun anytime soon.
It's good to see the Riverlands again, but it was even better seeing Bronn's return in “Game of Thrones” Season 6. The ladder-climbing sellsword has not lost his gift for foul-mouthed insights.
Just when it looks like Arya will flee Braavos without consequence, the Waif finds her and stabs her in the stomach. Arya survives the attack but faces a new predicament, as she can't trust anyone in the city. That's the problem one faces when they decide to defy the Faceless Men. With the Waif still after her, Arya may have to rely on her wits to get to safety.
Interestingly, she did overhear the news that the Greyjoys' fleet of ships arrived in Slaver's Bay, so there is a possibility she heads to Volantis to reunite with Theon Greyjoy. It would be a stretch, but it provides a clearer path forward for her story. There could be a few tense moments with Arya, Theon and Yara Greyjoy as they head to Meereen. From there, it would be another interesting reunion with Tyrion Lannister. Once Daenerys Targaryen arrives with her own army, there's another new relationship that could be explored. Seeing Daenerys with so much power could provide Arya with some direction for her future.