Game of Thrones Memory Lane 608: No One

Arya, No One, 608

Before the show returns in three days, let’s look back on an episode dear to my heart.

Quarreling with one’s identity is something I imagine we can all identify with, especially those who never felt quite right in their assigned bodies or roles; or those who suffered such physical or mental trauma they lost their concept of self along the way. My love for this Benioff & Weiss-penned episode comes from this thematic link, ironically reflected in the title: No One. Needless to say, this episode is about someone. Several someones, in fact, in their journey to discovering who they are, should be, or may one day become.

It’s not only Mark Mylod’s direction and P.J. Dillon’s cinematography that I admire here (though I do, and the duo returns in this coming season’s second and third episodes,) but the writing as well, especially for Arya. The only problem here doesn’t lie in No One but in Arya’s awkward cliffhanger in The Broken Man, which resulted in expectations of an elaborate ruse that would of course never come to pass. By the end of this trip down memory lane, I aim to convince you that, judged by its own merits, this episode served as a perfect, poetic resolution to Arya’s arc of realistically struggling with her identity.

Crane (Low)

Appropriately enough, an episode on identity opens with a stage actress playing a role. Abiding by Arya’s scarily spot-on insight into Cersei’s psyche from a previous episode, this time Lady Crane plays the queen’s reaction to her son’s murder with a fiery wrath.

Taken in by Lady Crane, the wounded wolf girl receives motherly care for the first time in years, and so she lets go of this ‘tough girl’ act that one day ceased being just an act. Arya is just Arya with Lady Crane, in a way she could never be with Syrio, Jaqen or even the Hound. She lets us and herself see this new Arya, this mature Arya who wants to know “what’s West of Westeros.” And so do we! At least, we do if we can accompany her in this exciting adventure some day. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a degree of sadness to it: if Arya survives, is her fate to become an explorer without a home to call her own?

Tyrion Varys (Low)

In Meereen, Varys heads to a mysterious “expedition” as a certain small man casts the largest shadow he has since he was Hand. Brick by brick, Tyrion has been rebuilding his sense of self, which was completely demolished by the betrayals of Shae and Tywin and their subsequent murders at his hand. Tyrion’s rule over Meereen was slow-going, but in No One it pays off at last: with Meereen on the rise, Tyrion doesn’t so much find his old self as a better, less cynical version, someone who can believe in Daenerys Targaryen; someone who can finally, truly connect with the likes of Grey Worm and Missandei.

These former slaves are also in a journey of self-discovery, or rather a climb out of a hellish pit of systemic dehumanization. And they are doing it together and it’s beautiful, dammit! I cannot fathom how anyone could be unmoved by the loving, laughing looks they exchange, as they make jokes at the insistence of this foreign Westerosi. By the way, Tyrion offers a possible fate for himself after these wars end: retiring to a vineyard where he may share “The Imp’s Delight” with friends. After yearning for politics for so long, if he can truly let go of that need (and survive,) a tranquil life with friends in the countryside would be a truly happy ending for him. Such a possibility is a long way away, however — right now, their happiness is interrupted by the slavers’ siege. Grey Worm is quick to take command, yet it doesn’t last long, as Daenerys arrives triumphantly on Drogon. The look on her face says it all: Mamma’s home and the kids have been naughty.

Missandei Grey Worm 2 (Low)

In King’s Landing, when the queen’s presence is “requested” at the Great Sept, I can almost see the walk of atonement flashing before Cersei’s fearful eyes. This is why I find the criticism that they chose a less “badass” take of the “I choose violence” line ludicrous. Yes, the line in the trailer is more badass, but the final take, in which she utters the words in dread, more to herself than to anyone else, is more powerful. It means more.

Cersei’s mask is ripped away and the girl tormented by prophecies of doom is revealed. And so she strikes back. It might not have been a wise move, but her trauma makes it so we can empathize, or at least sympathize. Gregor’s way of putting his queen’s words into gory action makes the move momentarily satisfying, too, although any such joy soon turns to ashes in all our mouths as Tommen forbids the practice of trial by combat. Perhaps as a direct result of her actions, Cersei cannot “choose violence” any longer… or can she? Qyburn’s birds have a new song to sing, and it’s “much more” than a rumor.

Cersei

At the siege of Riverrun, as Brienne approaches and catches sight of Jaime, their entire relationship comes back to her —we can see it plainly in her face, in all its beautiful messiness. Brienne seems disappointed by Jaime’s regression to indifferent assholery, as was I, until she manages to break through these carefully-orchestrated defensive layers by appealing to his better self. And so, Jaime gives Brienne leave to ask Brynden Tully to go north with her. Before their tense farewell, Brienne tries to give back Oathkeeper, as she and it have achieved their purpose, but Jaime won’t have it: “It’s yours. It will always be yours.” He isn’t just talking about his sword. Because of their stations and opposing sides in a war, they are not allowed to freely express their feelings, which must be at least as frustrating to them as it is to many of us. They seem doomed to only be able to speak of their love (whatever form it takes) in subtext, a heartbreaking interpretation shared by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in interviews and the audio commentary.

After the unstoppable force that is Brienne fails to move the unmovable object that is the Blackfish, Jaime goes back to plan A: Edmure. By the end of this acting masterclass of a scene, Edmure is broken and gives up the castle, resulting in the Blackfish’s death, but earlier on Edmure does get in Jaime’s head: only after Edmure questions his morality repeatedly does Jaime decide to play the role expected of him, putting up his ‘I don’t give a fuck’ persona again, going as far as threatening to catapult Edmure’s baby to Riverrun. Jaime may not know who he is anymore, but we do: with Edmure he had to act the monster; with Brienne he had to stop himself from being honest to his true identity.

Jaime

Elsewhere in the Riverlands, the Hound lets loose on some renegade fools, which I admit feels “awesome” in a primordial kind of way, though that doesn’t diminish his tragedy: Brother Ray was aiding him in letting the Hound die, in getting to know himself —whomever that may be now—, in being at rest as Sandor. Alas, Ray’s murder delayed that possibility, at best. And yet, who knows, perhaps he will find a quest in which to channel his rage for the good of all… Yes, Sandor reunites with the true Brotherhood!

This sequence with Lord Beric and Thoros of Myr is many wonderful things at once: thrilling, because of the merry men’s return after such a long absence; hilarious, because of the black comedy and the callbacks (“The fuck you’re doing here?”, “I prefer chicken”); sexy, because, very much like Jorah’s, Beric’s voice does something to me I’m still trying to figure out; and climactic, as it gives Sandor a new purpose and sets the stage for the Brotherhood’s new quest. Though the Hound is reticent about joining anything after the recent disappointment, Beric and Thoros try to recruit him anyway. They have a specific mission now: “the cold winds are rising in the North” and they need to stop them. We don’t see the Hound’s response, but if the second season seven trailer is anything to go by, he will finally find new purpose with the Brotherhood, which appears to play a key role in the new War for the Dawn. Hopefully it means a new dawn for Sandor too.

Beric (Low)

No One ends in a climax not only to itself but to two seasons of Arya’s story in Braavos. Arya will return in the finale, but that feels more like a coda and a preview of things to come than a true ending to this identity crisis arc. In this sequence, the Braavosi T-1000 gruesomely kills Crane and an astutely directed Bourne-style chase scene ensues, ending with Arya making use of her former blind training. Some people wanted to see the fight play out, but action for action’s sake does little for me. The only action I needed was Arya snuffing out the candle; no sword fight could have been as exciting.

Similarly cathartic was to see Arya finally defy the Faceless Men and reclaim her identity. Yet again, different expectations caused disappointment for some people. In my view, expecting Arya to magically lose herself entirely in her path to Faceless Manhood before then regaining her identity is missing the point, very much like so many do with Jon’s resurrection, believing he came through unchanged just because the change wasn’t magical in nature and abrupt. As fellow Watchers author Petra said to me: “You don’t need to join the Faceless Men to lose your identity. Trauma can do that all by itself.”

I quote her with absolute certainty, as I did actually lose all sense of my identity due to years of untreated depression. When I got better, I wasn’t even sure of who I was; my teenage years had passed me by, so the last time I truly felt like myself I was still a kid. I had to learn who I was as an adult, so it was like getting to know a new friend. But it wasn’t easy. I had to learn fully developed thoughts and feelings from scratch.

Arya

Arya’s identity crisis wasn’t about magical mumbo jumbo erasing her memories, thank the Gods. It was about the extreme trauma of losing her friends and family in horrific circumstances, which shut her down and made her able to fake her way through murder school (able and willing; as much ‘will’ as she could be said to muster in that state —which, believe me, isn’t much); and it was about clawing her way out of that void. Underneath she had always remained Arya Stark in some way, and certainly not No One, but I know from personal experience that, had she stayed there for too long, she would have lost herself forever, as I almost did. That was the danger. Those were the stakes. That’s what her identity crisis arc was all about. And that’s why this ending works.

