A girl is dead. Long live Arya Stark!
Despite a serious flesh wound, blood loss, exhaustion and severe bruising from a fruit-related fall, it is with great delight that we welcome back Arya Stark, Daughter of Winterfell, Wielder of Needle, Kicker of Arse and The Waif’s Lament.
It was a theme we would see repeated throughout this episode - that in Game of Thrones (and maybe for us too) it is nigh impossible to overcome your nature.
Again, this was a more measured episode, with only a few high stakes moments. But still, it had lots to recommend it. Romance. Tension. Romantic tension. Brutal murder. Returns of the sad and surprising varieties. The Hound’s wang. Of course it didn’t have Jon Snow, and seriously, people I’m getting a bit frustrated by this severe lack of My Beloved and His Abs.
But let’s save that particular argument for another day. It's time to flex my recappespondent muscles (which believe me, are the only ones I have in any kind of condition).
Season 6, Episode 8: No One
They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. By that standard, the Hound is one happy freelance lumberjack. Chancing upon some of the Brotherhood Without Banners camping in the woods, he takes his axe to them so enthusiastically you’d think they were birthday pinatas. He decapitated one of the younger fighters in one blow, slammed his axe into the heart of another, sliced the throat of the third, then appeared to carve the genitals away from the bald, finger-sniffing one’s body like your Dad carves the parson’s nose from the Christmas turkey.
The burnt-faced one eventually finds the Brothers He’s Looking For - already strung up and about to meet the Red God in person.
I was supremely grateful to see Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr again after all this time, and I was relieved to have it confirmed that the Brothers who raided the Happy Hillsong Church last episode were in fact a traitorous bunch of greedy bastards. They were not true servants of the Lord of Light; therefore, they were about to be hanged for their crimes.
Sandor Clegane negotiated the killing right to two out of the three of them - but in possibly the most disappointing news he’d had since finding out Ian McShane would only be in one episode with him, Beric and Thoros prevented him from taking to them with Ol’ Faithful. Instead, he was allowed to push the stool out from under them. Pfffft. That’s not justice to a Clegane. That’s basically a mercy killing. On the plus side, it did keep the whole affair bloodless, which meant the Hound could source a nice new pair of boots from the not-yet-dead dangling body. Never let it be said he isn’t resourceful.
Later around the campfire, with some disappointingly non-chicken meat (we remember how the Hound loves his f***ing chicken), Beric and Thoros entreat the Hound to join the Brotherhood, and fight for whatever it is they’re all fighting for. None of them know exactly, they just seem content enough to bumble around the countryside until their purpose becomes clear.
The Hound is initially wary, which is not surprising for a man whose last attempt at friendship ended up looking like Jonestown, and takes a restorative micturation by the nearby lake. Now I thought the camera would cut away at the moment he, well, unleashed The Hound Junior, but they did not. If you missed it, I’ve prepared this helpful and tasteful guide.
Of course it’s not particularly attractive wang, especially since the show seems to delight in showing us a close-up of his stream arcing forcefully into the lake. But apparently unsolicited todger tableaus show up all the time these days, so we should just be happy it wasn’t a close-up followed by a request for nudes.
Despite their previous run-in, the Hound seems ready to be brought around by Beric, Thoros and Co. His nature is to be a big killing machine; at least by joining them he'd be doing at least some of it for the right reason. And that's got to count for something.
Meanwhile the Hound probably doesn’t know that his reanimated corpse of a brother is still kicking on in King’s Landing, protecting Cersei Lannister and picking off Faith Militant like my foster kittens pick off deli meat left unsupervised on the kitchen bench (or indeed, anywhere).
It’s another tribute to the emotionally manipulative power of this show that I have always loathed the Mountain, and yet enjoyed the sight of him totally ripping a dude’s face off a little too much.
The conflict arose from Cersei refusing to leave the Red Keep to go and see the High Sparrow. Cousin Lancel insists, telling Cersei to have the Mountain step aside, or there will be violence. A quiet pause, and then Cersei says what she was always going to say: “I choose violence.”
Qyburn looked incredibly impressed with his creation as he and Cersei watched the Zombie Mountain dispense with a Faith Militant in gruesome fashion. Cersei threw shade - “Tell the High Septon he’s always welcome to visit me - before turning on her heels and flouncing back inside.
Things take a turn for the worse for Cersei though when she finds out at the last minute that there is to be a Royal Announcement.
It turns out throwing shade runs in Lannister genetics as her Uncle Kevan responds to her inquiry about why she wasn’t told about it earlier with “There’s going to be a Royal Announcement. In the throne room. At this very moment.” He even makes her go to the back of the room rather than take her place near Tommen.
