GAME OF THRONES Season 6, Episode 8: ‘No One’

PrintE-mail Written by Hayden Mears

As its finale looms on a horizon soaked in blood and tears, the explosive sixth season of HBO's Game of Thrones stops pulling its punches and starts making contact, both with our nerves and our hearts. The previous two episodes spent their time setting the finishing pieces into place, allowing this stunning pre-penultimate hour, titled No One, to whip viewers up in a whirlwind of action, mystery, and unbelievably satisfying payoffs. Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss continue to adhere to the morally divisive nature of George R. R. Martin's expansive source material, acquainting us with characters who don't and can't be anyone other than who they are amidst the ever-changing, ever-evolving Game of Thrones. This doesn't always mean they do good things, but it does mean they often do cool things that strengthen the context of that character.

After an almost-fatal run-in with the Waif, Arya Stark hauls her punctured stomach to the only person in Braavos who's willing to help. Back in wild-wild Westeros, Jaime Lannister uses a defeated Edmure Tully to attempt to take Riverrun from the Blackfish before chaos can ensue. Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne arrive at the Lannister camp to treat with Jaime, threatening violence if the latter impedes their efforts to recruit the Blackfish for the upcoming Bolton/Stark smackdown. The Hound finds his prey, and the Brotherhood without Banners make a return. Sounds like a typical day in Westeros, right?

While Game of Thrones usually reserves its crazy, jaw-dropping moments for the last two episodes, No One aims to break tradition and cement itself as one of the biggest payoff episodes in the show's history. Here we see Arya Stark's multi-season arc reach its thrilling climax, pitting her against the murderous servant of the Many-Faced God while simultaneously having her reclaim herself after two seasons of trying to be someone else. It's everything we hoped it would be and more; it's all at once a culmination and continuation of the character's quest to knock those names off her list and fully accept who (and what) she always has been.

What really sells this episode as a bonafide game-changer is its escalating sense of urgency. Never before have the denizens of Westeros faced so many threats at one time, a fact made even more evident by their inability to stop squabbling and face the impending threat coming at them from north of the Wall. They're clearly inept at juggling all of the conflicts they've got going on, opting to wage petty wars and murder valuable allies rather than unite and fight the Night's King and his army of wights. The tension between Jaime, Brienne, and the Blackfish only solidifies my point, even though only one of them is fully aware of the White Walker incursion. The positive? We get some really, really compelling television out of all of this.

Stay tuned for our review of next week's episode, titled, Battle of the Bastards. It will air next Monday on Sky Atlantic.

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