‘Game of Thrones’ Review: ‘No One’ Kills Time (And a Few Fan Theories) Before the Finale
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “No One”:
It’s an odd feeling, that for as far off the beaten book path as Game of Thrones has taken us, the show itself remains reasonably predicable, depending on your perspective as a viewer. We’re eight episodes into Season 6 at this point, which (save for Season 4) leaves next week as the requisite gamechanger/battle, which unfortunately resides “No One” to the dirty work of a few loose ends with predictable outcomes.
As the title would suggest, Arya’s struggle gets some of the stronger focus (if not screentime) of the hour, even as Seasons 5 and 6 have consistently failed to build any real outcome than the one granted tonight, and even the theories getting there failed to pan out. Of course Arya survives the Waif’s assassination and manages to turn the tables, reclaim her identity and declare an intent for Westeros, but what are we to make of her foolhardy escape plans last week, which predictably fell victim to the Waif’s blade? Was the plan always to lure her back to a darkened room with Needle (perhaps to press her advantage fighting blind), or retrieve the sword later? Even then, we don’t garner any real explanation as to why Jaqen* relieves Arya’s debt in exchange for the Waif’s bloodied face, or decides she’d become “No One” after all, a title she relinquishes anyway.
*Perhaps worse than the continually opaque nature of Jaqen or the Waif having any kind of individual identities, neither Lady Crane nor the acting troupe seem to have served any real purpose, unless Arya manages to steer them away from a gig in Pentos, and instead hop a ride home.
Much of the hour seemed devoted to breaking expectation, understandable after Season 6 has so consistently kowtowed to fanservice, and it’s worth bringing up some of the latest major returns in both Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. It would seem liked Lady Stoneheart’s excision has become a foregone conclusion, if Beric remains alive and well (leaked reports placed Paul Kaye on set reprising Thoros, but never Richard Dormer), but one still wonders why The Hound necessitated such a dramatic return last week, if indeed both “Cleganebowl” and Stoneheart now seem off the table. Sure, adding Sandor, Thoros, Beric and the Brotherhood to the final White Walker battle offers some promise, but little in the moment.
Equally unsatisfying, Season 6 spent so much time reminding us of Cersei’s overconfidence in either The Mountain or a trial by combat, it offers little surprise that Tommen and the High Sparrow would conspire to remove that option, a point only buoyed by the ever-telling “previously on” segments. At this point, it’s a legitimate question why Cersei bothers to stay in Kings’ Landing, given Tommen’s repeated rejection of her will, and the futility of furthering the conflict with as much violence as the initial trailer promised. I’ve every confidence in the final two hours to pivot Cersei’s struggle into a new direction, but defeat and the threat of enemies closing offers an all-too-familiar flavor at this point.
Another aspect Season 6 trailers seemed to build up toward a defunct “No One” payoff, Jamie and Brienne’s long-prophesied reunion didn’t offer much significant development either. As much heart as the various sequences brought, whether Jamie insisting Brienne keep Oathkeeper, Bronn reuniting with Pod and teaching him a few tricks, or even Jamie doing his best to level with Edmure Tully, there wasn’t meat to match. The Blackfish’s men rather easily yielded the castle (though Brynden Tully’s offscreen “death” seemed a painful misdirect, considering even the deaths we witness barely stick), and at most, Jaime’s growth* only yielded a sweet pardon for Brienne and Pod, now presumably rowing away to meet with Gendry.
*Perhaps one element the books have over HBO, Season 6 hasn’t presented a terribly compelling reason for Jaime to remain so loyal to Cersei; the character at this point in the novels flatly rejecting Cersei’s pleas to defend her in trial by combat. As I said, Cersei isn’t exactly in a tenable position either, leaving us to wonder exactly what future Jaime thinks the siege will defend.
Likely the least well-tended thread of the hour belonged to Tyrion in Mereen, as while the initial parting with Varys seemed appropriately bittersweet, all of Tyrion’s progress in pacifying the city seemed confusingly undone by the Masters’ naval attack, which itself never garnered much explanation beyond Tyrion’s admission of underestimating them. Daenerys and Drogon’s return seemed like a foregone conclusion, a deus-ex-machina weeks in the making, albeit one that similarly wasn’t given much time to register, our only real insight the background shot of Drogon headed to the harbor. At best, our time in that corner of the map had some fun with Tyrion further pushing Missandei and Grey Worm to open up, though largely to kill time before the masters’ attack, which itself only padded the scene for Daenerys’ grand return.
Two weeks out, I imagine Season 6 will remain as divisive as the others, even insofar as its advantage of its divorce from the books. As of “No One,” at least, too many of these stories still feel like killing time before one obviouls endpoint, leaving the real story either for the final two episodes of the year, or the thirteen or so beyond.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Color me very confused by the Waif’s proficiency as a hunter. Did she neither think to check the playhouse, nor consider changing any faces in her relentless pursuit of Arya? Are not these people trained assassins with supernatural talent?
- Why would Lady Crane continue drinking from an untended bottle, even if she’d killed Bianca?
- What am I forgetting, that Cersei had Qyburn use his little birds to look into? Were we ever told?
- Okay, look. Brienne is beholden to no man, but between Torienne shipping, a Jaime reunion and Bronn’s locker-room jests, I’m about ready to see her finally embracing a romance.
- Tyrion’s never going to get that vineyard, is he.
- Was anyone else confused by the sigil on the Masters’ ships? I couldn’t remember if the image belonged to Yara, or perhaps Euron, before we next saw them sacking the city.
- Hey, The Hounds’ … hound, at a distance, while peeing. Look, I … they’re trying?
- Don’t you give us those spilled oranges, unless it’s a death we’ll actually feel something for.
Game of Thrones Season 6 will return June 19 with penultimate outing “Battle of the Bastards,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on HBO.