This blog is published after the ‘Game of Thrones’ simulcast. Do not read ahead unless you have seen season six, episode eight, ‘No One’, or want to find out what happens. It contains lots of spoilers etc.
We’re all talking about
After the pre-credit scene of last week’s episode that reintroduced The Hound along with his hippy commune, it was back to normal with the overly long credit sequence here.
And, book-ending the episode was Arya’s storyline. As predicted by so many, she sought help from the woman she was supposed to kill, the actor playing Cersei in the play. Rather conveniently, Lady Crane was a dab hand at stitching up stab wounds in the belly, and had a dose of milk of the poppy – the Seven Kingdom’s answer to morphine – at the ready. She also offered Arya safe passage to Pentos and a role in the play. Incidentally, Illyrio Mopatis, not seen since the dim and distant days of series 1, lives in Pentos – might the Targaryen supporter be making a return to the screen?
Sadly, Lady Crane was doomed the moment she helped Arya, and it was only a matter of time before the Waif showed up brandishing that dagger of hers. A real shame, I was really warming to her. But if we’ve learned anything, kind hearts don’t last long on this show. Then began the much-trailed chase through the streets of Braavos, although any tension was undermined by that fact; we have both seen so much of this in teasers for the series – the balcony jump, the bloody hand on the wall – and have been kept waiting so long for any sort of resolution to this all-jam-and-no-scone storyline.
After weeks of waiting, we didn’t even get to see Arya dispatch her nemesis, and when she returned to the House of Black and White to add a face to the wall, Jaqen had the demeanour of a man for whom everything had panned out as he’d planned. “Finally a girl has become no one,” he said cryptically, referencing the title of the episode, but Arya’s defiance that she was in fact still a Stark and was on her way back to Winterfell didn’t seem to surprise him. Was that his whole scheme? To train Arya and send her back into the world? Or was it just a badly acted scene? Either way, it was an unsatisfying end to a tediously drip-fed plotline that sums up Game of Thrones at its worst, and highlights this series biggest problem; pacing. The Dorne storyline clearly wasn’t working, and it looks as if we’ve seen the last of Ellaria and those godawful Sand Snakes. Why was this plot allowed to drift so aimlessly?
And what of the much-expected return of Syrio Forel? Surely the internet didn’t get something wrong? Or might we yet see even more of Braavos before Arya departs?
As much as I liked the First Sword of Braavos, let’s hope not.
What else happened?
If Arya’s story took a long time to develop, her former travelling buddy wasted no time in getting what he was after. After a bit of fireside homo-eroticism from the Brotherhood Without Banners, Clegane emerged, swinging that axe around his head. “Is that your last words? Fuck you? You’re shit at dying, you know that.” What a character Sandor is, and the thought of him teaming up with the non-evil Brotherhood – welcome back Beric and Thoros – is hugely exciting.
After hanging Lem Lemoncloak and two others not worthy of such colourful names, the much-killed knight and the drunken Red Priest began recruiting Sandor to their cause, explaining the is a force rising in the north. If the thought of The Hound joining the battle in the north doesn’t have the Night’s King trembling, nothing will.
In Meereen, Varys and Tyrion once again have quips to spare as the eunuch set off on a secret journey back to Westeros, leaving the small council of the world’s most-famous dwarf, Missandei and Grey Worm sipping wine and telling jokes.
Now, there is a great deal left to happen in this series, perhaps too much, and this episode was a shade over its usual running length. Have we really got time for Westerosi takes on Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman jokes? I’m aware it can’t all be violence, violence, nudity, lofty dialogue, extreme violence, but really. And a tip to Tyrion, don’t get your best fighter drunk on cheap plonk. You’ll need Grey Worm sober when the shouting starts.
