WARNING: This story is dark and full of spoilers
For those of us who’ve watched Game of Thrones for a long while, it’s easy to became a little cocky with plot predictions. After all, season 6 has made it clear that it’s paving the way for the series’ endgame, so, we say, certain things are obviously going to take place soon. Even on an episode-by-episode basis, many of us (myself included) think we just know what’s going to happen Sunday night.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know that, and lest we forget who’s in charge, they like to throw us off our game. “No One” was one of those episodes that put the audience back in their place as viewers, not planners. Yet even though some predictions (and grander, years-old theories) were shot down this episode, the beauty of what we were shown tonight -- the shots, the acting, the sequences -- made the shake up far more than tolerable.
Much like Cersei tonight, we chose violence when we chose to watch this series, and that means unpredictability. Let’s jump into the fray.
We return to the now-familiar sight of a Braavosi stage, with Lady Crane as Cersei coming to grips with Joffrey’s death. That familiarity gets a slight tweak, as Crane took Arya’s advice a couple episodes back and gave Cersei’s big speech a twist of anger and thirst for vengeance. The crowd eats it up.
Backstage, however, as Crane removes her wig and goes for her (hopefully unpoisoned) rum, it’s not cheering she hears, but whimpers. Behind a set of costumes she finds a severely wounded Arya, clutching her bloody stomach.
That evening, the would-be assassin is being nursed to health by her former target. Crane opens up a little about her past regarding how she got so good at patching up wounds (spoiler: it’s because she was even better at poking holes in men herself).
The conversation they share is an absolute treat to watch, as Arya returns to something we haven’t seen for years (a wide-eyed, curious, almost innocent girl) and Crane falls into something of a motherly role.
Crane asks Arya if she wants to join her acting troop when they go to Pentos, but the girl declines, fearing for Crane's safety. When Arya alludes to who is after her, Crane's expression shows she understands what that means.
Still, Crane wants to care for the girl, and she convinces a wary Arya to drink some milk of the poppy to rest. Although she’s naturally suspicious of people these days, she (and many of us) really want to trust this thoughtful actress.
Speaking of hole-poking, over in the Riverlands a couple of nasty men are having a bit of fun picking on some naive boys -- fortunately it’s not quite what you’d expect, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable to watch; they’re just what the youths today would call “pervs.”
As the guys laugh it up, out of focus in the background we see a man, holding an axe, marching up like he’s on some sort of a mission.
This is the Hound, and his mission is some swift justice. Seriously swift.
Wielding that axe as efficiently as a sword, he dices up three of the men before slamming it right up the bum of the especially nasty man. Before he finishes him off, the Hound inquires about the location of the Brotherhood Without Banners, the men behind last episode’s slaughter of pleasant peasants, but gets nothing. The hunt continues.
In a bustling marketplace, Tyrion and Varys are off on a little walk. Things are starting to look up in Meereen following the questionable deal with the good masters. Crowds have flocked back to the market, people seem happy, the sun is shining, the tank is clean (THE TANK IS CLEAN?!).
A red priestess nearby is busy spreading the good news of Daenerys Targaryen, per the deal Tyrion struck with high priestess Kinvara. Tyrion is quite pleased with himself, naturally, for the deals he’s made leading up to this peaceful scene. Varys is still unsure about their alliance with the “fanatics,” but the success so far is undeniable.
It turns out that Varys is actually on his way out. We’re not told exactly what, but there’s a task for Varys to complete involving the finding of ships and allies in Westeros (uh oh, I hope not from Big Bad Euron Greyjoy). All banter aside, Tyrion will miss having Varys by his side, and we, too, are sad to see this fantastic pair split once again.
A short while later, Tyrion is back in the Great Pyramid still trying to have fun with Missandei and Grey Worm. I’m already cringing as he tries to get the pair to drink with him, but what follows is a pleasant surprise.
