(Major spoilers ahead for 'Game of Thrones' Season 6, Episode 7. "No One" who hasn't watched it yet should be reading this. You were warned.)
"No One" was, in some ways, not your typical episode of Game of Thrones.
There was no one moment that made the internet lose its collective shit, no twist to prove a bunch of wild, but oddly plausible fan theories right. In fact, the only twist was the complete lack of one, after a week when every man and his direwolf seemed convinced that Arya was being impersonated by Jaqen on that bridge, or that something unguessable but equally insane was about to go down.
But, as always, things happened. People moved around the map of Westeros and Essos strategically, as if to mimic pawns on a chessboard. Some suffered bloody defeat, one or two enjoyed a rare taste of victory, and Tyrion Lannister enjoyed the taste of wine.
Let's dive right in and discuss the big movers and shakers of Episode 8.
She may have been pretty down on her luck ever since the rise of the High Sparrow (something she happily helped facilitate, lest we forget), but this week was an especially bad one for Cersei.
For a moment it looked like having Frankenstein's Mountain at her side might finally reap some benefits (God knows, she's not getting any conversation out of it), but being forced to witness the announcement of her own trial from the public gallery was more fresh humiliation for the queen regent.
There is a glimmer of light on the horizon, though, and it has an unmistakeable tinge of green.
That mysterious conversation between Cersei and Qyburn had to be in regards to the stores of wildfire in the Alchemist's Guild beneath the city. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet now that Cersei will unleash burning hell on King's Landing during her trial in the season finale. Will she have the last laugh after all?
It wasn't a good week for those thirsty to see the long-rumored Cleganebowl play out in the final episode of Season 6. Having been denied a trial-by-combat, Cersei essentially just got handed a guilty sentencing on a plate, while the Hound's new alliance with the Brotherhood Without Banners is about to take him north.
That doesn't mean we'll never get to see the Clegane brothers go to war, but it's definitely on ice. Honestly, having the Hound back on screen, back to his charmingly hate-driven, weirdly adorable old self, is such a pleasure that I'm fine with the big battle going on the back-burner for a while.
And speaking of ice...
Like pretty much everyone else who's read the books and earned the right to preface every sentence with the endlessly annoying "Well, in the books...," I've been dying for Lady Stoneheart to happen. I convinced myself it was happening.
"No-One" all but confirmed that Lady Stoneheart is not happening. We've met the Brotherhood Without Banners, whose apparent total membership of seven does not include anybody of the female persuasion. There exists a theory that Sansa will claim the title of Lady Stoneheart for herself, but I'm not buying it. The day Thrones kills Sansa is the day I stop watching. (Don't hold me to that.)
The simple, depressing truth is that not everything can make the jump from page to screen. With Catelyn, writers Benioff and Weiss have clearly taken an editorial decision — and, while I am gutted about that (as you should be too), she isn't technically needed. I don't doubt that Sansa will enact some kind of justice on the Freys with or without a zombified version of her mother at her side.
It's been a strange couple of seasons for Tyrion. And by strange, I mean oddly quiet and almost entirely uneventful. Yeah, he had a bonding moment with a dragon. Big deal. Yes, he traveled through the ruins of Old Valyria and got a bit of a fright.
Compare and contrast with the murder of his deliciously evil father, his power play with Cersei and his heart-wrenching failed relationship with Shae, and it's hard to shake the feeling that Tyrion's adventures in the East just aren't playing to his strengths.
The truth is that Essos is narrative poison to the characters unfortunate enough to go there. We've seen it with Arya, who spent two seasons trying to be a Faceless Man only to decide that actually, she quite enjoys being a Stark. Not the shock of the century. While wars have been waged on Westeros, all Daenerys has done on Essos is free some slaves and play a couple of fire tricks on the Dothraki.
Tyrion may have teased the threat of the "great game," but right now he hardly feels as though he's in it. The imp is static, in danger of becoming irrelevant, and he needs to get his ass back on Westeros.
Although she hasn't been allowed to leave the strategy room at the top of the Great Pyramid* in so long she surely now qualifies as a hostage, Missandei did get to enjoy a little wine this week. It was endearing to see the usually-stoic interpreter break with her serious face and even crack a terrible joke, although you could argue that Missandei had a good week just by virtue of appearing.
*Apropos of nothing: What's the value of a strategy room if nobody inside it ever devises any kind of strategy? Even when weapons are fired at the Great Pyramid, the only response by Daenerys's most-trusted advisors is to do nothing and hope in vain that whoever's outside doesn't want them dead.
It is a lovely pyramid, though, so there's that.
I wrote last week about how the Waif's jealousy at Arya's name and bloodline would be her undoing, and the reason she could never truly become no one. That was made deliciously clear this week as Jaqen's protege tore through the streets of Braavos in pursuit of Arya with a manic grin on her face. She wanted Arya dead the way most of our world wants Trump dead: a lot.
Relive the epic final meeting of foes below:
Some won't agree, but despite the meandering nature of Arya's story on Braavos, I was satisfied by this climactic confrontation with the Waif. It was glorious to see her turn the tables on her tormentor, blowing out the candle to reverse the playing field, giving the Waif a fatal taste of the challenge of fighting with no sight. You will be missed, you evil, staff-wielding girl-beater.
Lady Crane will also be missed. It was nice to know that at least one other person in this city actually has some semblance of human decency, considering the rest of the Braavosi get off on mocking the beheading of Ned Stark, and can only muster mild irritation when a girl with a horrific stab wound crashes into their fruit baskets.
Because they're dead.
An episode called "No One" was always going to belong to Arya, and the Stark child did not disappoint. Much has been written about how her soiree on Braavos has been dragged out far too long, sending her story in circles, but Arya needed to reach a point of clarity: To realize that there was more to life than her list.
Arya should have died on that bridge, but she should also have died many seasons ago. Her journey has been one of survival against all odds, but now it becomes one of pride, of blood, of taking back what is owed. Arya belongs in the North, at the side of Jon and Sansa, and her final words to Jaqen gave me all the feels.
Check out the preview below for Episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards," shed a tear in celebration of how earth-shatteringly incredible it looks, then tell me...