Game of Thrones: 608 “No One” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
Last year, in the episode eight slot the show released what is widely accepted as its best episode to date, Hardhome. It had everything: Cersei rotting in jail, Sansa learning that Bran and Rickon were still alive, the beginning of Dany and Tyrion’s political union and of course who could forget that White Walker scene. It’s fair to say that the show hasn’t really reached that high since and it obviously comes as no surprise that No One doesn’t reach the bar set by Hardhome either. Does that matter? Not really! Hardhome was exceptional, you don’t expect it to be bettered, although perhaps rather disappointingly this episode doesn’t even come close.
Let’s start in Braavos where Arya’s story with the Faceless Men seems to now finally be over. Realistically last week’s cliff-hanger which saw the character in extreme peril was never likely to be the end for a character who has been an ever present. If Arya does eventually die, I’m sure it will be something that the writer milk for all its worth and leave no ambiguity about the fact that she is dead. If that alone wasn’t enough to convince you, Lady Crane’s appearance in the opening scene of the episode was all but confirmatory. Sure enough, when the popular actress when back stage (after a performance much improved from Arya’s advice) she was reunited with a desperate Arya. Naturally she takes her home and nurses her back to health which allows the opportunity for some expansion on the character cementing her place as perhaps my favourite guest character this year.
Of course this being the Faceless Men storyline, Lady Crane gets brutally murdered by the Waif, who obviously took the time to do this whilst her main target slept in the bed. This isn’t the end of the flaws in logic with this story however as the injured Arya proceeds to wake up, escape the Waif and run through Braavos, further injuring herself along the way. She eventually makes her way back to her hideout taking care to leave blood marking to direct the Waif to her. Once the Waif seemingly has her cornered Arya springs her trap and defeats her opponent off-screen before bringing her removed face to The House of Black and White. Exactly how an injured Arya is able to do this given the fact that the Waif is a better fighter than her is best left to the imagination. She approaches Jaqen H’ghar to tell him that she is Arya Stark and that she is going home. Surprisingly he seems to smile at this suggestion, whether he is genuinely happy, or has another plan up his sleeve remains to be seen. Hopefully the writers decide not to linger on things as this was a satisfactory ending to the story arc, and it would be great to see Arya back in Westeros where she may finally cross some more names off her list.
Sticking in Essos we move down and across to Meereen where quite a lot actually happens this week despite it appearing otherwise. Firstly we have Varys’ departure on a secret mission which is kept secret even from the viewers. At a guess from the dialogue it looks like he is headed back to Westeros to prepare the people for Dany’s arrival. This would be strange as he surely cannot go to King’s Landing having assisted Tyrion’s escape. The timing is very important too, he leaves in the same episode that Dany returns, having appeared after the episode she first left meaning they haven’t been there together. Considering Hardhome (yes that one again) where Dany expressed her opinions on Varys this is unsurprising that he would want to avoid her for now. The question this does raise however is how much of what was about to happen did the spymaster know?
Elsewhere in Meereen we see Tryion getting his friends to drink and tell jokes before all hell breaks loose. Suddenly Meereen is under siege from nowhere with the slavers launching an attack on the city. I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming especially as it was featured in the series trailer, a rarity nowadays to have something happen in the series that truly surprises you. Perhaps even more surprising was the sudden return of Dany on her dragon who literally dropped her off and flew off again. Why the Queen didn’t even say a word is a baffling decision in itself which makes me wonder why it was even included in this episode. Despite this things in Meereen look set to finally get interesting, which is great. However it does mean that there is yet another obstacle preventing Dany from crossing the narrow sea which is something I was really hoping would happen this season.
King’s Landing this week saw Cersei suffer yet another defeat as the malleable Tommen agreed to abolish trial by combat. This represents bad news for Cersei because it negates her plan to use the resurrected Mountain to essentially get her off completely. As a side note it also removes the chance of the much talked about Cleganebowl fight occurring this season. It is The Mountain who features in the only other scene within King’s Landing as he attacks the Faith Militant who have come to bring Cersei to the High Sparrow. Meanwhile it is the other Clegane brother who has the more interesting story this week as he sets out to get vengeance for what happened in the last episode. His journey sees him reunited with The Brotherhood Without Banners which makes for some rather funny scenes. Here he is also offered an interesting choice which could shape how important he could be in the wars that are yet to come. He could head north where a war with the White Walkers is a certainty, or go south to King’s Landing where it looks like Cersei may be planning something big involving wildfire.
That leaves Riverrun where the bulk of the action occurred this week with most of the highlights being the character-based scenes. I thoroughly enjoyed the banter between Bronn and Pod that was nicely contrasted by the more mature conversation between Jamie and Brienne. In terms of relationships between characters Jaime and Brienne’s is one of my favourites and here it makes for one of the highlights of the episode. They don’t try to change each other, but accept that they have to do what they have sworn to even if that means going against each other. Thankfully it didn’t come down to a fight between the two, because that would have been genuinely heart-breaking and both parties managed to go their separate ways with a wave from Jaime acknowledging his pleasure at seeing Brienne had escaped. For both characters it looks like they are heading out of the frying pan and into the fire in King’s Landing and Winterfell respectively.
Also within this sequence we see a conversation between Jaime and Edmure in which the former is able to convince the latter to side with him, take his rightful place as Lord of Riverrun and then surrender the castle. A clever tactical ploy by Jaime which is taken even further by Edmure who even orders his men to get the Blackfish and turn him over to Jaime. To be honest we have always known him to be a bit of a pain for the main protagonists so this comes as no surprise. My only gripe with the Riverrun scenes is the fact that The Blackfish’s death is done completely offscreen. Another highlight from the scenes was the fact that one of my friends featured as an extra, and can actually be seen quite clearly.
It’s a very hard episode to score, there’s an awful lot to love about it. At the same time there are several flaws and they are quite big ones. Arya’s story this week whilst highly gripping seemed devoid of all logic. Dany’s return whilst welcome added next to nothing to the narrative. Another disappointment but one that wouldn’t be fair to take marks off the episode for was the fact that knowing the Brotherhood Without Banners was back, and the number of reference to Catelyn Stark this week, was the fact that we did not see Lady Stoneheart. Looking at the trailer for next week however, my comment in the intro to this review about Hardhome being an unobtainable level may not ring true in a few days time!