Game of Thrones 6x8: No One
Game of Thrones has been doing a tremendous job of undercutting expectations this season, with their advertisements promising intense battles and bloodshed, only to have the engagements end in neat, bloodless resolutions. It is a great tactic to defy viewers' expectations, but consistently overselling their episodes is a dangerous game indeed.
The teaser for this episode highlighted Cercei's "I choose violence" followed by a clip of the mountain relieving a head from it's body as he often does. The teaser seemed to frame this as a drastic turning point in Cercei's recent pacifistic tendencies this season. However, come the scene in the episode, and there really is not much more to it than the trailer had shown. The mountain decapitates a man and the encounter was over.
But, then the show made up for this somewhat minuscule choice of violence by placing it soon after a scene where the Hound chose violence. This juxtaposition of scenes seems to be hyping up a much rumored plotline, Cleganebowl, a clash between The Hound and The Mountain. The show runners are obviously aware of speculation about the two brother having at it, and many expected this to occur during Cercei's trial by combat. Then, undercut.
Tommen, obviously at the behest of the High Sparrow, bans trial by combat from the kingdom, essentially a death sentence for his mother, who was relying on her reanimated mountain all season for this express purpose. Tommen's decision directly condemns his mother. After the show's intro, rehashing Cercei's love of her children, it heightens the heartbreak she must feel due to this betrayal.
Speculating here, but, if Cercei allows this decision to consume her and turn her against her last remaining child, she has been handed her revenge on a silver platter. Come her trial, all she must due is confess to her incest and claim Tommen as Jaime's son. This would cause him to renounce his throne, or be forcibly removed, and be replaced by the last rightful rightful heir. Seeing as all the Boratheon's are dead, save a long-absent Gendry, the queen regent would be crowned: Cercei Lannister. She has the right to claim the throne, but only if she can manage to betray her son and survive the trial.
If there is one person who does love Cercei, it is Jaime, who has made it his goal to return to King's Landing as soon as possible. All he has to do is retake a castle from the Blackfish. Jaime is all ready to battle, when Brienne of Tarth strolls in for a nice reunion where she poses a counteroffer. She will lead the Tully army North to the battle for Winterfell, and surrender the castle to Jaime. It seems to easy, and in the end, does not work out in the slightest. A battle seemed imminent, but, once again, the show goes a more diplomatic approach.
Rather than showing violent encounters, the show seeks to remind us that winning is all about controlling those in power. Edmure Tully, Lord of the Riverlands meant nothing as a prisoner to the Blackfish. Yet, when Jaime is able to offer him his child and wife back, Edmure bows down to Jaime.
While we viewers may yearn for violence, seeing Jaime find a wiser solution to his problem bodes well for his character's growth. Now that he has accomplished his task, he can return to the capitol in time for Cercei's trial.
Aside from Brienne and Jaime, we see another reunion between Podrick and Bronn. This one is much less impactful, but shows another instance of the show's advertising tricking us. In both the episode preview, and the preview for the entire sixth season, we see this scene amid of flurry of battle cries, as if Podrick was being attacked, only for it to be a fake out.
I recall back in Season 2 when Tyrion stood in for his father as the hand of the king. On the outside, wine and women seem to be his passions, but watch him being a ruler, and that is the Tyrion that feels the most at home. Ruling in Daenerys's stead this season seemed to reinvigorate his passion for leadership, so it is sad to see his efforts fail so miserably.
His Westerosi tactics held little charm in Essos, as he attempted to reason slavers to end slavery and recruiting the local faith to spread the good word about Daenerys throughout Slaver's Bay. Now, while he distract Grey Worm, leader of the Unsullied with jokes, an army has floated into Meereen's harbor. Luckily, Daenerys makes her return, now with an army of Dothraki behind her.
With their numbers, the Dothraki and the Unsullied should be able to win the battle. And, should they win, they are now gifted with a whole fleet of ships. Makes you wonder what will happen when Yara shows up, and Daenerys has no need for her.
Arya's two season long arc with the Faceless Men has finally come to a close. With a Assassin's Creed like chase through the marketplace, Arya manages to lead the Waif into a trap. Gifting her face to Jaqen, he tells her she has finally completed her training, she has become no one. But, Arya is Arya, and she declines his diploma, walking off to her next adventure. We get a hint at what this will be at the start of the episode, as she wishes to sail into uncharted waters. This dream seems to come from nowhere though. Maybe this shows that she has let go of her need for vengeance, and rather, wants to go be an explorer. Or perhaps she will end up co-running a winery with Tyrion. Dreams in Game of Thrones rarely come true, and I doubt Arya will find herself anywhere except right back in the thick of conflict.