In an attempt to elicit laughter from the wary drinkers, Tyrion tells a worn-out tavern joke. It falls flat, but it turns out that Missandei finds the wine quite tasty. Much to Tyrion’s genuine excitement, she tries out a joke. It’s nothing special, but Tyrion’s forced laughter to build her joke-telling confidence is fantastic. Even Grey Worm gets in on it. Soon Missandei is laughing beautifully and Grey Worm is smiling -- they’re actually having fun!
Tyrion says “I once walked into a brothel with a honeycomb and a jackass,” but before we get the end to that surely brilliant story, they’re interrupted by the sound of bells. Outside, they see that the wise masters of Astapor and Yunkai seek to end their revelry -- with an armada launching an invasion.
“The masters have come for their property,” Missandei says. So much for all those good feels, Tyrion.
We find Cersei doing what she does best: consuming wine with not-so resting b**** face in her chambers. Creepy Qyburn walks in to inform her that several members of the Faith Militant “have been permitted” to enter the Red Keep -- a.k.a. Tommen allowed them to come for her.
The two, along with FrankenMountain, march down to her garden to confront the men. Good ole cousin Lancel Lannister (who was Cersei’s pawn back in season 1 and since season 5 has been the High Sparrow’s pawn) leads the confrontation. They want to take her to the Sept of Baelor to meet with their boss.
Surprising to no one, she’s none too keen for a visit. Two sparrows move to take her by force, but FrankenMountain steps forward.
As his men quietly freak out, Lancel tells Cersei to order her man aside. Her response, as bad-A as they come: “I choose violence.”
One sparrow slams his spiked-club thing into FrankenMountain’s armor to absolutely no effect. Poor, poor dumb sparrow: By this point, everyone knows to never attack the friggin Mountain. Zombie Clegane casually chokes the man, with his blood red eyes and gray flesh staring mercilessly at him, before he throws him to the ground and RIPS HIS HEAD OFF. In a striking, unnerving shot, the dead militant’s hand twitches as blood pours down to a drain.
With the rest of Lancel’s sparrows quivering in fear, Cersei confidently informs her cousin: “Please tell his high holiness he is always welcome to come visit.” Oh, I’m sure he’s eager to come for tea time now.
Afterwards, Cersei & Co. make their way into the throne room. It’s packed with people ahead of a royal announcement -- of which Cersei was not made aware. Uncle Kevan seems to have found his nerve again; he snarkily refuses to allow Cersei to stand by her son on the Iron Throne and instead directs her to the gallery.
As Tommen sits the throne, he nervously delivers the news. The dates have been set for the trials of Ser Loras Tyrell and Cersei, which are to occur inside the Sept of Baelor. There’s a special caveat, though: Henceforth, trial by combat is illegal in the realm.
This is a devastating blow for Cersei: A trial by combat with FrankenMountain as her champion was her get out of jail free card. No one could’ve beaten him, and the Faith knew it. In a trial with septons as judges, the queen regent doesn't stand a chance. Worse, Tommen knew as much but went with what the High Sparrow wanted anyway. In a nutshell, it's nothing less than a son sentencing his mother to death.
As Tommen leaves the throne room, he can barely bring himself to look at his mother, who is on the verge of tears. Qyburn approaches her, though, to inform her of a recent development. He had his little birds investigate “rumors” Cersei had heard, which turned out to be much more than rumors. Until they show us what they’re talking about, all we’re left with are our own rumors.
Elsewhere in Westeros, Brienne and Pod arrive at Riverrun, which (as Pod brilliantly points out) is under siege. Several Lannister men ride up to inquire about their purposes, but Brienne’s eyes are fixed inside the camp on Jaime Lannister. She tells them to inform Jaime that she’s there to see him.
In the camp, Bronn sneaks up on an unsuspecting Pod. We saw a snippet of this reunion in the season trailer, albeit it looked much less friendly there. Bronn and Pod’s friendship goes all the way back to season 2, thanks to their shared association with Tyrion, and it’s fun to see the pair fall back into their old habits together.
