Game of Thrones 6×08 ‘No One’: Who you are

Source: HBO
Game of Thrones has been spending the whole season digging into notions of identity.  Characters have pieces of themselves stripped away until theyre not sure what is left.  Other characters further define themselves in the wake of having lost so much, building themselves back up from the ground.  As we move closer to the endgame of the series, we’re seeing characters transitioning into the final stages of their journey.  What have the events of the series done to the characters, and how are they turning out as a result?  Its this positioning of the characters that really emphasizes how close we are to the end, as major conflicts are coming to a head as a result of it all.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

While “No One” isnt the most riveting episode (we’ll get to that in a bit), it does funnel the characters around the idea of identity.  Arya, as the one that the episode is named around, finally defeats the Waif and reclaims her identity as Arya Stark of Winterfell. Conversely, The Hound regresses into his usual feral self after losing the spiritual group he had joined, now slaughtering men in the Brotherhood without Banners.  Cersei loses more of herself as her son turns in a very final way against her.  And Jaime struggles with being “the villain”, wreaking havoc on Riverrun simply because he was told to.  Nobody is necessarily happy about their place in the world, aside from Arya, who has finally figured out how to be herself once more.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

Arya’s story is meant to be the most fulfilling of the bunch, as she is the one that reclaims a sense of identity by killing the Waif and setting herself free.  She has struggled with wanting to run away from her identity for a long time, not necessarily because she’s ashamed, but because there’s a certain pain that comes with being a Stark.  The Starks have been essentially decimated as a family.  Only two Starks are really together at the moment, and that came after five seasons of waiting.  To be a Stark is to be in pain, and Arya is sick of being a victim.  So when she faces off against the Waif, she finds within her the strength to assert her identity and find pride in her pain, just the way that Sansa has been able to channel her own pain and turn it into strength.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

The Lannisters, on the other hand, can’t seem to catch a break.  Cersei has invested so much of herself in her children, but has seen two of them die so far, her only remaining child having completely turned against her, brainwashed by the High Sparrow.  She tries to worm her way out of losing her trial, but her son bans trials by combat, effectively giving her a death sentence.  She has completely lost the one thing that gave her purpose in life, and losing that connection with identity can push people to make drastic decisions.  Jaime is also going through an identity crisis, as he wants to see himself as a good man that cares for his family, but he’s tearing apart other families in order to support his own; he’s “being the villain”, as Edmure puts it.  After forcing the Blackfish from Riverrun, stomping out the Tullys, he starts to reflect on the damage that hes doing.  The Blackfish, in a way, exemplifies what happens when you adhere so intently to an identity.  Hes so stuck on the idea of being a Tully and being in the Tully home that he ends up dying for it.

Source: HBO

Source: HBO

So with the thematic connectivity of the episode, how come it’s not as good as some of the other episodes this season?  Some of that comes from how rushed some of the plot points are, such as Arya’s struggle with the Waif, a person that doesnt really have an identity to cling onto.  Some of that comes from how stories like Jaime and the Hound in the Riverlands don’t have a whole lot of connection to the rest of the plotting.  Some stories, like Euron this season, are so slight and so minimal that they dont feel like they have much connection to the main story.  Once everything. Omes together a little better, the show will certainly pick up and feel more connected, but right now plots like Sam and Euron and the Hound are just a little disconnected, more like fan service than anything else.

But the rest of the season is still fairly promising.  The next episode looks to be as vicious and intense as anything the show has offered so far, and the finale (with a name like “The Winds of Winter”) is sure to be a gamechanger.  As the show moves closer to the end, however, it would be smart to remember that spreading the storylines further is only going to make it difficult for it all to come back together at the end.  It may be fun to bring back the Hound (he is my favorite character), and it may be fun to see Euron antagonize Yara and Theon, but it all has to come together at some point.  Better sooner than later.
What did you think of “No One”?  Are you excited for Arya to finally be an assassin?  Let me know in the comments!
Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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