Arya Stark is no longer No One! A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and she’s going home. So Arya tells Jaqen, moments after unveiling a fresh decoration in the Temple of the Many-Faced God: the newly severed head of The Waif.
Of course, she had it coming, and surely of all the 2016 television beheadings, this was one of the most deserved.
Having last week been stabbed in the gut by said Waif, Arya found sufferance this week in the abode of Lady Crane, the actress whose death she had formerly been tasked with and declined.
The Waif, having taken it upon herself to terminate the unfortunate Lady Crane, chases Arya through the city, until in a dimly lit room their final confrontation is nigh.
The fact that we never see the last fight between Arya and The Waif has been in its aftermath labelled by some anticlimactic. While this may have some truth to it, the reveal in which Jaqen discovers her head would never have been as effective were we privy to it first. Secondly, for a show that rarely shies away from violence, the decision to forgo the gruesome details in favour of imagination shows a welcome degree of restraint.
In any case, it was a fantastic payoff to a storyline which has been at times unduly static in its repetitions. After all her travails, Arya is now rewarded with an implacable cool, roughly equivalent to The Fonz, if the The Fonz were a teenaged girl who routinely engaged in sword fights and chopped off the heads of the people who crossed him.
In other events this week, Brienne and Podrick (and his apparently mystical penis) arrived at Riverrun looking to recruit The Blackfish and the Tully army for Sansa’s raid on Winterfell. Brienne’s recruitment drive runs into complications, however, due to Jaime Lannister and his siege on the Tully castle and the army trapped inside. After proposing to Jaime that she can negotiate with The Blackfish in exchange for the safe passage of his men, Brienne tries and fails to do so.
Subsequently, after Edmure Tully ridicules Jaime’s past misdeeds and calls him ridiculously good-looking, Jaime threatens Edmure’s estranged wife and child, convincing him to enter the castle and order the men to stand down. He does so, and in the ensuing fray, The Blackfish is killed, leaving Jaime free to return to King’s Landing and resume pollinating his sister.
Meanwhile, waiting for Jaime’s return, Cersei learns that due to a new edict by King Tommen, her impending trial will not be allowed to take place via combat as she had hoped. And in Meereen, the Mother of Dragons finally makes her return to the city.
While the denouement to Arya’s current story arc was the obvious highlight of this week’s generally excellent episode, Jaime and Brienne’s current plots seemed to curiously stagnate. Jaime’s siege ended bloodlessly, leaving him to go back home without much ado, and Brienne’s attempts to recruit the Tully army failed, sending her fruitlessly back to Sansa Stark. So while not entirely purposeless, we have two diversions that while entertaining, went essentially nowhere.
In Jaime’s case, what we got was reaffirmation of his commitment to Cersei, and a reminder of his behaviour in earlier seasons, re-establishing if anything the paradox of his honourable ruthlessness. Brienne’s failure, if nothing else, sets an importunate tone for next week’s episode, titled ‘Battle of the Bastards’, and it will be interesting to see how the Starks fair with what is thus far a pitiable fighting force. Expect Ramsay Bolton, refortified by dead babies and pork sausage, to be in particularly malicious form!
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10