“No One” marked a rare misstep for the otherwise steady sixth season of Game of Thrones. Though there were a variety of reasons that ultimately led to the mediocre episode, there were a few good parts that deserve highlighting, so let’s start there. We saw Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) reunite, as well as old pals Bronn and Pod. And, there were also the vengeful antics of the Hound, who for the second straight week continued to be the best part of the entire show. Other than that, I just don’t have too much to praise (except, of course, that we were once again spared the pain of having to watch the Sand Snakes make brooding faces at the camera).
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones originates from a dense, chaotic series of books – books that seem impossible for George R.R. Martin to write. This year, the television show sped past the books faster than the bloodthirsty Waif, and for the first time since the television series began, both book-readers and show-watchers have been on the same mysterious side, never knowing what to expect next. We knew that major theories and cliffhangers would be resolved on the screen, and we had no choice but to be okay with that. We expected that. But we also expected good writing – something that was severely lacking in “No One.” When you have a series that makes its fame on shocks and gasps, it’s inevitable that fan-theorizing will run rampant, but you cannot allow for those fan-made theories to be infinitely better than the product you actually deliver on screen. For me, the single biggest deterrent to any story (whether in books, movies, or television) is when a character is being sold to us as intelligent, but their actions prove the opposite. This makes me question if the writers are fools, or if they think their audience are fools. Either way, I have no patience for fools, and as a result, I now have no patience for Arya, as she was a complete and utter idiot in these past two episodes.
This week, we’re starting with the faller.
Faller of the Week: Arya Stark
After last week’s bloody cliffhanger, all anyone wanted to hypothesize was what’s going to happen to Arya. First off, was that even Arya? Could that have been Jaqen wearing her face, testing the Waif? Because, if you remember, Jaqen told the Waif to make Arya’s death painless, and wouldn’t that, in and of itself, prove that Jaqen was no longer being the impartial, nameless middleman for the god of death? Wouldn’t the clear sign of favoritism – of not wanting her to suffer – prove that Jaqen had broken the exact rules that he so strictly enforced? I think so, which is why I hoped beyond hope that Jaqen was testing the Waif, because anything to the contrary would instantly undo the two seasons of character building we’ve endured. Another theory was circulating that Arya was goading the Waif into attacking her, and that she had a master plan in place, but alas, her master plan consisted of a eating a bowl of miracle soup, getting Lady Crane murdered, ruining the fruit market for everyone, and dramatically slicing out the flame from a candle. (This candle slice was akin to Ellaria Sand waiting dramatically for the camera to pan to her face before taking the antidote for the poison she used to kill Myrcella.)
Up until this point, Arya had always been a smart character. Hell, she straight up fooled Tywin Lannister for an entire season. That’s what makes this such a difficult pill to swallow. Why would Arya make a very public spectacle about buying passage on a Westerosi-bound boat? Surely word would travel quickly about that. And, why would she go for a nice afternoon stroll WITHOUT NEEDLE and without her head on a swivel? She had to know that they would come after her, right? Either she knew that the Waif would be gunning for her and she took no precautions, or she obliviously expected a peaceful exit. I’m not sure which is worse, but however you break it down, it’s bad.
Honorable Mention: Cersei Lannister, for unleashing the Mountain way too early.
Riser of the Week: Jaime Lannister
There weren’t many choices for this week’s riser, but Jaime is certainly deserving of the title. Anytime you can avoid sending thousands of people to an early grave, you’re doing something right. And in doing so, he proved that he’s more than just a mere swordsman. He’s a capable military strategist. Tywin was always proud of Jaime, but he’d be beaming after last night’s actions. I’m not sure if we’ll see Jaime again this season, but he’s likely headed back to King’s Landing where he’ll learn of Cersei’s new misfortune. It will be interesting to see how he handles that news. Love can be blinding.
Honorable Mention: The Hound, as life’s always a bit easier when someone has your back.
Backstory of the Week: The Brotherhood Without Banners
The Brotherhood Without Banners was hinted at last week, and finally showed up in full again this week as they executed the group of three outlaws who pillaged and butchered all of the Hounds new friends. It has been a while since we last saw them on screen, so I figure it’s a good time for a refresher. The group was inadvertently created by Ned Stark when he sent a force of knights, led by Beric Dondarrion, into the Riverlands to restore peace and justice to the area after it had been reported that the Mountain was ruthlessly terrorizing, raping, and murdering the smallfolk. As we all know, Robert and Ned were killed not long after this expedition left, and as a result, this group of knights had no support from any of the great houses, and especially not the crown. Rather than pledge allegiance to someone, the group decided to form an independent brotherhood that would still uphold their original mission, and they became a guerilla fighting group. Their numbers continue to grow as more and more defeated soldiers, deserters, and refugees cross their path. The group is also led by Thoros of Myr, a red priest of R’hllor who has brought Beric back to life multiple times. Together, the Brotherhood Without Banners marks one of the last remaining groups who still continue to rise up against the Lannister army, and for that reason alone, we should admire them. It also helps that they now have the Hound on their side. They better get that man some chicken.
Item of Power: Wildfire
After Cersei watched Tommen vacate the throne room without as much as a glance in her direction, we saw Qyburn tell her about the rumors she had him looking into. We don’t know specifically what they are discussing, but I have an idea, and it stems from the flashback montage we saw via Bran a few weeks ago. In it, we saw a very large cache of wildfire, and I believe that with nowhere else to turn, Cersei fully intends on burning King’s Landing to the ground. Perhaps Varys’s opine that Littlefinger would be king of the ashes was a bit more than just a metaphor. (A man can dream.)
- As much as I hated the entirety of Arya’s storyline these past two weeks, there is no denying that she was impressive in surviving the situation. It’s just unfortunate that she was there in the first place.
- Thank the seven gods that the scene of Daenerys dramatically walking into the pyramid wasn’t the final scene of the episode. Perhaps the writers are learning.
- I’m seeing a lot of backlash against Tommen, but I don’t necessarily get it. Yes, we would have all loved to see the Mountain battle the Hound, with Cersei’s life hanging in the balance, but can we really blame the king for attempting to remove all traces of poison from his life? Ridding himself of Cersei and surrounding himself with Kevan Lannister, Mace Tyrell, and the High Septon should help create a peace, however temporary it may be.
- “You’re shit at dying, you know that?” God, the Hound is perfect.
- “The things I do for love.” Great callback to the pilot episode, and it shows that no matter how much Jaime has grown, he’s still madly in love with his sister.
- I am usually against any scene that doesn’t help progress the plot, but the quick bit between Bronn and Pod was fantastic. Remember, Pod, someone’s always trying to hit you.
- I was really hoping that we’d find out that Gendry had joined up with the Brotherhood Without Banners. He’s probably still out there rowing, so maybe Brienne and Pod will find him.
- Did anyone else burst out laughing when Jaime waved to Brienne? It felt a little goofy, but I loved it.
- Where are you headed, Varys? I can’t wait to find out.
See also: Game of Thrones 6.07: “The Broken Man”
Joe Brosnan works at St. Martin's Press and manages Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.
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