Welcome to the calm before the storm, fellow Throne Geeks! Last night, the eighth episode of this season of Game of Thrones aired, which means we only have two more to go! Given the history of this show and the fact that next week’s episode is entitled “The Battle of the Bastards,” I think we’re in for something truly epic. But before we get to that, we had to get through “No One,” a strangely paced hour of television that brought us several reunions, a wrinkle in a certain ex-queen’s plan, a drunk joke telling contest (really?), a disappointing end for a recently returned minor character, and an ultimately unsurprising declaration from one Arya Stark.
In the first episode where we don’t go north at all, at least two plot threads come to some sort of conclusion: Arya in Braavos and the Siege of Riverrun. Several others, however, merely set the stage for some presumably big moments in the season finale (I think it’s safe to say that next week will take place almost entirely at Winterfell). For not having checked in with several characters, the episode felt overly crowded and somewhat disappointing based on the things it didn’t show, rather than what it did.
On the other hand, the redeeming qualities of “No One” reside in the continued struggle many of our characters have with identity and purpose. While Arya is certainly (finally) clear about who she is, both Jaime and Sandor continue searching for some sort of meaning in what they do and who they are. Jaime believes his purpose is Cersei (but is torn by the honor that Brienne sees in him) and The Hound may have found his with the not-so-bad-after-all Brotherhood Without Banners. Tyrion really can’t catch a break as his plans for Mereen fall apart (but worked for just long enough to get Dany home…more wheel spinning?) and it seems as if Cersei’s last bit of honest humanity may have been stripped from her as her one remaining child, Tommen, fully turns his back on his mother. This may unleash something even worse than The Mountain.
With that, everyone grab a pair of boots off a hanged man and join me as we break down “No One.”
Given the title of the episode, it should surprise no one (hah!) that we begin and end in Braavos. First up is Lady Crane, who, after bringing down the house by making some of Arya’s suggested changes to the Joffrey death scene in the play (by adding in some righteous anger on top of the tears), walks backstage to find a girl bleeding in the changing room. She takes Arya home with her where she tends her wounds (turns out she’s good at stabbing men who cheat on her and then patching them back up again). She asks Arya to join their acting troupe as they head for Pentos (they need a young actress since Lady Crane disfigured the one who hired the faceless men to kill her…this lady is kind of a bad ass!), but Arya worries that she’ll put them in danger because the Waif is still out there.
Turns out she was right, because after conveniently waiting for Arya to get some milk of the poppy induced rest, the Waif turns up and brutally murders Lady Crane before chasing Arya out the window (!) and through the streets of Braavos.
- Begin Rant: Ok. So, like many of you, I read the well thought out theory from last week that suggested that it wasn’t actually Arya who was stabbed on the bridge, but Jaqen disguised as Arya (as a way to test the Waif and see if she would truly kill Arya without making her suffer. The Waif technically failed that test as she clearly didn’t deliver a fatal blow…though you would think stabbing Arya several times in the gut would be incapacitating, to say the least…but apparently not). This theory helped explain why Arya was so nonchalantly walking through Braavos and throwing around bags of gold to Westerosi ship captains WITHOUT NEEDLE! For someone who has been through as much as Arya has (not to mention the months of training she received at the House of Black and White) this seemed like stupid behavior and we all wanted to believe Arya wouldn’t be that stupid. And yet…it turns out she was being that stupid! To add insult to injury, as she is being chased through the streets of Braavos in this episode (after having gotten Lady Crane killed), Arya suddenly becomes very smart; deciding to lead the Waif back to her hidey-hole where she would have the upper hand in the dark (and where she had Needle). Now, don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to see Arya acting this way – it’s how she should have been acting last week – but the whiplash was just too much. If the writers had just tweaked last week so that she wasn’t so brazen in her walking around and asking for passage west…I still would have bought that the Waif found her and stabbed her out of spite (rather than just straight up killing her like she was supposed to do). Some may argue that the entire thing was part of Arya’s plan…to get the Waif to find her so she could lead her underground….but there are far too many variables to that plan (including the fact that it got an innocent person killed). Normally the show isn’t so clumsy with the motivations and actions of its characters, which is why I find this chain of events so frustrating that I had to include this rant. Rant Over.
Despite the confusing aspects of this storyline, it’s impossible to deny that director Mark Mylod shot the chase scene incredibly well. The integration of the stunt doubles was seamless and the framing of the Waif whenever she appeared in the background was perfectly menacing. About halfway through, it became clear that Arya was deliberately leading the Waif along and the way she concluded the scene, by slicing the candle with Needle and cutting to black was just right as well, though I’m sure many of you were disappointed we didn’t actually get to see Arya take down the Waif. But that’s the point, isn’t it? In the dark, no one can see, and any cheated light so we, as an audience at home, could see the action, would have cheapened Arya’s accomplishment. She picked the only circumstance where she would have the upper hand and the slow reveal of The Waif’s face in the Hall of Faces, as Jaqen looked on, also felt like a fitting conclusion.
