It’s quite frankly unbelievable that we have already reached the eighth episode of Game of Thrones Season 6. Our latest spell in and around Westeros has unequivocally been the most progressive, dynamic and enthralling season to date: it’s so relentlessly brilliant that nobody wants it to conclude.

As we know all too well, crimes in the Seven Kingdoms do not go unpunished. Following the traumatic events of last week’s hour “The Broken Man” (full review here), a cold serving of justice is precisely what the doctor ordered.

Before we reach the showdowns of the century – we’re talking “Bastardbowl” and “Cleganebowl” – there are still a variety of debts and debacles which need to paid in full. Blood will be spilt, allegiances will be tarnished. As the war for the Iron Throne wages on, as does the fallout.

This week’s episode “No One” served up truly flagship Thrones. Utterly riveting, toweringly brutal, and helped shape some of the most important characters across the dense landscape to their fullest, most powerful potential.

No One

The Title: “No One”

What Does It Mean?

It doesn’t take a superfan to make the connection between this week’s episode label and one principal player: Arya Stark.

Left for dead last week after her bitter infiltration at the hands of The Waif as she attempted to seek transportation away from Braavos and The House of Black and White, A Girl Has No Name is found cowering backstage at Lady Crane’s play, cloaked by draping sheets.

Taking her into care, the actress – of which Arya was assigned to poison by Jaqen H’ghar – wraps her nasty wounds, feeds, and provides Milk of the Poppy to nurse her back to health.

It isn’t long however before the merciless trainer is on the Stark’s tail and locates her safe place. To discover more about this week’s episode title, and indeed the events which follow The Waif’s arrival, we must read on…

No One

Most Shocking Moment:

…to here. We’ll stick on the uncharted shores of Braavos for this week’s most mouth-agape sequence which sees an white-knuckle, hair-raising exchange between Jaqen’s disciples.

The Waif slinks into Lady Crane’s property and a series of crashing thuds awakes Arya from her Poppy-endused slumber. She quietly tracks the room and peers around the corner to find her carer bent, twisted and broken – almost resembling Regan’s “spider walk” from The Exorcist – it’s extremely disturbing and horrifying stuff.

Then the chase is on. Prolonged and lightening-paced, Arya dashes through the crowded streets, scales the cobbled walls, and zooms through the narrow alleyways as she attempts to evade her psychotic assailant. Her wounds are barely healed and she is in tremendous pain, but perishing is not an option. Pain is temporary; death is permanent (well, unless Melisandre is around…).

The Stark temporarily loses The Waif and attempts to blend in with the many market-goers, but beautifully juxtaposed in the background of frame, we see her tracker leap onto a narrow wall ledge and dart towards. With limited options, Arya makes a hand-in-mouth jump for freedom – entirely and deliberately reflective of sister Sansa’s leap of faith with Theon Greyjoy at the climax of Season 5.

No One

She crashes bitterly onto a ginormous staircase and begins to roll downwards. Bashing and thumping, spilling blood at every step, her ragged body lays still after a true assault. But it isn’t over. She desperately climbs to her feet and keeps going, soon leading The Waif down a slim walkway and into a blackened lair.

It looks as though she has just trapped herself with this crazed killer; a student gone rogue, one who has disobeyed a direct order from Jaqen (he distinctly told The Waif not to let Arya suffer), but it’s actually all part of her plan. She collects “Needle” from underneath a sheet and slices the flickering candlelight; plunging the room into an empty abyss. If you are wondering why she would cut the candle and make the room darker before a fight; remember The Waif taught Arya something very important: to battle blind.

We cut to Jaqen scaling through the vast walkways and rooms of The House of Black and White to which he notices a trail of blood splatters. Instinctively he follows, leading him into the Hall of Faces. The camera pans up with him as he looks at a tower, only to discover the claret-sodden facade of The Waif. Blood streaming from her closed eyelids. Life has left.

He turns around to find Arya ready to “stick him with the pointy end”. The pair briefly exchange, before Jaqen says “Finally, a Girl has become No One”.

“A Girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell…and I’m going home,” she fearlessly recalls.

A small smile of respect flushes her trainer’s face as she exits the hall and the city. She, just like Jon Snow and Sansa, is ready to retake what’s rightfully theirs, and that is just beyond exciting.

No One

Biggest Agenda:

We must take a lengthy and scenic voyage along The Narrow Sea now as we leave Essos and head to the most complex political landscape of Season 6: Riverrun.

Last week we witnessed Ser Jaime Lannister and his army descend on the Riverlands, along with a gaggle of Frey soldiers to attain Riverrun from the grasp of the Blackfish and the Tullys.

In “No One”, and as expected, Brienne of Tarth and Podrick finally arrive too. She confronts the “Kingslayer” and informs him of her plan – to convince the Blackfish to leave Riverrun and join her as they venture North, to help Sansa rightfully claim it and become the Lady of Winterfell.

