More often than not, the Game Of Thrones episode titles can prove very illuminating — especially for those who have read George R.R. Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire series — acting as subtle (or not-so-subtle) references to events in the books that readers are looking forward to seeing onscreen. "The Rains Of Castamere," referring to the Lannister theme song that played during the Red Wedding; "Mother's Mercy," referring to Cersei's agonizing Walk of Atonement; the list goes on. So what does the title of this Sunday's episode mean? Who is "The Broken Man" on Game Of Thrones ?
There are plenty of obvious candidates for the title: Jaime Lannister with his missing sword hand; Edmure Tully, who has been languishing in the Frey dungeon for two-and-a-half seasons; Loras Tyrell, the sole remaining character still in the High Sparrow's grip; even Tyrion, the dwarf with a fondness for "cripples, bastards, and broken things." But "The Broken Man" doesn't refer to any of them — not even the long-absent character making his triumphant return to the show for the first time since the Red Wedding, Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully.
"The Broken Man" seems to be a pretty clear reference to a speech made by a character named Septon Meribald in Martin's fourth novel, A Feast For Crows. Viewers haven't met this man of god yet, but he'll be played on GoT by Deadwood 's Ian McShane — presumably making his debut this week if the title is any indication. So is Meribald the Broken Man? Nope. That honor most likely belongs to a character audiences have long assumed dead. (Spoilers — or at least very confident theorizing — ahead!)
For context, Meribald delivers his memorable speech when he runs into Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne in the Riverlands during their search for Sansa Stark. He takes them to his sept on the Quiet Isle, where Brienne and Pod notice a large, cloaked novice digging a grave. During their time with the Septon, he begins philosophizing on the distinction between outlaws and what he calls "broken men." While outlaws are "evil men, driven by greed, soured by malice, despising the gods and caring only for themselves," Meribald claims that "broken men" are quite different.
His speech goes on for several pages, but I've included the most relevant bits here:
Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came round to take them off to war. […]
And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone, that they are fighting beside strangers beneath a banner that they hardly recognize. They don't know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they're fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and sharpened hoes, to stand their ground. And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world . . .
And the man breaks.
He turns and runs, or crawls off afterward over the corpses of the slain, or steals away in the black of night, and he finds someplace to hide. […] The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man. Lady Brienne is not wrong. In times like these, the traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them . . . but he should pity them as well.
So which Game Of Thrones character matches the description of a soldier who broke when he saw an army of knights charging at him, who then stole away in the black of night; someone who was always more beast than man, but especially after the horrors of war changed him for good?
The last time viewers saw Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, he was badly injured after a brutal fight with Brienne and left for dead by young Arya in the Season 4 finale. Joffrey's former bodyguard has been presumed dead for the past season and a half… but the fact is, we never actually saw Sandor die. So could he be the "broken man" of this week's episode?
It seems very likely. A popular theory — which remains unconfirmed by Martin himself but, much like R+L=J, is basically considered canon by book readers — is that the cloaked gravedigger on the Quiet Isle is Sandor Clegane himself, who has turned to the Faith after being rescued and healed by Septon Meribald. (If Sandor is indeed in the service of the Faith, then that could lead to a hypothetical event known by fans as Cleganebowl, in which the Hound and the Mountain act as the champions in Cersei's upcoming trial by combat.)
After a season that has already seen the returns of Bran and Rickon Stark — and only one week after viewers were reintroduced to Walder Frey, The Blackfish, Edmure Tully, and Benjen Stark — could we be about to see the unexpected return of a long-lost fan-favorite? If the title of this Sunday's episode is any indication, the answer is a resounding YES.
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