We’re coming up quickly on the finale of Game of Thrones season 6 and episode 8 continued to set up for the events to come in the final two episodes (which will be the longest of the season). While we did get some movement in plot this episode, some parts left something to be desired. Overall, it was a solid episode like the rest of the season, and A GIRL IS ARYA STARK OF WINTERFELL AND SHE’S GOING HOME. While we probably won’t see Arya arrive in Westeros until next season (I feel like asking for it in the finale might be too much), I really hope that Jon and Sansa’s victory over the Boltons and Bran’s traveling south of the Wall (?) will make Arya’s arrival in Winterfell the full reunion of the remaining Stark children before the whitewalkers come. Let’s get into the recap.
We open this episode with Lady Crane performing as Cersei. She does her ending monologue, the one after Joffrey’s death, but this time she ends on a different note, one of vengeance. We see that not only did she take Arya’s advice, but she pulled off a better performance than she ever has. This reinforces her relationship with Arya (or Mercy as she knows her), and so when she finds Arya backstage with all those stab wounds, she takes her to her home and patches her up. Arya explains what happened to her, that she isn’t safe. Lady Crane vows to take care of her, and Arya sleeps. Later, we come back to Braavos where Lady Crane wakes Arya up. She goes to look for something in the house but ends up running into the waif. She is killed, but Arya has enough time to get out of the house. We get to see a badass chase scene, where Arya gets even more injured after jumping off a building (and upsetting a bunch of merchants for knocking over their baskets of oranges. They seem to care about those way more than a PERSON WHO JUMPED OFF A BUILDING). She begins tracking blood everywhere, and while it seems careless at first, it soon starts to look deliberate. We see that Arya is purposely leading the waif to Needle. She cuts out the lights before killing the waif. While it was cool to see Arya slice the candle to plunge them into darkness, especially as a nod to the fact that she learned to use her other senses much better from being blind, it was disappointing to not actually be able to see the fight. The show has been building up this rivalry between Arya and the waif and the waif has been so petty and irritating that it would have been great to actually see Arya overcome her. It honestly felt anti-climactic ending this way, though I’m glad the waif is dead and I thought it was hilarious that Arya mounted her head in the Hall of Faces. “Jaqen” was clearly surprised to see Arya alive, tried to tell her that she was now “no one,” for killing the waif and was therefore accepted to the House of Black and White. It felt much more like he was trying to cover himself to avoid being killed, and Arya doesn’t take the bait, telling him that she’s going home. Hopefully she heads for Winterfell after heading to the Twins for some revenge. The Many-Faced God has been promised a name, and that name is Walder Frey.
In the riverlands, the Hound is on a crusade to kill the men who murdered the members of the settlement in the last episode. He kills the first four easily and goes to find the one in the yellow cloak. He finds the man, though he about to be hanged by Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, and the Brotherhood Without Banners for going against their mission, which quickly answered the weird characterization of those members of the Brotherhood in the last episode. The Hound argues with Beric and Thoros about killing them himself, and he is allowed to hang two of them, though he would rather butcher them. Later, Beric and Thoros ask Clegane to join them. They are headed North to fight, and though they don’t mention the whitewalkers or how they even know about what’s going on in the North, it’s possible that Thoros has seen something in the fires. They mention again that the Hound was left alive for some higher purpose – this time because of the Lord of Light, and so for now it seems like he’s going to join up with them. While it’s cool that the show is setting up for the Great War to Come, it’s kind of disappointing that Sandor Clegane isn’t headed south to King’s Landing to fight zombie-Mountain. The writers are trolling us by bringing him back, only to have him headed in the opposite direction of his brother. Of course, something could happen to have him go south instead, so I guess I'll hold my breath until he and the Brotherhood get past Moat Cailin.
We finally catch up with the happenings in Meereen after Tyrion made the deal with the Masters a few episodes back. The red priests are praising Daenerys, saying that she is the reason for the peace, and the city seems like it’s doing well. Tyrion sees Varys off, who is apparently going back to Westeros to get more information about what’s going on there ahead of Dany’s arrival. We have some cute and awkward moments between Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm, but they are interrupted when the Masters arrive by sea to attack Meereen. Let me just say that while I knew this was a bad thing, I got excited mostly because I realized how Yara and Theon are going to get their in with Dany: they’ve got to come and save them by attacking the Masters from behind right? Anyway, things are looking bad as Grey Worm commands that they defend the pyramid rather than going out to the beach to fight. There is then a loud thump above them, and while they think it’s the Master’s my first thought was that someone let out Viserion and Rhaegal. We find out that this wasn’t the case, though I was close – it turns out it’s Drogon, dropping off Daenerys. While I’m glad she’s back, and we’ll most definitely see them next fighting the Masters, I didn’t feel like that scene was all that great. Dany doesn’t say anything when she arrives, and we don’t see how she arrives (only getting a glimpse of Drogon in the background) and so we end the scene with her there and that’s it. I wish we could have gotten more from that, but we were instead left on a weak cliffhanger.