The Blackfish does not bite. He is stubborn but committed to his home and his people. However, those who occupy the people technically are not his people, and Jaime is all too aware of this. After a brilliant and skin-crawling conversation with Edmure Tully which finally shows those brazen, bitter scars that we all know the Lannister kingsguard wears (he fundamentally tells him that he will happily murder anyone and anything in order to get back to King’s Landing and his beloved sister Cersei), Jaime has played Riverrun into a state of check. A large pawn though it may be, he has still exploited the game plan.

Threatening to kill Edmure’s baby son (of which the father has not met), he – the rightful Lord of Riverrun, not the Blackfish – heads to the castle and demands for the drawbridge to be lowered. The men are quick to lower their arms, much to the disgust and anger of the Blackfish who knows this is some kind of poetic trap.

Cowardly so, Edmure willingly sacrifices his castle to the Lannisters and the Freys rather than resisting with his uncle and house brothers. The Blackfish does not survive the battle. The armies surge the building, taking no prisoners. It isn’t long before the Roaring Lion is draping from the many walls.

Thankfully Brienne and Pod escape the mayhem, and they even gave the Blackfish the chance to join them in a rowboat rather than perishing in a needless battle. His pride is too great to see the bigger picture: aiding Sansa will not only free Winterfell from the Boltons, but also the North.

Jaime waves the duo off as they paddle down the road, and Brienne is still in possession of his sword – of which he told her to keep. For all that twisted menace and madness, there is some good in Ser Jaime, but like the very best of the Lannisters, it is only played on his terms.


Best Overall Moment:

This week’s episode served up some pretty gruesome sequences, and the bulk of them came at the hands of the Clegane brothers.

A revelation in The Red Keep sees King Tommen Baratheon abolish Trail by Combat as the new-found relationship between the Crown and the Faith – the two pillars of society – makes Cersei and Loras Tyrell’s trials all the more complicated. This also means some potential issues for how we all expected to see “Cleganebowl” unfold. Whilst I’m certain it will still happen, we are likely to see the action arrive in a slightly different setting.

But anyway, back to the brothers and point. And indeed, one in particular; Sandor “The Hound” Clegane.

A short ride from the Riverlands, we found “The Hound” last week with Ian McShane’s unorthodox septon and his followers who are building a sept; soon to become a brutal resting place for the many followers as a group of rogue fighters from the Brotherhood without Banners slaughtered them all. Axe in hand, he headed out to seek vengeance.

We find him this week on their trail, and it isn’t long before he has his first victims. A bunch of bandits are enjoying some rather peculiar downtime when a surging shadowy blur appears at their campsite. Swinging his axe as if he is charging into battle, he decapitates one of the men with a single, clean swipe before slamming his weapon into the remaining three. He even hits one of them upwards through the crouch, pulling out his intestines. Nice.

His quest for vengeance does not stop there and later in the episode he stumbles across the Brotherhood without Banners. Surprisingly, this time they are on his side. This is the first time we have seen the flagship members of the group since Sandor killed Beric Dondarrion in Trial by Combat, and the red priest, Thoros of Myr, resurrected him.

The three men responsible for the carnage at the sept are in nooses, ready to be hung. “The Hound” is not happy about such a clean, easy death for these scumbags and the group quarrel over who gets to kill who, and how many get to be killed by either side. Out of respect to Sandor, the Brothers let him kill two members, but they remain in rope.

Good time killing is hungry work, and soon Sandor and the Brothers sit down for a meal and chit-chat about the future. Apparently Beric and Thoros intend to head North, where “cold winds” are blowing. Perhaps Thoros had a vision that showed him the White Walkers. Whatever their intel, they seek to recruit “good men” to their cause, which now includes the Hound.

He muses over the offer, but doesn’t give a definitive answer. I think Sandor will refuse the offer to head North and rather opt for a Southern route to locate “The Mountain”. What he has to make sure of however, is that on whatever road he heads down, he does not bump into Brienne…

No One

The Verdict:

Yet another outstanding episode in a truly incredible season. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have seemingly achieved the impossible before the conclusion has even arrived: they have taken Game of Thrones away from George R.R. Martin, and paved a new way for it.

Arya’s pulse-quickening exchanges with The Waif, the sheer savagery of the kills, the last developments in Meereen and King’s Landing which is going to truly rattle both landscapes as we head into the final two episodes; it was just a sheer pleasure to witness.

And even in amongst all the death, mayhem, deceit and depravity, we still had time for a heartwarming and hilarious sequence between Tyrion Lannister, Missandei and Grey Worm as they reluctantly drink wine and tell jokes in the Pyramid now the city is universally celebrating the Targaryen Queen once again. Happy days.