'Game Of Thrones' – The 10 Most Important Moments In "No One"

Every season of Game of Thrones has a weak spot or two, a few episodes where the wheel-spinning becomes a little obvious and transparent. While important things occurred in "No One," this was undeniably the slowest episode of the show's sixth season, an hour that pumped the brakes on plot in a big way. To be fair, the episode responded by providing more than its fair share of character development and humor, but it's fairly obvious that this is intended to be the calm before the storm, the hour where a lot of business gets handled before all hell breaks loose next week.

Let's sort through that business and discuss what went down.

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The Hound’s Revenge

No Game of Thrones episode that opens with a decapitation can be that bad, right? "No One" gets off to a bloody start, with Sandor Clegane's quest to avenge the murder of Brother Ray racking up a quick body count. It's nasty stuff and a reminder that the Hound is one of the most merciless, hardened, and effective killers on a show where just about everyone has tried their hand at murder once or twice. It's also a reminder that Rory McCann is an absolute treasure, allowing Sandor to be terrifying and hilarious in equal measure. Watching him criticize one of his victims for dying poorly and choosing lousy final words is horrifying stuff, but McCann's dry delivery renders it as pitch-perfect black comedy. He's killed so many people and has seen so much suffering that he's become an effective critic. As tragic as it is to see him return to his old ways after a brief attempt to atone for his past sins, there is so much giddy pleasure to found in watching the Hound do what he does best. At least he's turned his rage toward people who actually deserve it.

Cersei Chooses Violence

"No One" actually opens with two decapitations, both of which are pulled off by the Clegane brothers. While Sandor chops his way through the Riverlands, Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane tears the head right off the shoulders of a member of the Faith Militant, which is certainly an effective reminder that Team Cersei may be dwindling, but it's far from defenseless. While most of the violence carried out by the Mountain has been against innocent or underserving people and has been rightfully treated as the work of a despicable monster, season six of Game of Thrones has placed this hulking monstrosity in a very interesting position – he's the final line of defense between one of the show's most sympathetic villains and one of its most unsympathetic.

That's how awful the High Sparrow is. That's how easy it is to loathe the Faith Militant. They have us rooting for Cersei Lannister, a woman who is finally reaping what she has sown after six seasons of betrayal and murder and deceit. And yet, she deserves to be taken down by anyone but the Faith, who have somehow turned out to be even worse. The fact that we're cheering on Gregor Clegane as he removes a man's hand at the order of one of the most twisted people on television is a testament to how effectively this show operates in shades of gray...and how Lena Headey is so very good at asking us to have sympathy for the devil.

The Departure of Varys

Game of Thrones season six has showcased the show at its very best and unless the last two episodes drop the ball, it will probably rank behind only the glorious fourth season as the best of the entire series so far. And yet, the show has stumbled with the Meereen storyline despite maneuvering two of the cleverest characters in the entire ensemble within its walls. The promise of Tyrion and Varys running a city on the verge of civil war turned out to be more effective than the execution, with this dynamic duo frequently shuffled into the sidelines as more pressing matters took center stage. If you had told me a few months ago that I would be more invested in Jon Snow than the Imp and the Spider by this point in the season, I would have called you a liar. But here we are.

So it's hard to feel too bad about Varys leaving on a secret mission to Westeros because he's not leaving behind a storyline that has been handled with care. Tyrion and and the Master of Whispers remain one of the show's most inspired duos, but Meereen suffocated them and has given them nowhere to go. Hopefully, they will meet again in a subplot that gives them more to chew on.

Tommen's Latest Betrayal

Last week, we learned that Queen Margaery's newfound faith and dedication to the High Sparrow was an act, a ruse to stay alive and protect her brother. But her husband, King Tommen? He's all in. He's bought exactly what the High Sparrow is selling and he's dedicated himself to his pious new lifestyle...which means no contact with his viper of a mother.

So Cersei isn't even allowed to approach her son. She is blocked by Kevan Lannister, the Hand of the King and Tywin's brother, who has been staunchly opposed to Cersei's power in the Red Keep since day one. She has to look on as Tommen takes guidance from Grand Maester Pycelle, a man who Cersei knows to be only out for himself. The bond between the enemies she has created turns out to be thicker than blood. The High Sparrow, Kevan, Pycelle, and even Mace Tyrell have fallen in line with the new order. Cersei is reduced to just another lady of the court, watching from the gallery.

