Cersei Chooses Violence. Gets a No.

As one might expect from an episode called “No One,” several of the characters are suffering identity crisis this week. While the title refers to Arya and her journey to become or not become “no one” as one is required to be to become one of the Faceless Men, loss or affirmation of identity is on the minds of most of our favorite Westerosi this week.
Sandor Clegane is no longer “The Hound.” He used to be, essentially, a hired killer, but now he needs a cause he he can believe in and he temporarily has one as he hunts down the small band of marauders who slaughtered Septon Ray and his followers. This brief vendetta brings Sandor back into contact with Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, and the rest of the Brotherhood Without Banners in a darkly funny scene in which Sandor and Dondarrion negotiate who will execute the rogue Brotherhood members and how they will do it. Sandor finds himself better able to work with others, telling the Brotherhood “There was a time I would have killed all seven of you just to gut these three.” This is a kinder, gentler Clegane who can settle for simply hanging two men rather than disemboweling three.
This episode featured not only the return of The Brotherhood Without Banners but, between Sandors dispatching of the first group of marauders he finds, and The Mountain’s brief tussle with The Faith Militant, the return of gnarly violence to Game of Thrones. Cersei is unused to having so little power and so she does what she always does when she is angry and acts out of spite rather than intelligence. Rather than simply go when summoned by the High Sparrow, Cersei chooses violence and allows The Mountain to rip off the head of one of the Faith Militant. It’s a dumb move as the High Sparrow is then alerted to the strength, and apparent invulnerability, of The Mountain and soon King Tommen is terminating the practice of Trial by Combat, the tradition that would have surely proved to be Cersei’s deliverance, and apparently nixing the possibility of a Clegane on Clegane duel. The scene in which Tommen makes that announcement shows how Cersei is no longer the Queen or, really, a mother. She is forced to sit in the gallery with the rest of the ladies of the court rather than stand beside Tommen and her son refuses to make eye contact with her as he exits. Cersei may have command over a couple of lackeys, Qyburn and The Mountain, but she no longer has influence at court.
At Riverrun, Jaime is dealing with his own identity crisis and what the two most prominent women in his life represent in his identity. When Jaime informs Edmure that he would be willing to kill Edmure’s infant son if it would get him on his way back to Cersei, he is speaking broadly of his propensity for committing heinous acts out of his love for his sister. Cersei brings out the worst in Jaime, Brienne, on the other hand, appeals to the better angels of his nature. Brienne is able to convince Jaime to let her through the camp to negotiate with Blackfish, hoping for a simple, peaceful solution to the siege. Unfortunately, Brienne’s plan fails and Jaime’s threats work, sending Edmure into Riverrun to surrender the fortress and resulting in Blackfish’s, disappointingly off-screen, death. While Jaime does allow Brienne to escape from Riverrun, their, now more permanent-seeming, separation likely signifies a return to darkness for Jaime.
Tyrion’s identity crisis is of a lower grade than the others’. Tyrion knows who he is: “The most famous dwarf in the world.” But Tyrion is discovering he does not have the moves like he used to or, rather, his moves do not work as well in Essos as they did in Westeros, the Great Masters have broken their agreement and are laying siege to Meereen. Also, in a surprisingly touching scene, Tyrion says goodbye to Varys, the one man he could call his friend without qualification. He is now alone in a strange land and doesn’t really have a clue of what to do. It’s a good thing that Danaerys (let’s be honest, expectedly) shows up at the last minute, with Drogon ready to roast some ships.
I must address the theory that The Waif never existed but was a part of Arya’s psyche all along. I don’t think so. I believe the that The Waif is a literal character who metaphorically represents the urge within Arya to become “no one” and join the Faceless Men at the House of Black and White, to abandon her name and past. When she kills The Waif, after a Terminator-like foot chase, she is killing the merciless killer within her but she is also killing a person who really exists within the world of Game of Thrones. As she tells Jaqen H’ghar, she is “Arya Stark of Winterfell.” Arya’s identity crisis has come to an end. I don’t know about anybody else but I am happy to see this storyline end and have Arya on her way home. The House of Black and White plot was not necessarily unsuccessful but at two seasons it was stretched out for too long.
Next week’s episode is the ninth of the season, typically the episode reserved for major battles, and it’s titled “The Battle of The Bastards” so it’s likely that we’re in for excitement. Hopefully we’ll say goodbye to Ramsey? I think so.
Week 8 Power Rankings
1. The High Sparrow: He’s still way ahead of everybody else and as of yet has shown no signs of vulnerability. However, Qyburn seems to know something…
2. Dany and Tyrion: Tyrion has made some sloppy moves but Dany is now back in Meereen, bringing her dragons and Dothraki together with her unsullied. She’s going to show the Great Masters what’s what.
3. Ramsey: Still in charge at Winterfell, still holding Rickon. He apparently has a larger army than the Starks but this guy is due for a downfall.
4. Euron: Done for the season, I expect, but that means he won’t likely fall from his position as King of the Iron Islands any time soon.
5. The Starks: No appearance from any of them this week but we know what they’re up to. Sansa and Jon are building their force and marching on Winterfell, Rickon is held by Ramsey and Bran is beyond the wall and… heading south? They’re building momentum.
6. Margaery: No appearance this week but we can assume she’s making moves. Expect her to lash out against The Faith in two weeks.
7. Littlefinger: Out of sight but not mind. I think we can expect Littlefinger to ingratiate himself to the Starks next week by showing up to save the Stark’s bacon at the last minute.
8. The Lannister Twins: Cersei is floundering and Jaime doesn’t know what to do with himself. The sooner these two can get back together the better their outlook will be.
9. Bronn: He didn’t get much to do this week but he did enjoy a brief reunion with Podrick so… that was nice.
10. The Young Greyjoys: No appearance this week, we can assume they are cooking up plans and making their way to Meereen. Still, they need to make some serious moves if they want back in the game.
Not Ranked: The Tullys are not looking good as Blackfish is dead and Edmure has just handed his ancestral home over to the Freys. The Clegane formerly known as “The Hound” will rank next week if he chooses to attach himself to The Brotherhood or some other worthy cause. Stannis’ Old Crew were not around and seem pretty well out of the game, at least for themselves.

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