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via watchersonthewall.com

“No One” was a divisive episode of “Game of Thrones”. Major media outlets that regularly praise the show in spite of its faults stated that they didn’t enjoy the episode, and in particular they criticised the handling of Arya’s (Maisie Williams) storyline.

I can understand why this storyline frustrated some viewers because a part of me is disappointed that Arya’s time in Braavos didn’t really develop her as a character, but from my perspective the mistakes that were made here weren’t the result of what this episode did. Arya’s scenes in this episode were exciting and well-shot, and Maisie Williams did a great job, so it seems unfair to criticise “No One” in isolation for faults in a story which has taken two seasons to tell.

Having said that, the failings that the showrunners are guilty of as far as Arya’s storyline is concerned are very apparent. When Arya told Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) that she was going home it should’ve been a marquee moment for the character, but instead it felt cheap because her actions leading up to it didn’t really highlight what she had learnt from her time with the Faceless Men. Yes, she used her former blindness to her advantage, so being able to fight in the dark is another string to her bow, but it’s not like this parlour trick is going to be her signature move going forward. In the previous episode Arya had a lapse in concentration which nearly cost her her life, so it’s clear that her time in Braavos hasn’t exactly made her the perfect assassin.

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via telegraph.co.uk

Much of Arya’s storyline in season five could’ve been omitted and replaced with her arc this year and not a lot would’ve changed in the grand scheme of things, and the events of this episode would’ve been just as impactful if Arya hadn’t been stabbed in episode seven. Arya could’ve gone to see Lady Crane (Essie Davis) in this episode to say goodbye because she felt a daughterly affection for her, which would’ve made just as much sense as Arya surviving after having her stomach sliced open, so the latter now feels like a cheap trick which happened simply because episode seven was uneventful on the whole.

To see a character shake off multiple stab wounds in the way that Arya did is really annoying, particularly on a show which is known for its realism and grim depiction of violence, so I have to question what the writers were going for here. Re-watch season one and you’ll see that Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) died of a similar injury to spark the series into life, so to have a child survive – and be able to outrun a merciless killer in spite of her wounds – is disappointing.

Still, these criticisms aren’t levelled entirely at this episode, so I still feel that the reception for “No One” has been unfair. If you’re going to review “Game of Thrones” episode-by-episode, (which I clearly feel is the way to go because it’s what I do), then obviously you have to balance what you’re saying by taking the series as a whole into consideration. You have to consider where the events of each episode fit into the wider narrative, because you can’t separate scenes which are influenced by five seasons of television from said seasons. However, you still have to look at what an episode does and judge it on that basis, because it’s unfair to judge the father by the sins of the son, or vice versa.

With that in mind, I don’t think that Arya’s scenes in this episode were particularly bad. Her interactions with Lady Crane were engaging and reminded us all about her past and what she has lost – i.e. a mother figure – and Maisie Williams’ acting was fantastic, as it has been throughout the series. Furthermore, whilst the mic-drop moment at the end of the episode was a little cliché, we finally got what we all wanted, the promise that Arya is going to return home. So, from a personal perspective I was more than happy with how this episode handled Arya’s story, I just think that there were a couple of speed bumps along the way because of the mistakes that previous episodes have made.

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via comingsoon.net

Much the same can be said for an equally criticised set of scenes in which Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the Lannister forces took back Riverrun, because whilst these scenes didn’t necessarily land in the way that the writers would’ve hoped for, they weren’t terrible at all. Jaime’s interaction with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) was wonderful, and it reminded us that he has some good left in him (even if he did proceed to threaten to use a baby as ammunition for a catapult), and so was his conversation with Edmure (Tobias Menzies).

Like Rory McCann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is an actor who really excels when he can play-off someone else, whether it be Gwendoline Christie, Sean Bean, Jerome Flynn, or Peter Dinklage, so it was no surprise that this episode marked a return to form for him and his character. We saw both sides of the man here – the Oathbreaker and the Oathkeeper – and Coster-Waldau’s acting was brilliant. George R. R. Martin has stated that the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself, and I think that it’s clear in this episode that this perfectly describes Jaime’s character arc.

Since the series began Jaime has been fighting against the person that everyone else thinks he is, and in the process he’s had to decide what he thinks of himself. Is he the Kingslayer or is he an honourable man who broke his oath to save lives? Is he trying to get back to Cersei (Lena Headey) when he threatens Edmure, as he claims, or is he trying to prevent a full-scale attack and thus keep his promise to Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) not to take up arms against the Tullys? You never really know, but I think that this episode posed these questions in an interesting and intelligent way and the writers deserve credit for that.

The issues that there are with the Riverrun storyline aren’t wholly the result of how the scenes in this episode and its predecessor were executed, but rather the result of the fact that not enough time was spent to build up the conflict in the first place because of the Dorne storyline in season five. In my opinion, if the siege that took place in this episode had been prolonged, perhaps occurring over the course of a whole season, then it would’ve been a lot better and more exciting than what we saw in Dorne last year.

