Cheers, chills, and the sound of online fan theories imploding. “No One” delivered Jaime Lannister’s finest scene in years, a thrilling chase, and set one Stark on an exciting new path. Though in some respects, “No One” could be short for “No One Shown Fighting.” The preview for Sunday’s episode teased a major Riverrun clash (which was cleverly averted), a King’s Landing fight with the Faith Militant (also avoided — aside from one fool who dared to mess with The Mountain), a Jaime vs. Brienne clash (nope), and we all expected an Arya vs. Waif fight to the death (which did indeed happen, although we didn’t see it — more on that later).
We start with…
Braavos: Every week there’s at least one new theory about what some GoT plotline really is about that gets circulated. The latest, and perhaps the most popular this season, was an idea that The Waif and Arya are somehow the same person due to The House of Black and White’s magic — that The Waif is basically her subconscious and the young Stark must defeat her to truly become “No One.” The GoT fan theories tend to be impressively clever and fun to consider. They also usually fixate on minor details and assume those details secretly add up to a complicated conspiracy that will be revealed in a stunning twist that will make you reconsider everything that’s come before. The average viewer considers Thrones an already dizzyingly complex show, so if the drama suddenly threw in twists that hinged on Meera Reed or Rickon or Smalljon Umber, it would baffle casual fans who just barely know who those characters are. For the most part, what you see happening on Thrones is what’s actually happening — and that’s the case with Arya, who has been been in an escalating grudge deathmatch with The Waif and wasn’t having some Fight Club-esque bipolar mind trip all this time.
The episode opens with Lady Crane trying out Arya’s suggestion for play-Cersei’s reaction to Joffrey’s death — anger, not just grief. “My son… my first born son… my child king,” she weeps. Her lines cleverly foreshadow a scene coming later in King’s Landing — Lady Crane’s words could nearly be Cersei’s own thoughts in a few moments.
Wounded Arya finds Lady Crane, who fortunately has nursing skills. She reveals that she apparently gets angry with her boyfriends and stabs them on a regular basis (which we wouldn’t have guessed, but then again she is an actress, so perhaps not too surprising).
Arya gets an indeterminate amount of time to recover somewhat from her wounds along with some help from that Thrones-ian opiate elixir Milk of the Poppy (one of my all-time favorite typos is when a reader leaving a recap comment honestly thought this was called Milk of the Puppy).
Lady Crane also offers to let Arya run away and join their acting troupe. I’d sort of love to see this. What if Arya ended up playing fake Arya in the play? Or maybe she could be Sansa and just troll her sister’s reputation in every scene. Arya says she couldn’t remember all the lines, but her actual motive is what we see later — Arya has realized this isn’t her destiny any more than being a Faceless Man.
Kings Landing: Lancel — Cersei’s cousin, ex-lover, now fanatic — arrives to tell her she’s been summoned by the High Sparrow. Lancel is leading a group of men from the Faith Militant. She doesn’t want to leave the security of the Red Keep because she’s not stupid and her hair has finally started to grow out enough to style it again.
He gives her the option of the easy way or the hard way. “I choose violence,” she says, as if selecting the prize behind Door #2 on a game show.
Some brave dolt tries to put an ax into Mountainstein, and he’s dealt with amusingly. The Faith Militant decide it’s wise to leave. She won that round.
Also: Does Mountainstein eat? Does Mountainstein sleep? Did Mountainstein really taking a vow of silence or is he incapable of speech? So many Mountainstein questions…
NEXT: Cersei basically loses another child [pagebreak]
But then, in the throne room, Cersei goes to take her place next to her son, and instead she’s escorted from the regal VIP area to a gallery where the general admission royalty hang out. Insulting. If that wasn’t bad enough, Tommen does the worse thing he’s ever done. He says trial by combat is now banned throughout the Seven Kingdoms. That means The Mountain cannot defend Cersei in her upcoming trial. Ser Loras is screwed, too. Somewhere, a bunch of gamblers swapping money while placing bets on The Cleganbowl halt what they’re doing and stare at the TV in disappointment (which is another fan theory that just went bust — that The Hound would face off against The Mountain at Cersei’s trial — though that one made more sense than most, and we still might get it somewhere down the line).