Meanwhile, Jaime and Brienne also have some catching up to do. The last time these two were together, in season 4, Brienne was riding off to find Sansa Stark while Jaime watched oh-so longingly -- at least, that's how Brienne/Jaime shippers saw it. Jaime admits he’s surprised that Sansa is doing well, let alone is alive, but he’s proud of Brienne for accomplishing her duty.
The conversation starts to sour, however, when politics gets dragged in; after all, they’re technically on opposing sides now.
Brienne has a solution for both of their woes, though. She asks Jaime to let her enter Riverrun under a neutral flag to speak to the Blackfish. If she can win the Tully leader over, she wants Jaime to allow her and the Tully army to leave the castle peacefully and march north unhindered. That way, she’ll have brought Sansa reinforcements and the Lannisters will take Riverrun bloodlessly.
It’s a risky plan, but he gives her until nightfall to do it. For a moment before she leaves, it aaaaalllllmost looks like there’ll be a kiss/hug/some kind of sweet moment, but Brienne dashes away. There’s definitely some chemistry there.
Unfortunately for Brienne, her charm’s got nothing over the Blackfish. Stubborn as an ox, he won’t leave the castle, not even to help his niece. A dismayed Brienne tells Pod to write a message to Sansa: They’ve failed.
That night, Jaime finds Edmure Tully tied inside a tent. Given his past as a prisoner of war, one almost thinks that Jaime is going to show Edmure some kindness. That was not to be the case.
Jaime’s inner darkness flashes out in their conversation. He brings up Catelyn, Edmure’s sister, and how far she’d go to save her children. “The things we do for love,” he tells Edmure, a callback to what he told Cersei before shoving young Bran Stark out the window way back in season 1.
His love now is for Cersei, he shamelessly tells him, and the things he’d do to return to her include slaughtering every Tully in Riverrun -- as well as Edmure's young baby, who he fathered on his wedding night and has never met. As much as many of us want to root for Jaime, Cersei’s venomous love brings out the very worst in him.
Shortly after, Edmure approaches the castle’s drawbridge alone and demands entry. The Blackfish refuses, but the knight in charge of the entryway says that Edmure, as rightful lord of Riverrun, must be obeyed. Despite his warnings that they’re being played for fools, the Blackfish finds himself alone as those who were his men make their allegiance to Edmure clear. As the drawbridge is lowered, he walks away with a pained expression etched into his face.
It turns out that the Blackfish was correct: Once inside, Edmure orders all the men to throw down their arms and for the the drawbridge to be reopened. He’s surrendering the castle to the Lannisters, and he orders for the Blackfish to be handed to the Freys.
With Jaime leading his forces into Riverrun, the Blackfish takes Brienne and Pod to a small boat on the river so they can escape. Brienne pleads for him to join them, but he won’t go. This is his home, after all, and he’s not going to run away from another fight.
Standing along a causeway that was filled with hostile Tullys minutes before, Jaime is informed that the Blackfish has been killed. With the news on his former idol sinking in, Jaime looks out and sees Brienne and Pod in the small boat, rowing (ridiculously slowly) away from the fortress.
For a moment it seems that he might raise an alarm, but he locks eyes with Brienne and can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he waves his clunky metal hand goodbye. She returns the wave as they slowly make their escape.
As someone who has hopped on the Tormund/Brienne ship as of late, the chemistry between these two was captivating. Whereas Cersei poisons any goodwill Jaime may possess, Brienne has always brought out in him the true hero he could be. While they may be separated once again, I can’t help but hope now that they’ll soon meet again.
Back in Meereen
Things are rapidly going downhill in Meereen. In easily one of my favorite grand shots of all Game of Thrones, we see dozens of the masters’ ships, armed with trebuchets, slinging flaming shots into the city, with the camera panning across to show fires blazing everywhere. The scale of the bombardment and its effects brings to mind the siege of Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings with its epic scale. I could write about these few seconds for hours (but I’ll stop for your sake).
