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War looms on the latest 'Game of Thrones' as armies and characters rebuild

Game of Thrones is full of broken men — and as Season 6 has proven time and again, plenty of badass women to pick up their slack — but "The Broken Man” features the return of one such character in an effort to build him back up. And he’s got the always charismatic Ian McShane to help him out.

The Hound, Sandor Clegane, was last seen left for dead in Season 4, but the episode reveals Brother Ray (McShane) picked him up. Clegane held onto life and began working to help Ray in the man’s religious endeavors.

Ray preaches a nonviolent life as a religious septon to his flock and Clegane starts following the same lifestyle in a pocket of the show’s world that seems surprisingly vibrant and hopeful.

That is, until the inevitability of death comes (well, it comes to nonessential characters, at least, as the show’s recent string of returns has proven). Clegane’s days of killing may not be over after a trio of men who worship the Red God slay Ray’s entire group, save for Clegane, who is far off chopping wood and returns only to find all of their dead bodies, including Ray’s.

Picking up an axe, Clegane heads off seemingly to avenge the man and his people who helped him stave off death.

Ray, before his death, told Clegane that the gods had a reason for keeping him alive. Whether that reason is merely to seek vengeance for these people, Clegane is not the only person working to rebuild and seek some retribution. 

Yara and Theon, having temporarily escaped Euron, are enjoying a brief respite. Well, Yara is at least, taking in the women and drink around them with abandon. She still sees how broken her brother is, however, and attempts to fix him with some tough love.

She needs the old Theon, not this shell of a man before her to help her on her quest to unite with Daenerys Targaryen, who Yara hopes will help them reclaim the Iron Islands.

And while the Greyjoys take a pit stop, the Starks are on the move with a similar goal. Jon, Sansa, and Davos are traveling throughout the North to amass an army large enough to take on the Boltons. Sadly, they fall far short of the number they’re aiming for. Sure, the Wildlings agree to help, but that doesn’t engender much goodwill from the families south of the Wall.

A few small houses pledge fealty, including House Mormont’s Lady Lyanna, a young but steadfast ruler who steals the show — and will hopefully return this season — with her curt attitude to those older than her. She eventually pledges 62 Mormont men (who she claims are each as strong as 10 normal men), but other houses turn the Starks down and throw them into uncertainty. There’s already derision among their ranks too, with in-fighting at camp while Jon and Sansa bicker about whether to proceed to battle now.

Jon is eager to jump into the fight — he fears wasting time will only hurt their chances despite the small army, while Sansa wants to continue building up their forces. So she takes matters into her own hands, preparing a mysterious letter to send off by raven to request help. (Though Sansa may be going against Jon’s wishes, it’s certainly a much better decision the choices Arya is making on her own. Seemingly having forgotten that the Faceless Men could be anyone, she lets a random old woman who reveals herself to be the Waif walk up and stab Arya. The young Stark escapes but finds herself bleeding in the streets without a friendly face in sight.)

Who could be on the receiving end of that raven? Sansa has perhaps the most connections in the kingdom of any living Stark, so there are plenty of options, but if she’s hoping to actually ask for Blackfish’s help, as Littlefinger suggested, she may have to wait. Brynden Tully is preparing to defend the castle, his birthplace, the Frey’s so badly want back, and not even the appearance of Jaime Lannister (with Bronn!) shakes his resolve.

Sure, Jaime wastes no time whipping the Frey forces into shape, but Blackfish promises the Lannister only bloodshed and loss will await him should he try to take the castle. If he’d rather let the Tully starve out, Blackfish has that base covered as well, with two years’ worth of supplies to keep them alive.

They stand at an impasse, but Jaime is not likely to simply turn tail and run. He’s sticking to his part of the joint plan he has with Cersei, who is doing her best to keep things in her favor in King’s Landing. Unfortunately, her plans to be bolstered by the Tyrell house go south as Olenna decides to head home. Margaery has informed her grandmother via a secret note that she is still loyal to her house and not the High Sparrow, despite her actions. But Olenna has, unlike Clegane, had quite enough with religious figures and decides to go home to protect her house rather than stay here and risk her life.

It’s a possible setback for Cersei, but likely one she is clever enough to overcome in the episodes ahead. And as Game of Thrones enters the homestretch of a particularly strong season, it’s brought back enough characters with refocused agendas, introduced new powerful players, and rebuilt enough broken figures to set up plenty of thrilling stabbing, whether in the back or on the battlefield, in the episodes to come.

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