In King’s Landing, the faith militant come to pay Cersei a visit. They inform her that the High Septon wants to speak with her in the Sept of Baelor and that they are ordered to take her there by force if they have to. They don’t get the chance, however, because Ser Robert Strong a.k.a the zombie-Mountain decapitates one of the faith militant with his bare hands. While Cersei thinks she’s won this battle, she finds out that it’s quite the opposite when she goes to court later in the episode. We get a brief interaction between Cersei and her uncle, the Hand, Kevan Lannister, which shows that Cersei really has lost all of the power she once had, though she is still trying desperately to hold onto it. After Cersei is forced to go to the gallery with the other high ladies of the court, Tommen announces that he and the High Septon (read: just the High Septon) have decided that trial-by-combat is hereby banned throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Instead, trials, including Cersei’s and Loras’s, will happen before seven septons. This presents a bit of a problem for Cersei (an understatement) who was going to declare trial-by-combat with the Mountain as her champion. Pretty much, it looks like Cersei is about to die. The High Septon has a ridiculous amount of power, and it seems as if he is solely in control of Tommen. While this looks hard on Tommen, he still bends to the whim of the High Septon and the faith militant, who are understandably terrified of the zombie-Mountain. While things do look bleak for Cersei, Qyburn comes to her with a message from his little birds about a rumor that is supposedly more than that. While we don’t know what the rumor is or who it is about, it’s clear that this is good news to Cersei and may help her escape justice once more.
In Riverrun, Brienne and Pod arrive and are intercepted by the Lannisters. Brienne asks to see Jamie, telling them to tell him that she has his sword. There are many moments in the scene between Brienne and Jamie, who are reunited after a long time, where it seems like Brienne is trying to remind him of the man he was when they became friends, of the promises he made to Catelyn Stark specifically, and often she doesn’t say it outright, but mentions the sword, which is named “Oathkeeper.” While Jamie admits that he didn’t think Brienne would find Sansa, Brienne tries to convince him to let her talk to Brynden Blackfish to persuade him to give up the castle in exchange for being allowed passage North to help Sansa win Winterfell back from the Boltons. Obviously things are extremely complicated, not only because of Jamie and Brienne’s friendship, but because of the mission Brienne is on and the fact that Jamie gave it to her. The situation is fraught with family alliances and politics, and it seems like Brienne wishes it could be much easier but it doesn’t seem like she realizes just how different Jamie is from when she last saw him. Jamie allows her to go to Riverrun, and Brienne warns her that she will fight on the Tully side if it comes to that. Brienne brings Sansa’s letter to Blackfish, who says no, in part because he says he doesn’t have enough men to take Winterfell, but mostly because he doesn’t want to give up Riverrun. Back on the Lannister side, Jamie goes to speak with Edmure Tully, and there are more themes of Jamie’s past actions and the lack of respect he gets from other members of high houses. However, Jamie is past caring about his honor, and makes that exceedingly clear to Edmure when he threatens to smash his son against the walls of Riverrun if he doesn’t comply. Edmure agrees, goes back to Riverrun and demands entry. While the Blackfish knows it’s a trap, the men of Riverrun open the gates for their lord and Edmure orders them to open the gates for the Lannisters and Freys. Luckily, Blackfish helps Brienne and Pod escape before the Lannisters get there, though he declines to head North with them, saying he would rather fight. We hear that Brynden died fighting, but we don’t actually get to see the fight that killed him. Later, Jamie spots Brienne and Pod on the river, but he let’s them go, showing that he’s still a somewhat complicated character despite being on the villainous side of things.
This episode was pretty solid, but my main problem with it was the number of things that happened off camera, things would be easy to do in Game of Thrones. I’m not necessarily saying I want to see people killed, but for a show that doesn’t shy away from gore, from the show that gave us the Red Wedding, this episode danced around a lot of big moments that would have fit perfectly and added to the story, mainly Brynden’s death and Arya’s defeat of the waif. We hear, or it’s implied, that lot of things happened, but we don’t actually see them. The only time we see any real violence is at the hand of one of the Clegane brothers and with Sandor joining the Brotherhood and trial-by-combat being banned, it looks like we won’t even get Cleganebowl, which is a big let down. The last two episodes really have felt like filler, and though they set up important parts it feels like the storytelling could have been tighter, and some of the scene choices could have been better.
However, I don’t want to complain too much, since we’re getting the Battle of the Bastards next episode, which looks like it's going to be a full battle episode like “Blackwater,” in season 2 and “The Watchers on the Wall,” in season 4. Episode 9s of Game of Thrones seasons are notorious for being jaw dropping so I’m looking forward to this, most especially the defeat and murder of Ramsay Bolton (hopefully by Sansa).