Poor Tommen, having to tip a bucket over his own mother as she looks on impassively. King Squeaky tells the crowd that not only will Cersei and Slow Lorus face trial very soon, but trial by combat will be banned. “The tradition is a brutish one,” he says, adding that they’ll stand trial in front of seven septons, just like the good old days.
As the strains of the Rains of Castamere play, Cersei’s face, usually one of the harder ones to read, quite obviously screams “I’m boned.” The Zombie Mountain was her trump card. She’s got nothing left to play…except that Qyburn has some sort of creepy plan. He dangles the information that a “rumour” he’d been investigating is more, much more, than just a rumour. Then the camera cuts away just before both of them break out into a Dr Evil style evil laugh. Good old Cersei. Mistake after mistake, bad move after bad move, but she just keeps trucking.
Two episodes away from Meereen has given the city time to start repairing, with trade picking up and the convincing lectures of the Red Priests giving a sense of purpose to Daenarys’ conquest.
It’s wonderful to see Tyrion and Varys together again, albeit briefly. The Spider is off on another secret mission, this time back to Westeros to do some sneaky recon about the prospect of a resurgent Targaryen dynasty. He must really rack up the Frequent Spy-er points.
With Varys gone, Tyrion loses the one person who truly understands him, and it shows in his hysterical attempts to start an open-mic comedy night with Grey Worm and Missandei.
Tyrion is not capable of being grim and serious and sober - at least, not all of the time. His wit is his sword; he must keep it sharpened lest it lose its edge. And so, he proceeds to get his two main advisers muntered for the first time purely so they’ll laugh at his jokes (apropos of nothing, why not try reading Raven On after a few refreshing ales?)
The Lannister’s best effort is a “walked into a bar” gag totally ripped out of The Great Book of Scottish Racisms, but at least it’s better than Missandei’s translators joke, which Grey Worm confidently proclaims as the worst joke he’s ever heard. Yeah, but has he seen *insert stand-up comedian of choice* here?
Also, I didn’t think Missandei’s joke was that bad. This is just another example of the “women can’t be funny” myth. Seriously, Grey Worm, you’re not doing yourself any favours slamming on your lady’s humour. Girls like it when you laugh at their jokes, and in return, you boys like it when we have nice cars and money and buy you things. That’s how relationships work, bro. Don’t rag on your sugar mommy.
There’s a gorgeous moment when Missandei giggles and Grey Worm looks at her with this gorgeous sweet smile - but then the whole thing blows up like a teenager’s party shared on Facebook when the Masters sail back into town intent on reclaiming their lost property.
Tyrion thought he had changed their minds, but it turns out indentured servitude is an idea with deep, deep roots in Slaver’s Bay. I mean for starters, what would they rename the Bay? Think of all those maps that would have to be changed… I mean, the admin is just not worth it. There was no way Tyrion’s seven-year deal to abolish slavery would hold.
With the Masters petrol bombing the city from their fleet, Tyrion is freaking out like aforementioned Facebook-party teenager realising his parents are going to find out about the destruction from the TV news. “Go to the beach!” he yells at Grey Worm, who’s like “Calm the f*** down, dude, we’re just going to stay right here in the pyramid where we’re safe”, and Tyrion’s like “Omg did you flush the shit down the toilet?” and Grey Worm’s like “Nah, man, I smoked it, I’m good,” and Missandei’s like “You guys, look at this Snapchat I just did of the bomb hitting us, I added the dog face filter, it is SO funny.”
Then something lands on the balcony outside, and everyone falls back in a defensive position. A soldier goes out to investigate, disappears, and then BOOM Daenarys stormborns in. Mommy’s home - and don’t the kids look wide-eyed and overawed.
At the end of the day, Dany is the Mother of Dragons, Mhysa, Saviour of the Day. It’s her job to show up and be there when she needs to be there. She’ll know what to do. Hopefully that will entail setting the dragons on the Masters’ boats.
The reunion of Brienne and Jaime was as deliciously tense and buzzing with sexual frisson as I’d hoped and occasionally fantasised about while showering.
From the moment Brienne sees Jaime, resplendent in red armour atop his white steed, we knew this was going to be epic. “Looks like a siege, my lady,” observes Pod, promptly Brienne to drolly reply that he has a “keen military mind”.
Brienne demands to see Jaime, and is escorted to his tent. Pod, bless his loyal cotton socks, is jumped from behind by Bronn, who proceeds to swear at him in that way only really people who are really happy to see you can. At least, I assume he must be happy. My parents swear at me like that pretty much every time I eventually make it around to their place for dinner, because I’m a great daughter who always answers their calls, is incredibly on top of her life, and they think it’s cute the foster kittens are slowly destroying all of my furniture/clothing/carpets. So it must be good.