Jaqen seemed a little disconnected in the final scene, though, and I was surprised he thought Arya’s defeat of the Waif meant that she had embraced being “No One.” Arya set him straight real quick: she is Arya Stark and she’s going home. Thank the Many Faced God.
Further south, Tyrion gets two scenes to revel in his supposed accomplishments running the city of Mereen. Red Priestesses are praising Dany to the people of the city and it seems the markets are once again open and bustling. Varys still isn’t in love with the idea of allying with religious fanatics, but he has more pressing matters elsewhere. Apparently, he has decided a secret mission to Westeros is needed so he’s off to go find some more allies for Dany (who they seem quite convinced is going to come back any day now…I mean, we know they’re right, but they don’t know that…that’s some pretty strong blind faith on their parts, but ok). I have my fingers crossed for a Varys/Qyburn confrontation in the finale…
Meanwhile, Tyrion spends an entire scene trying to get Missandei and Grey Worm drunk. After partially succeeding, they take turns telling jokes. I don’t know what to say about the scene other than I’ll watch Peter Dinklage do anything, but really? Tyrion hasn’t had a great season, mostly because he’s been wrong so much of it…and Tyrion is supposed to be smarter than that. Regardless, their little party is interrupted by an incoming fleet of ships…I guess the slave masters of Yunkai and Astapor have decided to reject Tyrions’ plan after all (what took them so long, you ask? Wheel spinning, I say). They attack the city.
Have no fear, though, because just as Grey Worm overrules Tyrion and declares that the Unsullied will pull back and defend the Great Temple, something causes the roof to shake as a certain Dragon Queen returns to her flock. Looks like the Battle of Fire is going to happen after all this season and while it’s unlikely to be as big as the Battle of the Bastards next week, I do suspect some dragon action as well as the timely arrival of some Ironborn in the finale. As long as Dany finally points herself west at the end of it, I’m good.
In The Riverlands
After brutally killing a group of men in the woods, The Hound finally finds the three Brotherhood Without Banners members who murdered his peaceful sept building friends last week. Luckily for them, they were first found by the leaders of the Brotherhood Without Banners: Lord Beric Dondarrion (sorry Lady Stoneheart fans…), he who has been brought back to life many times, and Thoros of Myr, the drunk Lord of Light worshipping priest who somehow has the power to continuously bring Beric back from the dead. It turns out that the three members who slaughtered Sandor’s friends had gone rogue, and Beric ordered them hanged. Sandor negotiates a bit and gets to personally hang two of them (though he would have preferred to use his axe…thus it being rather lucky that the rogues were caught and hung instead).
Beric and Thoros sense a change in Sandor as they offer him food (and after he takes one of the hanged man’s boots…such a brilliantly Sandor thing to do). He may still be foul mouthed, rude, and a brutal killer, but he also seems to want to believe in the idea that he has a purpose in life (brought on by his miraculous recovery and the teachings of Ray, the septon from last week). Beric understands that the real threat is coming from the north and that men like Sandor could be useful in the fight to come. So maybe The Hound has found his place…though I think there is a possibility he will run into Brienne and Pod, seeing as they are in the same vicinity.
They are there because of their mission from Sansa: to convince her great Uncle, The Blackfish, to bring his Tully army north to help her against the Boltons. Unfortunately, the army is a bit busy resisting a siege run by Jaime Lannister (and those pesky Freys) at Riverrun. Brienne demands to be taken to Jaime while old friends Bronn and Pod have a lovely little reunion. More Bronn and Pod please.
Also, more Brienne and Jaime please! In Jaime’s best scene since we last saw him with Brienne, he expresses surprise and pride at Brienne’s success in finding and pledging herself to Sansa. There is some conflict, however, given that Sansa is a wanted criminal by Cersei (who still thinks she and Tyrion killed Joffrey), but Jaime cannot condemn Brienne for her loyalty to the Starks, as Brienne cannot condemn Jaime for his loyalty to his house – though it does put them on opposite sides of the war. Brienne appeals to Jaime’s sense of honor as a knight (she truly sees the best in him) and asks for his word to allow the Tully army to ride north if she can get the Blackfish to abandon the castle. It’s a plan that appeals to them both as it avoids bloodshed but still turns the castle back over to the Freys.
Unfortunately, The Blackfish is, as Jaime says, a stubborn old goat who refuses to abandon his home, even to help his great niece (who he says sounds very much like Catelyn…). And so Jaime tries another tactic: threaten Edmure Tully into taking the castle from The Blackfish (since he is, technically, the true Lord of Riverrun) and then turning it over to The Lannisters and Freys without a fight. It’s another great performance by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who focuses in on the one thing that drives him, his love for Cersei. Like Catelyn, who set her greatest enemy free for a chance to save her daughters, Jamie is willing to do anything for the person he loves most in the world.
He appeals to Edmure’s sense of self-preservation, as well as his love and duty as a new father (of a son he’s never seen) and Lord of Riverrun. Edmure, never as strong as his sister or uncle, caves under the pressure and demands to be let into the castle. The Blackfish understands that it is a trap but the guards are honor bound to obey their lord, even though, once he’s inside, he demands that they surrender. The Blackfish sneaks away in order to get Brienne and Pod out on a rowboat in the night…and then dies fighting offscreen.
