It’s the proverbial calm-before-the-storm episode of Game of Thrones traditionally epic ninth episode. Here in the eighth, titled “No One,” it lays heavy into themes of personal identity, destiny, and faith. While it teases a little bit of the tension that may go down soon in King’s Landing, there’s not much word from the North, as most fans are sitting on their hands anxiously awaiting the Battle of The Bastards (aka The Bastard Bowl) set to air next week. Still, there were some unexpected twists going into this episode, which made some things much more complicated, while others got away with numbingly simple explanations (or lack thereof).
“She doesn’t have a name.”
All throughout last week, theories were abounding as to what Arya’s fate was going to be. They included analyzing her abnormally confident behavior trying to get passage out of Braavos, speculating that she wasn’t really Arya, and the Waif wasn’t really the Waif, and that Jaquen was actually her old dance instructor, Syrio Forel. The show then subverted any and all expectations by disproving every one of them. Turns out, last week what we saw was what really happened, she got stabbed, made it to the backstage of Lady Crane’s theater troupe, and is… nursed back to health with some of her bad soup and skill with bandages.
It’s hard to figure out which one of these is less believable.
“You’re shit at dying, you know that?”
The Hound’s path to revenge proves to be a short one, as he crosses paths with Beric Dondarrian, who’s about to hang the rogue members of the Brotherhood without Banners for killing Brother Ray’s peaceful sect that had recently taken him in. Still, as short as it is, it proves unsatisfying, as he’s talked out of massacring two of the three of them (“Let me chop of one hand!”)
Later, as he breaks bread with the proper Brotherhood, they speak of their religion, and entice him to join them while they speak of the Lord of Light, we get the Hound at his most philosophical — and inadvertently relevant. “Lots of horrible shit gets done in this world for something larger than ourselves.”
“If I don’t return, you’ll know I was wrong.”
Varys conveniently heads out of Meereen for a PR mission just as the slavers come back with a fleet of warships laying siege to the city, cutting short Tyrion’s push for an evening of bad jokes and good wine. Luckily, Drogon drops off Daenerys just in time, before seeming like he’s headed the other direction, away from the battle. Perhaps he’s going to find the other two dragons who were released from their change six episodes ago and have yet to be brought up again.
“I choose violence.”
Finally, we’re treated to just a little bit of Zombie Mountain action, just not the unbridled fury that would single-handedly destroy the Faith-Militant. He does take a couple down, though, which restores Cersei’s smug expression long enough just to be denied a spot next to her son sitting on the Iron Throne. His kingly decree: trial by combat is banned, so Cersei’s plan pretty much goes out the window.
“You gave it to me for a purpose. I’ve achieved that purpose.”
The Jamie/Brienne reunion was filled with as much staunch conversation about honor as Bronn’s reunion with Pod was filled with talk about Pod’s massive junk. It paints a good picture of what reunions must feel like in the Seven Kingdoms, as Jamie says when he hears that Sansa is not only alive, but allowed Brienne to fulfill her vow to Catelyn Stark.
While the reunions were worthwhile, the real meat of this larger segment is Jamie, who gets to show his true sense of honor — letting Brienne inside the castle at Riverrun, before later letting her escape by boat. This entire time, we get to see the snide, despicable side that we’ve barely seen since the show’s second season. While Jamie taunts Edmure Tully, the loan prisoner from the Red Wedding, with his effortlessly sadistic plans to murder everyone in his house if it meant getting back to Cersei, his one true love.
It didn’t seem like Jamie was regressing as much as he was finally in a position where he could be the sleazy, arrogant Kingslayer that he’s always been. Though he’s getting a little free with this whole talk about incest, particularly with Cersei’s upcoming trial.
“Don’t die for pride when you can fight for your blood.”
While Brienne was in the castle, she’s completely unable to convince The Blackfish to march his army back to Winterfell to do battle with Ramsay’s army. You can’t really blame him, given that his castle was under siege at the time. He does help Brienne and Pod escape on the underside of the castle, before going back to die offscreen. It seemed like a lot of people were bothered by this. I wasn’t, as one of those believers in the idea that what a director doesn’t show you is equally important.
“And now he’s been promised another name.”
Finally, the Waif tracks down Arya stark, brutally killing Lady Crane and determining to end not only Arya’s life, but any chance of any fan theories coming remotely true. Still, seeing two people with Faceless Man training slip and slide through the streets of Braavos in an electrifying chase sequence was a worthwhile experiment, and something the show hasn’t ever really tried before. We also get another off-screen death, though it was brought about in a farm more stylized way, and with Arya really seeming to know her way around, it almost (almost) implies she had a larger plan in play here.
So, her one-and-a-half seasons of training really seemed to pay off, as did her tenure as a blind girl. Though she was really, really bad at carving faces off. C’mon Arya. Always give 100%. Especially since you’re abandoning the whole “No One” vibe and arbitrarily deciding to head back to Winterfell. Though if she gets to kill Ramsay I’ll consider all of this worth it in the end.