GAME OF THRONES S6E8: “No One” Discussion

Braavos is the New Dorne

Scott: Hey everyone!  After a week long hiatus in which we actually did have a conversation but one of us was too lazy to edit and post it (me, it was me) we are back to discuss episode 8 of season 6 of Game of Thrones. Unfortunately we have no James Gentry this time! He was forced to sit this one out.

This season has been an absolute roller coaster for me, encapsulating some of the best and worst episodes the series has offered. Episode 8 has seemed to take this dichotomy and dump it on us all at once. “No One” is filled to the brim with absolutely wonderful character moments that I treasure, but the way the show gets to those moments is so incredibly clunky that I was often left flabbergasted.

Matt:  I agree Scott. It’s truly jarring having the beautiful moments between Jaime and Brienne sandwiched between some of the worst writing I’ve seen in a major TV show. Reddit sums it up: “don’t forget the part where she gets stabbed in the intestines with a 5″ knife, swims in a canal of shit water and just sleeps it off. Meanwhile Khal Drogo still dead from an infected scratch.”

Arya

Scott: Arya is the living embodiment of all these problems. The moment where she says “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell…and I’m going home” is a fist bumping, stand up and cheer moment.  But every single thing in Arya’s story until this point is nonsense. She yoyo’s from being a confident, capable fighter to a scared lost little girl every other scene. She makes actions that make no sense and she dawdles around doing nothing.

I suppose you could argue that everything that happened over the last two episodes was just a really complicated act she was putting on to lure the Waif into her damp cave kill zone. But that would mean her being stabbed a bunch of times in stomach was all part of the plan too. That’s just a really terrible plan, “a girl.”

Matt: I was going to say “The main problem with Arya’s storyline is … ” but then I realized there were too many problems. There’s a lack of clarity in the dramatic stakes so it’s impossible to be invested. There’s a lack of narrative economy – this whole episode could have gone like this:

  • Jaqen gives the kill order.
  • Next scene: Arya places the Waif’s face in the House of Black and White.

Same story is conveyed and nothing is really lost because nothing of dramatic or plot-relevance consequence happened. It was filler.

Scott: It was complete filler, which is ironic considering that the one exciting action beat of the story, the final fight between Arya and the Waif, was mysteriously left out. I like your way much better.

Arya’s storyline had so many crazy fan theories floating around there. Some of them got truly ridiculous.  The “it was all a dream” and Arya/Waif Tyler Durdenn Fight Club ones were my favorite. But the actual story we were told was almost disappointingly simple. The payoff was great. I even loved Jaquen’s small muted smile, as if what Arya finally chose was what he secretly wanted all along.  But it took so long for the show to get there.

Matt: I almost suspect this was an intentional kick-fan-expectations-in-the-nuts episode. One of the main fan theories, the trial by combat featuring Clegane vs. Clegane, seems to have been nixed.

The Hound

Scott: Yes, but this is the first time I think that I’ve really liked the theories better than what actually happened. I actually liked The Hound’s storyline the best this week minor as it was, but maybe it’s just because I love the character so damn much. My concern is – where does he go from here?

Matt: Yeah, I’m interested in following him. They seem to be suggesting that he’ll go north, but who knows.

So, I can’t actually remember what Jaime does at Riverrun in the books. Is it significantly different from what he does in this episode?

Scott: It’s actually quite similar. The line about Jamie throwing Edmur’s baby over the castle in a catapult is verbatim, I believe. The big difference is by this point in the book he has found out that Cersei has been banging every dude that moves in King’s Landing so he’s pretty done with her. In the show he’s still hopelessly and quite pathetically in love with her.

Matt: Yeah, my recollection is that in the book he’s clearly lying and has no intention of harming the baby, it’s just that he’s learned that people expect him to behave this way and he knows saying that will let him take the castle bloodlessly.

Jaime

Scott: Yeah, I was surprised they let show Jamie get that dark. They shy away from showing his asshole side, and I got the idea that he was being very serious about the things he would do for his sister.  Sometimes, for love, people do crazy stuff like “burning cities to the ground” (HINT, KING’S LANDING, HINT, WILDFIRE, HUGE HINT, CERSEI).

But as we talked about at the top, the moments between Brienne and Jamie were just so good that I almost didn’t care about any of the other stuff.

Matt: Yeah, it would have actually been a good episode if I hadn’t been utterly baffled and derailed by the nonsense Arya stuff.

Scott: It’s been so long since we’ve seen the two of them in a scene together and I instantly remembered why I loved it so much.  There’s so much wordless chemistry between these actors. They say 5 words but tell 5,000. And unlike the Arya stuff, the story wasn’t bending over backwards to make these interactions work. It flows and makes sense.

