No One – In Braavos, Ayra fights for her life from The Waif; Jaime and Brienne reunite in Riverrun as the siege takes on a new twist; Cersei’s trial looms in King's Landing; There are some unexpected arrivals in Meereen; and The Hound seeks out The Brotherhood with a score to settle.
This episode delivered several character reunions but none more enjoyable than seeing Jaime Lanister reunited with Brienne in what was easily the most rewarding story location of the episode: Riverrun. Granted, nobody’s head got ripped off there but in terms of character emotion and drama, the Riverlands were unbeatable and at the center of it were Jaime and Brienne caught somewhere between their friendship of old and the politics of now. There’s so much fantastic complexity of their relationship and the combination of both actors being on superb form some great dialogue from showrunners Benioff & Weiss really gets this across. There is no loss of respect or even some degree of affection between the pair following their earlier season’s ordeals but it’s been forced back behind who they’ve been forced to become. This is most effective in highlighting the moral conflict of Jaime. Brienne represents the best parts of him as she became the catalyst for his redemption from despair to remind him that he can still be a good and honorable man. Then on the other side of the coin, we see him at most dark and sadistic in carrying out Cersei’s will as he breaks Edmure’s spirit. Somehow in the same episode, we have both the Jaime who pushed Bran out the window, and the Jaime who jumped into a bear pit to save Brienne. That is nothing short of incredible and from a story perspective, places his character at unknown crossroads. Then on top of all that, we have the brilliant comedic delights of Bronn reuniting with Podrick from talk of Pod’s magic rod to Bronn's style combat training, “Lesson number one, assume everyone wants to hit you”. It’s all so good that even the returning delights of Clive Russell’s Blackfish feel like second string contributions.
Now after his shock return last week, the show wastes no time in setting The Hound off in a new story direction. This does come with one big stinging blow though. The combination of Sandor looking towards the North and the judiciary changes in King's Landing set a wildfire to our dreams of a Hound Vs Mountain “Cleganebowl”.... in this season at least. However, this is quickly forgiven by making the Hound’s scenes the comedic highlight of the episode. There’s a wonderful feel of Hound’s Greatest Hits to his lines as he calls back to many former glories like his chicken eating and acknowledging Brienne, “Tougher girls than you have tried to kill me”. It’s a firm declaration that not only is the character back but so is everything that we used to love about him;:blunt gruff mannerisms and all.
Also keeping the Clegane end up, what remains of The Mountain provides the only highlight of the King's Landing scenes with his aforementioned cranial relocation on a member of the Faith Militant. Yes, Tommen’s decree is a good shock twist but overall, it’s a bit underwhelming considering the characters it involves and feels far too much like just a setup for the season finale. If you want an example of great setup, then look no further than Meereen: that was delivered perfectly. From well placed preceding lighting distractions of Tyrion breaking Grey Worm and Missandei’s stiffness that draw you in comfortably to the shock contrast of the exterior events and everything that follows, sets up something quite spectacular in a future episode.
Finally, there is the titular focus and the culmination of Ayra’s Braavos storyline for the past two seasons. The story dodges its biggest bullet well: the believability of Ayra’s peril. We know for sure as every odd-numbered Star Trek film used to be shite that she is not getting killed off. So the emphasis switches to how she will escape and defeat The Waif rather than if. The Bourne Ultimatum style parkour complete with Robert Patrick/T-1000 cold gazes from The Waif make for great entertainment, and the conclusion manages to be satisfying without becoming a mass spectacle. It certainly sets Ayra off the direction everyone wants her to go and the lead in to the final Hall of Faces in scene is stunning as it teases the outcome. Yet the key player here is surprisingly Lady Crane. Not only do we get to enjoy her re-write performance as Cersei following Ayra’s advice but she plays a crucial role in redefining Ayra’s character, making us see her as a girl again rather than the anonymous killer she’s been training to be. This is meant to be seen as a milestone and turning point in Ayra’s journey and that does come across --That after spending so long trying to be no one, she finally understands the someone she needs to be.
No One doesn’t reach the heights some episodes have this season due to the heavy finale setup work it has to deliver us, especially from the trailer. Tt looks like next week’s Battle of the Bastards (best episode name ever) will spend the entire episode on a single story location, like Blackwater and Watchers on the Wall before it. It means that some things are crammed in rather than placed but despite the uphill battle, it’s a heavy victory none the less.