But nobody is more disappointed than Cersei. See the look of shock, hurt, and betrayal ebbing across her face. Her own son just likely condemned her to death. As bad as Cersei is — and, let’s face it, she’s legitimately a terrible person, Olenna was right about that — she would never leave her kid at the mercy of a religious cult who wants to kill him. Does this mean that Tommen is now officially worse than Joffrey?
After, creepy Qyburn says his little birds investigated some rumor and there is “much more.” If you don’t know what this means, that’s okay. It’s meant to be cryptic.
Riverrun: Brienne and Pod arrive at the Lannister hornet’s nest and are brought to Jaime.
We’re primed for the big reunion by Bronn, who treats Pod like a kid brother so much that he practically gives him noogies. Bronn also delivers the unspoken romantic subtext between Jaime and Brienne in his usual blunt terms.
Jaime and Brienne’s reunion is perfect. At first they’re frustratingly formal. Both are on a mission, and have people they care about counting on them. So they can’t reminisce and have to keep their game faces on.
Brienne wants to get The Blackfish and his forces to help Sansa. “Have you met him? He’s more stubborn than you,” Jaime says. Brienne wants a chance to talk him out. And if she doesn’t succeed, her honor will compel her to fight Jaime — despite their history, and the fact he’s surrounded by his army. Such a move would be taking her oath to an extreme, even for Brienne.
She tries to Luke-Vader him, with an “I know there is still honor in you” line. Jaime gives her his word that if she persuades the Blackfish, he’ll give them safe passage. She’s the only person Jaime meets out here who actually thinks his word is worth something.
She tries to give him back his Valyrian sword, Oathkeeper. It’s served its purpose. Then we get that one moment of tenderness that we wanted: “No, it’s yours,” he says. “It will always be yours.” Just before she leaves, her chin starts to do a Carrie Mathison tremble. We’re practically howling: Hug! Kiss! High five! Do something!
NEXT: Hounded to death [pagebreak]
Brienne visits with The Blackfish, who receives her more warmly than he did Jaime, certainly, but the outcome is the same. His point is logical — Sansa is trying to take back her home, but that’s the same thing he’s trying to do here.
So Jaime has a chat with his hostage Edmure, who finally gets a chance to speak this season. Since Edmure is the heir to Riverrun, the castle is technically his, not The Blackfish’s. Jaime recognizes the hostage the Freys were threatening to kill is actually far more useful alive. If he can convince Edmure to order the castle guards to open the gates, a long siege can be avoided.
This is the real stand-out scene of this episode. The conversation is so layered and complex and it doesn’t flow in an obvious fashion, but takes directions we don’t expect, while feeling perfectly natural. “You imagine yourself a decent person,” Edmure says. “After you massacred my family… how do you live with yourself?” While Jaime is just brutally honest — and honest about his brutality. Edmure has a choice: Open the gates, or everybody in the castle is going to die — plus what remains of his family after the Lannister already killed so much of it. Either way, the Lannisters will eventually win. “I love Cersei, she needs me, and to get back to her I have to take Riverrun,” Jaime says simply. “And if I have to slaughter every Tully who ever lived to get back to her, that’s what I’ll do.” Edmure breaks down hearing this because he can tell Jaime means every word of it.
So Jaime sways him — a very rare victory for the Kingslayer, and with zero bloodshed, too. This is not the Jaime of season 2. Previously he would have just had the army lay siege to the castle. But at the same time, this is very much the Jaime of season 2, or even season 1. He gives an encore of his infamous line, “the things we do for love,” which he last said when he shoved Bran out the window in the show’s pilot. His heart still wants what it wants and despite growing in so many ways, he’s still willing to do anything for Cersei — including murdering a child.
The Blackfish does his Ackbar impression (“It’s a trap!”), but it doesn’t stop Edmure turning over the castle to the Lannisters. The Blackfish decides to stick around and have one last sword fight rather than flee. “I haven’t had a proper sword fight in years,” he says. Well, we haven’t seen a proper sword fight since the third episode this season, so how about showing us the fight, Thrones? But no. It happens off camera.
Brienne and Pod grab a rowboat and take off. Jaime spots them but doesn’t tell his men. It’s probably too much to hope that they might run into Gendry.
Riverlands: The Hound tracks those murderers from last week. They end up in the hands of Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr. We haven’t seen these camping warrior-hippies since season 3. Beric, you’ll recall, has been resurrected so many times he makes Jon Snow look like an amateur. Seems those killers of Brother Ray were members of their Brotherhood Without Banners group who did things they weren’t supposed to — a rogue group’s members gone rogue. There’s some debate about who gets to kill them.
