Game of Thrones: Episode Eight...Seven Things We Learned
**WARNING: Spoilers for season 6 episode 8**
Oooh…now what to make of THAT helping of “t*its and dragons”?(copyright Septon Ray). Game of Thrones is moving cautiously through the gears and the big end of season pay-offs we’re promised are still in the future. Nonetheless, if you could adjust to the slower tempo, it was an episode of more nuanced pleasures. Here is what we learned.
1 Don’t make the Mountain angry – you don’t like him when he’s angry.
Reborn as Ser Robert Strong, Cersei’s one true Terminator robot has spent the season glowering from behind his faceplate. He sprung into terrifying action here, ripping one of the Sparrows literally down the middle after Lancel had the nerve to attempt to make Cersei do something against her will. It was horrifying obviously – but bittersweet for his mistress, as she discovered that, thanks to the High Sparrow’s interference, she won’t be able to rely on trial by combat – and Ser Clegane – to get her out of trouble after all.
2 Arya passed her test – we think.
Speaking of relentless forces that just can’t be stopped, the Waif was more terrifying than ever as she hunted down the stricken Arya (having niftily killed Lady Crane with just a chair and a leer). But the joke was on her as she and Arya had their final confrontation in a darkened room – a face-off for which the Stark princess had been prepared with her blind fighting training against…the Waif. Back in the House of Black and White, Jaqen H’ghar offered a thin smile of almost-pride as Arya, bloodied yet unbodied, proudly declared herself a Stark and announced she was returning to Westeros. So all along he was training her to become a killing machine the better to aid Rob and Sansa in their fight against the Boltons? It’s a stretch - but what other possibilities present themselves?
3 The Hound’s story is about to get very interesting
The reappearance of resurrection-happy Beric Dondarion at the end of the episode suggested that the returning Hound has a pivotal part to play this season. The Brotherhood Without Banners is to ride north to confront the White Walkers– and it looks as if Sandor Clegane will be at their side. This has fuelled speculation among readers of the George RR Martin novels that another significant and deathless character from the books may be about to appear. But even if Lady Stoneheart is destined to stay on the page, the Hound’s future is ripe with bloody possibilities.
4 Jaime needs a hug.
The Kingslayer was Game of Thrones’s original slithering villain. We were introduced to him as a strutting peacock who slept with his sister and pushed 10 year old Bran out the window to keep the sibling trysts secret. But my how he’s grown and this week we saw the flickering of a decent man behind the cruel facade. He used guile rather than force to win back Riverrun and seemed genuinely regretful to hear the Blackfish had died in combat. That nod he gave to Brienne as she and Pod mooched away was moving too: one battered, bruised warrior saluting another.
5 Tyrion and Daenerys are reunited.
It was all going a bit Blackwater for the Imp as a fleet of invaders showed up at Meereen determined to un-free the slaves. Just as all seemed lost there was a knocking at the door and in walked… the Mother of Dragons, with Drogon watching her back. This was a relief for Tyrion but also for viewers who will have despaired of his toothless plot arc in Essos. Finally, the smartest man in the Seven Kingdoms can go back to using his grey matter.
6 It was an episode about identity.
The Hound had tried to run from the killing machine he truly is and in the end found it impossible. Meanwhile Jaime is at a point in his life where he seems at once regretful of past misdeeds yet determined not to squander all he has achieved. Arya meanwhile has become “No One” by embracing her identity as a Stark. These were deep themes and not always thought fully through. Still, it was fun watching Game of Thrones ask intriguing questions even if it was a bit fuzzy on the answers.
7 Some key participants were absent.
Was Game of Thrones resting its most valuable players this week? No Jon Snow or Sansa while Bran and Littlefinger were also missing in action. Ramsay Bolton, for his part, has been gone so long it is tempting to conclude he’s packed in the psychotic violence and is finding success as Westeros's leading trainer of adorable Rottweilers. It’s just a suspicion but we feel most of the above will be roaring back to our screens next week.