Bronn, being the impolite and unashamed sellsword that he is asks Bronn if he thinks Brienne and Jaime are doing it warrior-style in the tent. Pod, being the amazing wonderful young man he is, is respectful and confused. Bronn then delightfully lets us know that not only would he have his way with Brienne, he’s certain Jaime wants to, and is pretty certain she wants to have her way with Jaime. Also - has Pod shown her his wares yet? Why do I get the feeling Bronn would totally be an unsolicited todger tableau sender?
To pass the time as Jaime and Brienne do or do not do it in the tent, Bronn offers to teach Pod “real” fighting. This was very telling as far as nature is concerned. Pod wants to be a honest knight like Brienne: tough, fair and plays by the rules. Bronn wouldn’t know a rule if it smacked him in the gob, which is coincidentally exactly what he does to Pod. “They’re all going to want to hit you, everybody wants to hit the squire!” He’s a lovable rogue, and he’s got a point: he survived. He hadn’t expected Pod to.
Oh Brienne and Jaime. So much said, but so much more unsaid. What is the connection between them? A simple bond of friendship, forged by a terrible shared experience? A platonic love? Or something more?
Whatever it is, Brienne’s presence seems to humanise Jaime, and make him a better person. He is kinder, softer, more rounded. She doesn’t call him Kingslayer anymore, that hated nickname that reduces him to a mere traitor (tellingly, the Blackfish still uses it throughout the episode as a way of keeping Jaime that cardboard cut out hate figure). Brienne seems to understand more of his complex inner-workings, and seems to have an understanding that none of the rest of us do.
The scene also had wonderful romantic hallmarks about it - a change of costume and time period and they could be a pair of vexed lovers in a George Eliot or Elizabeth Gaskell novel. Sigh. When Jaime insisted Brienne keep Oathkeeper, I may have inhaled deeply, or squealed, or both, I was that delighted. Also because that sucker is Valyrian steel and heading back north Brienne is going to need that shiz.
Then, as Brienne told Jaime that if she had to take a side in the fight, it would be for the Tullys, against him, I almost heard the Snow Patrol music of a thousand incoming YouTube mash-ups swell in the background. I must Google “how to put the heart-eyed emoji on a picture”.
Brienne makes it in to see the Blackfish, who steadfastly refuses to give up Riverrun, even to help his grand-niece retake Winterfell. His heart is softened somewhat by Sansa’s letter (“She’s just like her mother”) but he is a man resolved. He plans on dying in his ancestral home, family or no family. Poor Brienne has to inform Sansa by raven that she’s, gulp, failed, and her heart is clearly broken. This is a woman who lives by honour, and she feels dishonoured. We’re all “Hey Brienne, you’re awesome, you did an amazing job, you can’t help it if the old guy has a death wish” but she doesn’t see that. Bless.
Jaime’s tete-a-tete with Edmure Tully is far more dangerous than his charming chat with the Lady of Tarth. Tully is a mostly broken man - and an absent father to boot. Apparently he knocked up his bride on the very night of the Red Wedding. So wow, they must have been going for it when Robb, Catelyn and co were being slaughtered in the next room. What a cheery thought. No wonder he doesn’t really care about his personal hygiene anymore.
But Edmure isn’t totally defeated. In a surprisingly long scene, he lands a few verbal punches on Jaime, asking how he convinces himself he’s a decent person so he can sleep at night. Jaime has the good graces to look a bit introspective and sad at these accusations. But then the old lion comes out, and all of a sudden we are firmly reminded that Jaime is Tywin Lannister’s son.
He compares Catelyn Stark’s fierce love for her children to Cersei’s, and proceeds to tell Edmure that he must take Riverrun for his beloved sister’s sake, calling back that old phrase he last uttered in the very first episode of Game of Thrones: “The things we do for love.”
“I’ll send for your baby boy, and I’ll launch him into Riverrun with a catapult because you don’t matter to me… your son doesn’t matter to me, the people in the castle don’t matter to me, only Cersei. And if I have to slaughter every Tully who ever lived to get back to her, that’s what I’ll do.”
It’s quiet and deadly and leaves you wondering once again what IS the deal with Brienne? Is he just humouring her? Does he feel some affection? Or is his relationship with Cersei - and the violence it engenders - such an inbuilt part of him that he can never escape it, no matter what other options might present themselves? Is this one of the hardest truths to come at in Game of Thrones - “Is Jaime Lannister evil - or he is just really good at playing it?”
