Game of Thrones Recap - Season 6 Episode 8: No One
This is a recap, so there are spoilers!
I didn’t want to write this today, gang. I woke up and the real world seemed full to the bursting point with horrible, terrible violence. Jumping into the bloody and cruel world of Game of Thrones held little appeal. Westeros has a dagger for every back and poison in every cup. There’s still plenty of blood and death to be found but “No One” tempered that with moments of reconnection and honesty that gave this week’s sojourn to Westeros and the lands beyond just enough humanity to ease my woes.
Lady Crane starts the show off, on stage after she was saved by Arya. Her monologue is heartfelt. The audience is moved by her emotion. An great joy in Game of Thrones is seeing how small acts ripple. Arya’s talk about Crane’s monologue left its mark. That moment of connection meant something. And as Crane returns to find Arya hiding backstage, it means even more.
Tended to by her one time target, Arya finds some measure of kindness in a city that has seemingly forsaken her. The pair talk about what Arya might do next. She could join the acting troupe. She could sail to the edge of the world. All of these seem possible but none seem sufficient for a woman like Arya Stark. This episode has something of a theme in it. Friends finding themselves on other sides of conflicts. People finding each other in adversity. And so, halfway across the world, the girl who pledged to kill Cersei Lannister is nursed to sleep by an actress who made the queen come alive on the stage.
Not everyone finds reconciliation. At a crossroads, some of the Brotherhood without Banners rest and joke with each other. There was no way this would end well. The Hound is out for blood and he will get it. His wrath is terrifying and his judgement is bloody. Watching it all, I did not know what to think. Having see hints of what the Hound might be when removed from conflict, I was sad. But seeing him punish those who slaughtered the innocent? I understood that. I think we all understand that.
I’m still surprised that I’ve found such little joy with Tyrion during this season. Moving him to work with Daenerys was a natural course of action. But ever since then, he’s had very little to do that’s really showed off his talents. He walks with Varys as the Spider prepares to exit the picture in Mereen, to court allies in Westeros. And honestly? I’m far more interested in what that means than watching Tyrion in Mereen. It’s such a shame that the show has mismanaged one of its best characters and underused one of its best actors.
The undercurrent of sudden and swift violence is particularly pronounced in King’s Landing, where the Militant attempt to bring Cersei to speak with the High Sparrow. “I choose violence.” the former queen intones quietly as the Mountain walks towards her enemies. And, well, he tears a dude’s face off. My thoughts are varied here. It’s astounding to see the Mountain in action. But I was left with a bitter feeling in mouth. The Mountain, as he exists now, is something of a walking metaphor for the series itself. Semi-mindless, trying to please its masters with gross violence and shock.
My love for the series lives in the characters and their intermingling motivations. Which is a good thing because if there’s something that “No One” nails, it is everything to do with Brienne and Jaime. Having come to Riverrun in the hopes of securing the Blackfish’s support in fighting Ramsay Bolton, Brienne instead finds Jaime and his siege.
Everything about this section feels very real. From the silly rapport found in Bron and Podrick’s reunion to the serious and dutiful exchanges between Jaime and Brienne as they both seek to avoid violence, everything worked wonderfully. The two know each other so well and can see the good in the other even if their loyalties lie elsewhere. Brienne asserts Jaime’s honor as a knight; Jaime tells Brienne that her sword, Oathkeeper, will always belong to her and her alone.
As the series has progressed, we have seen characters’ fortunes change. We have seen loyalties shift and houses fall. But here, in these moments, those collosal changes mattered little. Instead, we had two friends. Two friends and nothing more. This is the show I want to watch each week. And while the Blackfish will not simply surrender to Jaime and violence shows its ugly head, threatening to ruin all, we know that those connections are the real glue holding this universe together.
Yet, some of these connections seem broken. Cersei and Tommen feel less and less like mother and son every day thanks to the machinations of the High Sparrow. When she attempts to stand by her son as he gives as grand announcement from the Iron Throne, she is led off to the gallery. The announcement is actually something of a surprise. The crown will outlaw Trial by Combat. Cersei’s ace in the hole seems to be ruined. And it also seems to dash fan hopes for Clegane Bowl: the showdown between the Hound and the Mountain. I’m not so sure about that but time will tell. Cersei still has tricks up her sleeve. Maester Qyburn has been investigating a rumor. But what that might be, we will have to wait and see.
Cutting back to a Tyrion, Greyworm, Missandei, the scene initially had me sighing with disappointment. The last time we endured a detailed scene with them, it was interminably dull. But this time, as the trio drank and told jokes, something fit much better. The connection was there. That strange, hidden and unexplainable bond felt readily apparent. A scorned dwarf nobleman, a slave soldier, and the queen’s handmaiden felt all on the same level. And although the Masters arrived to set siege to the city, things somehow still felt okay. If only because of what those people exchanged.
Jaime’s discussion with Edmure Tully was a curious thing. I cannot say it was a positive, but as Jaime spoke of Catelyn Stark, it felt like something was forming between the two men. Edmure poses hard questions to Jaime. How can he think himself good? “All of us have to believe that we are decent.” Edmure asserts but Jaime doesn’t seem so sure. Ironically echoing his words from back when he tossed Bran from Winterfell’s tower (“The things we do for love..”) he threatens to kill every Tully alive if it will protect his sister. And we know that he’s not bluffing. There’s a greatness to Jaime, when he wants to find it. But there is also a horrible darkness and pragmatism.
Yet, for all of this talk of slaughter, Jaime avoids it. Letting Edmure into Riverrun, the returned lord orders the gates opened and soldiers lay down their arms. Jaime Lannister, hated kingslayer and oathbreaker, manages to take the castle without a battle. The Blackfish was the only one who fought, to his death. And as Brienne rides down river on a boat, Jaime softly waves to her from the castle walls. It is one of the saddest things I’ve seen on the show. There is a chance for all these people to unite and do good. We see it. It is possible. Simply, not yet.
This state of affairs is a good contrast to everything in Mereen. The Masters rain fire down on the city and all seems lost. Dany returns, riding on her dragon. The Masters will face the Mother of Dragon’s cold fury. It’s a short scene but important, I think. In Westeros, we see the possibility, however slim, for an imperfect form of honor to prevail. Across the sea? I doubt we will see the same. Instead, we will see the Breaker of Chains and her army crash against her foes.
Of all the people I thought to see again, even with the Brotherhood back in the picture, Berric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr were not on that list. At the very least, I didn’t expect their entrance to be so subdued. The Hound merely stumbles upon them executing the rest of their rogue soldiers. The rogues are hanged and the Hound sits with the Brotherhood. The dynamic here is nice, with the Hound and Berric chatting like old war buddies. Make sense, considering the Hound killed him once. It’s another chance to see how grudges fade and people connect. Still, I wonder how things will progress. I half expect we will see a very important, stonehearted character before this season is over.
In Braavos, we get the showdown that we knew was all coming, as Arya must contend with the Girl (with No Name) from the House of White and Black. For a while, things look grim. Crane is killed and Arya runs through the street. But she makes her way back to Needle. Taking up her sword, she turns to fight. In the House of White and Black, a new face rests on the wall. Arya has won. Jaqen claims that this truly makes her no one. But Arya cannot live that life. She is not no one. “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I am going home.” Slam. Dunk.
In the end, “No One” was a functional episode that surprised me with consistent messaging. We are seeing the world of the show in a more complex light than ever before. Where friendly knights nevertheless uphold their oaths, those of various standing share wine, and killers are given water by their former victims. I didn’t want to go to Westeros today. I really didn’t. But, for what it is worth, I’m glad I did.