Thank you, Petra, for the quote, the GIFs, and for inspiring me to write from personal experience with “How a Game of Thrones Character Helps Me Cope With Anxiety.”


Stray thoughts:

  • Riverrun is such a magnificent production. Imagine what an entire army marching to a castle must have felt like back in season one. The things we get used to!
  • Brynden‘s House words are “Family, Duty, Honor”, but his immediate family, duty, and honor are tied to Riverrun, not Winterfell, so this is where he must take a stand.
  • Kevan gets to flex his muscles a bit more before he gets unceremoniously blown up. We’ll always miss Tywin, but Kevan became a surprisingly serviceable substitute from the moment he gave that show-stopping speech to Cersei in season five, which effectively served as an introduction to anyone who isn’t a book reader.
  • Jaqen‘s expectations and motivations for Arya are the only loose thread in Braavos: Why did he think she had become “No One”? Why didn’t he impede her desertion? Was this the plan all along? His original pitch for Arya to join them in season two certainly implies that’s the case… if that was really “him,” and if he wasn’t just lying. Does Jaqen simply accept Arya’s path as a different but legitimate way of worshiping the God of Death? This characteristic vagueness of the Faceless Men is clearly deliberate, but some insight into Jaqen’s thoughts would have been appreciated.

Memorable Quotes:

“Lesson number one: assume everyone wants to hit you. ‘Cause they do, Pod. Everyone wants to hit a fucking squire.” —Bronn to Podrick

“Ser Jaime kept his word to your niece Catelyn Stark. He sent me to find Sansa, to help her as Catelyn wanted. He gave me this sword to protect her. That is what I have done and I will continue to do until the day I die.” —Brienne to the Blackfish

“Cold winds are rising in the North. We need good men to help us. […] You’re a fighter. You were born a fighter. You walked away from the fight. How did that go? Good and bad, young and old, the things we’re fighting will destroy them all alike. You can still help a lot more than you’ve harmed, Clegane. It’s not too late for you.” —Lord Beric to Sandor


Introductions: unreasonably attractive Red Priestess #4, the Captain of the Riverrun Gate who I hope feels really shitty now, and Lem Lemoncloak and several other Brotherhood renegades who have no reason to suspect they won’t live for a long time.

Deaths: probably Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully but it was off-screen so I can dream, unjustly Lady Crane, quite justly the Waif, and the aforementioned redshirts, including Lem Lemoncloak and Steve (played by Steve Love, who I met at Con of Thrones, which made it weird in this rewatch when I saw him getting killed… and fingered in the ass.)


Beautiful Death for No One, by Robert M. Ball

Beautiful Death No One

103 responses

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    1. I was just watching this episode last night. I remember not loving it when it first aired, but it’s grown on me quite bit after multiple viewings. The Arya/Waif story isn’t my favorite, but everything else was top notch.

      And If I had to make a list of what I’m most looking forward to this season, it would go like this:

      1. White Walker action
      2. Beric’s voice
      3. Everything else

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    2. There is that one powerful moment in Tyrion’s scene where he is talking about his close friends and you can see that he realized that he doesn’t really have close friends. It is so sad every time I watch it.

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    3. • In the Riverlands: The Brotherhood stuff was ok. Was glad to see Sandor joining up with them though. I’m excited to see what the Lord of Light has in store for Sandor Clegane.

      I enjoyed the scenes with the Blackfish just as I did in the previous episode. Brienne and the Blackfish sharing the screen was delightful.

      The scene with Jaime and Edmure was fine. Nothing special, nothing bad. It just was what it was for me. When I see Tobias Menzies on screen now I actually associate him more with Captain Jack Randall in Outlander than Edmure Tully simply because Edmure doesn’t make many appearances.

      I doubt the “wave goodbye” with Brienne and Jaime will be the last time they see each other.

      • In Meereen: More jokes. Meh.

      • In King’s Landing: Tommen sealed his fate along with half the cast the moment he declared that Trial-by-Combats would be illegal. This scene was heartbreaking and was one of the best moments in this episode for me.

      • In Braavos: I hated the stabbing scene at the end of episode 7 and it was silly to think that she could be healed simply by closing the wound. If it’s a twisting stomach wound, you’d think some internal organs would be irreparably damaged. I know it’s a fantasy show and some things you just have to roll with, but all I ask for is some consistency. If Areo Hotah can be killed in a heartbeat with a butter knife to the back then surely Arya should be dead from a deep, twisting gut wound. But I digress. I know Arya will be around for the denouement, so it’s not like I was expecting her to die. I got over the stab wound controversy pretty quickly and moved on.
      I had no problem with the chase scene in this episode. I know a lot of people hated how the Waif went all Terminator mode in this scene, but I’m not really sure what she should’ve done instead. I enjoyed the ending with the candle going out.

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    4. Every scene at Riverrun was pure gold. I liked small moments like reunion between Bronn and Podrick and bigger moments like scenes with Brienne and Jaime and Blackfish and Brienne.

      But one of the best scenes in the entire show for me is a scene between Edmure and Jaime. I think after his scene with Brienne in 305, this is Jaime’s best scene in GoT.

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    5. I think they put Arya’s stabbing in E7 because they thought there wasn’t any action scene and people wouldn’t be excited. But I think that was a mistake.

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    6. Nice article, but I’m still bugged by Mark Mylod’s decision not to show the fight. It was such a build up. I know he said he liked the “cut” from the candle to the hall of faces…I know it was dark so you couldn’t see it, but the problem was the build up. Waif was this unbeatable fighter, and it seems like she would have known how to fight blind too. I wanted to know how Arya did it in the end. I wanted to see it even if Mylod put it under a green tint of night vision goggles…Perhaps it would have worked better for me if Arya stood up when she took needle holding her stomach but then grinning that she wasn’t hurt as bad as she was acting and then sliced the candle out. Lady Crane is an awesome surgeon that’s for sure… I could believe it more if Arya slept for a couple weeks and healed up…we really don’t get a sense of time for how long she was recovering…. I personally liked all the “fight club” theories the best. I thought that would have been a cool explanation and an even better way for Arya to really find herself. I have to say I did enjoy this episode more after rewatching a few times. The first time I saw it it bothered me all week if not longer.. I guess it still bugs me some. There are many other good parts of the episode as the article outlines.

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    7. Probably the worst episode of the season for me, along with “The Red Woman”.

      Arya’s scenes are downright nonsensical.

      Lady Crane learned to sow up deep intestinal wounds because she had stabbed countless boyfriends. Okay, so she’s a psycho and now she’s capable of stitching wounds that would probably require surgery even in the 21st century.

      Then Arya is capable of running, jumping from balconies, and sliding across the floor. She re-opens her wounds after falling, but they magically heal on their own.

      Arya somehow manages to infiltrate the House of Black and White without being seen by anyone, and waits for Jaqen to come. What if someone else had come ? Someone who doesn’t have a soft spot for her ? What if Jaqen hadn’t been willing to let her leave ? Why did she even go back there ? It’s a huge risk, doing that was incredibly stupid. She obviously didn’t expect him to let her leave, since she was pointing her sword at him. What on Earth was her plan ?

      Then Jaqen mysteriously declares that she is now “no one”, after she’s broken all their rules and clearly proven that she is not “no one”. So she announces that she is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and Jaqen smiles about that, seems proud, and lets her leave. What ?

      Never mind the fact that he told her in episode 5 that she would not be given a third chance. He is happy that she is “finally no one”, and the next minute he is happy that she is Arya. Which is it ?

      Another issue is the Waif. Jaqen wears the Waif’s face in Season 5 Episode 10 when he blinds Arya. The Faceless Men wear the faces of dead people that they’ve taken from their corpses.

      So, how did Jaqen wear the Waif’s face last season if Arya has just now removed her face and put it in the Hall of Faces, implying that this was the Waif’s real face ?

      Nothing to do with the Faceless Men makes any sense on the show. Terrible ending to two years of training.

      The Hound’s scenes are good, as are the King’s Landing sequences.

      The less said about Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Missandei, the better.

      The Riverlands story is pretty much a mess as well. Why on Earth would Jaime agree to let Blackfish go North to help Sansa if he surrenders the castle ? He knows that if Sansa takes back WF she’s going to be an enemy of the crown. It makes no sense for him to be willing to help the Starks when he knows he’s just going to have to fight them again of they succeed.

      Brienne says Sansa wishes to take her rightful place as Lady of WF, despite the fact that Rickon is still alive at this point, and therefore he is the Lord of WF.

      Blackfish refuses to help Sansa, even after all hope for Riverrun is clearly lost. “Family, duty, honor”. Guess the Tullys have forgotten their words.

      Even more so given that Edmure then asks for Blackfish to be arrested, despite the fact that he does the opposite in the novels, and lets him escape. Why ? The Tullys suddenly don’t give a shit about family.

