By James Hancock June 12th, 2016
In nearly every season of Game of Thrones, episode 9 always promises to feature the biggest battles, the most unpredictable surprises, and from what we saw in episode 8 earlier tonight the stage has been set perfectly for an epic showdown next week. In what is easily one of my favorite episodes of the season, the episode called ‘No One’ had very little excess fat. As much as we all love this show, I think we can all agree that there are times where it appears as if the show runners are simply killing time with the characters discussing trivial matters in order to fill out the empty space before and after major action set pieces. But tonight, apart from one scene with Tyrion persuading Missandei and Grey Worm to have a drink with him, this episode featured one dramatic scene after another that were all essential to pushing forward the plot. As much as I enjoyed it, however, the real treat was the teaser which I am linking below. Jon Snow and Sansa Stark are finally going to war to win back their family home of Winterfell and it looks like it will be a genuinely epic confrontation with the truly deranged Ramsay Bolton. My hope is that the events of episode 8 will free up some much-needed reinforcements to help them prevail. At any rate, let’s get down to the recap of episode 8 ‘No One’.
The episode begins with Arya seeking the help of the actress Lady Crane who owes Arya a massive favor for preventing an attempt on her life. She patches up Arya and gives her a little milk of the poppy to help her sleep and heal. We then return to where we left off at the end of last episode with the Hound seeking revenge against those who slaughtered the village where he had been trying to live a peaceful life. In one of the most satisfying and violent scenes of the season, he brutally hacks four men to pieces with an axe and then goes in search of their missing companions. Meanwhile in Mereen, Tyrion bids farewell to Varys who is sailing to Westeros in search of allies and more importantly ships for Daenerys. Tyrion has a great moment where he proclaims himself to be the most famous dwarf in the world. Peter Dinklage was born to play this role. Back in King’s Landing, the High Sparrow summons Cersie to speak with him and his minions make it clear that she has no choice in the matter. When they threaten her, the Mountain steps forward and literally tears a man’s head from his shoulders. Sadly Cersie’s cousin Lancel kept his head for the time being.
Further north we see Brienne and his squire Podrick as they arrive at Riverrun where Pod has an amazing exchange with Bronn about Pod’s”magic cock”. After boasting that Brienne is training him twice per day to fight, Bronn takes Pod under his wing and offers him a few quick lessons about fighting dirty. Brienne meets with Jaime Lannister and in one of the best scenes of the episode, she persuades Jaimie to let her negotiate with the Blackfish. Sansa desperately needs her uncle’s army to help her in the north. When Brienne offers to return the sword Oathbreaker, Jaime makes it clear how much he respects her integrity by insisting she keep it for good. Unfortunately, Blackfish resists Brienne’s proposal and prefers to fight and protect his family home. Back in King’s Landing, Tommen shocks his mother Cersei when he not only announces the date of her trial but also proclaims that trials by combat are no longer lawful and that she will be at the mercy of the Sparrows’ judgement. With Cersei’s plan to have the Mountain fight on her behalf ruined, I was amazed to find myself feeling pity for a character that I once actively despised in the earlier seasons of the show. Her scene ends on a bit of a cliffhanger with Qyburn’s mysterious comments about some rumor he’s been looking into on her behalf turning out to be more than they originally thought.
In Mereen, Tyrion kills time with Missandei and Grey Worm by convincing them to drink with him and telling jokes that underline the differences between the Starks, Martells and Lannisters. Their exchange is interrupted by the arrival of ships to reclaim the slaves that Tyrion promised in exchange for peace with the Sons of the Harpy. The deal is broken, however, when the ships begin to attack the city with catapults. To everyone’s surprise, Daenerys arrives to save the day by returning on the back of a dragon. Back in Riverrun, the face-off draws to a close when Jaime convinces Edmure Tully to negotiate a peaceful end to the siege of Riverrun. They free Edmure who enters Riverrun and orders his men to lay down their weapons. Rather than surrender, the Blackfish fights to the death. Brienne and Pod leave the city by boat to return to Sansa. Nearby, the Hound finally finds the rest of the men he has been looking for but they have already been captured by Beric Dondarrion and the Red Priest Thoros. In spite of having fought to the death (and lost) once before against the Hound, Berric allows the Hound to help him execute the men before offering him a place in the Brotherhood Without Banners.
The episode ends on a high note with Waif finally catching up with the wounded Arya. Waif murders Lady Crane before chasing Arya through the city of Braavos. The chase scene is easily one of the best action sequences of the season so far, one that ends when Arya lures Waif into a dark room. She extinguishes the only candle with her sword Needle before dispatching her nemesis off screen. With Waif dead, Arya confronts her former mentor Jaqen H’ghar who tells her that Arya is finally No One. In one of her best hero moments of the entire series, Arya replies that her name is Arya Stark and that she is returning home to Winterfell. I would love nothing more than for her to arrive home in time for the battle against Ramsay if only to drive Needle right into Ramsay’s rotten heart. At any rate, that’s all I have for this week. Only two episodes to go for the remainder of the season before we are deprived of any more GoT until George R. R. Martin finally finishes The Winds of Winter. Sadly in two weeks’ time we will all have to find something new to do with our Sunday evenings.
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