'Game of Thrones' Must-See Moment: Prepare to Meet 'The Broken Man'

A long-thought-dead figure from 'Thrones' lore might return in the next episode, based on the title and insight from the books.
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Ian McShane

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire, the novels on which Game of Thrones is based.]

Consider the words of Ian McShane, the Deadwood veteran and future American Gods star set to make a one-episode appearance on the coming season of Game of Thrones.

"My character is an ex-warrior who has become a peacenik," the actor said during an interview in March. "So I have this group of peaceful … sort of a cult, a peaceful tribe. I bring back a much-loved character who everyone thinks is dead."

Readers of George R.R. Martin's books on which Game of Thrones is based immediately identified McShane's character as the Elder Brother, the leader of the Quiet Isle, a place where warriors cast aside their swords and instead sharpen their penitence. The character appears in a single chapter of A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in Martin's saga, and in the scene, several clues suggest that one of the island's inhabitants is none other than Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann).

The Hound was last seen in the season-four finale, bloodied and beaten after his battle against Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), left for dead by traveling companion Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Many viewers assumed that was the end for the younger Clegane brother. Textual evidence suggests otherwise. The show and the books do not always line up, of course, but take McShane's comments into account, and pair them with Arya's discussion about the Hound's fate from earlier in the season, right before she regained her sight in "Oathbreaker." There's strong reason to believe the Hound is in for a return appearance — and equally strong reason to believe the comeback will occur in the upcoming episode, "The Broken Man."

In A Feast for Crows, Brienne meets a character called Septon Meribald, a holy man who joins her travels for a time. A campsite conversation turns to the topic of outlaws in the Riverlands, and while Meribald agrees that these figures should be feared, he also believes many of them should be pitied — a group he classifies as "the broken men." The passage can be read here, and in it, Meribald describes broken men as dangerous due to desperation, having gone through hell and back and all the way to hell again, thanks to the horrors of war and the consequences of poverty. 

Meribald's "Broken Man" monologue is among Martin's sharpest statements against war in the entire series, a standout piece of writing that feels perfectly primed for adaptation … especially with an accomplished actor of Ian McShane's caliber reciting the words.

Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire have taken divergent paths in the past, and oftentimes that divergence comes in the form of convergence, with two or more characters blending together for efficiency's sake. It's easy to see the Elder Brother and Septon Meribald merging into one, and it's equally easy to see McShane describing the story of "The Broken Man," especially given the episode's title. Not only is the episode likely to bring the Hound back into the fold, then, but it's also poised to adapt one of the most pivotal passages in Martin's entire series. 

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