Game of Thrones – 58

“No One”

I really mean it this time – these Homeric Game of Thrones posts leave me knackered and let’s be honest – “Battle of the Bastards” is going to be another “Hardhome”-caliber epic.  So I’m forcing restraint on myself this week whether I want to or not.

On the whole I found this episode pretty uneven.  There were some strong elements to it, no doubt, but more genuine lulls than the last three weeks have offered (though that’s been one of the best stretches since at least Season 4, to be fair).  I’m going to start with Arya, because her story was obviously the centerpiece of the episode.  In brief, I found it pretty underwhelming.  There was no added layer behind her carelessly letting herself be cut down by The Waif last week.  There was no explanation as to why she’s able to laugh off what should have been fatal injuries (assuming Waify knows her job) by a couple of days sleep, or why she can run around like a circus acrobat with those wounds seeping blood.  It was just loose writing.

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The biggest disappointment for me, really was that Arya’s whole detour in Braavos felt kind of pointless.  If more had been made out of the empathy she supposedly learned for Cersei at seeing her children die, or the pain of all those people she’d priced with Needle, maybe it would have played differently.  But Arya’s final speech to Jaqen implied that all this was really about was Arya learning that she really is Arya Stark, not no one.  Seriously?  To me, this was a creative cul-de-sac – a way to give Arya something to do until she fits back in with the main story.  We’ll see if Martin had better plans in mind for Arya in Braavos.

Brienne and Jaime, Pod and Bronn, Edmure and The Blackfish – reunions were everywhere in the Riverlands this week.  Seeing Jaime like he is here only makes me sad for what might have been had Benioff and Weiss stuck with his character arc from A Song of Ice and Fire, but Brienne does seem to bring out the best in him.  Is there something there on either of their parts – or both?  Without a doubt, respect at the very least – for Jaime to let Brienne keep her sword certainly shows her that.  And letting her flee unchased at the end despite knowing she was going to Sansa Stark a certain level of affection, too.

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In the end, TV Jaime really is as he says – a guy who doesn’t care about anything much except fucking his sister (the callback to the first episode catch phrase was a nice touch).  I don’t think Jaime really cares if the Starks kick the Boltons out of the North (there is enough honor in him to be somewhat repulsed by the Red Wedding), or who holds Riverrun – or who dies in taking it.  It’s hard to know just exactly why Edmure did what he did – surely he doesn’t have that much affection for a wife he didn’t ask to marry and never saw after their consummation, or even a son he’s never met.  Maybe he really didn’t want to see all of his men die in a fight he knew they couldn’t win – or he sees this as the only way he’ll be able to live with himself, and sleep at night.  But for The Blackfish to die so pointlessly and off-camera (though I suppose that invites the possibility that he’s not actually dead) really rankles.  There was never a question that he’d refuse Sansa’s request and surrender his home, but at least if he had something would have been gained in exchange for that loss.

Tommen royally (heh) screwing his mother over was certainly satisfying.  The High Sparrow really is a cunning old codger – he seems to be many steps ahead of Cersei (well, that’s not so hard) at every turn.  For Cersei to have her ace in the hole ripped away from her hurts – for Tommen to have done it is the salt in the wound.  I’ll be very interested to see what role Margaery takes in all this, given that she’s effectively the enemy of both combatants.  Publicly of course she has to take the High Sparrow’s side, especially since her main goal here is surely to get what’s left of her brother back safely.

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Tyrion telling jokes with Grey Worm and Missandei?  Amusing I suppose, but I’m very sad to see Varys go (secret expedition to find some ships, it seems?) , and those jokey scenes always seem rather pointless in the end.  Tyrion is very lonely now, and I do find his oddball friendship with Varys rather touching.  As for Daenerys conveniently arriving at the very moment the Masters arrive to take Meereen, well – it’s par for the course with this storyline.  Nothing I’ve seen in this arc has really resonated, even with the arrival of Tyrion.

