GAME OF THRONES episode "The Red Woman" | © 2016 HBO

GAME OF THRONES episode “The Red Woman” | © 2016 HBO

Stars: Lena Headey, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Rory McCann, Maisie Williams, Natalie Dormer, Jonathan Pryce, Kristofer Hivju, Jerome Flynn, Alfie Allen, Ian McShane, Diana Rigg, Clive Russell, Gemma Whelan, Faye Marsay, Tim McInnerny, Tobias Menzies, Hannah Waddingham, Bella Ramsey, Daniel Tuite, Tim Plester
Writer:.Bryan Cogman, series created by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”
Director: Mark Mylod
Network: HBO, Sundays @ 9 PM
Original Airdate: June 5, 2016

Generally, surprises in GAME OF THRONES are tragic, but the Season 6 episode “The Broken Man” opens with a happy one – the Hound, aka Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), is still alive after being tossed off a cliff by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) back in Season 4. In meta terms, no wonder Arya (Maisie Williams) admitted a few episodes back that she no longer wished the Hound dead, even though she believed he was (she didn’t have the heart to kill him when he asked her to do so).

It turns out that Sandor has been found and rescued by Brother Ray (Ian McShane), a cheerily agnostic and pacifist cleric whose band of followers are camping in a verdant southern field. Sandor seems to have mellowed some. The Hound had become such an intriguing antihero by the time we left him that it’s great to pick up his tale, and McShane is a welcome addition to the GAME. Albeit he is here only briefly. Some soldiers of the Red God slaughter Brother Ray and his followers while Sandor is out of the camp. Sandor heads out of the camp, axe in hand. Alas Brother Ray, we hardly knew you, but alas for those Red God soldiers, too, because they are on the wrong side of Sandor Clegane, who is not just skillfully brutal, but now also righteously enraged.

In King’s Landing, it at first appears that Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer) has become so devout that the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) feels he must urge her to return to the king’s marriage bed. The High Sparrow also tells Margaery that her grandmother, Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), is an unrepentant sinner who is in danger if she remains in the capital. With Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham) watching, Margaery advises the appalled Olenna to go back to Highgarden. However, when Olenna is alone, she sees that Margaery has secretly pressed a note into her hand. Our reaction is very much like Olenna’s – huzzah, Margaery hasn’t been brainwashed after all. We’ll have to wait to see exactly what is happening here.

Cersei (Lena Headey) goes to Olenna to admit her mistakes and apologize, but Olenna by now loathes Cersei so much that she doesn’t want to try to come up with a new plan. She advises Cersei to leave King’s Landing, but Cersei won’t leave her son the king.

In the North, there is dispute among the Wildlings as to whether or not they should help retake Winterfell for the Starks. Jon (Kit Harington) explains that the Boltons and their allies hate the Wildlings, so the Free Folk will be at risk even if they don’t fight. Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) argues to his comrades that Jon literally died to help the Wildlings and without him, they’d all be dead themselves, so they’re in his debt. If they don’t help him, they’re cowards, and if they’re cowards, they deserve to be the last of the Free Folk.

Jon, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) go to seek aid from House Mormont on Bear Island, where the child Lady Lyanna (Bella Ramsey), young in years but firm in manner, rules. Ser Davos persuades her to send sixty-two soldiers to the cause. It’s one of those great dialogue scenes at which GAME OF THRONES excels. Ramsey is a find. When Davos says that if the Mormont soldiers “are half as ferocious as their lady, the Boltons are doomed,” we’re inclined to agree.

Then again, House Glover, as represented by Lord Robett (Tim McInernny), refuses to join the fight. So far as Robett is concerned, Robb Stark ruined things entirely by his marriage (which led to the Red Wedding). Furthermore, the Boltons helped House Glover get rid of the Ironborn. “House Stark is dead,” Robett declares. A setback, but can’t win them all.

In the end, the Stark/Wildling army is too small for Sansa’s wishes, though Jon says there is no more time to seek allies. Sansa sends a letter to … well, we don’t know who.

At Riverrun, Lothar Frey (Daniel Tuite) and Walder Rivers (Tim Plester) are rather feebly threatening to kill Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) if his uncle Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell) doesn’t surrender the castle. The exasperated Blackfish understandably refuses. Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn), with an army of Lannister soldiers, ride up and take charge of the siege.

The Blackfish meets to parley with Jaime, who argues that there’s no need for their soldiers to die in a lost cause. The Blackfish disagrees – this is his home, Edmure is going to get killed in any case, and Riverrun has enough supplies to withstand a siege for two years. He wanted to get Jaime’s measure, and he’s disappointed. The audience (and probably even Jaime) can hardly blame the Blackfish. It seems pretty unlikely that any Stark relations would want to give Walder Frey anything that isn’t edged and sharp and into the ribs, let alone a castle. Still, Jaime’s reasoning is admirably humanistic and practical, even if it doesn’t get him anywhere.

In Slaver’s Bay, Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) has parked her fleet. They are having a good time at a tavern with the half-dressed women who work there – Yara is among those happily partaking. Theon (Alfie Allen), however, is absolutely depressed. Yara commands her brother to drink a tankard of ale. She tells him she needs him. If he absolutely cannot pull himself together, he should commit suicide, but if Theon can return to himself, Yara wants him to help her seek an alliance with the “dragon queen.” Let’s hope all the characters live to see this, as Yara fighting for Daenerys (and to win the Iron Islands) sounds wonderful.

In Braavos, Arya books passage on a ship to Westeros, but is then approached by the Waif (Faye Marsay), wearing the face of an old woman. The Waif stabs Arya repeatedly. Arya escapes, but she is bleeding from grievous wounds.

Even if Arya didn’t fully expect retaliation from the followers of the Many-Faced God for leaving them, viewers knew this was coming. Will she survive? It would be an occasion of real sorrow to lose Arya and the excellent Williams, but sometimes that is the nature of the GAME. In any case, this is a sturdy, engaging episode that sets plenty of pieces in motion.

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “Blood of My Blood”

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “The Door”

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “Book of the Stranger”

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “Oathbreaker”

RelatedTV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “Home”

Related: TV Review: GAME OF THRONES – Season 6 – “The Red Woman” – SEASON PREMIERE

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