Game of Thrones: No One
Further Warning: This review has been identified to potentially trigger rage in people with ‘All Caps and Exclamation Mark Sensitivity’. Reader discretion advised.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then you will know the pain of watching a show that gives a bit with one hand and takes heavily with the other. So playing true to character, Season 6 has given us a revived Jon reuniting with Sansa, BrienneXTormund: the ship that we never knew we wanted, Coldhands and The Hound. Then it has taken Stannis, Hodor, Osha, Summer, Shaggydog, Areo Hotah, Doran Martell and a large number of hotly debated fan theories.
Is that you Syri.. oh no 🙁
After Episode 7: The Broken Man, the internet was teeming with hype for Clegane Bowl, Lady Stoneheart, Syrio Forel and an Arya that was suffering from multiple personality disorder a la Fight Club or was actually Jaqen H’ghar in disguise depending on which way round you were wearing your tinfoil hat. And whilst those theories were wild and somewhat preposterous, they also captured the imaginations and skyrocketed expectations of many fans. By the time we were all sitting down to watch Episode 8, I’m afraid the hype train had derailed and expectations were so monumental that when we actually got a more subtle tale about coming home, a tidal wave of disappointment washed over a large proportion of the fan base and media coverage.
Rest in peace, sweet tinfoil theories
Definitively I want to say that this wasn’t a bad episode of Game of Thrones, but it just wasn’t the episode that the fans wanted. I wasn’t immune to this feeling either, by the time the show had finished I felt completely deflated at first. And yet, I can’t help but think that whilst this episode will be known for some time as the point in Season 6 where the showrunners killed the hype, viewed again after some time, it will hold up as being just as good as the other episodes in this season.
Let me explain why.
Episode 8: No One, opens where the previous episode left off. Arya was stealthed by the Waif in Episode 7, and whilst it looked fairly horrific at the time, she seems to be mostly okay thanks to a combination of bandages, soup and Milk of the Poppy.
Someone being nice to a Stark? This won’t end well
It seems particularly clear on a second watch through that Arya didn’t know that the Waif had seen her spare Lady Crane’s life and that she thought at the very least, she would have more time to make her escape to Westeros. So when we saw her last week brazenly out in the open, booking passage to Westeros and flagrantly standing around on bridges, her lack of vigilance was due to her thinking she could get away before the Faceless Men could discover that she had not fulfilled her contract.
And whilst this is certainly the most boring outcome of Arya’s story arc, it makes a lot more sense than her having a psychotic break or Jaqen wearing her face to test the Waif. I still felt disappointed though. I wanted Arya to be on the front-foot after all of her training with the Faceless Men. I wanted to see her finally as this totally ominiscient badass assassin girl utterly victorious against the Waif. This is Game of Thrones though and we need to remember that. No victory for a character comes without a cost, and when you lose it’s usually death (unless you’re Ramsey Bolton). Take the Lannisters for example, they were on top and winnning the Game of Thrones and now they are on a downward spiral that could end with seeing their House completely wiped out.
Cersei: Queen of ‘I’m Not Fucking Around’
So it is fitting then that we go from Arya, a character who has made some terrible mistakes to another Cersei Lannister, who is paying the ultimate price for arming the Faith Militant. Cersei is probably one of my favourite characters; full of paradoxes – she can go from being wonderfully cunning to flabbergastingly stupid in a matter of moments – and yet she is nothing but consistent in her desires to protect her family and her House and to crush her enemies. So as those around her have had to bend to The High Sparrow’s wishes, she chooses not to.
I choose violence
Even as her last remaining child Tommen, in an act of betrayal that would have Joffrey turning in his grave, seals her fate as he abolishes the practice of trial by combat (crushing many hopes for Cleganebowl this season), she is still planning to fight back. Olenna pointed out last season that Cersei was completely outnumbered, and yet she will not give up. Qyburn confirming ‘a rumour’ and Bran’s flashbacks earlier in the season seem to be foreshadowing the burning of Kings Landing by wildfyre and Cersei to be the one to light it up. If she does, then Dany’s visions in the House of the Undying will not just be a metaphor, but reality. It could very well be the case that by the time Daenerys has stormed Kings Landing to take the Iron Throne, there is literally nothing left for her to rule.
The ultimate irony
Ruling the Riverlands has been a focus of the show for the past couple of episodes, and here we see it finally reach it’s resolution. On the surface, this segment is another anti-climax. There is no siege of Riverrun, no clever subterfuge that allows the Tully army to escape, no duel between Jaime and the Blackfish. We are instead robbed of giving such a cool character a good send off as the Blackfish is killed offscreen as we hear about it from an extra. WTF? We all cried.
