The big battle will come next week, as the bastards Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton will duke it out for Winterfell. This week's potential battle in Riverrun turned out to be no battle at all. And speaking of no battle at all, King Tommen outlawing trial-by-combat is a bit disappointing but perhaps a bit of a relief for those of us still suffering from PTSD after seeing Oberyn Martell's head exploded by The Mountain. But tonight's most definitive moment was Arya reclaiming her Stark-ness.

As always, check out Alyssa Rosenberg's review on Act Four. If there's a Facebook Live episode at 2 p.m., it will be Alyssa on her own, but we will both be there to talk about the last two episodes.

No more No One, she is Arya Stark
There was probably a more direct, less painful, more logical and certainly less time-consuming path to rediscovering her commitment to family, but at least Arya Stark realizes that she is, in fact, Arya Stark and can be done with the Many-Faced God. And we can all be done with The Waif, whose mean mug will now be hung in the rafters of the Hall of Faces for eternity.


And this final act in Braavos actually played out in a pretty straightforward manner. After a week full of theories about Arya's fate after getting stabbed by Waif — it was really Jaqen H'Ghar disguised as Arya who got stabbed, Waif was just a "Fight Club"-like self-illusion to Arya (uh, "Fight Club" spoiler alert, I guess?) — it turns out that Arya really did just get stabbed pretty good. Thankfully for her, Lady Crain, the kind actress whose life Arya saved finds her hiding in her dressing room and takes her back to her apartment to help heal. She fixes her up with some nasty soup but some crucial milk of the poppy, and Arya dozes off in seconds.

Lady Crain checks on her the next morning, and that's the last thing she does because Waif is creeping in the apartment and kills her. Arya hears the disturbance and finds Waif standing over Crain's body. "The Many-Faced God was promised a name," Waif says. "Now he's promised another name," she adds. Arya knows that name is hers, so she leaps to the street from the apartment, setting off a very "Terminator 2"/"Matrix"-type chase through the streets of Braavos. Every time Arya thinks she puts a little daylight between herself and Waif, Waif is right back on her tail. Arya's moving pretty well for someone about 24 hours removed from multiple stomach stab wounds, but she's finally felled by some fruit. Well, more like she falls into some fruit, but she takes a tough tumble down a lot of stairs and the produce doesn't exactly break her fall.

But she's able to scamper to the tucked away, candle-lit room where she's hidden her old sword, Needle, and to lure Waif there. Waif thinks this is going to be an easy kill — "It will all be over soon," she tells Arya, but Arya has a trick up her sleeve. With Needle in hand, Arya slashes the candle, plunging the room into darkness. And it just so happens that she has plenty of experience in fighting without sight thanks to her blind spell earlier this season.


Back at the House of Black and White, Jaqen H'ghar is doing his usual somber shuffling around when he sees a trail of blood leading into the Hall of Faces. He follows it to find Waif (minus eyeballs) among the dead. Arya confronts Jaqen: "You told her to kill me." "Yes," Jaqen replies. "But here you are. And there she is. Finally, a girl is No One."

"A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I am going home," she responds. And proceeds to walk out. Deuces, Jaqen, Hall of Faces, Many-Faced God. We hope to never seen you again.

Jaime Lannister takes Riverrun, Brienne's heart
Riverrun is the sight of a standoff but also some emotional reunions. Jaime Lannister and the Lannister army are already camped out at the castle of Riverrun, hoping to do what the incompetent Frey kids couldn't do and take the castle back from Brynden "Blackfish" Tully. Brienne and Podrick show up on a different mission — to convince Blackfish to take his Tully forces North to join up with Sansa and Jon for their impending battle against Ramsay Bolton. This conversion of characters leads to some touching reunions.


First up — Bronn and Podrick. They catch up outside the tent where Jaime and Brienne are catching up, but Bronn thinks they may be more to their meeting than simply "catching up." "The way she looks at him … the way all women look at him is frankly irritating," Bronn tells Pod, noting that working with Jaime's little brother was better on that front. To pass the time, Bronn tells Pod he's going to teach him "a different sort of fighting" and rule number one is a keeper: assume everyone wants to hit you.

As entertaining as their encounter is, it doesn't quite provide the same amount of emotional sparks as Brienne and Jaime's encounter. For all the time we've spent shipping Tormund and Brienne, the Brienne/Jaime relationship seems much more authentic. The two of them quickly realize that they have conflicting missions at Riverrun. "We shouldn't argue about politics," Jaime tells her, which I wish he would tell everyone on my Facebook feed. Brienne asks Jaime if she can agree to get Blackfish to abandon the castle and return North with her, if he will provide safe passage. Jaime says yes, but only gives her until nightfall to make it happen. Brienne also tries to return Jaime's sword (named Oathkeeper by Brienne) that he had gifted to her a few seasons ago to aid in her efforts to rescue Sansa Stark, but he refuses. (This was a sword Tywin forged out of an old Stark sword, one of those rare Valyrian steel swords that somehow don't seem all that rare these days.) They say their goodbyes knowing that if Blackfish doesn't back down and there's a battle, they will fight against each other. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Jaime says. Brienne walks out before things get really emotional.

Blackfish is as stubborn as Jaime promises he would be and refuses to leave the castle or return to the North. Brienne hands him the letter from Sansa — "she's exactly like her mother," Blackfish notes — before saying that even if he wanted to help, his army isn't big enough to help take Winterfell. "She wants her home back, I understand that. But this is my home. And if Jaime Lannister wants it he can bloody well take it the way everyone else does."

