Wow. At this stage it’s probably fairly reasonable to say that Season Six of Game of Thrones is pretty damn intense. Things have gone from moving glacially to having big moment after big moment slap you around the face with more ferocity than an evening training at the House of Black and White. And with just three episodes left (and an even shorter season seven on the horizon) time is running out.
Episode eight, No-One, follows last week’s The Broken Man in largely dealing with the scaled-down politics of war and the ongoing strife in the lead up to battle. It also manages to rubbish not one, not two, not three, but four pretty exciting fan theories about the future of the season, proof once again that sailing through unchartered waters is both extremely frustrating – and extremely satisfying.
Here are the biggest moments from the episode, as always, it goes without saying that there be spoilers below...
Arya Stark goes rogue
After being brutally knifed in the gut during a showdown with the Waif last week, Arya threw herself off a bridge and staggered around Braavos clutching her stomach. The internet sniffed a trap. She’s not Arya! Arya is the Waif! Jaqen is a cat! There were even fan theories that Syrio Forel, Arya’s tutor from Season One, would crop up to save her (full disclosure: I helped fuel these rumours a lot last week).
Turns out the fantastic conspiracy theories were bogus; that really was Arya, the Waif really did let Arya fall in a river without chasing her, and Arya’s wounds slowly healed after she tracked down Lady Crane and begged her for help.
After a hazy sleep fuelled by milk of the poppy (Thrones’ answer to Calpol, although it’s laced with opiates) Arya was roused from her slumber after hearing Crane get mutilated by the Waif, who tracked her down Terminator style, cocked head and everything.
What followed was a high-speed chase through the winding streets of Braavos (including a detour in a steam room) and though Arya seemed to be suffering, she was revealed to actually be luring her killer into a trap, guiding her with smears of her blood on walls, steps and cobbles.
When the Waif finally found Arya in the hiding space we saw her in two weeks ago, Arya drew Needle, extinguished the only candle, and killed her.
At the House of Black and White, Jaqen followed a trail of blood that led him to the Wall of Faces, where Arya had placed the Waif’s face, sans eyeballs. Eurgh. Arya’s carefree attitude last week was revealed as a ruse to draw attention to herself but only after she’d done some pitch-black training and honed the skills she learned while she was blind.
She might not have followed their training to the letter, but Arya drawing on her blindness (an area the Waif apparently didn’t train in, given she’s never broken the rules) to overcome her attacker was testament to the young Stark’s ability to embrace her experiences rather than try to erase them.
Though she was finally told she was “No-One”, Arya rebuked the title, claiming herself Arya Stark of Winterfell and finally getting the hell out of there.
Jaime and Brienne reunite – briefly
The converging storylines around the Riverlands promised a melting pot of conflict. On the one hand, Jaime had been sent with the Lannister forces to eject the Blackfish, who had re-taken the castle of Riverrun and refused to give it back to the Freys, who were awarded it after their work in the Red Wedding.
On the one hand, Brienne had been instructed by Sansa to get Blackfish onside (who is Sansa’s uncle) so he could lend his troops to Sansa and Jon’s dogfight in the North against the Boltons.
On the other hand Brienne only rescued Sansa because Jaime ordered her two, even giving her his new Valyrian steel sword. On the other other hand Jaime only ordered her to find Sansa because he failed his own oath, to Sansa’s mother Catelyn, to find and protect her daughters. So: a lot going on here, basically.
When the Blackfish refused to surrender to Brienne, Jaime spoke with Edmure, his nephew, whose wedding to a Frey was the backdrop for the whole Red Wedding. Edmure has been prisoner since his wedding night (where we learned he got his wife pregnant first, #priorities) and proves just as difficult to crack as his uncle. In the end, Jaime disowns careful politics in favour of violence – threatening to catapult Edmure’s baby against the battlements if he doesn’t do as he says.
The siege is lifted, therefore, but not before Brienne and Pod escape the river-facing castle in a rowboat, having failed to get the support from the Riverlands. Last week we saw Sansa writing to someone (Littlefinger?) for help. Thank god, because things are looking pretty dire for her army.
Tommen check-mates his own mother
Cersei is summoned to meet the High Sparrow by her cousin Lancel, but she senses a trap, so has her man-mountain bodyguard rip the actual face off one of the religious fanatics trying to take her by force. As blood drips across the Red Keep’s fancy paving, Cersei chalks it up as a victory.
But her hopes were short-lived; later, after arriving in the Throne room, Cersei hears Tommen proclaim to his people that the Crown will be banning trial-by-combats, deciding they’re very brutal and old-fashioned and a bit medieval for a classy society such as this.
In Westeros, justice is dealt by either combat or faith – and usually the accused gets to pick (in Season One, we saw Tyrion call for a trial by combat when he was kept at The Vale by Catelyn). Cersei’s long-game this season has been using her undead warrior in a fight to the death knowing full well he’s impossible (ish) to kill. But whether Tommen and the Sparrow sensed this or simply want to punish her for her violence earlier, they reveal she will be trialled by Septons, who, as you can imagine, are probably very biased against incest and other illegal activities.
So what to do? Cersei’s snivelling accomplice Qyburn reveals his network of spies have unearthed something that might be able to help. Is it the cache of wildfire we know is stashed under the city? Maybe Cersei will embody the Mad King and wipe the city out.
Sandor exacts his vengeance
After his peaceful church-building community was ravaged by the Brotherhood without Banners last week, Sandor and his trusty axe were ready to deal some justice the only way he knows how.
After seeing the BWB slaughtering innocent people, fans were convinced that we’d see a story from the books finally make it to the screen – that of the Brotherhood’s bloodthirsty new leader, the mysterious Lady Stoneheart.
But it wasn’t meant to be, as Sandor tracked down Beric Dondarrion and the rest of the clan (who, you’ll recall, briefly imprisoned Clegane and made him fight in his own trial by combat in season three) and learned that the men from last week were simply rogue members that the Brotherhood were going to kill anyway.
Sandor wanted to rip them apart but Dondarrion convinced them hanging was the better option. And then, mysteriously, it seemed like the group were making plans to head North, meaning Sandor may even see Sansa again before this season is out. Either way, the theory of The Hound fighting his brother in Cersei’s trial by combat is well and truly dashed.
Meereen comes under fire
As Tyrion bids goodbye to Varys, who is off to secure them some allies in Westeros, he turns his attention to the ongoing political strife in Meeren.
It turns out the slavers, who Tyrion met with earlier in the season and offered a sort of “Seven Years A Slave” package to, have rejected his offer and, without anyone noticing, sailed a fleet of ships to the bay and begun flinging flaming barrels at them.
Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei all discuss what to do, until a thud above them alerts them to the presence of a dragon and, in the most dramatic curtain reveal yet, Dany walks into the pyramid from the balcony, having apparently flown here on Drogon.
Will her Dothraki hoard stop the slavers’ army, or will Theon and Yara sweep in to help them out? Helpfully, Dany didn’t say anything upon returning, perhaps because she has given so many inspiring speeches on her way over here. Crucially, though, Varys leaving to secure a safe landing for her means the invasion is happening soon.
Of the place he could head, Dorne seems the most likely, especially given Ellaria and her bastard daughters slaughtered the useless men and installed themselves as rulers. Who else would they bow down to but a fierce dragon lady who has an army of cockles dudes doing her bidding? You couldn’t make it up.