Welcome to Just a Game of Thrones, the column singing backup vocals on the Song of Ice and Fire.


The Broken Man Talking Life

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

We came into “The Broken Man” – the fourth-to-last episode of this season – with Team Stark preparing to take back Winterfell, The Faith and The Crown uniting under the High Sparrow, and Daenerys Targaryen, in a potential heel turn, screaming from the top of a fully-mature dragon how she is going to kill everyone everywhere.

Thus, the pastoral, Thoreauvian beauty of the beginning of this episode came as a bit of a surprise…


Not as much as the CleganeBowl-confirming reveal of The Hound (we’ll get to that below), but a surprise nonetheless. Throughout our telecinematic voyage across this known world, we’ve never encountered something like Septon Meribald/Brother Ray’s co-op congregation.

In fact, after six seasons of complex wars and countless murders – not to mention, the looming apocalyptic threat of ice demons – the last thing any of us have had time to think about is the grander, bigger-picture concept this episode uniquely yet repeatedly forced us to reckon with…

I’m talking about life.


As Walden and “The Broken Man” remind us, living really is so dear – especially when one is surrounded by death at every turn. So dear it can’t help but triumph over the ultimate resignation when it comes to the ultimate ultimatum; so dear it spurs some to suck out all the marrow of what life they have been (re)given. One single life can cement a Holy Empire, or it can represent an entire castle’s dogged defiance.

Still, what makes living so singularly special is it’s, Arya’s lacerated spleen can attest, a stubbornly fragile thing.

Something as simple as something sharp can poke it right away…


And that, Thoreau tells us, is why we the living try to put to rout all that is not life – why we cut a broad swath and shave close, driving life into a corner in hopes of reducing it to its lowest terms.

It’s why we must insistently drink, repeatedly and recklessly, from the deep cup of ale that is life…


Because it’s true to our nature, to want to know it by experience.


Break The Wheel of Hot Takes




For those of you who don’t frequent the r/asoiaf subreddit, Westerosi.org, and the other GoT-related rabbit holes of the internet, “CleganeBowl” refers to one of the most fanatically worshipped – and, as of “The Broken Man,” confirmed – fan theories out there.

Essentially, for a few years now, a diehard faction of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones enthusiasts have been predicting Sandor Clegane (The Hound) will get revenge on his older brother Gregor (The Mountain) in a trial-by-combat that determines the ultimate fate of Cersei Lannister – even though The Hound and The Mountain have both at one point or another been presumed dead!

To backtrack, here’s the general gist…

  • Cersei Lannister has to stand trial for her crimes against the gods/The Faith
  • Cersei’s trial will be a trial-by-combat
  • Gregor Clegane, in mind-controlled resurrected zombie form, will be her champion
  • Sandor Clegane, now proven never dead in the first place, will be The Crown/Faith’s champion
  • Everyone, both in King’s Landing and viewing at home, will be hyped

There’s a bunch of GoT easter eggs and ASoIaF passages CleganeBowlers point to when espousing this belief, but my personal favorite piece of evidence is actually a book-only “spoiler,” so proceed at your own risk TV watchers…

If you recall that first flashback scene from last season, you’ll remember teenage-Cersei was told a bunch of hard truths about her future queendom and tragic trio of children by a witch named Maggy the Frog#. In the book, however, in addition to the news of her royal upheaval and murdered prodigy, Maggy also lays this one on Cersei:

“And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

Many people have assumed this referred to Tyrion, the youngest Lannister child, as valonqar is High Valyrian for “little brother.” But CleganeBowl truthers have taken this to actually mean Sandor Clegane, Gregor’s little brother – and, should he win the trail-by-combat, essentially the executioner of Cersei.

Not bad, right?

It’s also worth pointing out that unlike, say, the boring and preachy R+L=J purists out there, the duly-rewarded hypers of the CleganeBowl theory promote this thing like if a soccer hooligan and Tumblr bred an army of bookworms.

For example, here they are on an only-tangentially-related topic thread…


And here was the r/CleganeBowl subreddit after tonight’s episode…


For further example, this video…

Or this one…

Or this one, my personal favorite…

Congratulations again, CleganeBowl hypers.

Tonight is yours to celebrate…



Stark ’16: The Vetting Process

Every political candidate goes through a vetting process, when their candidacy is scrutinized by everyone from their opponents to the media to members of their own party.

In “The Broken Man,” as Team Stark gave their stump speech across the North, they too encountered the three main hurdles every candidate has to clear when going through that beginning stretch of the political marathon…

1) Why do you deserve my vote?


2) What are your qualifications?


3) Do you actually have a shot of winning this thing?


With only 2,305 men behind them it’s an uphill battle for sure, but at least they’ve got momentum on their side!



Cersei’s Current Situation

(as related by Lady Olenna Tyrell)


  • she has no support, not anymore
  • her brother is gone, High Sparrow saw to that
  • the rest of her family has abandoned her
  • the people despise her
  • she’s surrounded by enemies, thousands of them
  • she’s lost, the only joy Lady Olenna can find in this misery


The HoF of GoT GIFs

Queen Toadstool


Does It Move or Speak?




The Strength of 10 Mainlanders


A Game of Chicken with the Blackfish


Are You With Me? Are You REALLY With Me?


The Fox Axe and the Hound



Sword to my Throat, I’d Bet _____ Wins the Game of Thrones

(this is subject to, and will most likely, change each week)



Villains may get far in this story, but they’ve always seen their due comeuppance, so I’d be hard-pressed to explain how Dany is both the secret big-bad and the ultimate victor, which means someone’s got to fill that power vacuum.

Most people might not choose to give it to the crippled kid whose currently relying on a teenage girl and zombie uncle to help escape a nigh-invincible ice demon, but stranger things have happened in this story.

Like, ya know, a crippled kid using the tree-internet to go back in time and possessing a person in the present while still in the past…