      Also, Edmure did what Jaime wanted, so why does Edmure go back to the Twins ? Walder tells us in Episode 10 that Edmure is back in his cell. Why does he not go to Casterly Rock as promised and as he does in the books ? I guess Jaime isn’t a man of his word after all.

      Very disappointing and sloppy writing.

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    8. Luke, that was a wonderful write up, thanks for that. Thank you for comments about identity and thin you are spot on re the different characters challenges. Thanks also for opening up about your own identity search. I also suffer from depression started as a teen, and yes it does take a bit to find your identity. Fortunately I think we both have.

      I loved every moment in this episode except for the chase scene which was not believable and was a scene I fast forward when rewatching. But I always start watching again at the moment Arya arrives at her hidey hole, pulls out Needle, and slices the flame out. I didn’t need to see the fight to know who won.

      Oh I was rewatching Broken Man, and realized that Ray, like the Sparrow he worships the seven, and like him he led another life before becoming a religious leader. But wow what a different path they took.

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    9. mau,

      The acting in the scene between Jaime and Edmure is probably the best in the entire season, at least as far as conversations between two people go.

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    10. Again, I thought this was a very good episode. I’ll also just add again that since it’s aired I believe it’s been unjustly downgraded due to inability to suspend disbelief for the one scene. More than enough conversations have been had on that and I feel anyone that still has an issue with it is never going to see it differently, so we’ll leave it at that. I’ve had “No One” at 6th-7th even with “Home” for the season ahead of “The Red Woman,” “Oathbreaker,” and “The Broken Man,” in that order.

      This episode is filled with ‘great moments’ throughout; I loved Arya and Lady Crane’s bedside chat, Sandor going ape shit on the rogue brothers and the Mountain on the Sparrow, Pod’s “keen military mind,” Brienne/Jaime-Bronn/Pod scene, “the wave,” Daenerys returning on the pyramid balcony, and I really liked the entire ending sequence. It’s very solid throughout imo.

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    11. Luka this was an amazing write up.As somone who relates deeply to your fight I agree fully with your thoughts.Thank you for sharing them.

      As an aside I love Tyrion’s scenes in this episode.I don’t know why people hate them so much.To me they were funny but even more than that very touching.I love seeing Missandei and Grey Worm letting their guard down and laughing and to see Tyrion find hope in his life again.Also loved Brienne and Jaime’s scenes.I need a kiss before the show ends damnit.

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    12. Jaqen‘s expectations and motivations for Arya are the only loose thread in Braavos: Why did he think she had become “No One”? Why didn’t he impede her desertion? Was this the plan all along?

      I was rewatching Episodes 7-9 last night, and suddenly a new interpretation popped into my head for Jaqen’s motivation and his little smile at Arya when he said that she had become No One. It goes back to when (the first) Jaqen invited her to come to Braavos and train to be a No One. It’s as if Jaqen had originally wanted her to train to become better at taking her revenge on her family’s killers. The training could only happen in THOBAW, so he invited her to Braavos. Once she became an accomplished assassin, he let her go back to her original mission, only this time, with much better chances of success. In other words, Jaqen never really wanted her to become a permanent member of THOBAW, but wanted to give her some free, high-level training.

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    13. A good and well written recap Luka.

      It will be interesting to see how Sandor’s arc progresses now he’s joined up with the BwoB.

      Re a previous thread, your command of written English is brilliant (not withstanding the difference between ‘him’ and ‘her’ 🙂 – I’m well impressed!

      Although I have lived in Spain for some 30 years and can speak and understand the language pretty well, I STILL can’t write well in Castilian… Its all those verbs and tenses 😉

      If I have to write in Spanish I use the Google English to Spanish translator which does a pretty good job, but even using that errors creep in and some can be quite comical?
      I recall once using the word ‘Well, … ‘ to start a sentence which would be ‘Pues’ in Spanish. However, Google turned that into ‘Pozo’ – a ‘well’ as for water, oil, etc.
      Nice one 😀

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    14. mau:
      I think they put Arya’s stabbing in E7 because they thought there wasn’t any action scene and people wouldn’t be excited. But I think that was a mistake.

      Agreed. People wouldn’t have gone crazy for a week with nonsense theories if it was all in the same episode. It would still have been a sloppy scene, but without the disappointment after a week of expecting a twist.

      Tron79: I wanted to know how Arya did it in the end.

      You know how she did it. She stabbed the Waif in the dark, because Arya could fight in darkness like when she was blind and the Waif couldn’t. Not seeing it, and ending with the candle being cut, is the whole point. To show the fight, shot in fake-darkness, would have undermined that beautiful moment.

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    15. Markus Stark: Another issue is the Waif. Jaqen wears the Waif’s face in Season 5 Episode 10 when he blinds Arya. The Faceless Men wear the faces of dead people that they’ve taken from their corpses.

      So, how did Jaqen wear the Waif’s face last season if Arya has just now removed her face and put it in the Hall of Faces, implying that this was the Waif’s real face ?

      Nothing to do with the Faceless Men makes any sense on the show.

      As I’ve said previously, on the show they’ve done things with the FM mainly for magical/intriguing/entertaining effect. I’ll continue to answer the question of all the face-swapping business in 5×10 was an hallucination from Arya having actually taken the blinding potion/poison. Maybe it’s not the right answer but I’m going with it for myself. It did make for something interesting to watch did it not? It’s something they couldn’t really do if they strictly adhere to how the faces work in the books. That would be less fun of course. 🙂

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    16. Kay,

      Many people have come up with that interpretation and I, for one, agree with it. I don’t think Jaqen ever meant for Arya to truly become no one.

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    17. Thank you so, so, so much for this, Luka—both for the episode synopsis, which is incredibly astute and well written, and for sharing some of your personal history, which is terribly familiar to me.

      I don’t know that I can possibly add to your analysis, so what follows likely will be just my reactions to it. From the top…

      I think “quarreling with one’s identity” is one of the chief reasons the character of Arya speaks to so many fans—along with Cersei, Tyrion, Sam, and others for whom their “proper place” in the world is light-years away from what their intellectual, emotional, and psychological faculties have best equipped them for. I’m reminded of an incident from my childhood: I was about eight, and I was in the backyard with a tree branch that was doubling as a sword, playing Viking. My mother became incensed with me, ordered me to stop immediately, and sent me inside to read. Not to rip on my mother, but… She might have asked me what the appeal was. Because it was mostly about their amazing ships, the fact that they traveled to lots of places, and the fact that they were actually physically strong enough to fight people, something I—a really skinny, not-very-pretty little girl who was bullied more days than not—couldn’t do. Again: I was eight, and we didn’t live in a war zone. I didn’t know what rape and pillage were, and certainly couldn’t have guessed that that was the source of her over-the-top reaction.

      Essie Davis was brilliant. I added The Babadook to my Netflix queue solely because she’s in it. I almost never watch horror!

      Varys and Tyrion. Oh, how I wish we’d had more of their bromance. Their chemistry is as hot as non-sexual chemistry can be! As for Grey Worm and Missandei, I know quite a few viewers hated this scene for its awkwardness, but it struck me as almost painfully real. It was lovely to see them all finally, tentatively, reach out to each other with warmth and humor instead of just duty and allegiance to their Dragon Queen.

      This is my probably my favorite NCW episode. His acting here is outstanding, and I love the contrast between the exchange with Brienne and the one with Edmure. I do take issue with the senseless changes made from the source, which Markus Stark explained far better than I might have.

      Sandor’s continuing reconstruction of himself is the chief reason I have never been, and will never be, a fan or proponent of Cleganebowl.

      “Beric’s voice does something to me I’m still trying to figure out.” You’re not alone.

      Like you, I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to see the fight between Arya and the Waif. More important, I don’t think it would have been possible to “magically lose herself entirely” and then reclaim her identity. To quote my favorite insurance commercial, “That’s now how this works. That’s not how any of this works.” Had her identity been completely lost, there would have been nothing left to reclaim. The same is true of Grey Worm and Missandei. Having said that, I have a love/hate relationship with Braavos on GoT. I loved Braavos in ASoIaF, and was confounded by much of what happened in the last two episodes. Since it’s been explored at length in many posts by many commenters, I’ll let it go at that.

      “I did actually lose all sense of my identity due to years of untreated depression. When I got better, I wasn’t even sure of who I was; my teenage years had passed me by, so the last time I truly felt like myself I was still a kid.” This. I can relate to this so, so much. I could relate to it as a teenager and as a young woman in my 20s, and in the last year it has come roaring back for reasons I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say that, among other things, well-constructed fictional worlds can often help us cope in unexpected ways. What people who don’t understand depression often call “getting lost in a fake world”… I have, more than once, called “survival.”

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    18. One thing I continually wonder about the Faceless Men is that when they put on a face, it isn’t only the face that changes. The skin tone and voice changes too. How does that happen?

      *Example would be when Arya first sees Jaqen in Braavos. Jaqen’s entire skin tone changes (hands, etc), not just his face.
      * Another example is when Arya is at the Twins and is serving Walder some Frey pie. Her voice completely changes, but then goes back to Arya’s voice once the mask is off. How does that happen simply by putting on a face?