Maybe the best part of the episode for me was, again, Sandor.  I was very pleased to see The Hound hook up with the true Brotherhood Without Banners, because I think that’s a good place for him to find some meaning in his life without becoming a complete animal driven by pure vengeance.  Plus, Paul Kaye (Thoros) and especially Richard Dormer (Berric) are wonderful actors.  I was pleased to see a reasonable explanation for why what happened to Brother Ray happened – the men who did it were not truly representing the Brotherhood.  Berric and his men clearly have their sights set on the real enemy, and I think they mark a nice medium between Sandor Clegane’s bloodlust and Ray’s pacifism.  Here, The Hound can fight for something that means something – as Berric says, to “help a lot more than he’s harmed”.  And I think that’s something Sandor, who has decency in him buried under a lifetime of pain, truly wants.

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22 comments

  1. Agreement about how the Arya and the Waif has been handled. The TV Arya and Waif storyline was always going to be a very modern former victim defeats bully. They’ve been on a collision course ever since it was clear the Waif didn’t like Arya. It’s the sort of predictable payout trope that’s often done poorly. Tropes can be done well, but here it just wasn’t. Unlike the Karate Kid, at least Arya had enough unscripted sparring to justify her eventual triumph. Sort of. Probably not? It doesn’t matter now.

    Best part of the episode was Brienne and Jaime. Two people with great affinity for one another being on the wrong side of things. They make a better pair than Jaime/Cersei. Just because the plot indicates a thing is true doesn’t necessarily make it true, but that’s the writing we’re getting.

    And yeah, I think the Hound’s finally found his place in the world.

  2. Yes, it seems entirely possible Arya planned all along to lure the Waif into that dark hidey hole. And if so its still really dumb. If your master plan is to allow a professional assassin to repeatedly stab you, you need a new plan.

  3. Yeah I don’t buy it either, Arya could have died from any of those wounds(including rolling down the stairs, imagine a sharp object laying there).

  4. Not many shows do action or injury properly. The 100lb Keri Russell in ep1 of The Americans beating up a 230-250lb man with strikes? I’m not in the market for the Eiffel Tower.

  5. Game of Thrones has handled injuries better than that in the past though, with Arya’s situation it was as if the writing took a steep nosedive(the chase scene was well directed though).

  6. M

    There seems to be a theme of setting up pointless dead-end side quests and disposable secondary characters just to have selected main characters move from one point of the map to another. It’s reductive, lazy and ultimately hurts the story.

  7. M

    Tyrion’s role in the story seems so pointless and uninteresting now, considering diplomacy with the masters has ultimately come to naught. Apart from treating with the Lord of Light Cult all he has really done on screen is make awkward small talk with Missandrei and Greyworm (twice), and made bad eunuch jokes (twice). Tyrion traveled halfway across the world, to Meereen, to be basically reduced to filler material until Daenerys can return and have her, as per usual, cliché badass moment.

  8. A

    I think the point was that he was sad that Vary’s, his only friend had left, regarding the small talk. I think what Mereen highlights is how difficult it is to rule a kingdom. I mean Danery’s has tried being a kind and just ruler, which hasn’t worked and Tyrion has tried negotiating and making pacts to rule which appears to have failed as well.

    For me it’s one of the plot lines that makes you understand just how difficult running a kingdom/country must be.

  9. Running a kingdom in this case is like watching sausage made…

  10. A

    If that’s what ruling is like then so be it. At least there’s a tangible point to be made. In my eyes the last few seasons of highlighted that Dany would not be fit to rule Westeros as she is.

