Valar Morghulis my friends and welcome to Season Six of Game of Thrones. Every week, I will recap Sunday’s episode and answer any questions that readers may have in a midweek mailbag that I will update as questions come in right up to when the new episode airs. Send all questions to @FawkesCulture, @Matwellsays, FawkesDotCom@gmail.com(awful email, I know), or post them in the comments section below. You could also catch up with all of Fawkes’ GAME OF THRONES coverage here.
Following Game of Thrones episode “The Door,” there was consensus that a) the show had just aired one of its best episodes ever, and b) the show had room to let off the gas pedal a little bit. However, they have now aired 3 straight episodes that have really lacked any form of plot development and brought into question many of the show’s decision regarding the storyline. That was certainly the story to me following Sunday’s episode, “No One.”
If the theme of this episode was ‘what exactly was the point of that plot line?’ – then Arya is a terrific place to start. We begin this episode by learning that she, a trained assassin, did in fact get stabbed multiple times while staring off into space, when she damn well knew other trained assassins would be hunting her. Not only that, but we also learned that she is semi-super-human in her ability to run, jump from buildings, and roll down some of the countless steps in Braavos with multiple stab wounds and presumably internal bleeding. But oh well. In the end, Arya had the presence of mind to lore the Waif back to her sleeping quarters where Needle lay waiting under a mattress. She finally got her final revenge, extinguishing a candle before defeating the Waif and performing her now signature move of stabbing out her victim’s eyes.
After politely returning the Waifs face to the House of Black and White, Arya is told by Jagen H’ghar that she finally has ascended to the vaunted level of being “no one,” which is pretty convenient considering she has a sword pointed at his heart. It makes me wonder what exactly Arya accomplished to deserve this. She failed her mission to kill Lady Crane, took back her possession from what was supposed to her former life (Needle), and vengefully murdered the Waif in a way that almost certainly causedmore pain than was necessary. But, hey, plot consistency is apparently a thing of the past in Westeros so whatever. But if the House of Black and White’s ideology and the Faceless Men’s endgame were never going to be a factor, what was the point of sending Arya halfway across the world to train with them? Jagen allowed Arya to leave without so much as a word of explanation or questioning after she declared that she was in fact Arya Stark of Winterfell. Maybe she is a better fighter and maybe she’ll be able to change faces but I’m skeptical of that and couldn’t she have just become a better fighter by training under the Hound or Brienne? I understand this is part of her ASOIAF plot but why not diverge from the books here if it wasn’t going to develop her character further and have bigger implications to the rest of the story? It makes me believe that without GRRM’s canon and writing to base the happenings in Braavos off of, they had not idea how to handle this storyline and couldn’t craft an articulate purpose for the Faceless Men, which is pretty concerning as Weiss and Benioff’s show continues to move further from the books. But I digress (for now).
This week, Arya wasn’t the only character to get revenge. The Hound, fresh after losing the only friend he had, began his quest to kill the members of the Brotherhood Without Banners who cut down his companions. When he comes upon the perpetrators, they are in the process of being hung by Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarion. After making a compromise on who gets to kill who, Sandor shares a meal with his former captors, who tell him he has some bigger duty in life, along with the Lightning Lord. While I am interested in The Hound joining the Brotherhood, this scene death a serious blow to two different hype trains, namely #CleganeBowl2K16 and the return of Lady Stoneheart, which is a current storyline in the ASOIAF novels.
Back in Essos, after saying goodbye to Varys, who is off to secure Westerosi alliances, Tyrion finally made some headway in his attempts to make Greyworm and Missandei into a little lighter of company. However, his progress came at the wrong time, as right when the three start cracking jokes to one another, the “masters” showed up to take back their former slaves. As Greyworm explains to Tyrion that the only piece of the city they hope to defend is the Pyramid, Dany conveniently lands on the roof with Drogon. It is striking how often she seems to just show up at the right place at the right time and somehow mastered how to ride a dragon with very little practice.
While Dany seemingly is hear to save the day once more, I can’t wrap my head around the decisions made regarding Tyrion’s plot line this season. Obviously, Dany had to go away to regain control of the Dothraki and expand her army, but what has Tyrion accomplished? All his storyline did was offer an excuse to have the Battle of Slaver’s Bay – which would have been present, even without his ill-advised deal – and show that apparently he isn’t as clever as he, and we for that matter, thought. And, if that’s the case, then what is the point of his character at all? In the novel’s, Tyrion is ever the son of Tywin – cunning, strategic, occasionally cruel, and a master statesman. In the show, he currently is a lousy warrior and a lousy hand of the queen. Spending time with him only serves the purpose of producing witty banter and creating comic relief, which is a sad use of one of the best-written characters in the novels and one of the most talented actors on the show. Hopefully in the face of battle, Tyrion will redeem himself and the show-runners can redeem his character arc.