One thing that I missed – In the book Jamie worships the Blackfish and has idolized him since he was a child. They let his death have a moment land on Jaime, but that would have worked so much better had the show explained that backstory.

Matt: Forgot about that. Also, he doesn’t die in the book. Blackfish dying does mark the difference between success and failure if his goal was taking the castle bloodlessly.

Scott: Good point.  But Matt, when I think back about the Riverlands section of this episode, it feels like another whole bunch of filler. It’s so crazy to have a filler episode in a series that has 10 episodes a season meant to cover 2,000 characters spread over 20 different locations, but that’s really what this feels like.

Even the Tyrion scenes, which I loved, suffered from this. Great character work between three great characters.  I’d listen to them all tell jokes for hours. But we didn’t really advance anything until the final moments of the scene and Dany’s really underwhelming return, which we immediately cut from.

Matt: I was physically squirming in my seat for the entire scene. It’s like fanfiction. They don’t know what to do with the characters so they just force them to interact weirdly. What I mean is, what reason do those three characters have to always be sitting in a room together doing nothing? Isn’t Grey Worm, like, the commander of the military? Is humoring Tyrion’s boredom really his top priority?

Scott: Ok fair, but we got to hear Tyrion do a “Stark yelling at a bug” impression.

Matt: Yes, I mean, I will take Peter Dinklage Comedy Hour over nothing.

Scott:  Whichever writer thought of that one needs a bonus.

So the Siege of Meereen is happening, and I was shocked at how not very excited about this I was. Maybe it’s because I can’t freaking believe that Dany is still in Meereen and not sailing to Westeros GOD DAMNIT. I hate Meereen and am all for people setting it on fire.

Jeez, Matt.  Do we even like this show anymore? I still sit down excitedly every Sunday night, but I feel like I have more bad to say than good most of the time

Matt: This weekend was jarring and painful for me because it was the first time I’ve sat down to watch with general apprehension and doubt that I was even going to enjoy it.

Scott: You know, we’ve talked a lot about how Benioff and Weiss have done a great job adapting this story. And they really have. I never imagined it could be told via this medium as well as it has been. I spoke last year about how I felt that the show has surpassed the books in many ways. But 8 episodes into this season I’m starting to wonder…

All the truly great things that we love about the series, the reasons it’s so popular, all come from George. The show has moved past him now and it’s way more obvious than I ever thought it would be.

Matt: One idea I’ve seen half-jokingly floated is that the TV show is in need of a fan edit. I think there’s a lot of gold in the show, but there’s also a lot of dross. They’re forced to do things in a stilted way sometimes because they need to advance all five thousand plot lines in tandem, even when some of the plots don’t really develop. For instance, they can’t just not have Arya in the show for two years. But maybe it would be better, overall, if they could make choices like that.

Scott: That’s a fair point.  Would anything have been truly missed if we just see a super badass, strong and committed Arya suddenly show up at The Battle of the Bastards or wherever?

“Arya? What happened to you?”

“Fucking Westeros happened.”

“Got it.”

Matt: Her arc throughout her time in Braavos is so minor that I really think it could be encapsulated in one or two lines of dialogue.

Mountain

Scott: But in an effort to be positive: I love where things in King’s Landing are going. Lena Headey’s performance continues to just be absolutely wonderful. I’ve been looking forward to the “I choose violence” scene since I saw it in the first trailer months ago and it was everything I hoped it could be.  

Scott’s camera shot of the week: The quick cut to inside the sewer grate as we see The Mountain victim’s blood flow down it.

Matt: I must have missed that one. So the big question is: do you think the next two episodes can redeem what’s shaping up to be a fairly mediocre season?

Scott: I hope so. There are a lot of things I think that are still going to happen this season and if they all actually do we’re in for quite the last two episodes. Next week’s episode is directed by Miguel Sapochnik the same guy that brought us last year’s incredible “Hardholme” so that’s something to get excited about.  It also looks like it’s gonna be a bottle episode and focused entirely on aptly titled Battle of the Bastards.

Matt: Yeah. Hopefully that gives things room to breathe.

Scott: That’s really what this show needs right now. Anything else Matt?

Matt: No, I’m just sort of generally despondent about the show. I guess you could say my expectations are so low, I can only be happily surprised. Right? RIGHT???

Scott: I think I’m generally still positive enough to believe that they can turn this ship around. What I’ve learned is we really need Gentry’s unending geeky love and optimism to pull us out of our slump and bring some happiness to this series. Come back to us next week, Gentry, when we discus episode 9 “The Battle of the Bastards”

 

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