The real bombshell here is that King Tommen announces that he will no longer tolerate trials by combat and his reasoning is entirely accurate. It is a sham, a scheme cooked up by those in power to avoid proper trials because they are known to be guilty. We've known this. Everyone has known this. But this isn't Tommen speaking – this is the High Sparrow using the king as a puppet, using a son to sabotage his mother. Watching Cersei get cornered like this is a brutal experience, not just because she's easy to respect (if not actually like), but because a corned lioness won't go down without taking as many of her enemies down with her as possible.

Cersei, alone save for the Mountain, appears to be officially out of options. All we know is that she has one more trick up her sleeve and that Qyburn is ready to act. But on what? And how many people will get killed in the process?

Jaime v Brienne: Dawn of Friendship

Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister, who became unlikely friends and allies back in seasons three and four, reunited in "No One" and the results were appropriately tense. He's there to conduct the siege of Riverrun and oust the Blackfish from his ancestral home. She's there to recruit the Blackfish and his men to Team Stark and march on Winterfell. They respect one another too much to dismiss the other, despite operating at cross purposes. It is, in a few words, another juicy Game of Thrones pickle. There's no easy or correct way to approach this situation.

However, their conversation does end up being a wonderful showcase for Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, with the former showcasing how Brienne will never break and the latter revealing just how much Jaime has allowed himself to be molded and reshaped by his friend. The Kingslayer is still a vicious man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, but he recognizes and respects the nobility in Brienne. He was humbled before her and she had his back when he was at his lowest. They bonded through pain. They share a connection that cannot be broken. When Brienne informs Jaime that she will be forced to fight alongside the Blackfish should he attack Riverrun, their mutual understanding is heartbreaking. They are both trapped in machines, her by choice and him by blood, and they are not naive enough to think the rules of this world do not apply to them.

Jaime v Edmure: Dawn of Discomfort

Jaime Lannister's extended conversation with the imprisoned Edmure Tully recalled Jaime's time as a Stark prisoner back in season two. Chained in a cell with nothing to lose, Jaime was a man laid bare. Stripped of his literal and figurative armor, he was reduced to his true self – a man who would do anything, literally anything, to get back to the love of his life. As loathsome as his relationship with his twin sister is, Jaime revealed himself to be one of the few self-aware people in all of Westeros. He knows exactly what he wants and knows the extend to which he will go to get it. His love for Cersei, while awful, is more pure than anything else on Game of Thrones.

The Kingslayer admits all of this to Edmure. He's straightforward. He makes no false promises. Unlike the Freys, he's not the kind of man to threaten something and back away at the last second. He's a man of conviction. Vile conviction, yes, but conviction that can be counted on and trusted. When he tells Edmure to defuse the siege, to assist in surrendering Riverrun, or risk the death of everyone bearing the Tully name, you know he means it. Edmure calls Jaime evil and he may be right, but Jaime knows exactly what he is – he's a man in love and we know the things he's done for love.

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The Siege of Meereen

It turns out that Tyrion's brand of Westerosi politics aren't nearly as effective in Essos as he thought they would be. His deal with the masters of Slaver's Bay, the truce that would ultimately lead to them freeing their slaves in seven years, was apparently a big waste of time. The Masters have arrived to lay siege to the city and reclaim their "property" and no one is more surprised by his failure than Tyrion himself. Naturally, things start to look really hopeless until Daenerys arrives with a flutter of the sound of offscreen, budget-saving dragon wings.

This is my frustration with this entire storyline in a nutshell. Individual scenes, like when Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei drink wine and share jokes, are wonderful. But on the whole, what has been accomplished here? Everything Tryion built in Dany's absence has fallen apart and not in a particularly interesting way. Meanwhile, the Mother of Dragons has been off wandering around the desert with her new army, apparently waiting for the story to reach this specific point so she could arrive in the nick of time. The only question now is whether Drogon will set the fleet ablaze or if Yara Greyjoy will arrive to save the day. While every other storyline on Game of Thrones has been on fire this season, Meereen and those connected to it have been sitting around and twiddling their thumbs. When we look back on this, there's a strong chance we will recognize this apparent wheel-spinning as necessary – the show needed to find a way to maneuver these characters together and needed to do it at a certain pace.