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    19. ash,
      Jenny,
      Wolfish,

      Thank you so much for your kind words and sharing your own experiences with the rest of us. Seriously. I knew there would be people who went through the same thing and understood exactly what I meant, but still, I’m so happy to see I could write something that resonated with other people. Thank you 🙂

      Mr Derp,
      This is one of the very few times when “It’s magic” is a valid answer. Especially in the books, the process of face-changing is inherently magical. In the show it’s more ambiguous, but it’s still obviously in some way magical, because you can’t just put the skin of a face over yours and make that work.

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    20. Clob,

      I think the real problem is that the concept with the FM wasn’t something they invented but they had to write some kind of conclusion. I’m sure GRRM gave them very little.

      Even in the books everything is very strange because in ACOK Arya was given a coin and FM were presented as her tool for revenge, but then in AFFC it turns out that she has to loose her identity to become part of that organisation.

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    21. Mr Derp,

      Yeah, obviously. Jaqen was a short black man in Season 5 Episode 2. Jaqen was posing as the Waif in Season 5 Episode 10. The Waif is an old woman in Season 6 Episode 7.

      It’s obviously magic. They aren’t actually just wearing masks of skin. Wearing a flap of skin on your face wouldn’t make you look like the person whose skin it is. It would just look like you were wearing a flap of dead skin on your face.

      You wouldn’t have the person’s bone structure, their hair, their eyes, their voice, their body shape, their size, or their skin color. You wouldn’t look anything like them. The skin of a person’s face isn’t actually their face. What you look like depends on bone structure.

      The Faceless Men are clearly shape shifters. It’s a spell, the whole thing is magic.

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    22. Markus Stark,

      Great review!!

      Your review perfectly explains why a lot of season 6 could be better!

      Edmure got nothing but a dead uncle for giving the Tully castle back to the Frey’s… maybe there’s a reason D&D wrote Edmure’s story that they… as of now it seems bad .

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    23. Mr Derp: One thing I continually wonder about the Faceless Men is that when they put on a face, it isn’t only the face that changes. The skin tone and voice changes too. How does that happen?

      Magic. 🙂
      It’s not just that though, as we read in a chapter in ADwD, the wearer may also have dreams/nightmares of the person who’s face they’re wearing.

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    24. Mr Derp,

      The books suggest some use of a glamour is involved ( the Kindly Man says this to Arya ). Since the Many Faced God encompasses all religions then perhaps the FM can use any associated magic although not to the extent of Shadow Binders etc.

      The thorny issue is that it should take years to gain this ability.

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    25. mau:

      Clob,
      Even in the books everything is very strange because in ACOK Arya was given a coin and FM were presented as her tool for revenge, but then in AFFC it turns out that she has to lose her identity to become part of that organisation.

      I gave quite a bit of thought to this after reading the books, and ultimately concluded that the very concept of “becoming No One” is a test. I don’t think the FM actually want someone willing to entirely lose his or her identity. A person who is willing to do such a thing has a) no sense of morality and b) no capacity for critical thinking, traits that may be desirable in, say, an Unsullied soldier (remember their training?), but not in a person employed or otherwise engaged by an organization such as the HoBaW. Ultimately, I think Jaqen told Arya and the Waif one thing, but was actually looking for the opposite.

      Unfortunately, with the books incomplete and the writing by D&D being murky (to say the least), at this point this is just my pet theory that I’m sticking to.

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    26. Mr Derp,

      Unfortunately not. To be fair to the show and to the books, there’s really no way they could explain it. The whole FM story requires a hefty chunk of suspension of disbelief.

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    27. Mr Derp,

      Jenny,

      Oh good! Given what happens in the Season 6 finale and also what we can expect moving forward, that is the only explanation that makes sense for Arya’s training. Too bad The Waif never got the memo; but then again, she was also in training, an failed.

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    28. mau:
      Mr Derp,

      It is a very powerful magic

      They came from a more technologically advanced world:

      “We are dreamers, shapers, singers, and makers. We study the mysteries
      of laser and circuit, crystal and scanner, holographic demons and
      invocations of equations. These are the tools we employ, and we know many things….”

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    29. mau,

      Something that, as a writer myself (albeit very little fiction, and only for my friends’ consumption), I’m really not fond of.

      What the hell is he gardening? Forty acres in the Amazon?

      Don’t get me wrong… I love, love, love this world. But damn, the man has gone off on so many paths.

      Wait, I got it. English labyrinth. He’s permanently stuck in an English labyrinth of his own making, and he’s forgotten the way out.

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    30. Mr Derp,

      I really hope he’s right ! All I want is to be surprised again, as I was by Hodor’s demise and origin last year. That was the first surprise for me since Season 2, because I read all the books before Season 3 and was later consistently spoiled by leaks, so I don’t want anything ruining it this time.

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    31. Luka Nieto,

      Thanks for your reply Luka
      If I go with the idea that Waif didn’t know how to fight blind, I can agree with you.
      And I’m sure that was the writer’s thought from the interviews I heard. But since the Waif was the one who taught Arya how to fight blind, it made me think she knew how to do it. Otherwise, how can Waif teach Arya how to fight blind if she doesn’t know how to do it? There were a few times she made some noises on the ground to help Arya listen even though most of the time she was just whacking her in the face. I do have to say though that the final shot of Arya holding needle at Jaqen was really awesome. The closeup on Arya’s face was amazing, and her walk out of the house of black and white made me happy that Braavos was over and she was finally coming home (with FM skills)

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    32. Wolfish: Don’t get me wrong… I love, love, love this world. But damn, the man has gone off on so many paths.

      Related…
      I’m anxious to see how they adapt The Wheel of Time. If they were to include the hundreds of descriptions of clothing they could just air it as a series on QVC or the Home Shopping Network. 🙂

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    33. Excellent and thorough recap!

      Arya – in a way she has been lost since she boarded the ship to Braavos in 410. When she first meets the captain, Arya wants to go to the Wall. To Jon. From the moment she arrives in Braavos until the end of this episode, her focus is not on reuniting with her family but on vengeance and her list. Her declaration that A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell; and I’m going home is one that says she has recovered her true identity and with it her original desire – to reunite with those she has been separated from.

      Yes, there are issues with the story, but I don’t think that takes away from the powerful images in 606 and 608 of Arya retrieving Needle and her walking away from Jaqen in the House of Black and White. Nor do I think it takes away from the amazing performance Maisie gives. No matter which actor/actress they put her opposite, she slays it.

      Riverrun – Jaime and Brienne can have all the screen time together they want as far as I am concerned. I love watching these two. That moment when he tells her Oathkeeper is, and will always be, hers. Urgh! Gets me every time. I really hope these two meet again soon.

      For two characters/actors we’ve never seen on screen together completely working off each other, the scene with Jaime and Edmure was stunning. The lighting was beautiful and the tone Jaime uses is very much in his Kingslayer persona. It is not Brienne’s Jaime who threatens to throw Edmure’s child towards Riverrun, but Cersei’s Kingslayer. I also loved the Catelyn/Cersei references.

      Bronn and Pod together again – there are no words.

      The Hound – This is a reunion which went a lot better than these characters would probably have anticipated when they last met midway through season three. They have all come a long way since then, and the Hound is in the sort of place now where he is amenable to what Beric and Thoros are suggesting. Though there is still some of the old Sandor Clegane in there – hence the haggling over executions.

      King’s Landing – There are a couple of Lannisters dotting the last i and crossing the last t on their own death warrants in this; Kevan, through his treatment of Cersei and Lancel through his smug superiority when he visits the Red Keep. Pre-season six, I made a mental list of characters unlikely to make it to the end of the season alive and Lancel was one of them. The smug look he gives Cersei when he says that the High Sparrow’s message that he wants to meet her is not a request is the moment I knew Lancel would definitely kick the bucket.

      When Cersei says I choose violence, she is setting up the opening sequence of 610 as much as Tommen’s outlawing of trial by combat. And isn’t that an issue – Tommen has to know that he is removing the best chance his mother has to walk away from her trial a free woman. And perhaps that is something he thinks about in 610 before jumping to his death; that maybe if he hadn’t done that his mother wouldn’t have had to resort to blowing up the Sept of Baelor and killing Margaery and the rest of them. Cersei would probably have done it anyway, but I’m not sure how much Tommen realizes that.

      One last thing – although we see Meereen in this episode, it had a very A Feast of Crows feel to it for me. Although we have Arya and the Waif running through Braavos, it is an episode driven by characters and their motivations rather than action. It is about the consequences of war and a desire to return home. And I think that maybe – like Feast – this episode is under-appreciated.

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    34. I’m glad to see the very positive write-up of this episode, which I think suffered way more than its fair share of derision. I’m not entirely happy with the Braavos segment, which is hampered by a lack of narrative clarity (though the climax with the candle is good in itself). But the Riverrun segment is great and its conclusion among the most powerful moments in the season.

