I've seen more than a few people complain about Game of Thrones' "No One," the eighth episode of the sixth season of the HBO hit. But I've also seen someone swear on their lives that green Gummi Bears are the best. To each his/her own, I guess, even when said "his" and/or "her" are DEAD WRONG. "No One" appears to be that episode where most people have reached their limit with being strung along, and I get it! You might be asking yourself where are the big action pieces? Where is the millions of dollars of production value to satisfy my bloodthirst? Why isn't this show exactly what I want it to be?
Personally, I enjoyed "No One" a lot despite some glaring holes. There were some great character interactions, some big developments (even if they crushed some hopes), and two people got their heads cut off or ripped off. That's satisfying for me. Game of Thrones has the unfair burden of living up to expectations, and to be honest, some people's expectations of the show are a little much. All I ask is to be immersed in a world that allows me to forget about my real life, develop a few crushes on some fictional characters, and watch a few beheadings. Mission accomplished. Leave the airtight storytelling to Zoo and the believability to Grey's Anatomy.
Now roll down some stairs on a bunch of fruit and let's discuss what happened in "No One."
"I choose violence." - Cersei Lannister
Boooooooo! Total. Bummer. I know this quote from The Hound (Rory McCann) was aimed at Joffrey, but let's all join together in a chorus to repeat what he grumbled before: "F*** the king." Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) continued his march right up the list of Game of Thrones' worst people when he decided to change the rules of tradition and eliminate the idea of trial by combat, thus crushing hopes for the much-hyped Cleganebowl, the theorized fight to the death between Sandor (The Hound) and Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) with Cersei Lannister's (Lena Headey) life on the line. Ugh, Tommen, you inbred twit. Why don't you cancel Christmas while you're at it?
I know trial by combat wasn't the most just way of solving issues, but it sure beats seven old conservative men thrusting their antiquated morals on others. At least trial by combat had about a 50/50 chance of getting it right and provided entertainment. Are you stoked to hear these septons chastise Cersei and Loras (Finn Jones) about who they can and cannot love? No you are not.
Thankfully we got some Zombie Mountain action before the Cleganebowl hype was brutally murdered. When the Faith Militant arrived to summon Cersei before the High Sparrow, Cersei was like, "Let me think about i-NOPE." One particularly faithful militant must have been a little deep into some holy wine because he thought it would be a good idea to attack Zombie Mountain. It wasn't!
The only thing that could have made that better was if Zombie Mountain crushed the guy's head against his face like he was a tailgater crushing an empty beer can. If I get to choose my death, I want to go like that, please.
One small note of interest: What were naughty necromancer Qyburn (Anton Lesser) and Cersei talking about when they mentioned the rumors that the "little birds" discovered were true? Was it the size Pod's "magical" endowment? Was it The Hound's return (keep Cleganebowl hype alive!)? Or was it — as Internet theorists have guessed — the rumored large cache of wildfire that King Aerys "The Mad King" Targaryen had stashed underneath King's Landing? If it is indeed wildfire, will Cersei use it against the Faith? And will Tommen be included in that, fulfilling the prophecy that all her children will die? I hope so, and I pray to whatever god will see that happen.
"You're s*** at dying, you know that?" - Sandor "The Hound" Clegane
Following the massacre of his pious pals by members of the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Hound sought after the culprits to axe them a few questions. Questions like, "What's your head still doing on your neck?"
Less than 15 minutes into the episode and both Clegane brothers showed off their decapitation skills, and that already made this a tremendous episode.
The Hound later found the leader of the marauders and the others he was looking for, and they were just hanging out with some old pals. Those old pals? Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) and the rest of the Brotherhood Without Banners we met in Season 3, who had the murderers all noosed up and ready to dangle for sullying the honor of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Getting the Hound back last week and Beric and Thoros back this week was like having a middle-of-the-week birthday and celebrating on two weekends.
These guys together are the best. None of that house loyalty to bog them down, no kings or queens to answer to, just grown men out in the woods discussing the merits of hacking prisoners to pieces versus hanging them. Oh, how I've missed this crew and the sparks that fly between Beric and the Hound.
And we may not have seen the last of them! Beric asked the Hound to join them as they travel north to deal with the "cold winds rising in the North," a.k.a. the White Walkers a.k.a. the real problem. We didn't see the Hound's response, but a good consolation for the cancellation of the Cleganebowl would be watching the Hound kill a bunch of ice zombies.
(Fun fact: Richard Dormer, who plays Beric, also provides the voice for Lily's dad in Lily's Driftwood Bay, an adorable Irish children's show. Now I will always picture Lily's dad getting killed and resurrected through some Lord of Light voodoo.)
"Only Cersei." - Jaime Lannister
Well that was easy. The big battle we'd hoped for at Riverrun never was because Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) found a non-violent (well, mostly non-violent) solution to taking the castle. That solution? Threaten to splatter Edmure's (Tobias Menzies) infant son on the walls of Riverrun by launching him from a catapult. Not going to lie, I half wished that Edmure would say, "I call your bluff!" and then a scene later we watched a baby careen through the air and smash open like a watermelon. (Reminder: this is a fantasy show and none of it is real.) Oh the thinkpieces that would birth!
But alas, Edmure bowed to the threats and as lord of Riverrun allowed Jaime and his army to waltz into the castle and take it over. Contrast that with Brendyn "The Blackfish" Tully (Clive Russell), who defiantly stood atop the walls of Riverrun and shot down any idea of surrendering, and Edmure looked like a big pushover, didn't he? And that's just to us, TV viewers who know this whole thing is fake. Imagine what the Tully men must have been thinking when Edmure gave the orders to throw down their weapons and bend over. That's going to have consequences down the line for the Tullys and I wouldn't count on them for any support if I were the Starks. The best they can hope for is that the Tully men leave Edmure and pledge allegiance to the Starks.
