‘Game of Thrones’ recap 6×08: ‘No One’

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War certainly has a way of revealing who your true friends are. This week, the characters of “Game of Thrones” face the reality of both betrayal and loyalty. As battlelines are drawn, friends and enemies find themselves on either side of the rising conflict. With the sky just beginning to rumble, “No One” seems to mark the calm before the storm to come in next week’s “Battle of the Bastards.”

This week, Arya closes the door on her conflict with the House of Black and White in a predictable and unsatisfying way. Arya’s arc in Braavos served an obvious point: leading Arya away from killing people in cold blood and back to who she truly is. Her conversations with Lady Crane and Jaqen reveal that Arya has abandoned her quest to strip herself of her identity. Her final scenes in Braavos achieve this but were executed in a mediocre way. Several things don’t add up about the storyline in “No One.”

Firstly, Arya’s injuries: Despite their severity, she is able to run, jump and nearly successfully flea the Waif with seemingly only one day of recovery. With her exposure to the infected canal water and the significant amount of time she spent bleeding out, it seems unlikely that she would be able to perform all of these feats in her condition.

Secondly, Jaqen’s final conversation with Arya is contradictory and confusing. Once Arya has delivered the Waif’s face to the temple, Jaqen claims that Arya has finally become “no one” — but conversely, the entire point of Arya killing the Waif was her embracing the fact that she is and always will be a Stark. It seems like none of the Faceless Men are actually “no one” by the definition that has emerged since season five: assassins aiming to strip their identities until they can act without the inhibition of personal bias. The Waif’s grudge against Arya is clear from the moment she arrives, and the manner in which she attempts to kill her suggests that she enjoyed letting Arya suffer. Even Jaqen himself appears to have a hint of bias in Arya’s favor — he seems almost pleased that Arya succeeded and the Waif failed. These inconsistencies result in an empty triumph for Arya, but at least she can finally put aside the Faceless Men and return home.

Back in Westeros, Tommen continues to prove himself exploitable to a tragic degree. With help from his new friends in the Sept, Tommen nailed his mother’s coffin shut by eradicating trial by combat. Tommen has successfully betrayed everyone that sincerely cares about him and has left himself with power hungry manipulators whispering in his ear. Somehow, he is completely unaware that the outcome of Cersei’s trial could very well strip him of his crown. It is unclear what exactly has left Tommen so willing to betray his family and himself. Perhaps it is his love for Margaery or the impressive rhetoric of the High Sparrow — the writers haven’t been very forthcoming with Tommen’s motives. Alternatively, maybe Tommen’s calamitous methods are simply the writers’ means to King’s Landing’s violent end.

And it certainly seems that Cersei will spearhead that violent end. With her options running out and her self-preservation instincts kicking in, banning trial by combat may be the spark that finally lights a fire under Cersei. Throughout each season, she has been motivated deeply by her love for her children. Now, with only Tommen left, who has been betraying her relentlessly, Cersei is entering uncharted territory for her character. With little left for her to protect, it is unclear what will keep her going in the episodes that follow.

For a brief moment, it seemed as if Jaime would also leave Cersei behind. At Riverrun, Brienne and Jaime finally come face to face again, and their connection has never been more palpable. Despite fighting on different sides of the ongoing conflict in Westeros, their friendship is powerful enough to make them push aside their loyalties. Furthermore, his kind, gracious demeanor with Brienne stands in stark contrast with his malicious actions later on with Edmure while discussing the violent methods he plans to use to return to Cersei. His violence comes as no surprise, as the incestuous lovers have always brought out the worst in each other. Though the two situations clearly differ, the way Jaime morphs between two different personas in reaction to Brienne and Cersei seems strangely symbolic.  

Though alliances continue to be strained in the weeks leading up to the season six finale, the true test will come once the storm starts to rage over Westeros and Slaver’s Bay. Meereen faces fierce adversity from the Masters. The battle in the North is on the verge of breaking, and it doesn’t look promising for the Starks. Cersei, though continually betrayed by those she trusts, will not remain the underdog for long. She seems to be Tommen’s only hope as the High Sparrow helps him dig his own grave. Jaime fights at Riverrun with hopes to finally return home to Cersei, but only time will tell if King’s Landing is still standing when he finally arrives.

Contact Dani Sundell at [email protected].