A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I'm going home.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Mark Mylod
Game of Thrones' sixth season concludes with a three episode stretch in which all the action the earlier episodes hyped us up for finally comes to fruition. While we'll have to wait until episode nine to watch the battle for Winterfell and Daenerys finally put the slave masters in their place, "No One" gives us some closure on a few ongoing story lines, all the while keeping up the momentum for the resolutions still to come. It's not an out-of-this-world episode: there is this nagging feeling that D&D don't give us as much satisfaction as we hoped for, especially in the way it wraps up Arya's time with the Faceless Men. Nonetheless, there are plenty of memorable moments to speak of.
The Clegane brothers both get some action in this episode, as the Hound tracks down and kills some of the Brotherhood Without Banners men, and the Mountain literally rips off the head of one of the Faith Militant. How ironic that the Hound, once captured and nearly killed by Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood, now joins up to fight alongside them. Ever since he deserted the Kingsguard and the Crown back in season two, the Hound has been on the road with nowhere to call home and no one to ally himself with. You could take it a step farther and say the Hound has basically been wandering about without any clear idea of what he wants to do with the rest of his life. As Beric points out, the Hound is a born fighter, and the neat thing about the conversation between Beric and the Hound is that Beric is basically giving the Hound some semblance of direction: take his fighting prowess and use it to help in the battle against the White Walkers. Whereas before Beric was trying to kill the Hound, he's now trying to save him. Knowing he has pretty much nowhere else to go, it's no surprise that the Hound takes up Beric's offer. This scene is a lot more than just reintroducing Beric and the Brotherhood: this is also the Hound re-establishing a sense of purpose in his life.
Going to fight the White Walkers with the Brotherhood is not the only thing the Hound will have on his mind: he certainly still wants to get even with his brother, who is basically now a silent, zombified Hulk. I am very curious as to what D&D decide to with the Mountain the rest of the way. He's never been one of the series' main characters, but after the transformation that Qyburn gave him, he's pretty much the strongest living man in all the Seven Kingdoms, and that most likely means there will be some epic fight involving him sometime down the road. Too bad that Cersei won't get to use the Mountain again in a trial by combat, as Tommen outlaws the practice, meaning Cersei will have to find a different way to escape judgment from the High Sparrow. Lucky for her, Qyburn seems to have made a significant discovery with the "rumor" that he has been investigating. Someone's not getting out of this mess unscathed.
Actually, there is one mess that almost everyone gets out of unscathed: the Tully-Lannister struggle for the Riverrun castle. I'm actually glad that D&D decided not to resolve this conflict by just having Jaime yell for the Lannister army to siege the castle. If they did, then all that thinking and planning that Jaime was trying to accomplish before would be all for naught, as if D&D had decided to say, "Screw it. Let's just end it by having a big ol' battle. No one's going to be upset with that." The best thing this scene gives us is a touching reunion between Jaime and Brienne. Even though the two are technically on opposing sides, they know and respect each other well enough that they're willing to put their differences aside and always do what they know is right. In this case, it's to get the Blackfish and the Tully soldiers out of the Riverrun castle without any unnecessary bloodshed. It's not a completely flawless sequence of events: the conversation between Jaime and Edmure Tully is kind of dull, as Jaime goes on rambling a little too long about how he plans to get back to Cersei. I also kind of wished that Brienne and Podrick got something more out of this scene other than a reunion with Jaime. Brienne was supposed to come and get an army for Sansa, and she leaves empty-handed? What about all those Tully soldiers that surrendered? It's a slightly disappointing conclusion to this two-part conflict, especially since all that ends up happening is the Blackfish, a character we haven't seen since "The Rains of Castamere", gets killed. Jaime came, Brienne came, they did their business, and that was that.
Oh well. At least Daenerys can get down to business, as she finally makes her return to Meereen. Well, actually, that's all we get: her showing back up in the Meereen pyramid as the slave masters are launching their attack. Guess we'll see what she's up to next episode.
Since the episode name alludes to the title that Arya had been chasing for a while, it's no surprise that "No One" culminates with the final chapter of Arya's time in Braavos with the Faceless Men. I guess her stomach/ab injuries weren't as bad as they first looked, as she's able to run through the streets, being chased by the Waif, with little to no difficulty. It's a fun little chase scene: the Waif pursues Arya like an obsessed Terminator cyborg, and poor Arya can't find any means to get away. However, Arya leads the Waif into a cleverly designed trap: she hides out in an enclosed room and then cuts a candle, using her blind training to gain the upper hand and kill the Waif. Considering that the Waif has been one of the most despicable characters ever since she was introduced, the morbid side of me was begging for at least a second or two of her screaming in agony, but unfortunately, that's not what we get. All we end up getting is Jaqen looking up in the Hall of Faces to find the Waif's blood-soaked face. Jaqen offers the title of No One to Arya, but she has made up her mind: she is not no one. She was never meant to be no one. She is a member of House Stark, and after killing Meryn Trant and watching the play involving Lady Crane, she has finally realized that she still has something to chase: the people on her kill list and the surviving members of her family.
This is easily one of the most pivotal moments of Arya's character arc. After being on the road and being pretty much alone ever since the end of season one, Arya has come to embrace a love for fighting and killing. In the process, she had almost completely forgotten about the happy family she was once a part of, how lovely her home of Winterfell was, and how her father was helping her become the person she wanted to be, until he was executed. It would have been pretty crushing had Arya gone on to embrace a full loss of identity and truly become "No One". Nothing that happened to her family was ever her fault, and no matter how much she hated Sansa and doing all the "girly" things her family forced her to do, she still enjoyed a happy life where people took care of her and wanted what was best for her. What's meaningful about the way Arya comes to finally accept her real identity as a Stark is that she never paid full attention to all the good things she had in her life. Being reminded of all the cruel things that had happened to her family, and having Meryn Trant light a fire in her belly that had seemingly been put out for good was essentially Arya being reawakened. She's now done with running, being on the road, and being all alone. She's ready to reunite with whatever family she has left and get back to the kind of life she once had.
So Arya is finally heading back to Westeros, and she's coming back with the skills of a cold-blooded assassin. "No One" brings effective closure to Arya's long-running Braavos story line, as well as closure to the brief stint in Riverrun between the Tullys and the Lannisters. The execution is a bit rocky, but add to it some bloody action involving the Clegane brothers and the return of Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners, and you've got yourself a solid season six episode that puts everything into place for the final two episode stretch. It does leave you wanting a bit more, but wanting more is a typical mindset to have when watching Game of Thrones. More is certainly on the way.
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