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    35. Beautiful essay, Luka. You really did this episode justice. Thank you for sharing your story! 🙂

      Some of my own, far less profound thoughts on this episode:

      Jaime Lannister has had some great scenes over the course of the show, but his scenes in this episode, especially with Edmure, are among my favorites of the entire series. The way that he leverages his reputation as the Kingslayer and a Man Without Honor to get Edmure to surrender the castle (almost) entirely without bloodshed is masterful. Great writing, great acting, great direction (I particularly love the way his face is half-shrouded in darkness for most of the exchange).

      Of course, Jaime’s scenes with Brienne are every bit as good. “It’s yours. It will always be yours.” So much is conveyed in that exchange, even is the most important things are all left unsaid. And that little wave he gives Brienne as she and Pod sail away is perfect. Also, Bronn and Pod, together again. Fantastic.

      Real talk: I don’t usually vocalize when I’m watching this show. But when Sandor Clegane discovered Lem Lemoncloak and his companions strung up beneath a tree, their captors turned around to greet him and it was Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr standing there, I let out a loud, long, raucous cheer. I was stoked.

      One: Beric is a great character, in addition to being just flat-out awesome (May I present Exhibit A: his flaming goddamn sword in the trailer. I rest my case). Two, the Lightning Lord’s history with Sandor Clegane renders their reunion and future alliance rich with potential, and the prospect of Beric traveling to the North and likely crossing paths with Jon, another soul resurrected by the Lord of Light who understands the stakes of the Great War to Come, is an exciting prospect. I very much want to see that scene in Season 7.

      And third: Beric reappearing on the show, very much alive, meant that the LS Truth Brigade could finally strike its banners and close shop after years of intolerable theorizing (All right, for the most committed, it will never truly die until the show ends. But this was a massive, and necessary step. It’s over. Move on. Let Lady Catelyn rest.).

      “I choose violence.” Still an iconic line, no matter the delivery (I appreciate Luka making the case for the more reserved take that the actual episode used). Am I an evil bastard if I straight-up cackle every time I watch the Mountain rip the head off that member of Faith Militant and watch Lancel’s smug, fanatic smile run away and hide? I am, just a little? Oh well. Worth it.

      One of the things that always strikes me about this episode is just how frail and ill Tommen when he exits the Throne Room. He’s never handled the burden of being king well, but in this moment, you can see that it’s actively crushing him. Even more so than the moment when he steps out the window, this is the moment when Cersei Lannister loses her last child. The look on Lena Headey’s face when Tommen outlaws trial by combat is just quietly devastating.

      I enjoy Tyrion’s scene with Missandei and Grey Worm. I think it’s a nice change of pace. Characters drinking wine, telling jokes, having a good time? What a concept. How dare the show waste two minutes of precious screentime on a scene of them being, you know, human? I desperately want to know the punchline to Tyrion’s joke about bringing a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel, but I also recognize that nothing the writers can come up with will live up to the hype, so it will remain a mystery. And screw it – Missandei’s joke is actually funny (and she looks so pleased with herself afterwards. It is too cute for words.) Also the way Grey Worm smiles at her when she breaks into laughter. He’s crazy about her. This is why Missandei and Grey Worm rule, both separately and especially together.

      I’ll talk more about Arya and especially the wonderful Lady Crane later. This post is already too long. But I do want to address Arya saying that she wants to see what’s “west of Westeros”, which is a lovely and evocative idea in the moment. It’s a line struck me, then and now, as potential foreshadowing for her endgame. Could Arya’s journey end with her boarding a ship and sailing off into the Sunset Sea, bound for worlds unknown? It’s not what I would have predicted, but it would be poignant, mysterious, and peaceful, especially for a character who has lived in darkness for so long. I think it could work quite well.

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    36. I have a busy day today so I won’t be able to respond in detail about the episode right now, but obviously I loved it:)

      But I did read your write up Luka, and I absolutely loved it. You are spot on. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Someone really close to me has the same struggles, and still does. So I feel strongly about this. Thank you again:) will post more later!!!

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    37. What I love about this episode is Lady Crane’s embodiment of Cersei and Catelyn for Arya. Lady Crane portrays Cersei in the play, then mothers Arya back to health. Their similarities are pointed out be Jamie in his scene with Edmure:

      JAIME: …”The love she had for her children, I was a little awed by it. Reminded me of my sister.”
      EDMURE: “Oh. Oh, I see. You’re a madman.”
      JAIME: “I’m not here to trade insults. Your sister was a strong- -”
      EDMURE: “Don’t talk about Cat!”
      JAIME: “I’ll talk about whomever I want.”

      JAIME: “She loved her children. I suppose all mothers do, but Catelyn and Cersei, there’s a fierceness you don’t often see.”

      JAIME: “They’d do anything to protect their babies.”

      JAIME: “Start a war. Burn cities to ash. Free their worst enemies. The things we do for love.”

      Also, great write up Luka.

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    38. I don’t understand why so many people are mystified by Jaqens assumption that Arya has become no one. The philosophy of the religion, much like Buddhism, is that you have to empty yourself of your personality and attachment to master death. So I f she beat the Waif by Jaqens thinking, she must have done so.

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    39. Jared:

      Real talk: I don’t usually vocalize when I’m watching this show. But when Sandor Clegane discovered Lem Lemoncloak and his companions strung up beneath a tree, their captors turned around to greet them and it was Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr standing there, I let out a loud, long, raucous cheer. I was stoked.

      One: Beric is a great character, in addition to being just flat-out awesome (May I present Exhibit A: his flaming goddamn sword in the trailer. I rest my case). Two, the Lightning Lord’s history with Sandor Clegane renders their reunion and future alliance rich with potential, and the prospect of Beric traveling to the North and likely crossing paths with Jon, another soul resurrected by the Lord of Light who understands the stakes of the Great War to Come, is an exciting prospect. I very much want to see that scene in Season 7.

      Ha! I look back to that reveal with great fondness as well. My reaction was similar.

      And I agree with you, Beric is simply a fantastic character. The Hound-Beric-Thoros combination just works great, three great actors as well, and D&D were very clever putting them back together so that we can now enjoy some more scenes with them. Can’t wait!

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    40. firstone:
      Markus Stark,

      Great review!!

      Your review perfectly explains why a lot of season 6 could be better!

      Edmure got nothing but a dead uncle for giving the Tully castle back to the Frey’s… maybe there’s a reason D&D wrote Edmure’s story that they… as of now it seems bad .

      I could be mistaken but I interpreted Edmure agreeing to assists Jaime to save his child, which Jaime threatened to catapult into Riverrun. You could interpret this as a selfish act by Edmure, sacrificing his Uncle and the lives of his people for one child, but I can also understand why a father (even if he’s probably never met his child since he’s been rotting in the cells of the Twins) would relent here.

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    41. Finally, I’m going to gush about Lady Crane for a bit (these thoughts are adapted somewhat from the comment I left on Essie Davis’s Curtain Call).

      The character of Lady Crane was the most delightful surprise of the season, bar none. I like the Braavos arc, rough patches and all, but for me, this character alone was worth the price of admission. Once she appeared, Essie Davis owned both the stage and the screen. She was fun and charismatic, the kind of person that most of us would love to share a glass of rum and a laugh with after a hard day’s work, and it was absolutely lovely.

      But ultimately, it was Davis’s work with Maisie Williams that elevated Lady Crane from an interesting background player to a beloved and essential figure in this story. There was a warmth and normalcy to those scenes that we haven’t seen Arya share with anyone since she lost her father in Season 1. And the scene in this episode, where she treats Arya’s wounds, soothes her worries, and gently lays her down to rest like the mother she had once lost would have, is just beautiful (I love the way that she gently brushes Arya’s wrist with her fingers as the younger woman drifts off to sleep. So much conveyed in that single, non-verbal gesture).

      That scene was pivotal, in my estimation. It was one of those moments that reminds you that for as much darkness, death, and indifference there is in this story, there are also decent people who are willing to risk their own lives to help an almost total stranger. That was a powerful message to send, and a necessary one.

      I’m still kind of broken up that the Many-Faced God still claimed Lady Crane, especially in such a brutal way (the Waif’s taunt that she would have died painlessly if Arya had just done the job herself was a harsh reminder about the consequences of what Ned once called “the madness of mercy”). We’re experienced enough to know that death doesn’t only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind, but we keep hoping it might happen, if only for a time. There’s a reason that the only prayer one can say to the God of Death is “Not today.”

      Still, for those of us who are so invested in the journey of Arya Stark, a greater tragedy was averted. At the end of “Oathbreaker”, Arya appeared willing to walk the path of the Faceless Men (enough, at least, to survive drinking from the pool).Whether she was lying or being honest, she was at risk of losing herself. And that’s where Lady Crane came in. If the other woman’s obvious decency and empathy hadn’t managed to reach Arya and inspire her to break away, she might well have carried out her assignment, ingratiated herself even in the House of Black and White, and in time, lost herself completely. A face would have been added to the Hall, but something greater would have been lost.