Inside the Great Pyramid, Tyrion readily admits to all that his plans have backfired tremendously. Grey Worm effectively relieves him of command in this situation. Tyrion had his chance; now Grey Worm will try to save the city.
After laying out his plan to fight these invaders, the pyramid shakes as something heavy lands with a thud outside. Believing that soldiers have made their way inside, the Unsullied take their positions, bracing for a fight; even Missandei grabs a knife.
When they open the doors and look around, though, it’s not a slaver’s army they find, but a queen.
Daenerys Stormborn marches into the room, with her soldiers kneeling before her, as her ride flies away in the background. What could she possibly be thinking in this moment, besides what the heck have you done to my city?
Given that Drogon likely beat the Dothraki army to the city, we’re now left hoping that Dany’s new forces (or perhaps the small Greyjoy fleet?) arrive before the slavers can destroy Meereen.
More Riverlands galavanting
The Hound, still power-marching, comes across the three men he was looking for -- all with nooses around their necks, waiting to die. Who caught them? Why, it’s Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, themselves the leaders of the Brotherhood Without Banners, whom we haven’t seen since season 3.
It turns out that the men responsible for the peasant slaughter were brothers gone rogue, and they’re going to be executed for dragging the group’s good name through the dirt.
-- Aside -- This development is a bit disappointing in this writer’s humble opinion. We met the Brotherhood in season 3 as a group of outlaws trying to be the good guys. The possibility of this group going bad presented a slew of opportunities for a creative plot twist; what we got wasn’t one of those. To be fair, I’m not totally let down by this, but I just hope that the showrunners have some good ideas for this group going forward. -- End aside --
The Hound tells Beric that he was a member of the group the men attacked and, by darn, these men are his to kill. Beric eventually negotiates for the Hound to kill two of the men (axe-less, unfortunately) and leave the third to him. Just before the Hound kicks the barrel out from under the leader of the bad apples, that man pleads that he’ll give the Hound whatever he wants. Undaunted, Clegane kicks the barrel anyway -- and takes the man's boots while he suffocates to death. Classic Hound!
After justice is delivered, the Hound shares a meal with the Brotherhood (it’s apparently an okay meal, but the Hound notes that he prefers chicken, a delicious little Easter egg for those who remember his tavern fight in season 4).
While they eat (and while the Hound goes off to pee, and yes, they do show the Little Hound), Beric and Thoros discuss how they’ve gotten to where they are today. God has a purpose for them, they say, and God has a purpose for the Hound, too. The group is going north to fight some darkness that’s rising (whatever that could be...), and the Hound’s invited to tag along.
One season you’re trying to kill one another, and the next you’re traveling buddies. Game of Thrones in a nutshell.
Back in Braavos
In her quarters, Lady Crane checks on a snoozing Arya like any sweet mother would (I really loved these two together, if you can’t tell). She goes into another room and steps on a stool to get some more medicine, but she turns around to see a strange young man staring at her.
Arya awakens when she hears a commotion outside her room. Sure enough, she finds Lady Crane, brutally killed. The Waif appears, taunting her for not having killed Crane herself. Before she makes the same mistakes of last episode, Arya makes a run for it.
Something we don’t get treated to often in 'Thrones' is a good ole fashioned chase sequence, but this is one of those. And it’s a friggin rush.
Arya dashes through streets, slides under wagons and plows her way through crowds, but the Waif is hot on her tail. This assassin really, personally wants Arya dead, seemingly in contradiction to the rules of her own order.
Eventually, Arya takes one leap too large, flying off a rooftop before making a harsh landing on a stone stairway far below. Bless this girl’s heart, she rolls so far down the stairs, knocking over so many baskets of fruit along the way, that it’s almost comical. Indeed it would’ve been, had she not been so bloody when she finally stopped moving, as it seems that her stomach wounds reopened upon landing.