The only genuine issue that I had with Riverrun in this episode was the way in which the writers dealt with The Blackfish’s (Clive Russell) death, because having it happen off-screen was a strange decision. He was portrayed as an honourable man who wanted a death to suit his status, so for that notion to be the main driving force of his character and then not have the moment itself appear simply didn’t work. Plus, when a character isn’t shown to have died on “Game of Thrones” the audience is forced to believe that they’re still alive – given the fact that even characters who die on this show aren’t always dead for good – which takes all impact away from the storyline.

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via bgr.com

Back in King’s Landing, Cersei took the fight to the Faith by choosing violence rather than surrender. This was a fine scene, but personally I didn’t really care what was happening because it was abundantly clear how the charade was going to end. Nobody in the world could possibly have believed that The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) would be overcome by a fool in a cloak, so it was hard to become invested in the events playing out on screen. Nevertheless, the murder that The Mountain committed was still creative and entertaining, and it served to show once again that he is a dangerous man/zombie. Still, part of me wonders why the Faith aren’t preparing a trial for him as well, given that they have that authority and aren’t too fond of murder.

After seeing the physical capabilities of The Mountain, the Faith clearly had to rethink their strategy for dealing with Cersei, because they must’ve been fully aware at that point that the safest bet for the former Queen would be to request a trial by combat with The Mountain acting as her champion. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together could’ve figured that one out, so in the next scene involving Cersei it was revealed by Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) that the practice would be banned. This was a surprising turn of events and puts ideas of Cleganebowl on the backburner for now.

However, The Mountain isn’t the only henchman that Cersei can call upon when she needs to get out of a sticky situation; she also has the deceptively nasty Qyburn (Anton Lesser), along with his little birds. Having exhausted all other options, Qyburn reveals to Cersei that he has followed up on a rumour that she told him about, and that the results are positive. This could mean any number of things, and it would be unwise to jump to too many conclusions, but it would appear that he is referring to wildfire.

We learned from Jaime in season three that The Mad King hid wildfire underneath King’s Landing as a sort of contingency plan should Robert Baratheon succeed in taking the city. His plan was to burn the entire place down and rise again as a dragon, but Cersei probably has a slightly less drastic plan in place. If I had to guess then I’d say that she’ll most likely want to burn down the Sept of Balor in order to get out of her trial, but I’m convinced that in doing so she will cause a lot of collateral damage and possibly kill Tommen. This isn’t just a theory that I’ve made up off the top of my head, it’s actually got a lot of traction online and I think that at this point it’s quite likely. Hopefully if it happens it will push Cersei and Jaime apart so that the latter can finally be the man that he deserves to be.

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via screenrant.com

Finally, we have the scenes in Meereen and the scenes involving The Hound (Rory McCann), neither of which were particularly memorable from my perspective. Meereen is never very exciting, but this week it was particularly boring as Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) awkwardly tried to make jokes with Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) before the Masters returned to reclaim their property. With the situation looking dire, there was a loud banging noise, and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) returned to save the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like all three of these characters, but it was frustrating that Daenerys returned to Meereen at such a convenient moment. Also, despite the fact that the conversations between Tyrion and his new friends give Missandei and Grey Worm more depth, I just didn’t think that the jokes in this episode were interesting, well-delivered, or funny. I know that this isn’t a comedy and that the point of the jokes was to act as the calm before the storm, but the jokes could’ve at least been interesting in some way couldn’t they? Tyrion has a wealth of knowledge and is constantly reading, so you’d think that he’d have just the right relatable joke for the situation, and it would’ve been hilarious for Grey Worm to tell a really dark joke and think it was normal.

My point is simply that these characters are diverse and well-travelled people with stories to tell, so a moment like this should give them a distinct voice – that simply didn’t happen here, and in fact it was Missandei who came out of the scene on top because she was at least somewhat endearing.

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via bgr.com

The Hound’s scenes were somewhat more exciting than those in Meereen, and actually they were a lot funnier despite the fact that they contained beheadings and hangings. We saw The Hound deal with those responsible for murdering Brother Ray (Ian McShane) and his followers, and we were treated to some time with Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and the Brotherhood Without Banners. It’s interesting that at this point in The Hound’s story he’s met up with the Brotherhood again, because whilst he isn’t necessarily religious it’s clear that he wants to better himself and fight for a noble cause. He’s lucky to be alive, but he doesn’t really have any reason to go on, so to meet up with men who have a clear purpose could do him a lot of good. Plus, if he’s headed north to fight the white walkers then he could potentially reunite with Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya, which would be something special.

So, overall I liked this episode of “Game of Thrones”. It wasn’t perfect and I have to admit that the climax of Arya’s storyline in Braavos was slightly underwhelming, but in my opinion the problems that this episode encountered were directly caused by the way the story has been handled previously, not because this episode itself was bad. In my opinion, “No One” actually did an admirable job of salvaging certain ideas and making them interesting again, such as Jaime’s inner conflict and Arya’s need for a mother in her life, and there were parts of the episode that I loved, such as Jaime’s conversation with Brienne.

7.5/10

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