Seriously? What an absolute insult to such a great character.
As Brienne and Pod row away in the early morning hours, Jaime watches them from the ramparts. He raises his hand in goodbye, a gesture Brienne returns. She has failed in her mission to find help for Sansa, and her reconnection with Jaime possibly foreshadows a future confrontation between the two. It seems impossible to think they could fight side by side with her serving the Stark, the mortal enemy of the Lannisters. But it was beautiful to watch two characters, who so often second guess themselves, recognize and honor each others strengths. I’m not necessarily a Jaime/Brienne ‘shipper, as they say, but in a story where there are so few genuine connections (outside family), it’s one of the show’s most unique and heartwarming relationships (meaning: it’s doomed).
In Kings Landing
Look out Sparrows, The Mountain really is a monster and a makeshift weapon to his chest armor isn’t going to stop him from tearing your head off.
Cersei is summoned to the Sept of Baelor by the High Sparrow, but, fearful of being imprisoned again, Cersei declines the “invitation.” Lancel and the other sparrows move to take her forcibly, but are stopped by The Mountain. Lancel appeals to Cersei to prevent the moment from erupting in violence, but she chillingly chooses violence and The Mountain proves his worth by murdering the silly man who attempts to kill him.
In retaliation, The High Sparrow (off screen) influences the king to make a new law, which he announces in the throne room. Cersei hears there is to be an announcement and shows up, once again tailed by The Mountain and creepy ex-maester Qyburn. After she is forced to watch the announcement in the gallery (with the rest of ‘ladies of the court”) rather than standing beside her son, Cersei learns that the Faith has set a date for her and Loras’ trials (the first day of the Festival of The Mother).
Tommen also states that trials by combat are now outlawed (since they are barbaric…uh, yeah…remember what happened to Oberyn?!). Cersei and Loras shall, instead, by given a “fair” trial, presided over by seven septons. Yeah, right. So now that it seems as if her last remaining child has truly turned his back on her, and that The Mountain cannot be her champion, Cersei will likely resort to something drastic. Something she and Qyburn rather cryptically (and ominously) refer to at the end of the scene: a rumor she had heard turns out to be “much more.”
- Jaime and Brienne meet for the first time since season four! They see the best in each other and Jaime insists that the sword, Oathkeeper, is hers. They also wave to each other in the end and it’s almost heartbreaking to watch. Please don’t have them fight each other in the end. Please don’t have them fight each other in the end.
- The last of Cersei’s allies and defenses are taken from her. Her son has given up on her and The Mountain can no longer represent her in a trial by combat. Look out though…a Cersei with her back up against a wall is a very dangerous woman.
- Arya is DONE with the faceless men (and that smug little Waif is now just another face on the wall).
Most Shocking Moments:
- The Mountain rips a Sparrows head off.
- Lady Crane dies after all (bummer, she was kind of awesome).
- The Hound joins up with the Brotherhood Without Banners? Hmm.
- I choose violence – Cersei
- I prefer chicken. – The Hound
- She’d f*ck him, don’t ya think? The way she looks at him. The way all women look at him is frankly irritating. I preferred working for the little brother on that account. – Bronn about Brienne and Jaime
- The things we do for love. – Jaime (love the throwback to season one, episode one when Jaime pushes Bran out the window to protect himself and Cersei)
- A girl is Arya Stark of Winterful and I’m going home. – Arya
- Was Arya really being that stupid last week?? Really??
- What is the “much more” Qyburn is referring to? Is it wildfire as many suspect, based on Bran’s Mad King visions from two weeks ago?
- Book readers: is Lady Stoneheart just not coming back now that we know Beric is still alive?
- Was it me, or did Dany look like she was ready to seriously scold her “kids” when she walked in to the Pyramid. “What did you do to my city?!”
So that’s it for “No One,” an uneven episode that felt like an appetizer to the main course we’re about to get with episodes nine and ten. The scenes at Riverrun were extremely well done, giving us a very complicated but determined Jaime, though the show lamely decided not to give The Blackfish an honorable on screen death. Events in Mereen were rather disappointing given that just about everything Tyrion did there failed, and ultimately felt like treading water until Dany’s return.
The possible team up of Beric and Thoros and The Hound is intriguing, and I’m sure we’re all waiting with baited breath to see what Cersei has up her sleeve. As for Arya, I’m glad to see she’s definitely “back” and thought the chase scene was great, but shame on the writers for not being more consistent with her story arc and character. I think it’s entirely possible we won’t see her again this season, as the last two episodes have to deal with the Battle of the Bastards, the Battle of Fire in Mereen and the climax of events in Kings Landing. I also think we’ll finally see the conclusion of The Tower of Joy flashback (we’d better…).
So be sure to check back in here, at GeekNation, as we cover the last two episodes of this season of Game of Thrones!
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