Speaking of Jon Snow: The Hound seems more transformed by his near-death and recuperation with Brother Ray than Jon Snow was changed by actually dying and being resurrected. Everything about The Hound in these scenes — from his movements to his voice to his language — feels lighter, less burdened, more good-humored. I like this Hound. The Brotherhood tries to recruit him, and their words echo what Brother Ray told him about how it’s never too late to change your path. We suspect he’ll do it. What else is there to do?
NEXT: A girl drops the mic [pagebreak]
Meereen: Varys leaves on a secret mission. We also don’t know what that’s about. A lot of mysterious things happening tonight.
Then, Grey Worm and Missandei drink as Tyrion prods them to try and tell jokes. Grey Worm is basically a Vulcan. They’re in fine spirits, congratulating themselves on creating peace in Meereen, and it’s a fun scene.
And then: Outside, the slavers begin attacking the city. Grey Worm and Missandei were right all along — you don’t use the slavers, they use you.
Just as suddenly, Dany returns, and she looks pissed at them — it’s like your mom coming back from vacation just as your house party has spiraled out of control.
Braavos: The Waif finds Arya and horrifically kills Lady Crane. The Waif blames Arya for this, very much the “look at what you made me do” abuser. I wonder at this point if Arya/Waif fan theorists are thinking Arya just murdered Lady Crane as part of her Tyler Durden-like breakdown (“I am Jack’s homicidal theater critic…”).
Suddenly, the chase is on: Arya leaps out the window. The sequence is thrilling. The Termi-Waif chases Parkour Arya through the streets. I like the Waif’s grim smile as she runs after her, and the rousing score. We finally get Arya’s high leap we first saw in the season’s debut trailer followed by a bone-crunching landing on stone steps. Arya’s wounds reopen and she’s leaving a blood trail. We think this is disastrous for her. The Waif slows. She’s like a hunter patiently stalking down her wounded prey, or Jack Torrance confidentially following little Danny’s footprints through the hedge maze.
The great twist of all this is that The Waif isn’t just following Arya, she’s actually being deliberately led by Arya.
Arya goes back to her nook where she has Needle stashed (this was a bit confusing a couple episodes back, as some viewers —myself included — initially thought this spot was inside The House of Black and White and not a separate hidden location). Arya knows if she fights The Waif, she will lose. She is outmatched. So she leads her here, snuffs out the candle with a flick of Needle, and plunges her opponent into total darkness — the only environment where, after months of blindness, she has an advantage. And with this twist, suddenly Arya’s arc this season (her period of blindness, the beatdown training from The Waif, scenes that some viewers were frustrated by) now makes so much narrative sense.
We don’t see the fight. This is emotionally frustrating, but I admire the move — the room is supposed to be pitch black. I always think it’s a distracting cheat in movies where total blackness is portrayed as dark gray so the viewer can actually see what’s going on while actors, wide eyed, pretend to be blind.
Arya returns, victorious, to the House of Black and White. Jaqen H’ghar isn’t angry with her for killing his other disciple. He’s not exactly the type to get emotionally attached. If anything, he’s proud. The Many-Faced God demanded a life, so his reasoning goes, and she delivered one, so as long as his balanced sheet is correct, it doesn’t much matter who got “the gift.” The Waif joins the Hall of Faces, though her mask seems kinda gory to wear around town without scaring children. Then we get this awesome mic-drop to end the episode:
Jaqen H’ghar: “Finally, a girl is no one.”
Arya: “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell — and I’m going home.”
Even Jaqen can’t resist a little smirk.
And that’s it for the week. Like the last two episodes, the tension in the narrative bow was drawn further back this week. But there are two huge episodes coming to close out season 6 when those arrows of tension — metaphorical and literal — will go flying. Next week is the Battle of the Bastards (HBO’s promo here), which has been teased as the biggest clash in the show’s history.
More “No One” coverage: Read our interview with Maisie Williams about her big Waif showdown. Plus, we have an interview with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie talking about Jaime and Brienne’s touching reunion.
Our latest Game of Thrones Weekly podcast episode is now live for “No One” too, listen below and don’t forget to subscribe here.