The title of this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “No One,” might as well have been the answer to the question: “Which characters will get meaningful on-screen action this week?”
Because it was pretty close to no one.
Not every episode is going to knock our socks off, but this one seemed particularly unsatisfying. Even making allowances for what the show’s budget allows it to pull off in special effects, this was an hour of television defined as much by what we didn’t see as what we did.
And then it was all bookended by a narratively perplexing Arya storyline as she concludes her time in Braavos. That’s certainly where the majority of my beefs with this episode are.
Turns out her aloof behavior and poor choices in “The Broken Man” we’re exactly what they appeared to be: aloof behavior and very poor choices. Perhaps we should applaud the showrunners for not going the typical misdirection route with Arya (revealing, say, that she was plotting to draw the Waif into an alley where she’d stashed Needle) but in that case none of her actions over the last two weeks make much sense. Did she really believe she wouldn’t be pursued by the Faceless Men? Was throwing money indiscreetly to a Westerosi captain the best move?
A grueling chase through the streets of Braavos shortly after sustaining life-threatening strains believability, to say the least. Good thing her actress pal is well-versed in patching up stab wounds. She finally gets the better of the Waif thanks to her blind-fighting training, but of course we don’t get the pleasure of seeing it play out. When Jaqen then allows her to leave the Faceless Men after revealing she’s finally in, I can’t help but feel her Braavos arc was just giving us the runaround for the greater part of two seasons. But hey, at least she’s headed back to Westeros.
Another shot we don’t get to see is Daenerys’ return to Meereen, outside of her strutting back into the pyramid. Would’ve been cool to see her and Drogon torch a few of the Masters’ ships first, but I suppose it’s better to get your strategy in order first. And, like Arya, at least we have her back where we wanted her (or at least closer, since where we really want her is in Westeros).
The death of the Blackfish is one more death we don’t get to see occur (que up some Reddit he-didn’t-die-on-screen-so-we-don’t-know-for-sure theories). And it turns out his men aren’t nearly as devoted to the seige as he is. The arrival of the rightful Lord of Riverrun, Edmure Tully, is enough for the men to turn on Brynden, thereby allowing the Freys and Lannisters to claim a victory in the Riverlands.
Jaime, at least, is allowed to be interesting, even if a peaceful takeover in favor of an all-out battle isn’t why we love this show in the first place. His interactions with Brienne give us a glimpse at how much his character has changed since he was captured, yet his threats to catapult Edmure’s son and kill every last Tully show how, ultimately, Cersei and House Lannister still command his dedication.
The same can’t be said for Tommen, it seems. He purposefully distances himself from Cersei this week, declaring that trials-by-combat will no longer be allowed in the Seven Kingdoms. Not great news for those hoping to see the Mountain make quick work of the Faith’s champion, but it seems like Qyburn has some sort of Plan B up his sleeve.
The Hound makes good use of his borrowed axe, taking out four rogues in the blink of an eye. He then comes across the Brotherhood Without Banners, who have already apprehended the three he was after. Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr still appear to be doing the people’s work, and even extend an offer of membership to Sandor after sensing that he’s not the same kind of dog he was before.
In what I hoped would be a very eventful episode, we seemed to get merely more moving pieces. Oh well. I suppose they can’t all be stellar.
If the preview for next week is any indication, I don’t think I’ll be saying that a week from now. Time to hurry up and wait.
– Looks like Varys is off to cook up some mischief. Maybe to meet with Yara and Theon? Back to King’s Landing? Off to find a blue-haired lad?
– “The most famous dwarf in the world.” Great correction by Tyrion.
– I loved seeing the Mountain back in action this week, but I was hoping he’d take on all the sparrows at once. I know you were thinking the same thing.
– The shot of Pod being seized in the season’s trailer probably spawned 4,000 different theories across the internet. Turns out it was just Bronn, giving Pod and his magic member a hard time and some fighting lessons. What a great mis-direct.
– Qyburn says he found “much more” to the rumor Cersei asked him to look into. Something tells me his name after episode 10 might be Qyburnthismotherdown, if you’ll recall Bran’s visions…
– Did we need another awkward scene of Tyrion with Grey Worm and Missandei? Probably not, but at least this one was funnier.
– Jaime’s “the things we do for love” comment was a nice throwback to what kicked this whole series off: the moment he threw Bran from the tower in Winterfell.
– Speaking of throwbacks: “I would have preferred chicken,” says the Hound. The man does love his chicken.
– Get back to Westeros, Arya. And hurry up. Enough dinking around.
Episode 609 Preview:
“Thousands of men don’t need to die. Only one of us,” says Jon Snow. An offer to Ramsay for single combat, perhaps? It’s clear that’s not going to end up happening, by the looks of things. In fact, I don’t think we’re going to see a location outside of the north next week, in line with single-location episodes like “Hardhome” and “Blackwater.” This one should be crazy.
Thanks for reading. See you back here next week for “Battle of the Bastards.” Valar dohaeris.