      So while Arya’s mercy only saved Lady Crane for only a short time, Lady Crane in truth saved Arya more than once – first in spirit, and then in body. Hopefully Lady Crane’s gift will last longer than the gift that Arya gave her. But if the young Stark of Winterfell – a character beloved by many, including me – survives to reunite with her long-lost family and to see what’s west of Westeros one day, it will be in no small part because of Lady Crane and all that she did for the young woman she knew only as “Mercy”. That’s a lovely legacy for a character who shone so brightly during the brief time we spent with her.

      Gushing over (for now).

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    42. Good write up! I like that you mentioned Beric’s speech to Sandor and his comment about how Sandor was a fighter and when he walked away from fighting it did not go so well. It reminds me of the advice I hear often which is that a person should do what they do well and are passionate about and offer that to the world in a positive way rather than trying to do something else that looks like it might be good, but is not a good fit for the person, and just never works out as well because there is a falseness to it, or something like that. Yes, Sandor needs to be true to himself and go help wipe out some white walkers and help save the world! Oh yes, and the Mountain too! Then settle down to a nice big, quiet meal of chicken and ale. So glad Sandor/Rory is back!

      On Arya, I too like the candle slice to black and I imagine the Waif’s death was just as fast.

      As far as Jaqen goes, I think he probably always knew Arya might leave even if that was not what he wanted. Since Arya defeated the Waif, maybe that earned Arya the “right” to leave. The smile I see as Jaqen’s acknowledgment that Arya finally made her decision and claimed her identity, even in the face of him proclaiming that she was finally No One. A “good for you” gesture. My guess is that Jaqen will not go after her because he understands her devotion to family and the skills she learned there will probably be used to avenge or protect her family. Just a guess. Plus, even though Jaqen paid back the Red God for Arya saving his life back in season 2, I bet he still remembers that it was Arya that kept him from suffering death by fire, a detail lost in just a death count. That might count for something (he did ask the Waif not to let her suffer…). I hope the two meet up again but with so few episodes left, I doubt there would be time for such a scene. Thanks for the post, enjoyed this and the others too.

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    43. BTW, the only moment I thought Arya might die in this ep was when she was rolling down the stairs surrounded by ORANGES! I’ve watched The Godfather too many times 😀

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    44. ramses:
      BTW, the only moment I thought Arya might die in this ep was when she was rolling down the stairs surrounded by ORANGES! I’ve watched The Godfather too many times

      ramses,

      X’s in “The Departed” work like that too, but didnt see any X’s this time. Thank goodness for Arya

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    45. Something that has never made sense is that Tommen and many of the people around him appear to want Cersei to be denied trial by combat, and therefore much more likely to be convicted, even though the likely outcome of that would mean that he would not be king anymore.

      I had been expecting trial by combat to be denied by the High Sparrow, because back in 507 when he talked about plans for the trials of Loras and Margaery, he talked about there being seven septons as there were in the old days, and never mentioned trial by combat at all. So it seemed that if he was calling the shots, he would also deny Cersei the chance to use it for her own trial. What I was not expecting was that Tommen and his advisors would seem to be the ones initiating and agreeing with the decision, especially as the Throne room scene makes clear that this includes Kevan Lannister, even if it is implied rather than said in so many words (and was also implied in 606 that he was influencing Tommen with other decisions like removing Jaime from the Kingsguard).

      In the S5 finale, the High Sparrow states to Cersei after her confession that she will still be going on trial over, amongst other things, the accusations that her children were not Robert’s but born of incest. This means that Cersei losing the trial would prove the incest and result in Tommen no longer being regarded as the legitimate king, and House Lannister would also be finished as a political force. While Tommen possibly might not understand that these would be the likely consequences, Kevan (who is also Hand of the King and would be one of the key people advising Tommen on this issue) definitely would, and regardless of his personal dislike for Cersei, why would he want either of those outcomes?

      I could have bought this scenario if there was a scene where the High Sparrow made it clear he would clear Cersei of incest in order to preserve Tommen’s status, but make sure she was convicted of Robert’s murder, as that would be enough to take her down without any additional convictions. Or a scene where it was made clear Tommen was ignoring Kevan’s advice to be pragmatic due to manipulation by the High Sparrow. But what the writers chose to do was just not credible in terms of what we had already seen on the show.

      They obviously worked very hard this season to create reasons to make it believable why Cersei would eventually take the extreme course of action that she does: the failure of the Tyrell army in 606; Jaime being sent away; Tommen turning away from her; and the sense that everyone left in King’s Landing is against her. But while I could believe that Cersei would end up taking the route she does, I could not believe is that some of the other characters involved would make the decisions that they do which lead to this outcome. The denial of trial by combat is the final thing that drives her to take the wildfire route, but many of those encouraging its denial have no logical reason to want her to be convicted of all the charges in the first place.

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    46. Jared,

      A lovely post, as always. Thank you.

      If Arya does go “west of Westeros,” I hope it’s with the captain who took her to Braavos. I loved their brief but warm interaction.

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    47. goldengrove:
      Something that has never made sense is that Tommen and many of the people around him appear to want Cersei to be denied trial by combat, and therefore much more likely to be convicted, even though the likely outcome of that would mean that he would not be king anymore.

      The only witness against Cersei is Lancel, who could testify that Cersei ordered him to poison Robert’s wine before he attacked the boar. Lancel didn’t witness Cersei and Jaime’s incest and only heard the rumors everyone else has heard. Besides, now that Tommen is under the High Sparrow’s thumb, I doubt he would have pursued the incest charges any further.

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    48. Luka, that was a fantastic Memory Lane. You argued your case with conviction and passion. I especially appreciate you opening up and imbuing this essay with so much raw emotion. As far as I’m concerned, it tells me two things: you don’t let your problems define you anymore — I know from personal experience how nightmarishly hard that is — and you care for this community and its people very much. Being a small part of it myself, you have my heartfelt thanks.

      And besides, you really do have a way with words, anyone tell you that? 😉

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    49. goldengrove,

      First of all, I think the only reason Tommen outlawed trial by combat is because he wanted to protect Margaery by complying with the High Sparrow’s wishes. The High Sparrow is clearly the one who put Tommen up to it.

      Second, I don’t think Cersei being found guilty would automatically result in Tommen losing his position. I mean, proving the incest between Jaime and Cersei would already be exceptionally difficult, but even if they could prove it, that wouldn’t mean that Tommen isn’t Robert’s son. It would just mean Jaime and Cersei slept together. This would of course raise questions about Tommen’s parentage, but it would not be definitive proof.

      Ned was certain because he went through the book of lineages to read about what hundreds of Baratheons’ hair looked like, and then because Cersei told Ned she would “finish Robert off” while he was drunk, in ways that guaranteed she wouldn’t get pregnant.

      Establishing the illegitimacy of Tommen’s reign with absolute certainty would be pretty much impossible without that last piece of info.

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    50. Joe: I could be mistaken but I interpreted Edmure agreeing to assists Jaime to save his child, which Jaime threatened to catapult into Riverrun. You could interpret this as a selfish act by Edmure, sacrificing his Uncle and the lives of his people for one child, but I can also understand why a father (even if he’s probably never met his child since he’s been rotting in the cells of the Twins) would relent here.

      That makes some sense… but I doubt Walder Frey would be very happy with Jamie killing his grandson though. D&D should have written the story like GRRM and let Edmure live at Casterly Rock with his wife… but maybe there is a reason why they didn’t.
      time will tell… cheers

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    51. Markus Stark,

      And there is no way that HS wanted to establish the illegitimacy of Tommen’s reign. He wanted to sentence Cersei to life devoted to the Gods or something like that, just like he did with Loras.

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    52. Kay: In other words, Jaqen never really wanted her to become a permanent member of THOBAW, but wanted to give her some free, high-level training.

      And, perhaps, a relatively safe place to stay as well?

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    53. Jared,

      A very nice take on Essie/Lady Crane containing many of my same thoughts. All of it included in my choice/vote for Essie as WotW best guest actress. She didn’t win but she deserved it and I’ll leave it at that.

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    54. Kay: In other words, Jaqen never really wanted her to become a permanent member of THOBAW, but wanted to give her some free, high-level training.

      I agree. Jaqen knew from the outset that Arya wasn’t true FM material. The show personalized that aspect by using Jaqen. He ensured she got the training she needed, testing her gravely along the way, but always expecting her to ultimately survive (and rid the HoB&W of a failed FM trainee, the Waif, in the process).

      (In book HoB&W, I doubt the KM will have any such advocacy for Arya and the Waif may have different motivations, like what Westerosi House she is really from…)

      I’m willing to suspend disbelief regarding the touristy-wandering/stabby-stabby/blood loss/organ failure/sepsis/recovery time stuff, but I wish it played out differently.

