Monday, June 13, 2016

[Game of Thrones] S6E8, "No One"

Monday morning, and a new episode of Game of Thrones is awaiting. Once again I'm properly hyped up (I'm playing the invisible bass drums with my feet here) and I have no idea what to expect. I love it! Watched the preview a few times, obviously, and have been knee-deep in predictions and hopes and more predictions, but considering I haven't been spoiled at all I suppose there's nothing that will break the Internetweb. Even national newspapers pick up on the most exciting events in the show, so they are kind of hard to avoid (for a man who must needs check the news and drink his coffee to get the day a-rolling). Truly, season six, for all its warts, brought the hype. Will it deliver in the three final episodes, which everybody and his kraken expect to contain some major escalation and tension? And perhaps violence?
Not knowing much about what will transpire, watching a new episode these days is tense. Reading fan speculation (mainly over at r/asoiaf) has made me wonder about a few possibilities - like, is the show secretly bringing a certain stone-hearted lady back? If so, I hope hope hope they make her creepy in the creepiest sense of creepiness. Hideous. But fricking cool. Personally I want her to come back, but I don't quite believe she will be.
I hope this episode explains the scenes with Arya last week, seems like most people agree there was something 'wrong' that must be explained.
Will we see Sandor champion the cause of the Faith? I think the seeds have been sown; he has a reason now, to do so, if only to avenge Ray.
Ray! What kind of name was that? Did they suddenly stop caring about Game of Thrones? Why couldn't they pick any one of the 1000s of names in the saga not used by the show. There's no authenticity in "Ray", imo. Unless it's Raygal. Anyway. Yeah, oh, and of course I'm really excited to see Brienne, Pod, Bronn, Jaime, and the Blackfish. People I know who haven't read the books or just aren't paying much attention have no clue what the whole siege of Riverrun business is about, but for the fans it is hopefully a treat.
The season has also shown that their "original" material is significantly weaker than Feast and Dance's material, which might be another way to find more love for these books. "Ray." Sigh. IT IS TIME TO WATCH EPISODE 8. "NO ONE". With no one in the episode I might have to readjust my expectations though. weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Oh and what about Cersei? I think the teaser has told us enough to foresee the storyline; the Mountain will smash some Sparrows (including Lancel, most likely). After all, she "chooses violence". And I think the Mad King in Bran's vision is nothing but a foreshadowing of Cersei burning down King's Landing (perhaps the target is the temple, but the wildfire spreads). Don't think I'm going to see this happening in today's episode, though; still a way off. Maybe not even this season? I don't know.
All right one final guess, the first scene will be Arya, still in the darkness. At least that's what I'm imagining. First darkness, then we see her face, and we'll understand last week's Arya wasn't Arya.
Here I go.

Aw, I had hoped for another "cold open" (as I believe it's called when a scene is shown before titles titles) becaause, perhaps, Lady Stoneheart.

Lady Crane! What the heck. Well played, that was surprising, to see her face first in the episode. She's waxing poetic over Joffrey, the audience is in her thrall...and no Arya to be seen. Or do I see her? Nice performance. No Arya in sight. Camera follows her backstage into the darkness, Crane seems pleased with her performance, there's a knock on her door. Arya? At least I gussed right that it would be an Arya sequence first. Crane finds Arya...bleeding...wait what, are they telling me last week's Arya was supposed to actually be Arya?!?!?! That's some terrible writing! Or I'll just have to rewatch it and see if I can take it at face (no pun intended) value.

Well that was disappointing. Seven minutes that could have been two; why do they have the time for a long stage monologue when there's so much stuff to cover? Ah well, it's the mystery of "adaptation" I suppose. Crane gives Arya the milk of the poppy, and she accepts and falls asleep. Again, this doesn't ring true for Arya's character at all, unless her wounds are really serious and she has no other choice (I don't feel the scene really sells her "woundedness" at all). There's the slight hint that Crane may have suspicious motives, or even that Crane could be Jaqen - like, as if the three of them, Arya, Jaqen, the Waif - are all playing the Game of Faces. I'm sorry Game of Thrones, but either you are setting me up and I'm totally blind, or Arya's story has gone from endless stick-sparring to a story about a character that is supposed to be Arya but doesn't feel like it's her at all. Hope the next scene rules harder. A weak opening IMO. Makes for a powerful closing scene, hopefully.

