Co-written by Robert Mitchell.
After two weeks’ worth of setup, Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode, “No One“, finally delivered some payoff. Brienne makes it to Riverrun and reunites with Jaime for the first time since he gave her Oathkeeper, the Hound goes on a roaring rampage of revenge, Cersei and the Faith Militant finally come to blows, Arya finally decides whether she is No One or not, and the Mother of Dragons returns to her people. It’s a satisfying hour of television, and gets the ball rolling for the fever-pitch violence that’s sure to come next week.
In the south of Westeros, the Brotherhood without Banners is quickly becoming the Brotherhood without Heads courtesy of Sandor Clegane. Sandor interrupts a campfire gathering of the vigilantes-turned-bandits and the confrontation is bloody and short. He demands the location of the man in the yellow cloak, Lem Lemoncloak, who approached the camp and later murdered Brother Ray and the members of his enclave. The Hound eventually catches up with Lem and two other bandits as they are about to be hanged by Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. After some haggling, the Hound wins the right to exact his vengeance on two of the men, and he kicks the stumps out from under Lem and another of the bandits. Around a campfire meal of their own, Thoros, the Lightning Lord, and the Hound discuss destiny, divine intervention, and brushes with death. Beric insists that the Hound was spared for a reason and that he will have an important role to play in the coming war with the dead. With Beric and Jon Snow likely allied in that fight, the coming showdown with the White Walkers is shaping up to be a zombie battle royale on both sides.
At the Red Keep Cersei refuses a summons from the High Sparrow by turning the FrankenMountain loose on the Faith Militant who have come to claim her. There is, oddly, a hint of remorse in her eyes as Cersei tells Lancel that she chooses violence over submission, and then a hint of raw pleasure when she watches FrankenMountain decapitate a man with his bare hands. Her sense of security is wrecked, however, when she intrudes on a royal proclamation to which she was not invited. Tommen announces the date of Cersei and Ser Loras’ trial, and in the same breath decrees a prohibition on trial by combat, Cersei’s best hope for survival, and our best hope for CleganeBowl. Discreetly, Maester Qyburn cryptically tells the downtrodden Cersei that his little birds have found some truth in a rumor she had shared with him. What rumor that is, we will likely not learn until the final episode of the season.
The Lion’s share (or the Trout’s share, depending on who you’re backing in this siege) of the action in Westeros this episode takes place in and around Riverrun. Brienne and Jaime are reunited, and it’s a reunion that’s tender, confrontational, and full of respect and suddenly we’re in a full-on #TeamJaime/#TeamTormund ship show. Brienne convinces Jaime to grant her entry to Riverrun and she tells him that, should it come to battle, her honor compels her to fight on the side of the Tullys. Even so, Jaime tells Brienne that Oathkeeper is hers, regardless, and there’s a sadness as they part ways, perhaps for the last time. Perhaps the oddest and most entertaining exchange this episode occurs between Bronn and Pod. The chokehold that seemed so ominous in last week’s episode preview turns out to be nothing more than roughhousing between two soldiers of fortune. After getting the jump on him, Bronn teaches Pod to fight dirty (and we are reminded about one of the most bizarre subplots concerning Pod’s…pod). Later, in the castle, Brienne treats with the Blackfish but he refuses to abandon Riverrun, even to help his great niece, Sansa, retake her own home. When the Blackfish dismisses Sansa as just a silly girl, Brienne stands up for Sansa. Her endorsement reinforces what we have seen as audience members; that Sansa’s will is icy steel and she’s a far cry different from the young girl who set out toward King’s Landing with her father all those years ago. If there was ever any doubt that Brienne the Beautiful was anything less than the noblest and most loyal of warriors, her defense of Sansa alone should be their death knell.
In Edmure’s putrid prison tent, Jaime apologizes for the wretched treatment the Freys have shown him. Jaime promises to reunite Edmure with his wife and newborn son, and Edmure, understandably upset from what must have been unbearable imprisonment, spits curses and insults at Jaime. A long conversation about Cat Tully-Stark and Cersei ensues, and when Edmure tries to change the subject, Jaime confesses his love for Cersei and that if it comes to killing Edmure in order to get back to her, he won’t hesitate. Instead, he convinces Edmure to take another tack and releases him to open the gates and end the siege. Jaime’s gambit works, and in sharing one glance with his nephew inside the gates, the Blackfish knows his days as a free man are numbered (that number is zero). The Blackfish refuses to surrender but gives Brienne and Pod an easy escape. As Jaime contemplates his victory from the ramparts, a Lannister soldier arrives and informs him that the victory was not bloodless; the Blackfish died fighting rather than be apprehended. Between the scuffle with the Blackfish and the madness in Braavos, a good chunk of the violence this episode happens off screen. It’s a striking directorial choice in a show that hasn’t shied away from decapitations and hangings, and in that way news of the gruff old man’s death is somehow more affecting. It certainly hits Jaime hard, and it’s clear from his saddened expression he had a deep respect for the man. Brienne and Pod row to safety, and from the ramparts, Jaime waves a melancholy farewell to the most eligible bachelorette/impressive professional in the Seven Kingdoms. As Jaime lets Brienne go free, Edmure’s accusations that Jaime is not a man of honor ring false as we see the remorse play out on his face. He is much changed from the brash young man who joined the Kingsguard to spite his father. Brienne is heartbroken that she was unable to convince the Blackfish to help in the fight to reclaim Westeros, but he spoke truly when he told Brienne that she would be better equipped to help Sansa than anyone. With her great uncle dead and the Tully army surrendered, Sansa will just have to get help from Littlefinger, the Westerosi equivalent of everyone’s creepy uncle.