Faced with such opposition, Edmure cannot hold out. The Blackfish called him a coward and he was right; Edmure doesn't have Cat's stomach, or even Lysa's craziness, to hang on. He is set free, and demands entry to Riverrun, which is granted despite the Blackfish’s strong Admiral Ackbar-style protests. The rightful heir of the fortress then demands its defenders lay down their arms, and the Lannister/Frey coalition march in.
I’m quite glad I didn’t see the death of the Blackfish. I don’t think I could have handled it. He was such a firm, clever, sassy old bugger. The last we saw of him was sending Brienne and Pod off to safety in a rowboat out a back entrance - then diving headfirst back into the fray (or technically, into the Freys).He ran from the Red Wedding - which in some way he sees as a coward’s move, although we see it as eminently sensible. But he will be coward no longer. I’m glad the last memory I have of him will be one of steely gruffness.
Jaime is told about the Blackfish on the battlements at dawn, where he can just make out Brienne in the rowboat. He raises his golden hand in salute, and Brienne waves back. Is it farewell? Will they meet again? By not drawing attention to them, Jaime kept his promise to Brienne to give her safe passage north. So he can’t be all bad…. Can he?
Finally to Braavos, where everyone’s conspiracy theories about Arya face-swapping with the Waif, or with Jaqen H’ghar, or whomever - all turn out to be bunkum. Arya was Arya, she got stabbed, and she asked for help from the only sympathetic person she knew - Lady Crane, aka Miss Fisher, one of the Mummers.
Lady Crane stitched her up, gave her milk of the poppy to sleep, and let her rest. We could see Arya gaining her strength back as Lady Crane asked her to join the Mummers and tour with them to Pentos. Arya, ever honourable, said it wouldn’t be safe to the group with the Waif still chasing her down. It would be weird too, given that she’d be replacing the girl who played Sansa in the show. Fancy that - real Arya playing fake Sansa in a play.
Sadly Arya’s R&R is disturbed by the Waif, whose nature is finally revealed for what it truly is - that of a T-800 series Terminator. Bitch was relentless tracking down our Stark girl through the streets of Braavos, and Arya did well to keep ahead for as long as she did.
Eventually though, the Waif traps Arya in her hidey hole, the one she fled to after her exit from the House of Black and White. And though the Waif looked as cocky as Donald Trump does every minute of every day, we knew Arya had Needle hidden there.
I thought she was going to pull Needle out and stab the Waif, and so I got mighty worried when the Waif started mocking Arya, telling her the sword wouldn’t help. Perhaps not, but Arya did have an advantage - mad blind fighting skills. That’s right, what the Waif helped her learn would now be her own undoing. Arya took a brief moment to collect herself before slashing out with her Needle, cutting the candlewick and plunging the room into darkness.
Next, we see Jaqen H’ghar following a trail of blood through the Hall of Faces. There is a new face on a column. It is The Waif, her eyes missing, blood pouring from the back of the skin. It was a rough job by Arya clearly, but she doesn’t care. She isn’t no one, she’s never been no one. It’s taken her a journey across the sea, blindess, months of hard training and being pursued by a merciless killing machine to realise she cannot conceal who she is.
Arya is BACK bitches. And she's coming Westeros' way.
Yay! Best Moments
“A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I am going home.” Just 100% gorgeous in every way.
Zing! Best Lines
Tyrion had some corkers of course, but I couldn’t go past the terrific exchange between the Hound and the fellow he de-testicularised.
“Where’s the other one? The one with the yellow cloak?”
“Those are your last words, f*** you? Come on, you can do better.”
“You’re shit at dying, you know that?”
Lady Crane’s death was genuinely sad, because she was a genuinely nice human being. Not flawless - see her admission of poor decision-making in romantic relationships - but well-intentioned, caring and kind. It was also an incredibly gruesome way to go - impaled on a chair, her head twisted and lolling backwards. I suspect I will have nightmares about poor Miss Fisher.
There are only two episodes left in the season, and next week is Episode Nine. You know what that means - Shit. Goes. Down. I suspect we’re finally about to see the Battle for Winterfell, so let’s cross all extremities and hope we see BOO HISS Ramsay Bolton’s head on a spike very soon.
Thank you so much for joining me again this week. I can't wait to read your comments and thoughts, either here on the 'Burger, or via my Facebook page:www.facebook.com/nataliesthrone
Please note: Stu and I are doing a LIVE Raven On podcast this Tuesday 14 June at 8pm AEST. Simply log onto Facebook and follow the live feed from that time. We’ll be in costume, and feel free to ask questions, mock us, whatever!
Another reminder that I'm running a Patreon campaign this season. If you like the recaps and wish to become a patron, you can sign up and pledge the suggested $1 per recap. Here's the link: www.patreon.com/girlclumsy.