A wood, pleasant Westeros-style. Weird laughter. Brotherhood characters camped around a fire. They are having some fun (about as gentle as fun comes in Westeros) and here we go: Not surprising, the Hound comes striding toward them, with only grunts, chopping heads and other body parts, violent as fuck, some "classy" Hound dialogue ("You're shit at dying, you know that?") and he's the exact same character he was before a) teaming up with Arya and seeing life from a different perspective and b) being a part of Ray's brotherhood (RAY!) and helping to build a sept. I mean, fine, it's cool to see angry Sandor but it's also kind of underwhelming. I would also think the Hound wasn't quite as brutal as his brother, and would have at least verified that these four fellows around the campfire were actually members of the Brotherhood he hates before mowing them down. Right now, I feel bad about this scene as well, but maybe there's some twist to it, I don't know. If Sandor's arc is "Was bad, tried to be good, got worse," fine, I'm fine with that, but the simplistic - dare I say cheap - scene here just gives me nothing; whereas Sandor carrying timber on his shoulders gave me the feels man. The feels. I can think of a lot of ways to make a more interesting scene out of this than "four guys out in the woods, one of them pulling a naughty prank and then Sandor comes walking by with his axe and stuff." It's ... so bland and the violence here is just violence for violence's sake, or so it feels to this particular viewer of thrones. Fortunately, the scene is suitably short.

Mmm, where is this? Should I recognize it? Meereen? Those Unsullied in the crowd? Mm yeah Meereen. I like the closeups of food, and people, some depth to Meereen which has basically been inside the Great Pyramid; Tyrion looking fine and Varys too, Tyrion enjoying that his gamble (with the slave lords) worked; the city is alive. Uhm what now, Varys on an expedition? Because they need friends in Westeros? I didn't see that one coming. Maybe Varys will, after all, be the one who kills two certain characters in King's Landing? Another short scene but it drives the plot forward, with some good camerawork. This is the length the first scene should have.

Cersei with a drink, ominous music, door opens. Qyburn arrives, telling her that members of the Faith Militant have been allowed inside the Red Keep. The Mountain follows the two down to face Lancel and co! He tells her... the High Septon commands her to come to the temple, wow. Oooh the Mountain steps in front of her. Love how Lancel threatens the damned undead Mountain with violence! Wow, we get this scene so early! The Mountain is ripping apart a Sparrow, and the other Sparrows are like, uhm WTF. But I hoped (like many others) to see the whole gang of sparrows brutally ripped apart, but alas! Just one, for now. And Lancel lives. At any rate, now Cersei and the High Sparrow are by all definitions mortal enemies, and the whole scene suggests that there will be no more talking from Cersei. Favorite scene so far. And Cersei's satisfied smirk at the end, with just the slightest hint of mania..nice.

Beautiful shot as Brienne and Pod arrive at Riverrun. Like that Pod points out the obvious ("Looks like a siege") and Brienne is like, "You have a keen military mind". Brienne spies Jaime, then they are approached by Lannister outriders. She tells them he's come to speak with Jaime, and that she has his sword. It was Bronn "kidnapping" Pod, but it was just in jest. I like that. "Podrick fucking Payne." The two stand outside Jaime's tent, Bronn prattling on and on about fookin'. I can see why they go with this kind of dialogue, but personally I think it does little to enhance either character. I guess the audience is reminded that Pod is great in bed, so maybe that's a plot point that will come back.
The exchange between Brienne and Jaime is much more interesting of course, tying up the "oath to Catelyn Stark" plotline; Brienne's there for the Blackfish. The two get into an argument, and Brienne reminds him of his honor. Asks him to take Riverrun without bloodshed. Brienne wants to talk to Brynden, and she wants to reroute the Tully forces north to Sansa. For show purposes, all right. It's a complex scene with a lot of dialogue back and forth, hard enough for non-nerds. In the end Jaime allows her until nightfall to find and speak with Brynden the Blackfish, and smuggle him out of the siege. On Jaime's words. It turns from political to personal somewhere, and the last half of the scene does hit me in the feels a bit, especially when Brienne offers back the sword, and Jaime tells her it is hers, "It will always be yours." That's ... I like it a lot. But Jaime reminds us that he, first and foremost, a Lannister, and it seems that the Lannisters will rather go down than change who they are, so we'll see if Jaime is as doomed as his sister.
"One last thing," Brienne says before going on her mission to find the Blackfish, if she should be caught in the middle, honor will compel her to fight on Brynden's side ("Sansa's kin") - setting up a possible confrontation with Jaime later. Could be interesting. Yeah, great sequence this, except for Bronn's excessive fooking.