Across the Narrow Sea, Varys and the most famous dwarf in the world have a brief conversation about the Red Priestesses and the future of Meereen. Varys is still skeptical of the followers of R’hllor, and tells Tyrion that he made a pact with fanatics. Tyrion seems to acknowledge this, but also makes quips about Varys’ understanding of the whole situation. Their dynamic is fantastic, as always. Unfortunately, Varys boards a ship to go on some mission to gain Westerosi allegiances for Danerys, so fans will have to wait a while to hear the Spider and the Imp in a battle of barbs again.
Tyrion returns to the giant pyramid palace, where his only companionship remaining consists of Missandei and Grey Worm. As he has already done a few times this season, Tyrion attempts to break the cultural barriers and develop some kind of repertoire with the two. Tyrion thrives on witty banter, and it’s hard to have that without someone to talk to. This time, he attempts to tell a joke and asks the same of the other two. His joke, about a Stark, a Lannister, and a Martell going into a bar, doesn’t go over too well because Missandei and Grey Worm don’t understand the context. (Viewers may have gotten a kick out of the idea of a Stark yelling at a fly to spit out the ale it stole from him, however.) He then asks Missandei and Grey Worm for jokes, goading them with wine and words. Missandei tells a joke about two sailors drowning – Tyrion feigns laughter and Grey Worm tells her it is the worst joke he has ever heard. Then, deadpan, he tells them that he was making a joke by pretending not to know what jokes were.
The unlikely trio all begin to laugh, but it’s cut short by the sound of an attack. They go outside to see the fleets of Yunkai, Astapor, and Volantis in the bay, and Grey Worm advises that they barricade themselves inside of the palace, as it’s the only place they can truly protect. Their worries are cut short, however, by the sound of another incoming weapon – Drogon. Daenerys makes her return, strolling through the balcony doors wearing Dothraki armor and looking every part the warrior queen. Things are about to get ugly for the ships in Slaver’s Bay.
Meanwhile, in the free city of Braavos, Lady Crane has changed her lines in the mummer’s play to reflect Arya’s suggestions. Her portrayal of Cersei develops a new, accurate sense of rage, and the audience goes wild. Once she’s back in her dressing room, she discovers poor, stabbed Arya hiding behind the costumes. She takes her in, tells her a little story about why she’s so good at patching up holes in people, and lets Arya drift off to sleep with some milk of the poppy to help ease things. Lady Crane is extremely likable, the kind of mother figure Arya needs right about now. She’s sassy, funny, and capable. Like so many entertaining side characters before her, Lady Crane is quickly slain, broken into pieces over a chair while Arya rests. Her killer, the Waif, then goes after the still-wounded Arya.
The two engage in a wild chase around Braavos, using their skills to leap around and dodge obstacles like a pair of bloodthirsty cats. Arya doesn’t fare too well on a long set of stairs, however, and she rolls down them, crashing into carts and people the whole way down. It’s brutal to watch, and by the time Arya makes it back to her hidey-hole where she has Needle stored, it seems like she may be too badly hurt to take on the Waif. She uses her time as a blind girl to her advantage, however, and slices her only candle to make the battle happen in the darkness. Instead of seeing the actual fight, viewers are instead treated to the image of the Waif’s face, sliced free from her skull and placed on the wall at the House of Black and White in Braavos. (Finally.)
Jaqen approves and tells Arya that now she truly is No One, but she’s not having it. She tells him that she is Arya Stark, and she’s going home. It’s a moment on par with Jon Snow’s “my watch has ended” earlier this season. The fiercest little Stark has trained herself to be as deadly as possible, and now she’s going to go take care of some unfinished business (a girl has a list of names, after all). Jaqen doesn’t seem to mind, a small smile curling his lips before the scene ends.
Following the series’ tradition of making the penultimate episode of each season focused on a battle, next week’s episode will be the battle for Winterfell, with the Stark/Wildling army on one side and the Boltons on the other. In the episode preview, Jon Snow instructs his assembled army that not all of the Boltons have to die – just one of them. Ramsay Bolton is going down one way or another, despite the pretty large difference in army sizes. After all, Team Stark has a giant and wildlings, and those have to count for more than Bolton men.
The Battle of the Bastards is coming, ladies and gentlemen, and it looks to be one of the show’s finest. The episode preview is dazzling, with thousands of men preparing to fight to the death for their side. Jon Snow doesn’t seem to be too optimistic about the outcome, and tells Melisandre that if he dies on the battlefield, to leave him dead, but it would be cruel even for George R.R. Martin to let everyone’s favorite man who knows nothing to die again.
Since Beric is still alive and sorta-well, the chances of seeing Lady Stoneheart/Catelyn Stark resurrected are becoming less and less likely. If she shows up at all this season (or any season), it’s not likely to be until the very last episode, maybe in the final scenes.
Hopes for CleganeBowl are also dampened a bit, though the possibility is still there. Even if they won’t be fighting for Cersei’s fate via trial by combat, Gregor and Sandor could still meet somewhere in the future and have it out once and for all. Cersei may decide to flee King’s Landing, after all, and the Mountain is sure to be by her side. If she goes to Jaime in Riverrun, it would put the two brothers quite close to one another, and the true battle of the century might actually come to pass.
The next two episodes should be fantastic, the climax of an already stellar season. Now if we could just get a bit of information about what’s going on in Dorne, that would be great.