Spoiler Warning for the Season 8, Episode 2 of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all previous episodes of the series.
“We’re all going to die, but at least we die together.”
Here we are at the end of the great game…and maybe at the end of the world. On the eve of a showdown between the living and the dead, the characters of “Game of Thrones” make their peace with one another and conclude many of their long-standing arcs. This much needed calm before the storm is a rewarding and emotional character study of the warriors before they defend Winterfell.
Following his arrival and the cliffhanger stare down with Bran, Jaime is brought before Daenerys and the other leaders at Winterfell for a trial of sorts. Dany speaks to him and explains that her brother used to tell her stories of how they would kill the man who killed their father once they made it back to Westeros. She also questions why Cersei has not sent her army, something that she promised last season in the finale. Tyrion steps forward and defends his brother, but Dany makes an assumption that he may be secretly conspiring to sabotage and kill her. Sansa adds to the conversation by noting that Jaime betrayed Ned in King’s Landing and also worked to destroy House Stark. Jaime makes it absolutely clear that the things he did were the result of him trying to save his own house during a time of war. Bran follows that up by repeating Jaime’s iconic line from the first episode when he pushed Bran out the window, “the things we do for love.” The look on Jaime’s face is one of shock and worry that Bran remembers what happened in that tower all those years ago. There’s a massively powerful moment as Brienne steps up and addresses the leaders and vouches for Jaime, citing the fact that he has saved her life and defended her multiple times. She also mentions the fact that he sent Brienne to go and protect Sansa because he swore an oath to Catelyn. Because of her faith and trust in Brienne, Sansa proclaims that Jaime should be allowed to stay in Winterfell. After Jon provides some input in Jaime’s favor, Dany makes the decision to grant him permission to stay. After leaving the throne room, Dany begins accusing Tyrion of being either a traitor or fool in regards to him not predicting Cersei’s betrayal. It is abundantly clear from Tyrion that he realizes the error of his ways in trusting Cersei, and even suggests to Varys and Jorah that they may be replacing him as Hand of the Queen soon enough. This is just one case of many where Dany acts rather irrationally and seems to potentially turn people away.
Gendry and others find themselves hard at work producing weapons forged out of dragonglass for the coming battle. Arya stops by to check in and see if Gendry has made the weapon she requested in the premiere. There is some mild flirting that turns to discussion of Gendry’s experience fighting the wights during his excursion “Beyond the Wall.” The best word Gendry has use to describe the soldiers in the Army of the Dead is “death.” In a truly badass scene, Arya throws dragonglass knives at a post while talking about how she knows about death and “its many faces,” a reference to her time training with the Faceless Men. Under the weirwood tree, Bran sits and stares as he does. Jaime slowly approaches him before apologizing for pushing him out the window, noting that he has changed significantly over the years. Bran states that had that not happened, neither of them would be where they are now. He doesn’t outright say it, but since Bran is now the Three Eyed-Raven, he doesn’t feel the anger that he once did and now is fully aware at how important it is to have Jaime fighting on the side of the living. In the center of Winterfell, Jaime also checks in with Tyrion and they discuss the fact that they really aren’t welcomed here and neither is Dany. Tyrion questions if Cersei was also lying about being pregnant, but Jaime states that it is the truth. There is a fantastic line from Tyrion in which he states that Jaime always knew what kind of person Cersei is, but yet he stood beside and loved her anyway. There’s an excellent callback as Tyrion repeats his line ” I always pictured myself dying in my own bed at the age of 80 with a belly full of wine and a girl’s mouth around my cock.” Tyrion gets introspective here as he notes that even though he will likely be dying, at least Cersei won’t get the satisfaction of killing him. He even suggests that after he is killed and turned into an undead soldier, perhaps he will travel down to King’s Landing and kill his sister himself. This is a rather unsettling statement as it definitely could end up happening with how things are going.
Outside the walls of Winterfell, the countless soldiers train and prepare for the coming battle. Brienne observes as Podrick spars with another fighter, clearly having improved significantly over the years. Jaime joins Brienne and she goes over her combat strategy for leading a flank of soldiers. She notes that it is unusual for them to have conversation without him insulting her. In a truly touching moment, Jaime offers to fight under Brienne’s command, clearly trusting of her to lead them through battle. In the castle, Jorah comes to speak with Dany about Tyrion being Hand of the Queen. In a rather surprising development from Jorah, he actually defends Tyrion to Dany and states that she should forgive his mistakes just as she did for himself. This is especially interesting considering Tyrion and Jorah have their own bumpy past as they traveled from Volantis to Meereen in Season 5. Dany then goes to speak with Sansa, interrupting a meeting she is having with Lord Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart). The two discuss Sansa’s trust in Brienne, and Dany expresses her desire to be able to trust her advisors as much as Sansa does. This prompts Sansa to defend Tyrion against this bizarre pettiness from Dany, noting that she herself never should have trusted Cersei’s word. There’s another odd line from Dany about her putting aside her lifelong dream of taking the Iron Throne to come and fight “Jon’s war” thousands of miles away. This line is problematic, because she still doesn’t seem to acknowledge that this is also her war seeing as how she has witnesses the Army of the Dead in action and even lost a dragon, one of her children, to them. Why is this not more personal for her? There’s a great little bit of dialogue in which Dany states that Jon is the second person in her life that she can trust with her life, the first being someone taller, a reference to Khal Drogo, but also an inside joke about Kit Harington’s real life height. While their is a brief moment of solidarity between the two leaders, it quickly unravels as Sansa advocates for the North to be free once Dany take the Iron Throne. This doesn’t seem to be in Dany’s plans even though she previously said that she wouldn’t force people to bend the knee to her.