We skip straight to Brienne and Brynden, which I find odd; no transitional scene. Now it's like she just flew inside the Riverrun courtyard. I'm glad Brynden isn't very responsive at first, or it would become too easy ("I said no three times already"). Another solid scene, really, with Brynden moving through various parts of the castle and Brienne and Pod trudging along. The Blackfish doesn't want to go help Sansa, and he's got a lot of sound arguments. Did House Tully swear allegiance to House Stark in the books originally? Or is it just because Catelyn married into House Stark? Whatever.
Another good scene.

Oooh, back to Cersei. The transition from the previous scene is really weird. It looks as if Brienne is looking at the crowd gathering in the throne room of the Red Keep. Which, by the way, is surprisingly crowded for a room we've barely seen these last seasons. What's going on here? The Mountain follows behind her, the doors close, Qyburn's there, Kevan Lannister stops. Oh, there's to be a royal announcement. Kevan tells her she's to stand in the gallery, "with the other ladies of the court", totally dismissing her and removing her from King Tommen, who sits down to announce.....
...biting nails here....Loras Tyrell and Cersei Lannister's trials are to be held soon. Uhm ok... Oh there's more..."From this day forward trial by combat will be forbidden throughout the Seven Kingdoms". WOW!!! That's precisely the kind of scheme the High Sparrow would work. Hahaha. I feel sorry for the Cleganebowl-fans. Qyburn's little bird have investigated a rumor on Cersei's behalf and by the way Qyburn talks and grimaces, he's on to something big. I have no idea if it was ever made clear just what that rumor was about, but I am assuming it's wildfire...though I thought Cersei knew about the wildfire supplies. Anyway, look how far the Small Council has fallen. Where are the colorful characters?

Oh no, Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei sitting. This can't be exciting. *Reminds self it's actually a TV show and should be happy with what I'm getting*. It's a bit of a repeat with Tyrion reminding us he made Meereen ok again. Tyrion tries to get them to drink. Ok, that's a funny line - "Anyone who is not drinking is disrespecting our queen." Well played Tyrion. Missandei likes the wine oh yeah. Grey Worm is as stiff and boring as they come. But Missandei even begins to tell a joke and loosens up. Wow they are beginning to smile!
That's precisely the time for OMINOUS MUSIC and a huge warfleet led by the Masters come to take back slaves (I guess). Everything before this is just filler to get to the reveal of the arriving fleet.

Dark, night, Riverrun. Jaime visits Edmure. Great scene, great dialogue and acting. Apparently Edmure's wife, Roslin Frey, got pregnant during the Red Wedding. Excellent actor, the guy playing Edmure Tully, so good in this scene. All the dialogue here feels spot on, to the point, and important, perhaps even more so after the silly joke scene before it. Another hint to Cersei burning down King's Landing is planted here. And more reminders of Catelyn Stark, for the Stoneheart-fans. Have to rewatch this long but interesting exchange between Tully and Lannister.