  11. Well, the thing is obviously that in this case ruling is made harder by the fact that Dany is an outsider – someone who dropped in without in depth knowledge of the situation or an exit strategy. She just came and won but had no plans beyond that – even Tyrion’s cunning could do little to deal with that (and he lacked experience too in this case). At this point nothing short of complete and utter annihilation of the Masters would bring peace to the region. This is the nuclear option situation – she could maybe, *maybe* get peace if she completely razed one of the Masters’ cities, burned it to the ground with her dragons, tossed the Masters in the sea with a rock to their feet, and made it extremely clear that this is the fate that would expect anyone who’d tried further fuckery. And it would still be a fragile equilibrium founded on fear that would crumble as soon as she leaves for Westeros. She can’t divide her forces too much but she can’t afford to go conquer another continent with just a handful of men either. No matter how one looks at it, her situation is a logistic and political nightmare.

  12. A

    The Mereen story is far far far better then the Faceless men story. At least Mereen delves into the difference between conquering and ruling and how seemingly doing the right thing (freeing slaves) can create as many issues as it resolves.

    What in the hell was the point of the faceless men story arc? That Arya isn’t no one but is actually Arya? And how after seemingly breaking several bones from a severe fall, after being stabbed multiple times mind you, does she defeat the Waif? Absolutely ridiculous story that has gone nowhere.

  13. D

    Maybe I’m just getting bored of GoT, but this season felt riddled with Hollywood-esque cliches that weren’t there before. The show always grabbed my attention by how it managed to subvert expectations and with that, change the circumstances and outcomes of so many different characters and their storylines. Brann gets rescued at the last possible moment, Danny shows up as the siege starts, Arya shrugs off her injuries and reveals a cunning trap… Yawn. I still enjoy the actors and inividual characters play off of each other, but the story itself has somewhat lost me. It gives the impression that even the writers are exhausted and at this point only have a very vague idea what to do with the tangled mess of characters and unresolved plotlines they made for themselves.

    I will say that untill the very end I thought the whole Arya thing was gonna be a bit more clever than it seemed. I was sure that maybe she faked her injuries (somehow), or that the actress she was meant to kill was actually Jaqen all along. I dunno, something, anything. Instead we get… this.

  14. One thing is for sure… No matter how smart the High Sparrow is I just don’t see him being alive next season.He has death flags all over him.

  15. T

    I need a better explanation of the whole Arya thing because I feel that whole storyline was pointless. D&D need to come out and explain some shit. I want Tyrion to be utilized better I mean I understand that he tried reasoning with the masters and clearly that didnt work and Dany trying to be kind didnt work either. So what will it take for Mereen and the whole East to change completely while creating a solid system in place to govern while she is away?

  16. About Qyburn rumors… I smell Cersei releasing Wildfire in episode 10…

  17. That seems to be the trending theory. But then, look at how well all those Arya and LSH theories turned out.

  18. D

    Bran did see the wildfire exploding in his visions. It could be Daenerys’s doing, probably unintentionally due to her dragons, but Tommen is definitely going to die in episode 10 (it would be fun if he fell from a tower in the Red Keep, mirroring what Cersei and Jaimie did to Bran – ultimate karma payback), and that would give Cersei all the motivation she needs.

  19. Actually the Tommen-motivation element interests me. One thing we’ve never seen is one of Cersei’s precious lambs betray her. How will the fiercely possessive lioness react to that? I haven’t ruled out that Tommen could be the subject of her greatest ire.

  20. D

    This has no evidence or foreshadowing as far as I know, but I’ve been thinking he and Cersei may get in some kind of spat (for obvious reasons given Tommen’s recent behavior from Cersei’s perspective) and zombie Mountain reacts defensively to protect his master, somehow or another resulting in Tommen’s death. Maybe after discovering his true parentage? Then the scene would truly be a perfect mirror to Bran’s fall in S1. The only problem I have with that idea is Tommen reacting in such a way as to prompt a Mountain intervention would probably be out of character.

  21. I thought this episode was a necessary evil since it wrapped up a lot of the shitty plot lines that opened this season. Arya’s arc was really dragging and there wasn’t much point to Dany’s escapades, at least we’re now back on track to something actually happening with these two characters.

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