At one point it looked as if Yara had made it to Meereen in double-quick time, but the fleet on Meereen’s door in fact belonged to the slavemasters, come to reclaim the city. Thankfully Daenerys arrived around the same time as the siege started and brought with her a dragon. Hopefully she’ll remember there are two more sitting beneath street level before too long. And does that mean the Dothraki have made it back with her? Or did she go on ahead? Let’s assume dragon back is a faster way to travel than wooden horse.
In King’s Landing, The Mountain was finally put to use. I’ve waited all series for him to get stuck into the Faith Militant, but the moment he pulled one of their heads clean off, I was ashamed at my bloodlust. That might, however, be the last time he’s utilised, as Tommen, under the High Sparrow’s control, decreed trial by combat is outlawed in the Seven Kingdoms.
This is unfortunate for both Cersei, who had based her whole gameplan around her possession of a giant zombie killing machine, and us viewers, who won’t get the Cleganebowl we hoped for. The internet has been on hype overload for Sandor to become the Faith Miliant’s champion, to face off against his sort-of brother. Qyburn has another trump card, though. He says his little birds’ rumour has developed into something more. But what? Could it be the High Sparrow has a secret that could be his undoing? Has he already got wind Varys is on his way back to King’s Landing? Or, does he know Margaery is playing at being a dedicated follower of the Faith? Or have the little birds found a stock of wildfire? Cersei is going to need some explosives if she’s going to burn Baelor’s Sept to the ground.
Brienne and Pod reached the Riverlands, and immediately got things moving. It was good to see Bronn and Pod reunited, although I feel a bit stupid for spending so long trying to decipher who it was in the trailer putting Pod in a headlock, only to discover it was just Bronn, messing around with his old mate.
If their reunion was a playful reminder of times gone by, Brienne and Jaime’s discussion really hammered home how we’ve ended up where we are now, with house betrayals, murders and kidnaps all playing their part. As expected, the Blackfish wouldn’t budge, and I shall miss the old bugger. Yes, running for a second time is not in his nature, but wouldn’t it have been great to see him take part in the battle against the Boltons. And did he not deserve an on-screen death? A bloodless siege, and a character offed in the wings? Game of Thrones, you do disappoint me.
Edmure and Jaime’s scene was excellent, and the youngest Tully may have been subjected to terrible treatment since the Red Wedding, and was still tied up here, but he held his own arguing with the Kingslayer, and did more damage to Jaime when he asked how he slept at night than countless arrows could do.
Given how basic Jaime’s character has become this series, I was half expecting him to go back on his word after Edmure has ordered his men to stand down, but thankfully Brienne brings out his honourable side. Their farewell, a simple wave, was also touching. What happens now, though? Walder Frey has Riverrun and a full army, plus the supplies the Blackfish boasted of. There’ll be no stopping him.
What does it all mean
Several key pieces have been moved in the chess game that is the Seven Kingdoms. Sansa and Jon, while absent this week, have their army. If the Tully forces are allowed their swords back, they are free to march for Winterfell, while Daenerys is back where she belongs. There’s also further convergence of storylines that move past petty house rivalry and onto the bigger battle ahead.
Some great moments this week, and depending on your persuasion, several potential winners – The Hound’s Brotherhood takedown, the Blackfish’s poignant goodbye… But the award goes to Edmure and Jaime’s faceoff in the tent. Tobias Menzies squeezed everything out of those lines, and gave Jaime some real food for thought.
Predictions for next week
It’s all pointing toward Battle of the Bastards, with Jon and Sansa’s forces going head to head with the Boltons. Might we learn what’s happened to Rickon? And whether Smalljon Umber was serious about backing Ramsay? My prediction for the actual battle is that the Wildlings will take some serious losses, the day will look lost, before Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale, and the Tully army ride to the rescue. A wilder suggestion might be that it’ll be the Lannister army that ride to Jon and Sansa’s rescue, but that might be giving Jaime too much credit.
Hopefully there’ll be some more dragon action in Meereen, and Arya will get a move on and get back to Winterfell. They need all the swords they can get.