Published on June 23rd, 2016 | by Bean0
Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 8 “No-One” Review
As we draw near the close of Game of Thrones’ sixth and most exciting season, it’s eighth episode accelerates proceedings beyond the already heady pace we’ve been keeping. Skipping back and forth across The Narrow Sea, “No-One” plays like a jittery mongrel, fetching layer after layer of tension from the respective pivotal arenas in Braavos, Meeren, Riverrun and Kings Landing, we build toward the inevitable showdown of the final ten minutes.
Arya’s journey has long been a seemingly endless rite of passage, and one in which she has now made a significant stride. Bounced from pillar to post much like her elder sister, the tenacity which fuelled her journey, the vengeance at it’s heart, set it apart from what felt until recently for Sansa more like non-stop suffering. For two seasons now, Arya has sojourned in Braavos, a resistant acolyte under the tutelage of her not quite beneficent mentor Jaqen H’gar. The skills The Many-Faced God offered now seem, if not spurious, then outweighed by the lack of autonomy and identity the job of religious assassin requires.
If Arya is anything, she is an individual, and a Stark through and through. As I posited last week, it appears her mission to Braavos was ultimately to balance the part of her hell-bent on retribution with a more mature and rounded sense of self. Her list had become a fixation, and while the names are likely still there to be crossed off for Arya, the physical and mental skills she has accrued means she may survive and be victor, perhaps even over The Mountain.
Her endurance is certainly second to none now, having been stabbed and relentlessly pursued by a T1000-like Waif. Her abilities extend beyond sight, a sensory advantage that her enemy neglects to factor in to their battle, tipping the scales in Ayra’s favour. In a Mona Lisa moment, as Arya faces down Jaqen H’gar in the House of Black and White, stating her reclaimed name and new purpose, he smiles, giving the impression that perhaps this was his motive in tutoring her all along.
Whatever the reason for her guidance, Arya is now bound for Westeros, where her sister is still attempting to wrangle together enough troops to storm Winterfell. Just send Arya in, I reckon. Maybe the Hound, flanking with his axe. Sansa’s mysterious missive from last episode is delivered by Brienne and Pod to her uncle, The Blackfish, who remains besieged by Jaime Lannister and the Freys at his ancestral seat, Riverrun. Pod and Bron share a playful scene of gossip and tactics, acting as chorus to lighten the mood while reminding us of the complex quasi-courtly-romantic dynamic between Brienne and Jaime.
Of all the reunions season six has offered us so far, this pairing matches the impact of Jon and Sansa, though with a more muted and uncertain effect. This only serves to heighten the emotions at play – we rarely see these two off their guard or so thrown by the presence of another (Tormund aside). There is a subtle tragedy to their scenes, both in the tent where they set out their stalls as essentially affectionate enemies, and in their leave-taking as Brienne and Pod escape Riverrun.
The audible sigh of relief Jaime gives as he sees Brienne has survived, the turn of his head to check nobody has seen this side to him – his honour and mercy – coupled with Brienne’s sad-eyed wave, which she does allow Podrick to witness, is a wistful nod to what might have been. Whether their bond was ever truly a romantic one, which seems unlikely given the limerance-ridden monomania Jaime harbours for his sister, what does remain is that beautiful thing – potential which improves both parties. Brienne sees the nobility in Jaime that even Cersei cannot, and he sees an equal whose utter integrity inspires him to loftier moral heights. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
The object of his heart’s distraction is suffering one defeat after another in Kings Landing. Cersei, having been brutalised and humiliated at the hands of the Faith Militant now closes ranks around herself, refusing to meet with the High Sparrow, and taking the opportunity to flex her monster-muscle on his minions. Once again, the show gives us countless reasons to side against Cersei, with brazen lines such as “I choose violence”, but Lena Headey plays this scene and her public drubbing in the throne-room with such deftness that even as she smiles at the Mountain ripping a man’s head off you feel the echo of her recent suffering. As her son condemns her to more of the same and her ability to manipulate him or her situation is stripped from her, she twists in the wind for a moment, heartbroken and shaken, before Qyburn gives word of another trick up the collective Camp Cersei sleeve, in the form of a rumour.
The Hound fares better in terms of finding a purpose and possible allies. While he remains wary of Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Borders, at heart he is a fighter, a man looking for a direction to swing his axe. The lure of maybe finding a fight his heart can get behind – the fight for humanity – might be enough to sway him into joining the Brotherhood at least for a time. The optimist in me hopes he bides his time until the Gods favour a reunion between he and Arya. Perhaps the final lesson for her could be mercy, and strike his name from her list of enemies.
Meereen meanwhile is surrounded by adversaries, as the Masters come to take back their slaves or slaughter them in a fairy siege, whichever happens first. Tyrion, now Varys-less, leans on Missande and Grey Worm as the attack begins, conceding to the latter’s knowledge of warfare, having bonded with them moments before in a beautiful comic scene that laid bare their idiosyncrasies over a bottle of wine. Just as the future looks grimmest for the city and it’s incumbent proxy-leader, who should swoop in, but the Mother of Dragons! Majesty has always come easily to Emilia Clarke, but Daenerys’ entrance to the pyramid at Meereen never looked more regal, more awe-inspiring (even aflame) and more mature. The Masters are gonna wish they’d gone for diplomacy after all.
Review by Nina Clark
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