(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows.)
As refreshing as it is to hear Arya Stark pronounce her name in the Hall of the Faceless Men (while the annoying Waif’s face sits freshly carved on one of its pillars), “No One” follows in the footsteps of Game of Thrones‘ previous two hours, full of vague teases and extremely subtle hints as to where they’re actually going. There’s certainly a better sense of movement to “No One” than the hours before it – a castle changes owners, trial by combat is outlawed, and Dany makes haste back to Meereen – but there’s an undeniable feeling of dissatisfaction for how much of the hour plays out.
Take the Blackfish for example: teased for seasons as a powerful character in the Tully/Stark alliance, the Blackfish turned out to be a minor character, a throwback to old legacies thrown aside like so much of his generation in recent episodes. In fitting fashion, perhaps, he’s tossed aside off-screen, a byproduct of the long-standing Westeros tradition to go down fighting, even when there’s a perfectly legit escape route waiting nearby. With it, however, comes an important development: Riverrun belongs to the Lannisters, their red banners hanging from the halls of the Tully family, who are heading north after Edmure suddenly decides that watching Jaime murder everyone isn’t as enticing as the possibility of vengeance lurking in the North (plus, Sansa needs that f*cking army, so those nameless chaps are going north, one way or another).
So off ride the Tullys, down goes the Blackfish, and we get a glimpse of Good Jaime underneath the recent regression to being Cersei’s whipping boy/lover man for a brief moment (also – Bronn shipping Jaime and Brienne! Adorable)… that’s a lot happening in the course of about ten minutes, with perhaps the most important conversation and secondary development happening off screen.
It’s an odd feeling that comes with the mix of intrigue for what’s to come, with the disappointment of how the events of “No One” introduce these future moments, summed up best with the clusterf*ck that is Arya’s final showdown with Ja’qen and the Faceless Men (who we’ve never actually seen more than one of, oddly enough). Was Ja’qen planning this the whole time? Certainly a dangerous gamble, and one that makes less sense given the resolution of the story, a seemingly mortally wounded Arya calmly walking out of the Hall, right after running through the city and presumably fighting the Waif in the dark (another excised battle from this episode, though one I’m willing to concede, because Arya cutting a candle in half with Needle is extremely badass). Like Jaime’s siege of Riverrun and Blackfish’s rebellion, though, Arya’s story is more intriguing because it finally takes her off the Spinning Hamster Wheel of Plot she’s been stuck on for two-plus seasons, not in how the culmination of hours worth of material plays out in front of the camera during the hour.
The biggest tease of the episode undeniably comes in the form of Barric and Thoros’s return, recruiting The Hound to join the Brotherhood Without Banners, and at least give his ability to cause extreme bloodshed a somewhat noble purpose. Of course, this scene is full of hints and teases and playful winks about Lady Stoneheart, a character we were told years ago wouldn’t appear on this show. Obviously, she could never appear on the show, but boy, do these scenes tease their true “purpose” in the upcoming events as part of a righteous journey, one that could possibly come in the form of a woman currently laying underwater somewhere, presumably not near where The Hound relieves himself during the hour. Clearly the Brotherhood Without Banners have a plan, but as “No One” proves time and time again, from Meereen to Braavos and down to King’s Landing (what rumor dost thou speakest of, creepy Qyburn?) that what is to come is more meaningful and exciting than what’s actually happening now (and never forget, The Hound prefers chicken).
For a 59-minute long episode, there really isn’t a whole lot more to “No One”, save for Tommen throwing a thorn in Cersei’s side by outlawing trial by combat, which may finally bring all those threats through the years of Lannisters burning houses down to a head, depending on what information Qyburn holds for Cersei. There are really two options: knowledge of the Tyrells killing Joffrey, or Qyburn finding the Mad King’s stash of wildfire under the castle, which may explain the vision Dany had back in season two of a destroyed King’s Landing gathering snow on an empty throne (I suppose there’s a third, Cersei finding out Tyrion is aligned with Dany, but that seems to be a conflict for a later time, information that wouldn’t exactly be relevant for this situation). Whichever one it may be, it designates all of this episode’s time spent in King’s Landing as a cliffhanger, again falling into the pattern of delayed satisfaction offered throughout “No One”, an unfortunate feeling that perpetuates an hour of big events, changes in legislature, and shifts of power, that are more momentous and powerful on paper, than they are on screen (and in many parts, off) during the hour.
(… oh yeah, and Dany comes back to Meereen. At least we got to see Greyworm make joke, right?)
- Next week’s preview may redeem this all… “Battle of the Bastards” looks amazing. The showrunners said before the season it was the biggest battle of the series thus far, so hopefully, next week’s 60-minute episode is a little more gratifying and rewarding than this week’s.
- Where ya going, Varys? Hopefully, it’s not home, because your little birds are not going to be all that excited to see you.
- “You’re sh*t at dying, you know that?” I missed you, Sandor.
- Brienne: “Tell her that I failed.” Sad face emoji for the world’s unluckiest right-hand woman.
- Missandei’s joke was hilarious: “I know how to yell for help in 90 different languages!”
- “The things we do for love.” The sister-loving half of Jaime’s is one of the series’ most disappointing characters.