Season Six, Episode Eight — “No One”
By Jarrod Jones. If nothing else, this week’s episode of Game of Thrones was an exercise in futility. A series of shrugs were followed by audible sighs, only to then be followed by frustrated groans as one plot line after the other fell into place all too neatly. One glaring example of this: Arya got her pound of flesh, in the form of The Waif’s newly-peeled face. (I presume that’s how it went down, anyway; with all these Faceless Men running about, who can really say. Though please submit your “Is Arya The Waif?” theories in the comments below.)
Many guessed that Essie Davis would show up once more before the curtain fell on Game of Thrones‘ sixth season, and those people were absolutely correct. Davis stayed in for another bow (getting the wet-eyed and blotchy-cheeked adulation denied her during those Babadook days), just long enough to cleanly patch poor Arya up so that she could get back to leaping around town like there was no tomorrow. It was a mess of a finale to Arya’s time with the Faceless Men, glossing over the Wee Stark’s peculiar, “ain’t nobody gonna bother me” behavior from last week. (Maybe Arya was just trying to lure The Waif into the open? someone asked me during our screening. No chance.)
Contrivance and convenience, laid at our feet to make plenty of room for next week’s episode — which is likely to be nothing but “BastardBowl 2016” all hour long.
That shouldn’t suggest that “No One” was all place setting and nose-picking. It was a genuine pleasure to see Sandor Clegane put that axe to proper use, on those Brotherhood deserters who chose immediate bloodlust over more moral pursuits. (Brother Swearingen, we hardly knew ye.) Cold winds are rising in the north, the unkillable Beric Dondarrion said to our favorite Clegane. So why don’t you come hang with us? Beric probably remembers how well Sandor can swing a blade. Can’t say’s I blame him.
Cersei presses what little advantage she has over the Sparrows, though it seems that her actions have undone her strategic Mountain maneuver, which all but negates the chances of that other Bowl, The CleganeBowl. No trial by combat? Whatever will she do? I have a feeling it’ll probably have something to do with the throbbing muscle-heap she keeps two steps behind her at all times. Come and get me, she tells Lancel Sparrowshit this week. And The Mountain finally got to have some fun, limited though it was.
It’s good that Cersei’s preoccupied by her dimwit son and his burgeoning piety: Brienne finally got some facetime with Jaime, in one of the episode’s two compelling subplots. (We love you, Sandor, you old Hound!) An awful lot of brooding and covert swooning took place in that red tent this week, with both sharing courtesies and clumsily offered threats in equal measure. (I’ll totally fight you if you make me, Brienne said.) Jaime says he’s proud of Brienne’s faithfulness, which isn’t a lie — Jaime has been looking for a way to retain what little honor he has left ever since he bid Catelyn Stark farewell. Brienne seems to be his one fleeting chance at all of that. But there’s work to do, especially if he’s going to save the one woman he really loves, damn his foolish, beautiful face.
And so it was: the Lannisters walked across Riverrun. What was it that left Jaime as he watched Brienne sail north? was it his breath — or his heart?
WHAT WORKED: Poor Podrick has been sitting around stoking the fires this entire season — an indignity made even more severe considering he’s only had one moment to swing a sword this season before Show sent him back to sharpening Brienne’s blade. Having him pal about with Bronn — brief as it was — should be enough to remind everyone how great these two used to be flanking Tyrion Lannister. Actually, no. It’s not enough. It will never be enough. More Pod/Bronn, please.
WHAT DIDN’T: Two deaths occurred this week that took place entirely offscreen. One major (The Waif) and one, eh… reverential? (Brynden Tully). Another member of House Tully fell under Frey and Lannister blades, though we never saw it happen. (Just like we didn’t see Brynden take a powder just before the dessert was served at The Red Wedding.) It was probably a silly affair to watch anyway, especially for Brynden — even The Blackfish admitted that he had shriveled into a rather useless sword. (His posture as he ran into battle all but confirmed his inevitable demise.)
But The Waif’s demise — cool as it was to see Arya use Needle to wipe out that candle — leaves me feeling uneasy about the whole ding-dang thing. If Arya killed her former teacher in the dark, thus turning her blind fighting lessons against her enemy in another brilliant act of twisted irony (considering it was the Faceless Men who blinded the Wee One in the first place), then bravo, absolutely. But we never see the deed done, which makes me really wonder if Arya is still Arya, and the face splattered all over the House of Black and White is really… oh, my head hurts.
“You’re shit at dying, you know that?” – Sandor.
“I haven’t had a proper sword fight in years. I expect to make a fool of myself.” – Brynden Tully.
BEST MOMENT: Staring back at Jaime in the faint torchlight of Riverrun as Podrick paddled his Lady north, Brienne’s face was a road map of despair, regret, anger, frustration, and melancholy. Jaime’s? The same. Years from now, when slick editors put together best-of clips of Game of Thrones, you can bet your bippy this moment will tear the house down.
EPISODE’S MVP: Lady Brienne. If Gwendoline Christie doesn’t get some serious screentime in Star Wars: Episode VIII, then Disney is officially wasting her time. Christie deserves her own damn franchise after this week’s performance, if her entire Thrones oeuvre hadn’t already convinced you.
– If Tyrion makes it out of all this Ice and Fire alive, he’ll become a vintner — or at least he hopes. A wine called “The Imp’s Delight”. HBO is going to have a bright fifteen minutes in the vin du monde.
– Speaking of Tyrion, isn’t it bothering anyone else that the Little Lion has been all but pushed out of the show’s epicenter? What madness will he take part in now that Grey Worm is mad at him, and Varys has stolen away on a secret Spider mission?
– I still haven’t made up my mind whether or not The Waif’s T-1000 chase sequence was the worst thing to ever happen to this show, or just another generally bad thing.
– Brynden’s face when that Tully brownnose said out loud, “You are not lord of this castle, my lord.” It was something out of The Naked Gun.
– Not present for this week’s skirmish: Elaria, Melisandre, Euron, Ghost, Jorah, Daario, Sam, Gilly, Bran, Benjen, Meera, Littlefinger, Ramsay, Sansa, Jon, Davos, Theon, Yara.
– I defy you to watch this Preview clip and not feel woe for House Stark. #BastardBowl has begun.
6.5 out of 10
Next: “The Battle of Bastards”, soon.
Before: “The Broken Man”, here.