TV

Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 7 - "The Broken Man"

Mark W. Pleiss

The seventh episode of Game of Thrones season six featured the return of two of the show's most curious and charismatic characters.


Game of Thrones

Airtime: Sundays, 8pm
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Iain Glen, Maisie Williams
Subtitle: Season 6, Episode 7 - "The Broken Man"
Network: HBO
Air date: 2016-06-05
Amazon

The seventh episode of the sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones lulled as it meandered around its principal storylines, but it stood out for the reappearance of two beloved characters and the potential -- although unlikely -- death of a third.

The episode opened with the return of Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), also named The Hound, who had been left for dead by Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in an earlier season. The Hound represents an important return because he is one of the show’s great monsters.

His name, The Hound, expresses his animalistic features and foregrounds his preference for instinct over reason. Moreover, The Hound suffers from a characteristic physical abnormality. His brother burned him with an iron at a young age, and he still wears the scars on his face and head. However, like all the best monsters, he has endearing, loveable qualities that attract and fascinate viewers.

Firstly, he's a character of great contrasts. He possesses an immense body, an incredible skill at fighting, and a nihilistic vision of reality, but he repeatedly becomes a guardian angel for children. He did the ruthless bidding of Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) before he abandoned his post and eventually became the protector of Arya Stark. During his time with Arya, he repeatedly attempted to sell her for ransom, but that didn't keep him from establishing a meaningful relationship with the girl and protect her on numerous occasions.

Moreover, there's a subtle but comic dimension to The Hound. Physically, the burns on his face have left him with an unfortunate bald spot that he covers with a bad comb over, and his walk, which often has a limp, at times recalls the cartoonish movement of great comedic characters.

He also has a memorable sense of humor. Like his use of the sword, the wit of The Hound is quick, blunt, and jarring. He doesn't speak often, but when he does, he uses only the most vulgar and offensive language to disavow kings, honor, social structures, women, and anyone or anything else he's been hired to defend.

He doesn't fear retribution for the way he speaks, even while standing before Joffrey Baratheon, because The Hound doesn't fear death. More than any other aspect of his character, the hound’s utter indifference toward his own mortality is what makes him a character we want to be.

This isn't something the character tells us; instead, The Hound shows us the feeling of liberation that comes from not caring about how you look or what others think about you. He's a character who's accepted the senselessness and absurdity of the social world and therefore lives by a different code, one that isn't always apparent, but one that seems to make sense for a character like The Hound.

The second character to return was another protector, Bronn (Jerome Flynn). The once defender of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is now the right-hand man, in the most literal sense possible, for Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Also like The Hound, he has an asymmetrical physical appears from an early act of domestic violence: his parents beat him as a child and eventually broke his nose one day with kitchenware.

He differs greatly from The Hound, however, in most every other way. He fights with skill and speed rather than blunt force, and he enjoys rubbing elbows with high society. He may have accepted that social life is meaningless, but unlike the nihilistic Hound, Bronn laughs before the absurd.

Further, he's a hedonist who gravitates naturally toward food, wine, and sex, and represents the much-needed comic relief that keeps the show palatable for a wide audience. He fleshes out the humanity in all the people he meets through his humor, charm, and weakness for temptation. He attracts us because he also is a person we all want to be: embracing the vicissitudes of life and making sure one's time on earth isn't wasted.

It's curious, therefore, that in an episode so driven by male protectors Arya would be attacked and presumed dead. If there's one thing the show has taught us, however, it's that a death is never truly a death until the body is on the slab (and even then there's exceptions).

The Waif (Faye Marsey) finally catches up to Arya for abandoning her training and stabs her multiple times in the stomach, but Arya fights back and escapes. It’s hard to believe this will be the end of Arya, but her situation is dire. She’ll likely need some type of magic to survive, but that doesn't seem out of the question after seeing the resurrection of both The Hound and Jon Snow (Kit Harington).

Speaking of Snow, he's not a gifted recruiter. His road trip around the north to recruit armies recalls Chris Farley's initial (unsuccessful) attempts to sell brake pads in Tommy Boy. Meanwhile, Margaery (Natalie Dormer) has something up her sleeve for High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), but that storyline will likely drag until the final episode of the season.

Hopefully, we'll see Tyrion in the next episode.

Game of Thrones is available on HBO Go and HBO Now.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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