Game of Thrones is filled with death, deception, depravity, the occasional act of decency, and dialogue acrobatics. Each week, we break them down. Let’s dive into Season 6 episode 7, “The Broken Man.”

Ian McShane’s Hippie Commune

“The Broken Man” begins with a rare cold open on a peaceful hippie commune led by a wise, grizzled, and surprisingly chipper Ian McShane. The setting is as lush and tranquil as the Shire: the people are cheerful, and every single Game of Thrones viewer briefly wonders if we accidentally turned on the wrong show. Of course, thanks to Ian McShane’s comments in a previous interview The Hound’s return is about as surprising as Jon’s was, but that slow pan from his legs to his face is just as exciting. Sandor Clegane is back, and he’s living a subdued hippie-lumberjack lifestyle.

Ian McShane’s chattiness (his character obviously has a name, but we’re just going to keep calling him Ian McShane) is a marked detour from The Quiet Isle in the books, but the change is a sensible shorthand to convey The Hound’s return – and slightly calmer attitude – in minimal time.

It’s arguably too short — it seems a waste to keep Ian fucking McShane around for just a few scenes, and the slaying of the hippie commune is both rushed and incredibly obvious from the moment the Sinister Bearded Men appear. But The Hound — one of the best characters — is back. No complaints there. Besides, Ian McShane probably had to run to American Gods. If The Hound needs some purpose, his former road-trip buddy could use some help.

The North Remembers

The North remembers to varying degrees of success this week. Jon’s PR skills have improved from that time in “Hardhome” when he implied to a crowd of Wildings that he killed Mance Rayder — context, Jon! This time, the Wildings agree to aid him, thanks to his candid speech (“You’re right this isn’t your fight. It’s not the deal we made. But I need you with me if we’re going to beat them.”) Unfortunately, his PR skills are still lacking in diplomacy with the Northerners.

Davos is the unexpected hero, when he steps up and convinces the glorious Lyanna Mormont to pledge her 62 men to aid Jon. The scene emphasizes how Jon’s character is still far too lacking in agency this season, but the 10-year-old Lyanna Mormont has enough agency for 62 Jons. It also affords Sansa a moment to name-drop her aunt Lyanna Stark, who is sure to be wildly important to the story very soon. (Sansa: “You were named for my aunt Lyanna. It was said she was a great beauty. I’m sure you will be too.” Lyanna: “I doubt it. My mother wasn’t”).

So while Sansa and Jon underwhelm in their Stark Avengers rallying efforts, Davos and Lyanna Mormont win the day.

The Lannisters Send Their Regards

Cersei and Lady Olenna have never exactly had a close relationship, but this is their tensest face-off yet. Emboldened by Margaery’s clever drawing-revelation that her allegiance still likes with House Tyrell, the Olenna lays it all out for Cersei, telling her she’s been abandoned and surrounded by enemies. The most intriguing nugget of that scene is a bit of foreshadowing to Cersei’s future, when Olenna says, “You’re surrounded by enemies. Will you kill them all yourself?”

That green wildfire in Bran’s vision last week might have been of the future rather than the past — recall that the Mad King planned to burn the city, but Jaime stopped him. If Cersei is set to become a Mad Queen of sorts and attempt to burn her enemies, this is certainly setting it up.

Running around the Riverlands

Jaime Lannister used to be one of the show’s most nuanced and compelling characters, but for the past few seasons he’s suffered from a combination of subpar subplots (Dorne) and unintentional mixed messages (that Season 4 Cersei rape scene that was not actually supposed to be a rape scene). As a result, for too long he’s been a shadow of what he once was — barring that time he road a horse up the steps like a total boss in “Blood of My Blood.”

But there are two important signifiers in “The Broken Man” that at last, the writers are getting their shit together with Jaime’s character: that bitch-slap he delivers to the incompetent Frey man (“only a fool makes threats he’s not prepared to carry out”) and when The Blackfish refers to him as Kingslayer and asks, “do you wish to resume your captivity?”

Jaime’s captivity was when he was at his most compelling. Even though he’s not resuming it, these callbacks to the old Interesting Jaime of Seasons 2 and 3 are a hopeful sign for his Riverrun arc.

A Girl Goes to Braavos

Arya’s stabbing is a gut punch to all of us. Arya and Tyrion are the two characters with the most plot-armor. Surely the show wouldn’t actually kill her…right….right?

Although an ailing Arya is not a welcome development, the scene is. It’s adrenaline-fueled and action packed — a welcome kick for Arya’s plot line — and we know a guy who’s got nothing better to do than pick up his axe and help his former roadtrip partner Arya. Though we can vaguely feel out where the Riverrun plot and the Northern plot might go from here, Arya’s story is truly dark and full of terrors. And that’s where Game of Thrones is at its most exciting.

Spare Coins from the Iron Bank

  • So, we’re all on the same page: Lyanna Mormot 2016?
  • “Violence is a disease. You don’t cure a disease by spreading it to more people.” Um, has nobody told Ian McShane what show he’s on?
  • Olenna: “You’ve lost, Cersei. It’s the only joy I can find in all this misery.”
  • Bronn’s return is not as conspicuous as The Hound, as he hasn’t been absent for two whole seasons, but this marks his onscreen debut for this season. Let’s hope he lives to get that castle and bride.
  • Yara speaks for us all when she tells Theon, “I’m tired of watching you cower like a beat dog.”
  • While Yara’s line “since it’s my last night ashore for a long while, I’m going to go fuck the tits off this one,” is not as cringeworthy as Season 5’s “you want a good girl but you need the bad pussy,” it’s a real face-palm. There is no way it was written by a woman or anyone who has interacted with one for a while, and let’s hope it’s Season 6’s worst line.