After two surprisingly bloodless weeks, “No One” gets back to fatal business. Both Clegane brothers get their slaughter on after a considerable homicide hiatus, Arya murders her way out of a murderers’ club, and full blown war has broken out in Mereen. But the most significant death is the Blackfish, who goes down with the Riverrun ship. Presumably, anyway, since the death happens offscreen, and the recent spat of character resurrections compels me to ponder how he could have slipped away again. I can’t think of any reason why he would lie to Brienne and Pod only to take an alternate escape route, much less what reason a Lannister lieutenant would have to help cover it up. But such is the lay of the land in season 6, so I’ll just say that it’s going to be real dumb if the Blackfish turns out to have survived again.
"Wait, I'm still in the next book? That can't be right."
But let’s not dwell on hypothetical negatives, when there are ample positives in the Riverrun storyline. The Bronn/Pod reunion was a nice moment of levity in an otherwise depressing storyline, and the old cutthroat’s evident delight at seeing the boy again made for another in the series of happy reunions this season has provided, from Jon and Sansa to Dany and Jorah to the surprisingly affable meeting of the Hound and Brotherhood, to the episode’s main attraction of Brienne and Jaime. Jaime claims to only care about Cersei, but his actions give lie to that sentiment when he deals with The Beauty. What I like about this relationship is that the show has given us no shortage of examples of pious heroes having their lofty morals challenged by more ambiguous antiheroes, be it Dany or Brienne or literally any of the Starks. Jaime himself functioned in this manner for several characters in the past, but his dynamic with Brienne has changed, to the point where it’s her unwavering honor that challenges his cynicism.
And it does have an effect. Jaime tells her he’s proud of her service to his house’s enemies, refuses to take back the sword he gifted her, and honors his agreement to let the Tully soldiers live even after she #Briennefail-s to convince the Blackfish to give up the castle and/or come North to help out at Winterfell. But the Kingslayer hasn’t gone completely soft, as he is still able to threaten Edmure into betraying the castle. Which should come as no surprise to anyone given that he is played by UK’s foremost gormless actor, Tobias Menzies. He’s sort of the British Paul Dano, parlaying his inverted jawline into a notable career playing men whose awareness of their own weaknesses does not allow them to overcome that weakness (only with a more aristocratic bent, because British). It is obvious that he’s not going to somehow get the better of Jaime in this exchange, but you still want to slap him around a bit for falling for the line he does. Yes, threatening to kill a baby is horrible, but Edmure has no reason to believe that such a child even exists, much less that it is his own, much less that life as a hostage at Casterly Rock with a family he doesn’t know (except that his family was slaughtered by his bride’s on their wedding night) will be much of an upgrade from life as a prisoner of war, much less that the people that murdered his family would keep their word once he’s surrendered the only chip he still holds, all the rest notwithstanding.
Not pictured: guile, severity, chin
But really, Jaime’s essentially bloodless victory is just about the best result that could be hoped for from this situation. But even that is apt to turn to ash in his mouth, as Cersei is set to (stop me if you’ve heard this one) do something rash. After having the Frankenmountain awesomely decapitate a Faith flunky, she finds out that trial by combat has been abolished. Which is an important step towards the development of a legal system that isn’t stupider than flambeed shit, but puts the queen regent in a tight spot. And given her history of drastic action when cornered, the lack of an angel on her shoulder to talk her down, Qyburn’s ominous whispers about confirming "rumors", Jaime’s comments about her willingness to “burn cities to ash”, and Bran’s visions showing caches of wildfire blowing up, one can surmise that the season finale is likely to feature the great sept going up in green flame. Probably with Tommen and the Sparrow in it, but perhaps also with some Tyrells, and also probably also taking a big chunk of the city with it. And I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I really hope the Frankenmountain doesn’t go with them, because I still want “Who Smushed It Better” to become a recurring segment in this space.
We're not going to be sticklers about the definition
of "smushed" here. This counts and then some.