Edmure arrives before the moat of Riverrun. The Blackfish won't have it, he thinks it's a trap. He refuses to acknowledge Edmure as the lord of Riverrun; the soldiers, however, want to open the drawbridge for Edmure, and Brynden has to watch Edmure be taken in, despite his misgivings. It looks like it is all bluster from Jaime, about killing every Tully, as he watches Edmure. And here we go, Edmure's loyal followers are now told to open the gates of Riverrun and, well, give it to Jaime. So Jaime ends up taking the castle peacefully. And the Blackfish, of course, escapes. Lol, the Riverrun soldiers are really not happy about having opened the gates for Edmure. Hhm, so Blackfish rather wants one last fight (alone against an army, very smart, is this guy actually fish-brained) but Brienne and Pod escape. We're told the blackfish died fighting as the Lannister banners are so gloriously raised, but there's wriggle room enough for Brienne and Pod to find him if he's still alive, I suppose...but the music is certainly giving finality both to Brynden and to the relationship between Jaime and Brienne (until they meet for a fight, which is also being telegraphed as a possibility).

Battle at Meeren. Tyrion admits he did wrong. Bombastic effect shots. Wasn't Drogon landing on the top of the pyramid after all, it's bombardment. But looool cue weird entrance from Daenerys lol. Just sliding into the room they happen to be in..haha. I have to rewatch of course but that was just silly.

Shit, shit shit, that's the Hound coming up the road and that's Lem in the noose and WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Lord Beric Donfuckingdarrion!=! What the hell. For those who waited for Stoneheart, I salute you. But that ship is sailing now isn't it? OR????? I have to pause and finish giggling at Dany's non-epic return. Need to be in the zone, to process what this scene is going to be like. Shit. Interesting? Yes. Potential? Yes. Straying so far from the books it isn't close at all? Hell yes. Beric and Thoros look like their good old selves, that Thoros-actor in particular is excellent. WHERE IS LADY STONEHEART! NOW!!! The whole dealing with who gets to kill who is just....again, the scene could have some more to the point dialogue, or to hook the general audience back in to exactly who these brotherhood characters are. Perhaps the Hound ends up joining the Brotherhood? "I PREFER CHICKEN." Beric tries to get him to join the band.... and they're going north to fight the Others? WTH BUDDY.

Oh no, Arya. Still sleeping. Lady Crane greeted by a Faceless Man (I assume). Killed by the same. It was the Waif. Chase... well, all right I guess but I want more of everything else! The scene between Edmure and Jaime was a hundred times more intense than a chase through the streets of Braavos. And Arya shouldn't be able to run like this at all Fucking disappointing, sorry but that's the words I'd use. And the waif using ninja abilities instead of being quiet and ... it.... fuck it, they broke Arya and her storyline last week and now proceed to break it apart further. Goddamn waif looking like a serial teacher. She looks and feels so out of place, Arya looks and feels out of place, everything that was built up with the House of Black and White is just vaporized, what the hell are they doing? Dammnit. And no Stoneheart either, what a messy shock that would have been, and happy surprise for fans of the books. And there's Needle. It is used. To cut a candle, and leave Arya and the Waif in darkness.

Jaqen in the House, finds blood on the floor. Follows. A bloody face in the wall. The Waif's? Arya is suddenly behind Jaqen who suddenly has no ability to notice her presence. Epic music is faded in, he says "Finally a girl is no one," and she's like, "A girl is Arya Stark and is going home", and the episode is over.

Well, that was a devasting disappointment, the Arya storyline. And that they choose this storyline to open and end episode 8 over some of the better stuff. It felt like a cheap episode, especially when Daenerys arrives and we see not one pixel of Drogon; and many news in the darkness or simply out in the woods; a few shots of the war fleet of the masters (why didn't Dany take those?) ...but most of all Arya's scenes drag this down for me. The nerd world has been speculating back and forth on the meaning of the scenes last week, and the answers are not satisfying at all (for me, at any rate). Some good dialogue here and there, and outstanding actor performances, but overall I think this was the weakest episode of the season, despite some great bits in there. And deep inside I guess I really believed once Sandor met Beric, the rest of the episode would be devoted to re-establishing the Brotherhood for the audience, and, of course, that it would show us the hideous, ghastly, croaking Lady Stoneheart.

OH WELL. Good news is I now feel less hyped about next week, but then I haven't seen the teaser yet. Off to check out what the world thinks, and to see if there were any details I didn't catch.

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