Braavos and the game of Cat and Mouse
The show opens with the Lady Crane finishing out her scene, and heading backstage, only to find Arya, bleeding out in a cupboard like room. Arya has seemingly run out of options when it comes to facing the Waif, and has seen the error of staying in the open while waiting to leave for Westeros. The Lady Crane brings Arya to her home, and cares for her there; where she reveals that she learned to treat wounds, by jealously attacking her lovers when they cheated. Lady Crane also reveals that the other actress who wanted her death now has a resemblance to the Hound. Lady Crane invites Arya to come with them to Pentos, to which Arya reveals she is being hunted by a nameless person. Arya tells the Lady Crane about heading west of Westeros into lands unknown; which seems like both a lie and a hope. Arya takes Milk of the Poppy to sleep.
The next day, as Lady Crane seemingly gathers things to take care of Arya, the waif appears and kills her. Arya is woken by the noise, and the waif is there to chase her. Arya does some incredible running across the city for someone suffering from a stabbing, with the waif seemingly close behind. It almost seems like she is just running in fright, no plan in action, but Arya ends up at a previous location: the first room she hid in, and where Needle is stored. Arya is injured and the waif knows this as she closes the door. There was moment of doubt for me, because even with the certainty of Arya being one of the characters I know G.R.R. Martin or the show would never kill, this seemed a little too much for her to defeat. But then Arya made the room pitch black, and to her advantage.
We don’t see the battle, but find the aftermath, as Jaqen H’ghar finds a trail of blood in the House of Black and White, leading him to the head of the waif mounted on the wall of faces. Arya appears behind him, and acknowledges that Arya is finally no One, but Arya replies that she is Arya Stark after all, and that she is returning to Winterfell. Jaqen allows her to leave, and while I have heard multiple reasons about why he did let her go; I am inclined to believe that because when the Waif begun hunting Arya, she was identifying herself as “No One,” then the waif being “No One” as well suffices to fill the name the God of Death was owed. Also, the little smirk by Jaqen as Arya was walking away, may just have been liking the fact that Arya finally decided who she wanted to be. Hopefully this means Arya and Nymeria will reunite!
Somewhere in Westeros there is hunting to be done
The Hound has found someone to kill, and is seemingly going on a murder spree through the woods, in search of the men who killed his friend.
In his next scene he finds the Brotherhood executing the men he was looking for, on account of impersonating the Brotherhood. The Hound gets the chance to kill two of them by hanging; and then steals a nice pair of boots as they die. The scene was nothing short of creepy. After all the ugly stuff is finished, they sit down for a meal, and the Hound is being recruited by the Brotherhood. The plan seems to be to head north, and while not specified, it seems they are going to fight the White Walkers as opposed to helping Winterfell.
Meereen and the Waiting
As Tyrion and Varys take a stroll through the city. Varys is apparently heading back to Volantis, Pentos or Westeros to find allies and ships. One would have to guess that he is going to meet the Greyjoys on his trip. Tyrion heads back to his Pyramid.
The next Meereen scene is something we have seen before this season and are steadily growing tired of: Tyrion trying to make small talk with Greyworm and Missandei. While I like the characters in their own rights, forced scenes like this one make the episode and Tyrion’s arc seem all the more dragging than it already is. When all hope seems lost, Meereen is then attacked by the Masters! Over fifty ships are seen in the waters approaching Meereen.
As the city and the pyramid is being attacked from the ships, Greyworm and Tyrion discuss the defense of the city (argue). Greyworm sets his foot down, and refuses to hear Tyrion’s point, and lays out his plan to protect the pyramid and let the masters attack them there, where they will have the advantage. It all seems to be heading to another discussion when a rumbling on the roof distracts them. The Queen is back, and ready to unleash her dragons, as we see Drogon flying off in the background.
While I have not been a fan of the Meereen arc, this is finally something I can get behind of: Daenerys releasing her dragons unto her enemies, and going off to Westeros as a conqueror.
