Recapping the Realm: Was ‘No One’ the Most Unsatisfying ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Yet?
Welcome to “Recapping the Realm,” where each week ScreenCrush senior editor Erin Whitney is joined by Tyler McCarthy and Kelly Lawler for a SPOILER-filled discussion of the latest Game of Thrones. This week, Erin, Tyler, and Kelly discuss “No One” (full episode review here). Tyler is an Assistant Managing Editor at Odyssey. You can tweet at him at @TylerMcCarthy. Kelly is an Entertainment Writer and Social Media Editor at USA Today. You can tweet at her at @klawls.
Erin: I hate to say it, but this may have been one of my overall least favorite Game of Thrones episodes in recent memory. If there was ever a filler episode that did little to further existing storylines, one stuffed in between a huge character return and a climactic battle, it was this. There was a lot of talking, most of which gave us little new information. Arya finally killed the Waif, but we didn’t even get to see it. The series is never hesitant to show us violence enacted against our heroic characters, but this week undercut one of those heroes who finally got to exact her very drawn out vengeance on her enemy.
But to focus on the positive for a moment, I loved Essie Davis’ scenes this week and am saddened to see her go. I also loved every moment between Brienne and Jaime. They’re two of my favorite characters and seeing them reunite as enemies conflicted by their compassion and love for one another was a much-needed poignant moment amongst all the carnage and deception this season.
Tyler: Ugh! I wish I could join you in starting off on the positive but, I have to just say it, this episode seemed petrified of showing us a damn fight scene! Obviously, I watch this show for more than the throwdowns, but if you think I haven’t YouTubed “Brienne vs. the Hound,” “Ned vs. Jaime” or, my personal favorite, “Bronn vs. Vardis Egan” you’re out of your mind! Between the Blackfish finally dying off camera, the Waif finally dying off camera, and the fight between the Mountain and the High Sparrow’s men being more watered-down than a cheap whiskey, I was a little upset at the lack of violence fodder ... Which I realize makes me sound a bit like a serial killer, but come on, this is Game of Thrones! Even the Hound didn’t get to do what he wanted with those jerks who killed his friends!
I’m not going to fault Dan Weiss and D.B. Benioff too much though because I have a feeling they’re saving all their fight scene budget for next week’s penultimate episode. Also, guys, next week is the penultimate episode!
Kelly: I agree that this was one of the most table-setting of episodes of the season and, indeed, the series. They’re necessary but they’re not always as fun to sit through.
The violence or lack thereof this episode was interesting to me. With Arya I think it was meant to be an artistic choice – what happened between them happened in the dark, so we couldn’t see it anyway. I tend to fall on the less is more spectrum when it comes to the violence on this show, so that truly didn’t bother me. But with the Blackfish I am less convinced. We have had so many fake outs and returns this season that I am just not convinced the Blackfish is dead. Especially not after returning so briefly and bonding with an important character like Brienne. Something is, well, fishy (I’m so sorry, but I had to).
Plus we got plenty of violence when we visited the Hound, who reminded me how much I love him and his no-bull attitude towards this messed up world. When he was in King’s Landing he cared so little for the conflicts between the houses and only about the needs of the here and now. And now it seems he’s being offered a chance to be a part of the biggest conflict of the series. I personally think the Brotherhood Without Banners could use someone a little more down to Earth, so I’m all for him fighting White Walkers. And speaking of the Brotherhood, here’s yet another return with Beric and Thoros. I’d love to see what is in these contracts that brings actors back four and five years down the line.
Erin: I’m not necessarily calling for more violence in last night’s episode, we certainly have enough of that already. But I am asking we get to see justice served. The Hound provided that last night, which was great to see him channeling his rage at the atrocities of this world.
But my biggest grievance with this week was the weak writing. Jaime’s Cersei speech to Edmure felt uninspired and redundant; an anti-climactic speech for an anti-climactic take-over of Riverrun. Tyrion convincing Grey Worm and Missandei to drink and tell jokes was a scene that also fell incredibly flat for me. I love a good comedic nudge at Tyrion’s love of wine, but we’ve spent all season watching him talk and drink; it’s no wonder Meereen was suddenly under a surprise attack. And as glad as I am that Dany showed up with Drogon, it was pretty unconvincing that after being gone for seven episodes she swooped in just in time to save the day.
One interesting surprise I would like to discuss was Tommen banning of the trial by combat; I certainly did not see that coming. Cersei has a plan up her sleeve, but I’m pretty underwhelmed we won’t see the Mountain zombie-hybrid put to use.
Tyler: That’s kind of a good metaphor for the point I was trying to make above. It’s not necessarily that the show needs more violence, but it can accomplish a lot of storytelling by having these characters that are fierce warriors fight each other. If the Blackfish is gone (props to Kelly for the pun by the way), it’s sad that we don’t get to see his final moments, especially in a season that’s been heavy on time travel and really hammering home how historic duels can be! I would have liked to have seen the blaze of glory, because I think he earned it!
