Game of Thrones 6.8: “I’m going home”
Several plans don’t work out and people reveal themselves to be the people we always thought they were this week on Game of Thrones. Thematically this is a rich episodes that pays off years of character work, but dramatically, man, some of these storylines feel like such a f*cking waste of time—Riverrun is the biggest letdown since Dorne. Likewise, the return of the Hound ends with him hooking up with the Brotherhood Without Banners, which could have been achieved in one scene titled: “The Hound recuperates with the Brotherhood, and joins them.” Ian McShane is great and all, but did we really NEED the Westeros hippie episode?
Similarly, the entire Riverrun/Blackfish plot existed for no other reason than to get Brienne and Jaime in a room together again, sometime after they last saw each other. Has it been years? It’s been a while, at least. And I can’t help but think if the show was a little less beholden to the books, we could have skipped a lot of the Riverrun stuff, given that it amounted to only two useful scenes. (The sixth book isn’t out yet, I can hear you saying. But you know David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know how it will go, and the weaker points of this season, of which Riverrun is one, really feels like adhering to someone else’s script and not taking as big a liberty as they could have.)
All that sturm und drang over the Tully home amounts to naught as Edmure Tully accepts a deal from Jaime to be reinstated as the lord of the Riverlands, but only if he turns over Riverrun to Lannister rule. We wasted time on the Blackfish, but what we do get from this plot is the end of any potential Jaime Lannister redemption. He is not to be redeemed. He may respect Brienne of Tarth—he may even be her friend, in a politics-free zone—but the man she believes he can be is not a man he is interested in being.
Thematically, the payoff to the Jaime/Brienne arc is tremendous. Jaime had a door opened to him, he had a path to being someone other than the Kingslayer, but his love for Cersei trumps everything else in his life. His fanatical devotion to Cersei is, indeed, what scares Edmure into obedience. Jaime will see everyone around him dead before he fails Cersei. The pockets of decency in Jaime don’t outweigh that streak of selfish madness. He’s not going to be a romantic hero who rides off on adventure. Jaime Lannister is the Kingslayer, the fist of the Lannisters, and I have the horrible feeling his story will end at the point of Brienne’s sword. She is the dispenser of justice, after all, and Jaime is willing to do terrible things.
In Meereen Tyrion’s plan is another failure, as the masters sail back to reclaim their property, as Missandei says. We get one delightful scene of Tyrion trying to get Missandei and Greyworm to tell jokes, which highlights the staggering lack of perception Tyrion has for people outside his realm of understanding. Though it is a really funny scene—Greyworm burns!—it foreshadows his inability to correctly read the situation with the masters. Missandei and Greyworm, who do know that world, were right all along, and attempting peace with them was pointless. Fortunately, Daenerys shows up just in time, though the battle is postponed until a future episode.
We’re also putting off Cersei’s trial and whatever Margaery is going to do in King’s Landing (dubbed on Twitter as the “Rose Vine Restoration”). We get the trailer-teased “I choose violence” moment as the Mountain tears a guy’s head off, but then Tommen declares no more trial by combat, which means Cersei will have to go to old-fashioned tribunal court. But so will Loras, and I assume Margaery will have something to say about that. Maybe. No one else’s plans are working out so far.
(In keeping with that theme, the long-awaited Battle of the Bastards is next week. I think we’ve all been assuming that, however brutal it may be, the Starks will win and Sansa will reclaim Winterfell. But…what if they don’t? It’s really feeling like everyone but Daenerys is about to suffer a tremendous loss. And the only reason Daenerys won’t is because she has dragons and that’s basically cheating.)
The only person who actually wins a battle this week, besides the Mountain, is Arya Stark, of Winterfell. She squares off with the Waif and wins, although we don’t actually get to see it. But she delivers the Waif’s face to the House of Black and White, and though Jaqen H’Gar proclaims her “no one”, Arya reclaims her name and is heading home to Westeros. Jaqen seems pleased, which begs the question if he always knew Arya wasn’t going to go full-faceless, and he was in, in his own strange way, teaching her what she would need to know to make it as a warrior. Syrio Forel taught Arya how to dance, but Jaqen taught her how to choreograph. The next steps are hers.