Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 8 “No One”

So, this is a late recap/review. I usually write these up the day after each episode airs, but we ended up watching this one while camping in Huntsville, Alabama (in order to take care of final arrangements for my partner’s mother, who passed away last week) and I simply haven’t really had the time to dedicate to it before now. It hasn’t helped that “No One” is a downright boring hour of television in which not much makes sense and even less manages to be important or exciting. Most of it doesn’t even manage to be offensively bad; it’s just plain dull. Presumably this is supposed to be setup for the last couple episodes of the season, especially the stuff in King’s Landing and Meereen, but it feels much more like filler and in an already glacially paced season. At this point, I feel like every critical reviewer is one broken record of complaints about the slow pace of this season, but let’s be serious. Very little has actually happened in any of the show’s storylines, and “No One” does nothing to change that in any positive fashion.

Spoilers below the cut, obv.

Arya in Braavos

The episode opens with yet another performance of Lady Crane’s play in Braavos, this time with the updated Cersei monologue based on Arya’s notes. I’m not sure how Lady Crane pushed this rewrite through, since the playwright seemed pretty hostile to the idea when she first mentioned it, but okay. I guess this is a thing that is happening, and there’s not a dry eye in the house. Here’s the thing about this: it’s aggressively prescriptive, and I hate being told how to feel by the media I consume. As a woman and a feminist, I’m inclined to be sympathetic to Cersei (and Lady Crane) to begin with. I don’t need heavy-handed meta-commentary inserted into the show—and over and over again; this isn’t the first time this has happened this season—in order to manage my feelings about the characters. They ought to be able to stand on their own, and the storytelling should work without shoehorning in this kind of blatant emotional manipulation.

After the scene is over, Lady Crane goes back behind stage and finds Arya, who has managed to stumble here in search of help. Fortunately for Arya, Lady Crane is friendly enough, though we’re soon treated to some alarming stories about how Lady Crane stabs her cheating boyfriends and destroyed the jealous younger actress’s face. This is all framed in such a way that we’re clearly supposed to think well of Lady Crane, because feminism, probably. At the same time, though, this could also be interpreted as an attempt on the part of the writers to reconcile the show‘s audience to Lady Crane’s imminent death. And it is definitely imminent. Lady Crane stitches and bandages Arya’s mortal-seeming wounds right up and doses the girl with milk of the poppy, but by the next morning they are discovered by the Waif, who has arrived, apparently, to finish the job that Arya wouldn’t do.

After dispatching Lady Crane (*sad face*), the Waif turns her attention to Arya, who seems to have rather miraculously covered after just a single night of rest. At the very least, Arya is recovered enough to lead the Waif on an absurdly parkour-filled chase through the streets of Braavos and eventually kill the Waif. Arya then skins off the Waif’s face (because feminism, probably) and takes it to Jaqen, who tells her that she finally is “No One,” which doesn’t make any sense at all. The goal of the House of Black and White and the religion of the Many-Faced God has been consistently said to be all about self-abnegation and sacrifice of individual identity—a Faceless Man is meant to very literally become no one, setting aside personal concerns in favor of subsuming their self in the corporate organization of the church. Arya has failed at this time and time again, which is the whole reason why the Waif was given permission to kill Arya in the first place, and Arya’s murder of the Waif, self-defensive as it may be (and think about that—it’s self-defensive, self-preservation that motivates Arya), is essentially a final act of defiance of what has been asked of her during her time at the House of Black and White. And that’s without even getting into how ridiculous it is that Arya is able to get up practically from her deathbed (I mean, she was stabbed several times in the belly and had the knife twisted around—that ought to have caused fatal injuries) and parkour all over Braavos and beat a fighter she’s never been able to defeat before.

The Hound in the Riverlands

I’m not entirely sure why Sandor Clegane and the Brotherhood Without Banners have been brought back to the show at all, to be honest. I can only guess that it’s because D&D think that revenge—no matter how unreasonable and misdirected and, frankly, boring, is just awesome. Like, I think they seriously believe that viewers find it cathartic to watch an obvious psychopath go around just murdering random dudes that I guess are tangentially related to some injustice somewhere. However, aside from the possibility that this is a way for the show to tie up some loose ends—and this is arguable, as I doubt many viewers were being kept up nights wondering whatever happened to the Brotherhood Without Banners guys—I can’t see, reasonably, where they are going with this stuff.