But back to Edmure's decision. The threats-against-the-family trope is a well-worn method of character manipulation in storytelling and one that can be deployed at any time which makes it lose some of its potency, and in this case it's even harder to swallow than normal. Edmure hasn't even ever seen his son — the kid may not even exist, for all we know — and we have no background of Edmure's family loyalty to make Edmure's decision impactful. It was just, "Hey you have a kid somewhere probably," and Edmure was like, "It's all yours. Let me make sure there are clean towels in the loo." For us, the viewers, to understand, we need to see Edmure's love for his family, but we know little about him other than he can't shoot an arrow and he's a bit of a self-centered prick. That doesn't speak family man to me.
Thankfully, the talk between Edmure and Jaime in the tent was sharp and gave insight into both characters. Perspective was key here, as Jaime recounted his side of things — as he often has had to do since he's saddled with the "Kingslayer" nickname — and you couldn't help but respect him. "The things we do for love" was a nice callback to Season 1 when Jaime shoved a Peeping Bran out of a Winterfell tower, and offered a new take on the phrase. In Season 1 when he said it, we heard a jerk. Here, we saw a man truly, deeply in love with someone and willing to do whatever he had to in order to get back to her. Okay fine, it's his sister and ewwwww, but it's a genuine love on his part and that changes things, doesn't it? This is my long-winded way of saying that I love Jaime Lannister, I guess. In a show where honor plays such a huge role, few men are as honorable as Jaime Lannister.
And that honor continued when he saw Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) rowing down the river with Pod (Daniel Portman) and the two exchanged waves. He could have easily sent men after them, as Brienne was Team Tully, but he didn't. Jaime and Brienne's relationship in the book was one of the best things in it, and that continued here in Game of Thrones. Sorry, Tormund.
Oh also, The Blackfish was killed in battle after refusing to be put in chains. Well, supposedly. We didn't actually see it happen, and his death became a line of dialogue instead of a 30-second scene of a fight. But hey, at least we got about three minutes of Brienne asking the Blackfish the same question over and over again!
"Anyone not drinking is disrespecting the queen." - Tyrion "The most famous dwarf in the world" Lannister
Poor, poor Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). I feel worse for Tyrion than any other character in the show right now. Since Varys (Conleth Hill) bounded off to Westeros to rally support for Dany (Emilia Clarke), Tyrion was holed up with Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), the two of which have the combined sense of humor of a funeral. Missandei told a joke that even a stoned fourth grader wouldn't think was funny and Grey Worm didn't even know what a joke was.
Woof. Tyrion was about to launch into his epic joke about a brothel, a honeycomb, and a jackass (which he's tried to tell before but has never been able to finish) when the alarm bells of Meereen sounded. What was so alarming? This, probably:
The slave masters were back, and they were launching great balls o' fire from their ships onto Meereen. That's not good. But have no fear, for Dany returned from her PTO on the back of her dragon.
A fire-breathing dragon should be able to put an end to this pretty quickly, shouldn't it? Not that Dany is too worried, she can walk out of a burning building with the best of them. The question here is how Dany will feel about the political policy Tyrion has put in place, which didn't seem to be working out too well. The other question here is WILL DANY EVER GET TO WESTEROS!?!? At first I thought all those ships were from the Iron Islands and Dany would be able to get on it, but Game of Thrones is probably saving that for the last 30 seconds of the series finale.
"A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I'm going home." - Arya Stark of Winterfell, who is going home
Well this whole Arya (Maisie Williams) storyline was pretty weird and maybe not the best example of believability in this world. After getting stabbed probably fatally in the gut with a shank half a dozen times and swimming through Braavosi sewer sludge in the previous episode, Arya managed to crawl back to Lady Crane's (Essie Davis) dressing room. I know than when I'm facing life-threatening injuries, the first place I go to is my local community theater. Luckily, Lady Crane had experience sewing stomach holes shut because she admitted to stabbing a bunch of her boyfriends and then mending them back to health once they made up. Like I said, not a whole lot of this made much sense, but the alternative (Arya is dead) was not acceptable.
But hey, a power nap and Arya was just about as good as new! Sure, okay. Lady Crane, on the other hand, was good as dead because the Waif (Faye Marsay) weaseled her way in and killed her to finish the job Arya started. That started an extreme freestyle running chase around Braavos, which was fantastic if only because it's awesome to witness young women trying to kill each other do this
But this elaborate chase was all a ruse put on by Arya to lure the Waif back to the darkness of her hide out. As the Waif entered the trap, Arya snuffed out the candle with needle and then this happened:
Yep! Pitch blackness, not even the sound of a fight or blood gurgling up the Waif's throat. But Arya did kill the Waif, and went back to the House of Black and White to show off her trophy to Jaqen (Tom Wiaschiha). When Jaqen told her that she graduated the program and got her Bachelor's Degree in No One-ism, an angry Arya said, "I AM SOMEBODY" and announced that she was going back home to Winterfell.
A lot of people have been criticizing Arya's arc in Braavos as a stall tactic until it was time for her to rejoin everyone else for the grand finale, and a lot of people are right. But guess what? Game of Thrones has been doing that since the show started. Everything Arya has done, everything Dany has done, three quarters of the rest of the series... it's all been a way for Game of Thrones to pump out five books and six seasons of television. That's not necessarily a bad thing since it's the world and the characters that make Game of Thrones such a treat. But I get it, people.
I still had a good time. Did you?
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on HBO.