As for the nuts and bolts of the decision to end trial by combat, I think it’s a great move by the High Sparrow. More so than any move to date, this one kind of abandoned the notion that he’s doing all this because of his devotion to the Seven. Obviously a mildly-trained chimp could have determined by now that he’s a fraud, but to see it in the light of day like that was different. It was a move directly against Cersei, and could easily result in her death. However, she’s clearly got some kind of new plan cooking. The only thing I find scarier than Cersei in power is Cersei with her back to a wall!
Kelly: The scene in the throne room did stand out for me this episode. It was well-directed and really showed how very alone Cersei is in all this, and how far she has fallen in the past two seasons. She was standing, if I recall correctly, in the spot that Sansa stood in back in season one right before she begged Joffrey on her knees for Ned’s life. And look at how well that worked out! It’s a dangerous spot, to be in the the circle of power but not be able to use any for yourself. Lena Headey has done an excellent job with her quiet rage all this season, and I shudder to think what this “rumor” is she and Qyburn are scheming about.
The one issue I had was why the High Sparrow made the play for her at the beginning of the episode. He could have convinced Tommen to ban trial by combat at any time, and that scene at the beginning fell a little flat for me, despite the ripping off of someone’s head (what this show does to us).
I agree that the Meereen scenes felt forced as well, but one thing I was thinking about this episode is how both Cersei and Tyrion have leaned on faiths in order to secure law and order. Despite Meereen’s war troubles the gospel of Dany from the Red Priestesses seemed to be working, for now. But the parallels in their stories make me nervous.
Erin: I agree that as far as editing goes, placing the King’s Landing sequence at the start of the episode did hamper the dramatic tension of that moment. I was also surprised we didn’t see Margaery in the throne room, unless I missed her. She must have been in on this decision and I’d half expect her to shoot an icy glance Cersei’s way after Tommen’s announcement.
One thing that’s been lacking for me this season are powerful character monologues. I was recently thinking about potential Emmy nominations for this season and struggled to come up with many names. Peter Dinklage has been given some pretty sloppy writing this year, and while Lena Headey is never anything short of fantastic, the writers have yet to give her a weighty emotional scene following last season’s walk of atonement. Perhaps that’s coming though, now that her safety is compromised more than ever. I will say Liam Cunningham has had some exceptional Davos scenes as well as Sophie Turner in the most recent episodes. But while GoT is all about blood and sex and violence, Season 6 seems much more occupied with spectacle and cliffhangers than giving its characters the cathartic moments they’ve been building towards. Maybe they’re gunning for more technical awards this year.
Tyler: What a fantastic point Erin! I agree; this season has had a distinctly different tone that I chalked up to the fact that we’re away from the books for the first time. I’ve been praising that as a good thing, but after reading that, I’m starting to worry that it’s gone to a TV route and accepts things like cliffhangers as artistic or good writing (*cough* The Walking Dead *cough*).
I will say that Jaime’s scene with Edmure this week was fun, if not a little clunky. I like seeing him in wartime for the first time since he lost his hand. There was a while there when he was a very sheepish character, but now he’s slapping insubordinate Frays with his golden hand and telling prisoners that he’ll monologue if he wants to and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. So, while I liked what the scene wanted to accomplish, I didn’t like that it fell short.
As for the return of Dany to Meereen, I was just happy that the show didn’t make another meal out of Dany returning and doing something badass. She walked in the door, the dragon was in the background and the audience just got it. This was the one example in this week’s episode where I didn't need to see a big fight. Having said that, I’m more than ready for Tyrion to have his queen back so he can start getting stuff done rather than just killing time playing drinking games with people that don’t drink! I know there’s just two episodes left, but I feel like there’s not a ton of faffing about people can do anymore. Jon is marching in Winterfel now. Theon and Yara are heading to Meereen now. Dany’s city is under siege now. Cersei’s trial is happening now.
So ... I hope we’re all watching closely.
Kelly: I agree, Tyler. I almost want to reserve judgment on this episode until we see who the show does with all of this set-up. They’ve freed Arya from her two-season sojourn to Braavos, but will it have meant anything or is she the same Needle-toting girl who left the Hound for dead? Dany is back in Meereen with an even bigger foreign army, but will it actually help her this time? Riverrun changed hands, again, but is any power actually moving around?
I’m hopeful based on other post-book choices the show has made that they can really stick the landing on this season. But I’ve been disappointed before.
Tyler: I’m hoping Varys returns in the last five minutes of the series to solve everyone’s problems. Right? They teed that up last night. I’m not crazy?
Erin: They did tack on an extra nine minutes to the finale, so perhaps the Spider will show up with a plan. Or maybe, just maybe, someone will find Gendry. His arms must be tired by now.