The first Sandor scene of the episode doesn’t open with Clegane at all. Instead, we’re treated to a full minute of a group of miscellaneous, vaguely disreputable men hanging around a campfire. One of the men claims to be a legendary kisser, but it turns out that this is all part of a “joke” where he sexually assaults one of the younger men. Hilarious. That’s when Sandor stalks up to the group and kills them all. He does pause to ask sexual assault guy if he knows where to find the man in the yellow cloak, but dude is not talking. Or, rather, he is, but only to shout obscenities. Thank goodness I never have to go more than a week without hearing the word “cunt” during Game of Thrones season. This show is so edgy.

Later, the Hound catches up to the Brotherhood just as Lem Lemoncloak and his cronies are about to be hanged for their massacre of the septon and his followers. Apparently, it’s very important that we recognize that Beric and Thoros and the rest of the Brotherhood are not bad guys. I don’t know why that’s important, but it was worth taking a couple of minutes out of the episode to show us. Good for the Hound getting his vengeance, too, I guess, but I honestly have a hard time caring. At this point, Sandor and the Brotherhood are so disconnected from the rest of what’s going on in Westeros that it’s difficult to see why anyone would care what they are up to.

We learn in this episode that King Tommen is banning trials by combat, so it seems unlikely that Cleganebowl (google it) is going to be a thing, and with no Lady Stoneheart there’s no particular reason to revisit the Brotherhood at all. I’m sure that some of the more loyal apologists for the show will consider me uncharitable for saying so, but I can’t help but come to the conclusion that bringing back Sandor Clegane is nothing but fan service, predicated on the notion that he’s some kind of fan favorite character that people will be excited to see return. Sure, there are several fan theories concerning the Hound, and there are some very determined (and gross) Sandor and Sansa shippers out there, but this all just feels terribly (in every sense of the word) unnecessary.

Meereen

On the other side of the world, the streets of Meereen are, for once, packed with people, and Tyrion is escorting Varys to, I guess, the docks. Along the way, Tyrion has all kinds of self-congratulatory things to say about his handiwork in reviving the city in preparation for Daenerys’s return, though Varys is still skeptical of Tyrion’s reliance on the Red God’s worshippers, which in any other show I might call foreshadowing but here I think is just more of the writers’ generalized distaste for religion on display. They really never do miss an opportunity for that sort of thing. In any case, Varys is headed back to Westeros alone on some kind of secret mission, which if I had to hazard a guess is going to be something along the lines of the epilogue of A Dance with Dragons. Which is fine, but it’s one more reason to chuckle every time someone talks about how much the show has moved past its source material. If anything, this season has been more faithful, in terms of actual onscreen events if not thematically (because themes are for eighth grade book reports, natch), to the books than either of the last two seasons. I guess the question now is whether Varys is going to teleport to King’s Landing in time for the season finale or if we’ll have to wait until next season to see his mission completed.

The second Tyrion scene this week is one that is downright painful to watch. Tyrion is a terrible alcoholic, and in the absence of Varys he’s looking for other company and tries to get Grey Worm and Missandei to drink with him. Then, he tries to get them to tell him jokes, but apparently neither of them have any sense of humor to speak of. Tyrion ends up telling a joke of his own, but no one laughs, not even the audience (hopefully) because it’s essentially a bigoted anti-Irish joke shoehorned into Westeros and it doesn’t fit. Missandei’s joke is even worse, and I am so, so embarrassed for everyone involved in this scene. I’ve never been so happy to hear the sounds of battle in my life. Apparently, the Masters have come to Meereen to get their slaves back, even though they’ve still got seven years of slaving left before they have to give them up in the first place.

The next (and last) time we return to Meereen this week, the battle is in full swing, with the Masters’ ships blockading the city and huge trebuchets (probably?) raining down balls of fire on the buildings. Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Missandei are holed up in the Great Pyramid, waiting it out, when they hear some thumps on the roof, which is exactly what you’d expect it to be. Daenerys has returned, and she sweeps into the room without a word. Everyone acts surprised, but it’s actually pretty anticlimactic. We don’t even get to see a dragon, and Daenerys’s face is kind of hilariously void of any discernable emotion.

King’s Landing

So, I have to admit that I read some leaked spoilers about this episode, and among them was a purported spoiler about Cersei siccing Zombie Clegane on Lancel and some of the other Faith Militant. In the report I read, it was described as very bloody, so I was expecting some kind of showdown. So I was disappointed, to say the least, when just one guy (and that one just a nameless extra) got his head ripped off when Lancel and his goon squad show up to escort Cersei to the High Sparrow. This is even the infamously unintentionally hilarious “I choose violence” scene that was so heavily featured in the trailers and pre-season promotion of the show, and it’s just a letdown. If the show isn’t going to make sense (Why does the High Sparrow even want Cersei, anyway?), it ought to at least deliver on spectacle, and this season has been a long string of disappointments so far, of which this is just one more.