The most compelling twist of the episode came in King’s Landing. After being confronted by Cousin Lancel and other zealots, Cersei issued her infamous utterance from the trailers, “I choose violence,” which led to the Mountain making quick work of one member of the Faith Militant. However, even despite the fact that cousin Lancel and his merry band dispatched quickly, Cersei never got a chance to celebrate her brief victory and the seemingly impenetrable protection offered by Ser Robert Strong. She entered the Throne room just as her son, King Tommen, announces that trial by combat is officially banned throughout the Seven Kingdoms. No matter how strong Robert Strong is, he cannot make the staggering evidence of Cersei’s guilt disappear. Following the Royal Decree, Qyburn mentions to Cersei that his little birds have confirmed a rumor Cersei had inquired about, yet they don’t disclose what that rumor is exactly. My guess is that things in King’s Landing are going to get pretty wild and really heat up like fire. If only there was someone who has experience stopping semi-psychotic royalty from burning down Westeros’ capitol city.
Oh, that’s right, there is and he just happens to be the Brother-Lover of Cersei. I am of course speaking of Jaime, who at the beginning of the episode was still tied up with the Siege of Riverrun. The Lannister Camp received a surprise visit of Brienne and Podrick Payne, reuniting the two with their old friends, Jaime and Bronn, respectively. As Bronn gave Pod some fighting tips, Jaime and Brienne discussed possible outcomes for the Siege. Brienne convinces Ser Jaime to allow her to enter the castle to try and convince the Blackfish to take his army North and join forces with his great niece, Sansa. However, once inside, the Blackfish refuses, planning to never leave his home again unless dead.
After Jaime realizes his first plan has failed, he turns his attention to the rightful Lord of Riverrun, Edmure Tully. During their conversation, Jaime makes it abundantly clear that the only thing in the world that matters to him is his sister and her safety, going so far as to tell Edmure that he would launch him and his child over the walls in a catapult before slaughtering every last person inside the castle. This threat convinces Lord Edmure to take part in Jaime’s new master plan to take back Riverrun, using his power as Lord of the Castle to force the forces inside to lay down their weapons, cede the castle to the Lannister and Frey forces, and hand over the Blackfish. However, thanks to the Blackfish’s quick work, Brienne and Pod are able to escape. The Blackfish is not so lucky and a legendary fighter is killed without even getting a second of fighting onscreen.
Again, this raises the question, what was the point of all this? If Brienne and Pod are just going to head North as Jaime returns to King’s Landing, what has all of this advanced? Jaime was on a trajectory of semi-redemption. This episode, however, showed us that Jaime is willing to do anything, including heinous acts to remain by Cersei’s side. But we didn’t we already know that? Don’t forget, this is the guy who pushed a child out of a window in the show’s pilot. It’s not like he has a sterling reputation or anything like that. I guess the time there showed the feelings that remain between Jaime and Brienne but what does that matter when Jaime is threatening to infanticide to return to his sister’s side. The whole thing, after the Blackfish’s wholly unsatisfying death, just seems like another example of a lot of buildup for no real payoff.
Many of these scene that lacked a really outcome or have been totally telegraphed, are scenes set in George R.R. Martin’s last two novels but have not yet been resolved. It brings up the issue I raised earlier that Weiss and Benioff, who are objectively terrific at bringing Martin’s work to the small screen, may not be as well versed in extrapolating from pieces of his work or crafting their own stories in this universe. The best pieces of this season, Hodor’s origin and subsequent death and Jon’s resurrection, are both things that came expressly from Martin. All the rest has been a pretty mixed bag and the showrunners have no one to blame but themselves.
However, I still have hope. Next week, we get #BastardBowl2k16. For it, Weiss and Benioff themselves are writing the episode and they brought back the director of last season’s fantastic penultimate episode (“Hardhome”), Michael Sapochnik. They are pulling out all the stops for this one and rightly so. The show needs to finish the Season strong, and it has the tools – and seemingly the circumstances to do so. I’m just worried that the 2nd Battle for Winterfell will feel too much like The Battle of Rohan, with Littlefinger acting as Throne’s version of Gandalf.
What did you think of the episode? Are you confused about anything that happened or what’s to come? Send all your comments my way in the comment section below or via Twitter @matwellsays & @fawkesculture.