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    55. firstone,

      Even if there is a reason, they need to stop forcing things to happen because they want them to. They need to find organic ways of telling the story, that make sense for the characters.

      In their version, Jaime simply does not keep his word, for no understandable reason. To do something that compromises Jaime’s character in that way is really unwise, no matter what their reasons are. They need to understand that the story is meant to serve the characters, not the other way around.

      The logic of the story and the characters’ motivations and integrity should be dictating how they write.

      When you see interviews with the writers of great shows like Breaking Bad, The Americans, or Better Call Saul, they talk about how they always need to do what makes sense for the characters, and therefore they are sometimes surprised by where that takes them.

      D&D plan out every aspect of the plot according to what they feel like doing, and then they force it to happen no matter what makes sense, and no matter what the character would actually do. Their desires dictate character in a way that is unnatural.

      If they can’t find a way to make a plot work without butchering a character, they should drop that plot.

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    56. Great writeup, Luka. You almost “convinced” me. 🙂 Glad you brought up those questions at the end of the essay. Loved the BwB/Hound scenes. Riverrun was another “book milestone” moment that didn’t quite live up to expectations, but enjoyable nonetheless.

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    57. Jared: “I choose violence.” Still an iconic line, no matter the delivery (I appreciate Luka making the case for the more reserved take that the actual episode used).

      Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a better take to use in a trailer; appropriately epic. But for the show, the reserved take works better.

      Mr Fixit:
      Luka, that was a fantastic Memory Lane. You argued your case with conviction and passion. I especially appreciate you opening up and imbuing this essay with so much raw emotion. As far as I’m concerned, it tells me two things: you don’t let your problems define you anymore — I know from personal experience how nightmarishly hard that is — and you care for this community and its people very much. Being a small part of it myself, you have my heartfelt thanks.

      And besides, you really do have a way with words, anyone tell you that? 😉

      Thank you so much, you are so kind! I think I’m gonna blush 🙂

      Dee Stark:
      So many people here should have got the job instead of D&D apparently hahahahaha

      Yeah, after reading the comments, the job suddenly looks easy, doesn’t it?

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    58. Tron79,

      otherwise, how can Waif teach Arya how to fight blind if she doesn’t know how to do it? There were a few times she made some noises on the ground to help Arya listen even though most of the time she was just whacking her in the face.

      She didn’t need to teach her. And I don’t think those noises to the ground were to help her( good idea tho!) Arya developed the skills on her own. Even tho I have worked with people with special needs for decades, Im still amazed to what extent they are able to compensate for a lost sense, loss of a limb, loss of movement, and develop new skills to live in the world. So Im not surprised Arya could do that.

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    59. goldengrove,

      T

      hey obviously worked very hard this season to create reasons to make it believable why Cersei would eventually take the extreme course of action that she does: the failure of the Tyrell army in 606; Jaime being sent away; Tommen turning away from her; and the sense that everyone left in King’s Landing is against her. But while I could believe that Cersei would end up taking the route she does, I could not believe is that some of the other characters involved would make the decisions that they do which lead to this outcome. The denial of trial by combat is the final thing that drives her to take the wildfire route, but many of those encouraging its denial have no logical reason to want her to be convicted of all the charges in the first place.

      Interesting. And while I agree that all these characters made decisions that led to Cersies decision, it was still her decision. Each of the characters had reasons to make those decisions that did’t nec have to do with Cersie. Once made, they certainly had an impact on her thoughts. But this was the idea she came up with, made it all by herself. She didn’t need to lose her soul with that horrific event.

      Jared I remember parts of your comments from your curtain call last year and they are still as true as they were before. I loved that mother figure moment she has for her. And that love indeed could have been part of why she decided that she could not be no one.

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    60. Season 6 is one of my favorites so naturally I also loved this episode

      So many good things to discuss:
      – Luka covered the theme of no one which I found so powerful in this episode and I agree so much with the commentary. So beautifully written and could not have been said better by anyone else.
      – Arya’s story with the FM concludes in this episode and boy was I happy about that. A girl was ready for Arya to head home, where she should be. Arya’s scenes with Lady Crane are some of my favorite Arya scenes EVER. Lady Crane playing Cersei and then her resemblance to Cat and taking care of Arya as a daughter is so beautifully ironic considering what these two characters mean to her. And Arya finding her true self and acting upon it after all she has been through was the icing on the cake. I loved the chase scene and the lead up to “fighting blindly”. I thought it was perfect. And finally, her last statement of the episode, about going home, gave me the feels!!! So good. I dont quite understand the concept of No One from the perspective of Jaquen, but I am with the thought like some others that this was what was meant for her from the beginning.
      – The scenes at Riverrun, especially between Edmure and Jamie, were fantastic. I was sad to see the BF go, but he served his purpose. 🙁
      – Lena as always conveyed Cersei’s emotions masterfully in this episode. Especially her face after Tommen announces there will be no trial by combat. Fantastic!!
      -I remember cheering so loudly when the Hound was reunited with the BWB. It was sick!!!! I sooo look forward to what they will bring to season 7. I absolutely loved their scene together, they were so funny.
      – I agree with the comment made here about Tyrion’s moment where he talks about his friends, and his face at realizing that he really has no one 🙁 it was so sad and emotional at the same time, when he was trying to keep a happy mood with Missandei and Greyworm. Dany’s arrival gave me goosebumps. Love!!!

      Just amazing all in all 🙂 Thank you again Luka for doing this episode the justice it deserves 🙂 <3

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    61. Dee Stark,

      I always love to read your thoughts, and in this case even more so, as this Memory Lane was quite personal for me. So truly, thank you very much 🙂

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    62. I may be in the minority, but I loved this episode. Then agains, I loved Arya’s entire Braavos arc. Watching the Faceless Men attempt to beat Arya’s identity out of her, and watching Arya cling to if for dear life was very compelling television. I thought the end of her fight with the Waif was perfect. I, too, didn’t need to see it play out in its entirety. It was fine the way it was. The only thing that I didn’t like was Arya performing all those stunts with a stab wound. I could buy that she survived, being stabbed in the side and all, but her running at full sprint should have been incredibly painful. I may have been completely fine with the scene if Arya showed obvious signs of pain, or at least clutched her wound every now and then. However, I still really enjoyed the climax to Arya’s storyline and loved her last interaction with Jaquen.

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    63. Mr Derp:
      If Areo Hotah can be killed in a heartbeat with a butter knife to the back then surely Arya should be dead from a deep, twisting gut wound.

      Arguments such as these don’t make any sense. Areo Hotah was stabbed in the spine with a sharp knife, not a butter knife. Of course he was going down. Arya was stabbed in a sign, purposefully by the Waif, to prolong her suffering. That ended up being a mistake, giving Arya time to receive medical attention. Two different stab wounds, two different results. It makes perfect sense. Now, that said, I too wished the stabbing never happened. It was completely unnecessary.

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    64. Markus Stark:
      firstone,

      In their version, Jaime simply does not keep his word, for no understandable reason. To do something that compromises Jaime’s character in that way is really unwise, no matter what their reasons are. They need to understand that the story is meant to serve the characters, not the other way around.

      Jaime did keep his word. He said if Edmure didn’t surrender Riverrun, he would catapult his son over the walls. Edmure gave in, and Jaime didn’t harm his child.

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    65. Young Dragon: Jaime did keep his word. He said if Edmure didn’t surrender Riverrun, he would catapult his son over the walls. Edmure gave in, and Jaime didn’t harm his child.

      This. Jaime didn’t break his word – Edmure refused the offer. And so Jaime made a different offer, which Edmure (reluctantly) agreed to.

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    66. Young Dragon,
      BigMac,

      I could be wrong, and I probably shouldn’t put words in a lawyer’s mouth (or… on his fingertips?), but I think Markus Stark was referring to Jamie’s offer to send Edmure, Roslyn, and their son to a comfortable position (albeit still as hostages) in Casterly Rock.

        Quote  Reply

    67. Wolfish,
      Think of it like the carrot and the stick. Edmure refused Jaime’s initial offer, so he changed the terms of the deal. Deliver Riverrun, or I’ll kill your son.

        Quote  Reply

    68. Young Dragon,

      Oh, I totally understand that. (Thank you.) I just thought Markus Stark was referring to a different “broken promise,” because he has also been referencing the books in his comments. But I could be wrong… and at this hour, the whiskey is speaking too!

        Quote  Reply

    69. Now that we all have Jamie Edmure deal all figured out and everyone agrees…

      Just tonight I thought of a new theory how Arya avoids death and recovers so quickly… In season 5 (which is highly under rated) Arya enters the house of black and white and starts learning about the Many-Faced God. In one scene Jaqen H’ghar is taking about the Many-Faced God and seems like the Many-Faced God is the God of Death. And Arya has a personal connection with this God. I think in the books all the Stark kids have some sort of super natural powers. Aren’t both Bran and Jon Wargs in the books? My theory is Arya has some special power to overcome death and Arya is also good at killing. I think more of this special power skill will be shown more is season 7 and 8. So No One is like a foreshadowing of the things to come in the future…. There’s my theory for what is worth….