Goodbye you grumpy Sonovabitch
But in retrospect, I don’t think the Riverlands storyline was ever really about the siege, it was about exploring Jaime’s character. Seeing Brienne again and her trusting and believing in him, being surrounded by honourable knights (Brienne and Blackfish) we see Jaime holding himself up against their example. So in the scene between him and Edmure, he plays up to his persona as being this despicable, baby catapulting, big bad Lannister; but actually his plan allows for the Tully army to be disarmed without a significant loss of life. The Tully House can continue too without the death of Edmure. Yes seeing the Blackfish die offscreen was an anti-climax, but I genuinely think that Jaime’s story will be building towards something much bigger that will push him to his limit. We havent been shown him killing King Aerys in Bran’s flashbacks for no reason. I think his story is going to come full circle, maybe in Episode 10?
A couple of quick asides here:
- Bronn and Pod are the best. I would pay money to see a spin-off involving them. #Justsaying.
- The goodship JaimeXBrienne is back afloat, sorry Tormund it was good whilst it lasted
And on to where another Lannister is paying for his debts, we have Tyrion in Meereen. His plans to make a deal with the Masters has backfired and they are now sieging the city with boats and fire catapults. Fortunately though, the great white hype Daenerys is back with a vengeance and certainly not happy to see what’s happened to her city. We don’t get any lines from her, but I imagine it’s not going to go well for Tyrion. He doesn’t have the relationship with Dany that Jorah had either, so whilst it could be exile for him, it could also be a lot worse. We’ll have to wait to find out.
I make joke
And now the scene that pissed on the bonfires of those fans who wanted to see Lady Stoneheart, The Hound meets the Brotherhood without Banners. Honestly, I thought this was a pretty cool scene. It was good to see Thoros and Beric again and even better, hearing the news that they’re heading North to fight in the war against the White Walkers. For a long time now I’ve been wondering when we’d finally see Westeros begin to mobilise, and with reports of Season 7 and 8 being shorter than the 10 episode seasons we’ve had so far, it needs to happen pretty quickly. So great news that we’re getting some traction towards the show’s endgame, and there could be a Sansa/Arya/Hound reunion which would be brilliant. Unfortunately no Stoneheart, but honestly she’s not that great a character to me. I’d much rather spend time with Thoros and Dondarrion and I really don’t care if that makes me the unpopular kid :p
Oh and for the record, I still think we’re going to get Clegane Bowl. I just think it won’t be this season. Random thought though, can The Mountain be controlled by the Whitewalkers because he’s dead???
And now for the showdown we’ve been waiting all season for and the end of Arya’s time in Braavos. There was shouting at my screen when Lady Crane died (she reminded me so much of Catelyn) and then for pretty much the whole chase sequence. Watching it a second time for writing this review, it’s still ridiculously tense and well-paced. I did see a reference to the Waif being pretty much like the T1000 in Terminator 2 online and now I can’t unsee that.
Look out Arya!!!
This sequence has got a lot of hate because Arya was able to run so well with stomach stab wounds, but I think that drinking Milk of the Poppy probably meant she didn’t feel any pain until her wounds reopened again or maybe she has picked up some magic from the House of Black and White?
Deus Ex Magicka
I also definitely think she was leading the Waif to her hiding place. The candle was on for a reason, the look she has before she extinguishes it shows Arya in complete control. Again, I would’ve loved to see the fight so much, but I realise that the Waif had more experience than Arya, was uninjured and so had the upper hand. By fighting her in the dark, Arya had the advantage after being blinded. It couldn’t have gone another way I don’t think.
So it is fitting then that Arya pays the Many-Faced God with a life that had been promised, the Waif’s. Even up to the final reveal of the face (and how cool was it that it was crudely done?) I thought Arya might have lost the fight, but as Jaqen says, she has finally graduated from
Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters the House of Black and White and in a moment that really did give me goosebumps, Arya declares that she isn’t No One. She’s not Arry, Weasel, Cat of the Canals or Mercy. She’s been running from all of the horrible things that happened to her and now she’s ready to face them as Arya Stark of Winterfell. It’s been a long time coming Arya.
Hopefully we’ll see you back with Sansa, Jon and Rickon (or maybe not Rickon) toute suite for the war against the White Walkers. They could do with a nightvision-possessing murder wizard on their side. Also DAT JON REUNION THO.
So whilst the hype levels have dropped dramatically, the lesson we as fans need to take away from all of this is to remember it’s Game of Thrones and we need to curb some of our enthusiasm. Ramsey Bolton said it best: ‘if you think this is going to end well, then you haven’t been paying attention’.
Preview for episode 9, Game of Thrones: The Battle of the Bastards
A few final thoughts:
- I’m getting some serious Riders of Rohan vibes from that promo
- Will Littlefinger be saving the day?
- Is Davos going to kill Melissandre?
- What will happen to Tyrion?
- WHAT ABOUT MY CABBAGES?
- And if you’re feeling too depressed about this episode, then watching this should help