This week the Mountain again triumphs in the head-abuse stakes, with his manual removal of the idiot’s head while Lancel looks on in horror, and Qyburn with wide eyes and a tent in his robes. This beats out his brother, who beheads one brigand and splits another’s skull, but requires an axe to do the job. He does heckle the one guy’s choice of final curses, though, in the most in-character moment imaginable. Then he sits down with the long-lost Thoros and Berric to hear the good (I guess?) news about the Lord Of Light. It’s strange how those guys are just about as devout as the Faith Militant, and to a god that seems actively sinister in his demands (as opposed to the Seven, who have given no indication of even being "real" like the LoL or Drowned God), and yet I like them while I despise the sparrows. Part of that is that their ministry seems more focused on actually going out and doing shit in the world than scolding people. But it's also just that the actors have an appealing world-weariness to them that helps to ground the increasingly fantastical nature of the show. I still think that the Hound was one resurrection too many, and Thoros just opens the door for more, but at least the conversation won’t be dull.
Speaking of interesting conversation, Tyrion finally draws an amusing exchange out of Missandei and Grey Worm, coaxing them into drinking and even (gasp) telling jokes. Then the masters' fleet shows up for the world’s shortest siege. Hopefully Drogon burning the slaver fleet means the end of them as a purported threat, since the dragons are such an X factor that it’s impossible to take them seriously as such. The sooner Dany gets on her way to Westeros, the better, especially now that Varys and Jorah are both out of the mix. Unfortunately, there’s still got to be some payoff or complication to come from Tyrion’s deal with the red priestesses, and Yara and Theon haven’t arrived yet, so I don’t see her taking off until next year.
For she is the Mother Of Dragons, Breaker
of Chains, and Trier of Patience
But there is finally forward momentum in Arya’s storyline, as her time in Braavos appears to be done, following a rather absurd parkour chase that simply longs for Yakkety Sax to be placed under it. The sequence is shot very well (I particularly like the bit of the waif sprinting off a nearby roof when it seems Arya may have lost her), it’s just ridiculous that she is doing these things when she should be in intensive care. At one point, Arya actually slides on her stomach under a cart, and pops up with no indication that she has multiple large, fresh stab wounds on said stomach. But she does eventually lead her back to her hideout, where Needle and the darkness put the Waif at a disadvantage. And then Arya cuts off her freaking face and brings it back to the House, which is some hardcore shit. Then she gets the drop on Jaqen, but simply says her name and walks away, which is a remarkably mild turn after having just cut the freaking face off the Waif and slapped it on the wall. Jaqen himself seems oddly proud of her rejection, but his beliefs are such that I’m not sure that will stop him from appearing out of nowhere to stab her just after she crosses off the last name on her list. But that’s for the very end of the show, once she's taken care of some Freys. For now, and wonky execution aside, it’s enough that at least she and Varys are heading back to Westeros, where the real wars will be fought. Starting next week, with, gods be good, the end of Ramsay’s reign of terror.
Subplot Report Card:
Riverrunnin’: A (Edmure’s capitulation is frustrating, but the character stuff is on point)
King’s Landin’: A (The Mountain pulled that head off with ONE HAND. Come on.)
Houndin’: A- (I guess the elaborate kissing prank around the campfire serves as a bit of world-building, but it also feels, with the end coming into sight, like a waste of increasingly scant screentime.)
Adios Braavos: B (Speaking of squandering screentime, we haven’t had a single scene in weeks to give us an update on the situation in Dorne, or Rickon’s experience in captivity, or Sansa interact with the witch that brought her brother back to life, but in the meantime I have seen 3 separate performances of Lady Crane’s play.)
Mereen: B+ (nitpick: after the siege is underway, why has Grey Worm still not put on his armor and armed himself with more than a knife?)
Season Morgulis: Doran Martell, Trystane Martell, Areo Hotah, Roose Bolton, Walda Bolton, Balon Greyjoy, (-Jon Snow), Shaggydog, Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, Alister Thorne, Olly, Osha, Khal Moro, Euron Greyjoy (-Euron Greyjoy), Summer, Leaf The Child Of The Forest, The Wargist Formerly Known As The Three Eyed Raven, HODOR, Septon Swearengen, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully, Lady Crane, the Waif
Death Watch: Why didn’t I just take the easy way out and pick the Waif? Or the Blackfish, since I was predicting he would come up short in that storyline anyway? I still feel like Grey Worm or Missandei will die before Dany leaves Mereen, but I don’t know when that will happen now. I feel like the focus has to go to the North next episode, for the big episode 9 battle, so I’m going to say Davos, because Wun Wun feels like cheating. I’m also marking Walder Frey, Tommen, and Lancel Lannister for death by the finale, though I wouldn’t be surprised if none of them appear next week.