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    70. firstone,

      The Many-Faced God is the God of Death, and in the books Bran, Jon and Arya are all wargs (Bran is the only greenseer, and being both warg and greenseer makes him a very rare creature indeed).

      On another note, you’re not alone in thinking S5 is underrated. Saner Half just watched GoT with me for the first time, and he was very surprised when I told him that overall, it’s the fandom’s least-favorite season. He really enjoyed it.

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    71. Mr Derp: If Areo Hotah can be killed in a heartbeat with a butter knife to the back then surely Arya should be dead from a deep, twisting gut wound.

      Young Dragon: Areo Hotah was stabbed in the spine with a sharp knife, not a butter knife. Of course he was going down.

      The knife that killed Areo was surely poisoned. People who criticised that seem to forget that poison is Dorne’s thing.

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    72. Wolfish: in the books Bran, Jon and Arya are all wargs (Bran is the only greenseer, and being both warg and greenseer makes him a very rare creature indeed).

      There was some suggestion that Rickon had the greensight too. There was a hint of this in the show too, when Bran dreamed of his father and got Hodor (or was it Osha) to take him down to the crypt at Winterfell. When they got there, Rickon was already there, having had the same dream.

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    73. ash,

      Yeah, I can see your point. I particularly liked the very first scene when Arya was a blind beggar when she was listening in on everyone’s conversations. She was already sharpening her hearing skills. With 2 days to go til the premiere, I’m going to finally let go of my problems with Season 6 Episode 8 and just go with the idea that Waif either didn’t know how to fight blind or it’s been a long time since she’s done it so Arya was just better at it! As Jaqen said, “Yes, but here you are…and there she is..”.. I am so ready for Sunday!!

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    74. Grandmaester Flash: The knife that killed Areo was surely poisoned. People who criticised that seem to forget that poison is Dorne’s thing.

      Apparently the tetrodoxin poison naturally produced by puffer fish amongst other creatures can paralyse and kill an adult within one minute when injected or ingested, blocking nerve responses thus paralysing the body, preventing breathing and stopping the heart

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    75. Wolfish,

      I recently rewatched Season 5 and I was surprised how good it was. Apparently, even though I am a hardcore unrepentant GoT fan, some of the initial ubiquitous hate got to me and I convinced myself it was one of the weakest seasons. However, on rewatch I enjoyed it immensely, even more than Season 6, sacriligeous as it may seem.

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    76. OK, admins, can you fix this “marking as spam” comments? This is getting really annoying now as I’m unable to post my comments.

        Quote  Reply

    77. Here I share my old review with you again. No, I haven’t read any comment as I’m sure the thread is swarmed with negativity and I also don’t plan to discuss this episode unless it’s positive discussion.

      Lord Parramandas’s 8th review written on June 13th 2016

      Hello everybody and welcome to another review from Lord Parramandas. First, I want to say that I’m delighted that despite all the exams I have this week, I managed to get enough energy to write this review This time I will also touch some of the book speculation/possible spoilers.

      Before I actually begin breaking down the episode, I want to say that I’m really surprised about the negative reaction to this episode on this thread because I really liked this episode compared to previous two. But still, everyone has their own opinion and if their review is supported by arguments, I have no intention of objecting. So, let us begin:

      King’s Landing: “I choose violence” – the sentence we heard several times in the trailer. I always thought this will mean the end of the Sparrows but sadly, it was not the case. But on the other hand, this was the first sparrow casuality since they came to power. So I think this was “The beginning of the end” of them. Moving on, Cersei is not allowed to be on the podium and Tommen officially forbade trials by combat and I can actually understand him. A noble person can commit a serious crime but gets away with it if they have an experienced fighter. So there goes all the speculation who will be ser Gregor’s opponent. Not Lancel, not Sandor, nobody! I really wonder if ser Gregor attacking one of the Sparrows was the final straw for it. And then, there is this “rumor” and I’m 90% sure what it is about… “Burn them all!”

      Riverrun: Contray to many opinions on this thread, I think the Riverrun material was handed very well, considering that it is far from my favorite storyline in the book. Jaime again became an ass. I really have to praise Tobias Menzies’s performance as lord Edmure in this episode and also Nikolaj Coster Waldau’s performance as ser Jaime. “I’m going to get your child and launch it over the wall with a catapult” – I know that ser Jaime was acting in the book but considering how pissed he was on TV, he may have really intended to do that. Sadly, this was the last episode for Blackfish (Clive Russel). I can honestly say that I wasn’t particulary impressed by his character in season 3 but in this episode, his performance basically sold me. He stayed true to his character and went down like he supposed to. His decision really reminded me of Brutus in Rome (played by Tobias Menzies), when his army got destroyed and just when the soldiers are about to capture him, he starts fighting and basically forces them to kill him. Yes, it’s a pity we haven’t seen Clive Russel doing that but on the other hand, his final moments were enough for me. I only wished that he would have taken Black Walder with him but apparently we will have to wait. And of course, Jaime waving to Brienne as she leaves Riverrun – I feel that’s the last time they saw each other.

      Meereen: Again, this storyline seems to get much hate and I can admit that I wasn’t a fan of Tyrion’s scenes so far, save the one with Kinvara and the meeting with the noblemen. But this time, me and my brother (who is show-only watcher) literally laughed during the “tell the joke” scene but not because of the jokes being funny, but because of whole exposition and Grey Worm’s lines, which were hillarious: “Aren’t the Starks and the Lannisters enemies?” “That’s the worst joke I’ve ever heard” “I was joking” – and it was nice to see Missandei and Grey Worm laugh for the first time in the series. Since season 1, I really wanted to hear what happened when Tyrion brought a honeycomb and jackass in the brothel, but we were interrupted again, this time by the fleet. Not the Greyjoy fleet, but the one from Volantis and Yunkai. The city is scr*wed and I wanted to remind Tyrion that there are two dragons in the dungeons but thenDaenerys arrived. Her arrival is my only complain about Meereen in this episode but apparently the Siege of Meereen will be resolved very quickly. I was a bit surprised that we haven’t seen the Sons of the Harpy yet…

      Braavos: All the speculation went down the drain… It was really Arya who foolishly wandered through Braavos and she really was stabbed in the gut. No Jaqen H’Gharr, no pig’s blood… But it made sense for her to seek help from Lady Crane. I recently wandered to GoT Wikia and I noticed a note, that these events may have not happened in a single day. That would actually explain Arya recovering from the wounds. But the Waif eventually found her and finished the job that Arya was supposed to do in the first place (I can also say that the man’s face she was wearing was really creepy). Then the intense chase started and the conflict that was building since the beginning of this season finally reached the climax. I was initially worried how will Arya be able to defeat the Waif without looking too unrealistic, considering that the Waif was way more powerful than her but the answer was simple – by turning off the lights. If I cite Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman Begins: “You’ve never learned to mind your surrounding”. My only grip with the scene was why was Jaqen H’Gharr still willing to accept Arya among the Faceless, considering how many rules she broke. And now he will just let her go with all the secrets she learned from them? At this point, I really have to praise Faye Marsay for her performance as the Waif. I never found the character really interesting in the books, but her interpretation brought the character into a complete new light. I really liked that there was more focus on her and not on Jaqen this season. And her face is so indefinite… I had no idea how old the actress is.

      Sandor Clegane: I knew that Thoros was returning but Beric was a complete surprise. Lem and his band were hanged by them, so the Brotherhoos did not become more violent in general, but they still help the poor and broken ones. All the theories about a certain lady being in charge were proven wrong and now, considering that several years have passed, I doubt it even more that she will ever appear (not that I want her to). And yes, Sandor Clegane really is changed.

      So that concludes my review for this episode. Now the lord must pass his verdict which would be a middle 9. I will place this episode on rank 22 between “The Wolf and the Lion” (rank 23) and “A Golden Crown” (rank 21). This season has a great potential of surpassing season 4 in terms of ratings, considering that it currently has no 7s, three 8s, two 9s and three 10s (season 4 has one 7, three 8s, one 9 and five 10s).

      That will be all for today. Two exams are still waiting me and I hope I will manage to visit this site as much as possible. Lord Parramandas wishes you a nice and stress-free week.

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    78. As the season was moving to a close I set my alarm to wake up at 2am and watch this episode and remember feeling a tinge of disappointment because it didn’t blow me away. That said on re-watch I enjoyed it more.

      I know it gets flack for the Arya/Waif fight and chase scenes but in my mind they happen a period of time after the initial gut stabbing so it’s plausible. Also I felt the tension when the Hound is pissing thinking Stoneheart may appear when he turns around after reading Irish Thrones suggest she was in last season.

      It’s possibly the weakest episode of the season along with blood of my blood but it’s still a solid 7/10 in my eyes.

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