The other big event in King’s Landing this week is Tommen’s announcement that trial by combat will now be outlawed. I don’t know if he wants his mother dead, but this definitely throws a wrench into Cersei’s plans, which hinge entirely on naming Zombie Clegane as her champion in order to clear her name. Judging from Cersei’s conversation with Qyburn following Tommen’s announcement, though, Cersei may still have one more card up her sleeve. I’m not sure what the “rumor” is that she’s had Qyburn investigating—probably because I’m 99% certain this hasn’t been mentioned on screen—but I expect we’ll find out before the end of the season.

Riverrun

Jaime’s siege at Riverrun is still ongoing when Brienne and Podrick show up, and Brienne is taken to see Jaime while Pod reconnects with Bronn. On the one hand, this short scene with Bronn and Pod is mildly amusing (Bronn is a Brienne x Jaime shipper!) and in character for both of them. On the other hand, I could do without Bronn’s gross sexualizing comments about Brienne and the reminder about Pod’s “magic cock.” There’s also not any particular reason for this scene to exist at all except as ostensibly comic relief. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately—little of column A, little of column B), this episode (and this season in general, to be honest) hasn’t been dark enough to justify this type of “comedy.” Plus, it’s just not very funny. Because I’m not a twelve-year-old boy.

While Bronn and Pod are having their bro time, Brienne and Jaime catch up. Jaime says something moderately demeaning about “girls like Sansa” because of course he does. Brienne explains her mission to him, and it doesn’t sound any less dumb no matter how many times I replay it. She wants Jaime to let her through to convince the Blackfish to lead the Tully army out of Riverrun to help Sansa win back Winterfell from the Boltons. However, there is literally no good reason for Jaime to allow such a thing. Sure, it could conceivably get him Riverrun without a lengthy siege, which would get him back to Cersei sooner, but it would also just be kicking the conflict with the Blackfish further down the road, likely creating a large Northern army that the Lannisters would just have to contend with later on. In every logical way, this is a terrible idea that doesn’t actually benefit anyone except the Blackfish, who would keep his head, and Sansa, who needs an army. Even Jaime, who isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, cannot possibly bet stupid enough to do this, right? Wrong. He totally is, and he sends Brienne into Riverrun to deal with the Blackfish herself, but not before giving the shippers plenty of new material to write fanfic about. Once Brienne is inside, she finds the Blackfish less than cooperative, which if possible makes even less sense than the rest of the situation. Brienne gives the Blackfish and his men an excellent opportunity to do something good and stand by his remaining family, but the old man is basically like “nope, I’d rather stay here and see if we can drag this siege out a couple more years.”

When Brienne’s plan clearly isn’t going to work, Jaime turns back to Edmure Tully. After the better part of six full seasons of Jaime redemption arc, Jaime regresses completely and makes some truly monstrous threats in order to get Edmure to go in and deliver the castle to the Lannisters. This actually works, which I guess is good for Jaime, but it doesn’t bode well for Brienne’s mission. The Blackfish leads Brienne and Pod to a little boat so they can sneak out a sort of back door that will take them down the river, but he refuses to go with them because he’d rather die senselessly in a losing battle than go try and help his niece, even if Sansa is “just like her mother.” As Brienne and Pod sail off down the river, Brienne and Jaime wave sadly (or something) at each other.

The only actually interesting thing about any of this material this week was how many times Catelyn Stark’s name was dropped. The writers have denied for years now that they are going to include Lady Stoneheart on the show, and by any reasonable metric the time for doing so is long past. But. Could they? I mean, they’ve got the Brotherhood Without Banners back, and they’ve got Brienne and Pod and Jaime all in the Riverlands. And I already said earlier that I don’t know what the point of bringing Beric and Thoros back was. I don’t know. I really hate the idea, and there’s no way the show is going to do it well if they do do it. But also it wouldn’t be the dumbest thing that has ever happened on Game of Thrones?

Miscellaneous Observations:

  • “Sansa the whore” is a completely uncalled for piece of random misogyny that doesn’t even make sense in-world. Sure, rhyming verse or whatever, but ugh. It’s just tiresome how determined this show’s writers are to be degrading to women and how much they seem to get a kick out of putting that sort of misogynistic language in the mouths of female characters.
  • “The most famous dwarf in the world” is so asinine.
  • “The things we do for love” is way too on the nose of a callback, and it feels like the undoing of years’ worth of what passes for character development on this show.
  • Welp, that was the Hound’s dick. Because gender equality, I guess.
  • I feel like the director just told the Waif to do her best T-1000 impression in this episode.

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