Right now? It feels like Tyrion could have been excised from this season entirely and that is huge problem for the most popular character on the show.

The Fall of Riverrun

To everyone's credit, the fall of Riverrun was accomplished with a minimal loss of life. Byrnden "Blackfish" Tully may have gone down swinging, but he went down on his own terms. Everyone else fell in line behind Edmure, who realized that surrender was the best option when you're facing a man who would do anything for love. By handing over his family's home, Edmure almost certainly saved the lives of every soldier inside and may have secured a future for the family he gained and instantly lost at the Red Wedding. House Tully has fallen, but the survivors will live on. It's the kind of impossible choice no one should be forced to make, the kind of grotesque compromise the unbending Blackfish could have never made.

The fallout is quiet but vital. Jaime has accomplished his mission and can return to Cersei, just in time for her trial. Brienne and Podrick escaped with the tacit approval of Jaime, but without any more men for the Stark cause. The Blackfish died, proving that standing for honor and family is still the kind of thing that gets you killed.

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The Brotherhood Without Banners Returns

It's been three seasons since we saw Richard Dormer's Beric Dondarrion and Paul Kaye's Thoros of Myr and I was pleasantly surprised to see the undying rebel leader and that shabby red priest once more. Their arrival instantly explains why members of the Brotherhood Without Banners were slaughtering innocent people last week – they were traitors to the cause and they are to be hanged for their crimes. And naturally, Sandor Clegane arrives just in time for their execution and demands to be the one to kill them. In an episode filled with grim humor, watching Sandor haggle with Beric over how many of the men he gets to kill and how he gets to kill them is a highlight. The oh-so-serious leader of the Brotherhood is the perfect straight man to the Hound's detached psychopathy.

And if we're lucky, we'll get to see more of this dynamic. Sure, Sandor may have killed Beric the last time they met (only to be revived by Thoros moments afterward), but the commander of the Brotherhood Without Banners is no dummy. They could use a Clegane on their team. Clegane is no dummy, either. This is the kind of deal that puts food in your belly and blood on your hands. It's a match made in the seven heavens.

Her Name Is Arya Stark

Arya Stark has spent years running from her past and her family name, gladly willing to embrace the void if it offered a way to forget the pain of losing her father, mother, and brother. Her decision to follow Jaqen H'ghar, to train at the House of Black and White, to become no one, were the actions of a scared and traumatized girl. But when faced with vanishing forever, with losing her identity and her past and letting go of her pain, she recoiled. After all, she's still a Stark of Winterfell. She's still from the most stubborn family in the Seven Kingdoms.

This arc reached a conclusion after last week's cliffhanger, with a wounded Arya fending off an attack from the Waif and leading her into a trap. Armed with Needle, and with the skills she learned while blind, Arya felled her opponents, reclaimed her name to Jaqen's face, and made the final decision to sail home. It was all fairly exciting (if slightly derivative) and a huge victory for Arya, who managed to avoid losing herself to pain and fear. Still, Jaqen's reaction to the loss of his star pupil is telling. He's bemused. Impressed, even. She may have rejected him, but she's no longer the same girl. She's someone new. Someone dangerous.

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Spoiler Corner

Random speculation and book spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.

  • Since A Dance With Dragons ends with Varys sneaking into the Red Keep and assassinating Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle, book readers may know exactly what the Spider plans to do when he arrives in Westeros.
  • Readers have long wondered if the show would find room for Lady Stoneheart, the resurrected and vengeful version of Catelyn Stark who ends up leading the Brotherhood Without Banners in the books. The mere presence of a living Beric Dondarrion, who gave up his life-force to bring her back to life during the events of A Storm of Swords, indicates that she's officially off the table for good.
  • Speaking of fan-favorite stuff being obliterated in this episode, the popular "CleganeBowl" theory was officially undone this week as Cersei's trial by combat was cancelled by royal decree. If Sandor and Gregor do face off one more time, it won't be over the Queen Mother's guilt or innocence.
  • In A Feast For Crows, the Blackfish escapes from Riverrun following the surrender, swimming away in the river before Frey and Lannister forces can take the castle. While he may have a role to play in future novels, the show apparently has to need for him any longer.