This week, I am switching up the format of this recap by talking about the various plots individually, instead of reacting to each scene as it happens. So many things happened in this episode, but it feels like they were stitched together more messily than usual, so my reactions were incoherently all over the place.
We start off where we ended with last week’s cliffhanger. I kind of guessed that Arya would look for Lady Crane, since she is her only ally in the city after saving her from being poisoned (and giving her acting tips. Her moving performance is probably the only time that anyone cried about Joffrey’s death.) And I felt relieved when she patched her up, because I thought Arya now has time to recover and strike back against the horrible girl. But the Waif appeared again in the morning, vengeful and smirking, killing Lady Crane cruelly and causing Arya to run fearfully for her life.
That chase scene was so intense; I was so afraid that the show would do what it always does and kill off another beloved character in a shocking fashion. I was ready to be upset that Arya’s story was going to end without her having accomplished anything notable, despite us having spent so much time with her and her revenge mission against the people who killed and wronged her family, and almost two whole seasons of assassin training. But the show decided not to go down that road, and Arya was able to defeat that irritating girl at last, and add her bloody face to the Hall of Faces (while looking perfectly uninjured, even though she reopened her wounds earlier).
The only thing I don’t understand is why A Man looked so satisfied when Arya declared that she was who she was and walked away. Was all this some sick test that he was putting her through all along? Or was he acknowledging that her will was stronger than the Many Faced God’s?
I’m glad Arya did not kill him though. His mysterious sage-like role and his penchant for speaking enigmatically in third party nouns makes him one of the most interesting characters in the show. (Kind of like Yoda in Star Wars.)
Next, The Hound. His return (and his zingers) were welcome bright spots in this episode, since he’s almost the only one who gets to do anything satisfying. He chops one of the murdering twats’ dick from between his legs — serves that guy right for having the sick humour of jamming his unwelcomed finger up another man’s shithole as though it’s not the most unhygienic thing in the world. Gross! — while snarking: “You’re shit at dying, you know that?” Then he comes across Beric Dondarrion and gang (whom I did not remember as the men who helped Arya and Gendry until a while later), who are hanging the three besmirchers of the Brotherhood’s name, and demands to extract his revenge, all the while perfectly unfazed at seeing a supposedly dead man alive again. Beric forbids him from hacking them to death though, so it’s not as gratifying, but this newly reborn Hound has mellowed somewhat and agrees to their terms instead of slaughtering them all. Later, the Brotherhood persuades him to join their fight against the White Walkers. (Which begs the question: *Does* the Hound believe in the threat of the White Walkers? I don’t recall him mentioning or coming across anyone who has been in touch with them zombies.)
Then we go to Meereen, where Tyrion and Varys are walking along the once more bustling streets. Tyrion is smug that he seems to have brokered some peace, while Varys is skeptical about his actions being the right course. He leaves for a secret mission to Westeros while saying a rather portent farewell. I hope we see him again. Varys doesn’t seem too hopeful about the outcome of his mission though.
After that, Tyrion celebrates the peace by making merry with Missandei and Grey Worm, the latter two drinking and telling jokes for the first time. Unfortunately, their revels are cut short by the ringing of warning bells and the appearance of thousands of the Masters’ ships who have come to take back the city. By nightfall, Dany’s followers are besieged and holed up in the pyramid when suddenly, the ceiling shakes! I guessed that it must be Dany, because who else other than a dragon could land on top of the pyramid? And I was right: Dany has finally returned home after being gone for most of the season! Hopefully, we will see her deliver the city from its enslaving Masters once and for all with her brand spanking new Dothraki army (version 2).
Back to the frankly boring events at King’s Landing. It’s livened up a little when the Faith Militant try to force Cersei out of the Red Keep, and Cersei finally has the chance to set the Mountain on them. The Faith Militant act fearless, but the sight of the Mountain literally ripping off the head of one of their own cannot help but instill fear in them. (I wonder why they did not try to attack him all at one shot.)
To counter the might of the Mountain, Tommen then makes an announcement — at an event that Cersei was not informed of, but attends anyway — that her and Loras’ trials will not only be pushed forward, trial by combat will be outlawed. (I am really getting tired of Tommen and his easily manipulation by the High Sparrow. He is so weak!) Cersei is being squeezed into a tighter and tighter corner with her enemies increasing, her allies in court down to almost none, and her son practically abandoning her. I predict her death before long. Yet she seems to have a trump card. What is this rumour that she and Qyburn speak of?!
Meanwhile, Brienne and Podrick arrive at Riverrun, and Brienne sees Jaime from afar. They are discovered by Lannister soldiers and she asks to see him. Inside Jaime’s tent, they have a highly charged conversation with many longing looks exchanged and feelings unvoiced (while outside, Bronn has no such reservations as he reconnects with/rags on Podrick and candidly observes the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Brienne and Jaime). Jaime gives Brienne a chance to talk the Blackfish down into going to Sansa’s aid, unmolested, in exchange for giving up Riverrun, but the Blackfish refuses to give up his ancestral home without a fight. Brienne looks heartbroken at the prospect of failing (and having to face Jaime in battle), but it never comes to that. Jaime pressurises Edmure into using his status as the rightful Lord of Riverrun to get his men to stand down and surrender, and his loyal (and soon-to-be-betrayed) soldiers do so, against the wishes of the Blackfish who rightly guessed Jaime’s motive for setting Edmure free.
The scene of the Tully soldiers surrendering their home without a fight while the Lannister army marches in and steps on their banners and emblems is the saddest part of the episode. Edmure is a coward, but was he right to save his men from unnecessary bloodshed in the face of Jaime’s determination? I don’t know. The Blackfish helps Brienne and Podrick to escape, before turning to face his enemies and dies fighting (offscreen). Was it worth it? Should he have left with Brienne and Podrick to aid Sansa, and live to fight another day? That’s the problem with men of honour — it’s frustrating that they refuse to stand down, and therefore get killed when they could be put to better use elsewhere (especially in this show, because there is seldom anyone will come to save them). But if they didn’t, we wouldn’t respect them as much.
Jaime sees their boat and he and Brienne wave a silent farewell. It may be their last civil one.