King’s Landing or Where Sparrows Rule
As Cersei is summoned by the High Sparrow, Cersei decides that she does not want to obey, and in a very haunting way says “I choose Violence.” The Mountain then grabs a guy by the next, with one hand, throws him a few feet, and proceeds to rip his head off his shoulders. Round to Cersei.
In a second scene, Tommen has gathered people for a Royal Announcement in the Throne Room. Kevan then prohibits Cersei from standing next to her son and sends her to the gallery. Tommen then proclaims the nail in Cersei’s coffin: Trial by Combat is now forbidden as an option. Cersei will either stand trial, or escape. I have a feeling Jaime will mount a rescue mission, or Cersei will play a game with Qyburn’s little birds.
Riverrun is accepting visitors
As Brienne and Podrick arrive to the siege, Podrick spends some time with Bronn discussing the apparent relationship between Brienne and Jaime. Podrick tells Bronn about his training, and Bronn decides to impart a few lessons himself on fighting. Inside the tent, Brienne tells Jaime about finding Sansa, and Jaime is happy that Brienne fulfilled a part of her oath to Catelyn. Jaime questions Brienne on why is she there, and learns Sansa is trying to take Winterfell back. Brienne asks time to talk to the Blackfish, to discuss him giving up the Castle, and being allowed north to help Sansa. Brienne tries to give Jaime his sword back, but Jaime tells her the sword is hers. Inside the castle, Brienne tries to talk to the Blackfish, who refuses until Brienne tells him, her job is to protect Sansa. The Blackfish refuses to help his niece, since he is not willing to give up his castle.
Later that night Jaime goes to Edmure to strike a deal. Jaime essentially threatens Edmure, and his son, and every Tully alive in the world, if Edmure does not head into his castle, take control, and then seize it. Edmure is quick to agree.
As Edmure appears at the castle gates, and commands the Tully Rebels to lower the bridge for him, the Blackfish refuses, to which the Tully army takes offense, since Edmure, by law, is their Lord. The Blackfish makes the important point, that Edmure is merely a pawn of Jaime Lannister. The Tully army disobeys the Blackfish, and turns against him, opening the door to Edmure. Edmure heads to the balustrade, gives up the castle, and demands the Blackfish be handed over to the Freys.
The Blackfish is busy getting Brienne and Podrick out of the castle, telling Brienne he will not run again. As he heads back into the castle to buy the escapees time, we cut away to the Rebels being stripped of weapons, and escorted out, until we reach Jaime in the Balustrade where he is informed the Blackfish died fighting. Jaime then looks to the river and sees a single boat rowing away. He does not call attention to it, and simply waves Brienne off. I remember thinking when watching this that perhaps these two characters are in love with each other. Don’t kill me Tormund fans, I do love the idea of Brienne and Tormund, but one has to look at this doomed relationship first. While Jaime being in love with Brienne is a bit of a step, I think the only reason he himself cannot consider it, is because he is in love with Cersei as well; whereas Brienne cannot look over the fact that as Sansa’s Guard, Jaime is her enemy. Jaime is steadily becoming one of my top favorite characters of the show.
OVERALL: 8.5 GREAT. This was an episode of finale set ups. While we know episode 9 will be focused on the Battle of Winterfell, the finale itself boasts a great deal of resolutions and beginnings. Arya and the waif provided excellent action throughout the episode, and Arya’s return to her true self, and choice to go home has left nothing but excitement for the finale (will there be another Stark reunion?!). The Hound seemingly joining up with the Brotherhood and heading North to fend off White Walkers, the Mountain ripping a head off a neck, and Cersei’s new troubles, all served to push the tension in the storylines. The return of the charismatic and love driven Jaime Lannister (unless he is with Brienne), into his role of the anti-hero was also a great moment. We are left with two small bits we did not like: Riverrun itself seems to have served no purpose other than to have Jaime do something after being kicked out of the Kingsguard; and the Meereen plot still dragging (although Dany returning certainly seems to help that out at least).