Even though Brienne failed in her mission, that doesn't mean there must be bloodshed. Jaime visits Lord Edmure and gives him a good talking to, and even though the kid has been through a lot — imprisoned since his wedding day, never even seen his son, etc. — he seems like a bit of a pill. Edmure lobs a bunch of insults Jaime's way, calling him an evil man, asking how he lives with himself. Jaime counters with a story about being held captive by Catelyn (Edmure's sister) and how he didn't hate her, he admired her. Particularly her complete devotion to her children, which reminded him of Cersei. "You didn't come here to talk about our sisters," Edmure sneers, but he's completely wrong. Jaime admits his undying love for his sister and his desire to get back to her at King's Landing. And to do that he must take Riverrun, and if he has to slaughter every Tully that ever lived to get back to her, that's what he'll do.

It's a convincing threat, because soon enough Edmure is doing Jaime's dirty work by convincing those in the castle to let him (their rightful lord) in. Blackfish knows it's all a ploy ("it's a trap, you idiot," he says in his best Admiral Ackbar voice) but soon enough Edmure is back in his castle and orders his men to lay down their arms and let the Lannister army take over, which is exactly what they do, draping their banners on the walls. Brienne and Pod find a rowboat to escape and try to convince Blackfish to head North with them. He refuses; he also apparently dies although we don't see it on screen. (That's two offscreen deaths, if you're counting, between him and Waif.) As Jaime takes command of the castle, he seems Brienne and Podrick sailing away; Jaime and Brienne share an emotional wave with each other.

Out: Trials by combat, In: Vague rumors

Cersei Lannister's allies are at an all-time low. It's basically her, Robo-Mountain and the dangerous/brilliant Qyburn. When Lancel Lannister sends for Cersei at the request of the High Septon and Cersei refuses, Lancel does not take kindly to this, bringing members of the Faith Militant to take her by force. "Order your man to step aside or there will be violence," Lancel says, with that "man" being not actually a man, but Robo-Mountain. "I choose violence," Cersei replies, with one of the most famous lines of the season, even before it was officially said. One of the puny Faith members drives an axe into Robo-Mountain's armor and it barely makes a dent. Robo-Mountain responds by choke-slamming this poor soul and then (of course) viciously dislodging the guy's head from the rest of his body. Cersei and Qyburn look on with perverse delight.


Cersei was likely thinking, that bodes well for my trial by combat, who could ever compete with my Robo-Mountain? Except about that… when Cersei and the rest of the King's Landing VIPs are summoned into the Throne Room for a royal announcement, King Tommen tells the assembled that there will be no more trials by combat. There are now forbidden throughout the Seven Kingdoms, seen as a scheme to avoid true judgment by the gods. Trial by seven septons is now the law of the land, and that's how Cersei and Loras Tyrell's trials will go down. This is bad news for Cersei (and potentially bad news for those lusting for the Clegane Bowl) but Cersei is cheered up when Qyburn informs her that there was more to the rumor he was investigating. Much, more more.

So this rumor … secret stashes of wildfire hidden in King's Landing? Something to do with Gendry? Something else entirely? The official Theory Watchers of the Internet seem to like the wildfire idea, but they have been known to be wrong plenty before.

The Hound is still a vicious killing machine
It didn't take long for The Hound to rediscover his lust for taking other people's lives. Upon finding four randos in the forest, he axes their guts out (quite literally) in a matter of seconds, while managing to trash talk them as well. Later on he meets up with the two most "oh come on, don't tell me I have to remember these dudes" characters in the entire series, I'd argue — Beric Dondarrian and Thoros of Myr. Hasn't it been three years since we've seen them?, you might ask. Yes, yes it has. The short version is that they are Lord of the Light devotees/Brotherhood Without Banners and Beric (eyepatch guy) has been resurrected so many times that he probably heard about Jon Snow and just yawned. Last time he and The Hound crossed paths, they battled it out in a trial by combat (ah, the good ol' days) after Arya accused The Hound of murder.

Hound and Beric bond by killing the men who took out Hound's old crew, and Hound even gets a new pair of boots out of the deal by taking them off the feet of a man writhing to death in a noose. The Brotherhood tries to recruit The Hound and of course he's skeptical because that is his natural state. He doesn't say no and for now they are the only crew he's got. Just too bad they don't have any chicken.

Khaleesi gets dropped off in Meereen
Things seem to be going well in Meereen, until they're not. Tyrion is basking in the afterglow of diplomacy done right, as he and Varys stroll to the delightful sounds of Lord of the Light priestesses telling their followers that Daenerys is the leader they should be following. Tyrion is sad to see Varys go, but he must sail off in search of ships to help the eventual invasion of Westeros that Dany is planning.


Certainly Tyrion will miss talking with the one person who could match wits with him, as Missandei and Grey Worm just aren't up the task. They do loosen up when Tyrion convinces them to drink some wine and tell some jokes. Missandei explains to Grey Worm that a joke is "like a story, but not a true story." Unfortunately for them fun time is interrupted when they look outside and see dozens of ships sailing into the bay. "The masters have come for their property," Missandei says.

Soon enough there's an all-out attack on the city, with the ships sending firebombs toward the great pyramid. Tyrion's diplomacy turned out to be ill-informed and now Grey Worm is in charge. He recommends staying in the pyramid and defending it instead of sending soldiers to fight on the beach. But right when they think the invaders have made it into the pyramid, there's a pleasant surprise — it's just Daenerys, returning to her people, as Drogon flaps away in the background. Hey Drogon, before you disappear, how about scorching a hundred or so ships you see in the water?