Arya stumbles and slowly tries to flee her foe, but the Waif need only walk to keep up with her. She follows the trail of Arya’s blood into the darkened, nearly subterranean room Arya first took shelter in following her failed mission. By the light of a single candle, the Waif cockily asks Arya if she’d rather die on her knees or standing. She picks the latter, albeit with her trusty sword Needle in-hand, ready for a fight. As the Waif approaches, Arya swiftly cuts the candle out with Needle and we’re immersed in darkness.
When the picture returns, we’re in the House of Black and White. Jaqen walks in and discovers a large amount of blood by the small well of mystery water. He follows the trail of blood down into the hall of faces and finds its end under a single column. Looking up, Jaqen sees that a face has, indeed, been added to the hall: the bloody face of the Waif.
Arya sneaks up behind him, sword at the ready, and says she knew Jaqen ordered the Waif to kill her. He doesn’t deny it, but he’s impressed with Arya; after all, she did add a face to the hall like she was supposed to. “Finally, a girl is no one,” he declares, but a girl disagrees.
“A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and a girl is going home,” she says -- and we all cheer.
Instead of fear or disappointment, Jaqen gives her a smile and a nod. Arya gives an almost-smile back and leaves for good.
Despite all that’s happened, it’s clear that Jaqen is proud of her. Even though he gave Arya a lot of grief while she trained with the Faceless Men, Jaqen continually dropped little hints that showed him as not just a mentor to her, but a friend. It’s no secret that Arya has a fiery, independent attitude, one that would be hard-pressed to adopt the ways of the Faceless Men. Jaqen had to at least suspect this would be the outcome of her training, perhaps even hoping this would be the case so that she could take some new skills back to Westeros. Let's hope with Jaqen that she finds ways to use them.
With the twists and turns of “No One,” a lot of predictions made earlier this season were shot down. Many involved Arya's escape from Braavos, the siege of Riverrun and the Lannisters in King's Landing. Two of the biggest theories, though, were years in the making and deeply ingrained into fans' thinking.
A huge one was Cleganebowl, the fan theory that FrankenMountain would fight in Cersei’s trial by combat against his brother, the Hound. Without going deep in detail on this one, this theory is seemingly dead now that trial by combat is illegal. The flames were further doused after the Hound joined up with the Brotherhood instead of a group of septons heading to King’s Landing like in the books.
Speaking of the Brotherhood, the return of Beric Dondarrion has all-but killed the dreams of millions regarding Lady Stoneheart. In short, she’s the reanimated body of Catelyn Stark who, in the books, was saved by the Brotherhood shortly after the Red Wedding and is driven solely by vengeance (for many more details, click here). With the possible dark turn the Brotherhood had taken and numerous references to Catelyn this season, many fans finally thought she’d make her appearance. However, in the books, Beric sacrificed his own life to bring her back. With him very much alive, years after the Red Wedding and with plans to go north, it seems that the show has put this book-favorite character to bed once and for all.
Fans will mourn these revelations, to be sure, but “No One” was by no means a poor episode. It found strength in some fantastic acting, especially by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) and Essie Davis (Lady Crane), and beautiful cinematography. Season 6’s streak of successes still goes strong.
BONUS LINES OF THE WEEK
Lady Crane, to an Arya Stark sceptical about taking milk of the poppy: “If my soup didn’t kill you, nothing will.”
The Hound, to a man whose bum he’s just shoved an axe into: “Those are your last words? ‘F*** you’? ... You’re s*** at dying, you know that?” Classic Hound!
Edmure Tully, to Jaime: “You understand on some level ... you’re an evil man?” Thought provoking, especially as we see what Cersei does to Jaime’s behavior.
Brynden "Blackfish" Tully, to Brienne: "I haven't had a proper sword fight in years. I expect I'll make a damn fool out of myself." I'm sure you didn't #RIP
Tyrion Lannister: not exactly a quote, but he tells Missandei and Grey Worm that he one day hopes to bottle his own wine, to be called “The Imp’s Delight.” I’m so down.
Questions? Comments? Was I wrong about Gendry last week (yes)? Find me on Twitter @HJuncensored