Monday, July 17, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.8: "No One"

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6.8 “No One”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Mark Mylod
Commentary by Mark Mylod, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Essie Davis (Lady Crane)

Let’s just get right to the most utterly ridiculous part of this whole episode—Arya’s escape from the Terminator-Waif.

It starts out ridiculous because Arya, despite having been stabbed multiple times in the belly, is somehow alive several hours later. We’ve seen this exact type of attack before, and it took that character minutes to bleed out and die. I’m referring, of course, to Talisa at the Red Wedding. Not that the show has ever been particularly interested in internal consistency, so let’s move on! Lady Crane finds Arya backstage (after doing her new blood-and-thunder soliloquy based on Arya’s stunningly astute advice regarding Cersei’s mindset after Joffrey’s death) and stitches her up, claiming that she knows how to do this kind of major surgery because of all the times she used to stab her husbands when they’d fight. Oh-kay. They bond for a bit, and Arya gets some rest.

Arya’s woken by a thud because the Waif has murdered Lady Crane by unbalancing a stool and causing her to fall and impale herself on the legs of her stool. She tells Arya that if she’d done her job, Lady Crane could have died painlessly, but the Many-Faced God gets his due one way or the other—and Arya is now his. What follows is the most unrealistic, ridiculous scene in this show to date, and after Dorne, that’s saying something. Again, this really is just something you have to see for yourself:

  • Someone watched Terminator 2 far too many times when choreographing this scene.
  • How did Arya not just pull every single stitch in her belly and then bleed out?
  • How in the world is she outrunning the Waif?
  • How did she beat the Waif in the dark when the Waif has presumably had the same training she has, and more of it?

Again, Arya’s entire Braavos arc suffers from Benioff and Weiss thinking that character development isn’t cinematic enough. Or something. There is no reason for the Waif to be Arya’s enemy, especially if she’s already Faceless; there shouldn’t be enough ego left there for her to hate Arya. Is it possible that in the books Arya will decide that becoming a Faceless Man isn’t what she wants? Sure. There’s some hints of that in the sample chapter for The Winds of Winter when she kills Raff the Sweetling. She has her own agenda that she hasn’t been able to fully let go of as she’s been in training, and it’s entirely believable that killing Raff is what will make her decide she’s ready to go about pursuing that agenda. I very much doubt, however, that she’ll have to kill another assassin—especially not the Waif—to get free to do it. Benioff and Weiss’ versions of these characters have very little in the way of internal lives; anywhere that the book versions show introspection, Benioff and Weiss replace it with action or cut it back so severely that it throws off the pacing of the storylines. See: Jaime. Tyrion. Sansa. Arya. Daenerys. Brienne. Jon.

Speaking of, here’s Sandor stomping through the Riverlands looking for the people who killed Septon Ray. He’s decided the Brotherhood Without Banners is at fault and he’s looking for them. He finds the specific men who murdered his commune just as they’re about to be hanged by Beric and the rest of the Brotherhood. They bargain over how many of the attackers Sandor’s allowed to kill in retaliation and settle on two. Sandor kicks the logs out from under them and steals the boots off of one, then asks if Beric and Thoros have any food. Beric tries to convince Sandor to join them, and after some arguing about joining not really being Sandor’s style, he considers it.

Over in Riverrun, Brienne and Pod arrive at the siege camp and realize Jaime is there, which is their convenient pass through the camp and into Riverrun proper. While Jaime and Brienne catch up, Bronn talks at Pod about Brienne’s sex life, because of course he does. He speculates about whether Brienne and Jaime are sleeping together, claims he’d totally have sex with Brienne, that Pod totally would, too, and Jaime would, and Brienne would have sex with Jaime, and it’s really gross and he says “fuck” a lot.

Meanwhile, Jaime and Brienne argue over him being on the Frey’s side in this, and they agree that Brienne can go in and attempt to negotiate. She wants the Tully army to go north with her, anyway, so that would leave Riverrun for the Freys. She tries to give Oathkeeper back to Jaime, but he refuses it. So she’s wearing it when she talks to Brynden, who says no way is he turning Riverrun over to the Freys and abandoning it, despite Sansa’s note asking for help. So this whole thing was pretty much a waste of time; yay!

It gets even more time-wastey when Jaime manages to talk Edmure into surrendering the castle because he’s the actual lord of Riverrun, not Brynden. Brynden sneaks Brienne and Pod out the back but refuses to go with her. Instead, he turns and pulls his sword and a few seconds later a Lannister soldier comes to tell Jaime that Brynden died fighting. Off screen. Let me guess; showing his death would have been gratuitous?

So that’s two major fights, two major deaths, in one episode, offscreen. Surely there’s a good reason, right? There’s something more important happening that we really need to see instead that took up the time?


Nope, just Tyrion being Tyrion. Grey Worm and Missandei again do not want to drink or get drunk, and Tyrion again practically forces it on them. Tyrion loves the sound of his own voice, rambling for a bit about how he’d love to own his own vineyard one day (and only share the wine with his closest friends), then tries to get Missandei to tell a joke (she tries. It’s not a very good one). Only the bells ringing to announce incoming hostile armies stops this incredibly awkward, time-waste of a scene in its tracks. Because for all Tyrion thinking he’s an incredible political mind, his deal with the masters of the three cities didn’t work too well. An enormous navy pulls in and starts bombarding the city with fire catapults. Tyrion tries to come up with a new plan, and Grey Worm essentially tells him they’ve followed him long enough, which is convenient because Dany’s just arrived with Drogon and the Mother of Dragons is decidedly unhappy with the state of her city.

Speaking of mothers who are unhappy, Cersei is forced to stand in the gallery with the other noble ladies rather than joining Tommen on the dais while he issues a decree banning trial by combat, essentially condemning her to whatever punishment she could get for the measly few charges she’s being brought up on (remember in the books she’s accused of deicide for goodness sakes). I think the writers made a mistake in framing this from Cersei’s point of view. They keep insisting she’s the villain of the piece, but stuff like this makes her look reasonable. Unlike in the books, she’s spent all her time trying to defend her family from legitimate threats. Sure, she was wrong and unreasonable about Tyrion, but someone did kill Joffrey. Someone did threaten Myrcella’s life—and then kill her. Tyrion did kill Tywin. Unlike in the books, where she’s being completely paranoid and going way over the top with her reactions to insignificant or imaginary threats to herself or her children, the show takes away the paranoia aspect and then expects us to not side with her anyway. She’s about to be tried for things that she did in defense of her family, that if we take a step back from the “Cersei is evil” baggage we have from the books and the writers, most of us could probably understand. This raises all kinds of questions about why we’re supposed to still see Cersei as evil, and frankly, in my humble opinion, it comes down to a) sexism; and b) bad storytelling.

It also further demonizes Margaery, because frankly we all know this wasn’t Tommen’s idea. Margaery’s the one pulling the strings here, and this decree is targeted at Cersei. I’ve already ranted pretty thoroughly about the way the show treats Margaery, so I’ll spare you here.

Quick note, as the new season started last night: there’s two more episodes in this season, so I’ll just follow on with season seven when we’re done here. That means my analysis of the new season will be about three weeks behind, but I think we can all handle that.

Brynden Tully
Lady Crane
The Waif
A couple of outlaws
Faith Militant brother

Next week: Two big battles. The queens meet. Sansa gets her revenge.

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