In a string of many moments of pure emotion, Dany and Sansa enter the throne room to find that Theon has arrived at Winterfell. He updates them on the fact that Yara is headed to the Iron Islands to reclaim them for Dany. He pledges his complete support to Dany and offers to fight for Winterfell. A tearful Sansa rushes into his arms, allowing the two to have a much-needed moment of reunification since they parted ways at the start of Season 6, just after escaping from House Bolton’s controlled Winterfell. There’s another brilliant emotional moment as Davos serves food to many of the new fighters, one of which is extremely reluctant to join in the battle. Davos inspires the man by stating that he survived the Battle of the Bastards, even though he himself is not a fighter. Nearby, Gilly instructs several women to the Crypts and suggests that they will be the safest place to be. A young girl steps up to be served by Davos and asks where she should be during the fighting. Rather than direct her, Davos asks what she wants to do. Both her brothers were soldiers and she wants to fight as well. Gilly steps in and explains that she and Little Sam would feel far safer if she is defending the Crypts. This brief moment really highlights the importance of honor and sacrifice that those living in this world carry, as well as the price of war and the inclusion of children in the fight. The sound of a single horn blast sends word to everyone that rangers are returning, and Jon rushes out to reunite with some old friends. He spots Edd and the surviving members of the Night’s Watch arriving, walking over to greet them only to be interceded by Tormund who hugs his “little crow.” They update Jon on what they saw at the Last Hearth and that the Army of the Dead will be arriving before the sun comes up the next morning. With a solid timetable, things get even more dire as the undead closes in.
In the war room, Jon gathers with each of the leaders and battle commanders to discuss strategy over a map of Winterfell. It is clear to everyone that they are completely outnumbered and cannot defeat the entire army, but Jon posits that they try to go for the Night King seeing as he is the one who turned everyone. Bran joins in an explains that the Night King will try to kill him, seeing as how he did so with many previous Three Eyed-Ravens as a method of wiping away humanity and history. Noting that the Night King can track him via the mark he left on him, Bran states that he will be used as bait to lure the leader out into the open. Bran will be in the godswood during the battle, and Theon offers to protect him alongside the Ironborn. This is truly an incredible way for Theon’s story to come full circle as he points out that he took Winterfell from Bran and now has the opportunity to defend it for him. Additionally, Dany basically resigns Tyrion to the Crypt, where she believes his mind will be safest; he obviously counters this by stating that he has battle experience. There’s a huge unknown factor as Arya questions if dragon fire will kill the Night King, but even Bran doesn’t know seeing as how no one has ever tried. Jon suggests that everyone try to get some sleep before the fighting ensues, leaving Tyrion alone to listen to Bran tell the full strange journey he has had up to this point. Outside, Missandei tries to speak with some Winterfell children, but they scatter, clearly distrustful of outsiders like herself. Grey Worm comes to speak to her about their plans for after Daenerys takes the Iron Throne. Rather than staying in Winterfell or Westeros at all, Missandei wishes to return home to Naath and see the beaches where she grew up. Grey Worm promises to bring her there and protect her when it’s all said and done. This is truly a sweet moment between the two, but the fact that this conversation happened at all means one or both is likely to meet their end in the battle. It’s not fair, but when has this show ever been fair?
Night falls and Jon stands atop the wall with Sam and Ghost (who makes his first appearance in who knows how long). Edd joins them and chillingly says “and now our watch begins” as the trio reminisces about where their stories began, mentioning their fallen friends Grenn and Pyp. It’s down to the three of them and they’re ready to fight for one another, even Sam who is offered a spot in the Crypt to protect Gilly and Little Sam. This is not what Sam wants though as he reminds everyone that he is the first person to kill a White Walker and needs to be out on the battlefield. Elsewhere, the Hound sits by himself before being joined by Arya. This scene also allows for great reflection on how much these characters evolved as the Hound points out that Arya used to talk nonstop, but is now silent. Citing the fact that the Hound has been helping numerous causes lately, Arya questions when he decided to start helping people. Beric joins the two and there’s an interesting moment in which Arya mentions that he was once on her list, but only temporarily. Realizing these two are too depressing to be around in her final hours, Arya leaves to practice her archery; a callback to her excellency at this skill in the first episode. Gendry spies on her from the darkness before presenting her with the weapon she requested, a dragonglass spear. After asking what Melisandre did to him, Arya learns that Gendry is the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Things get…heated as Arya begins questioning him about his body count and experience with women before telling him that she doesn’t want to die a virgin. They ultimately begin making out before stripping off their clothes to have sex off screen. In a series that has many instances of rape and forced marriages, this is one case of purely fun and consensual sex between two individuals who believe themselves to be at the end of their lives.
A superb dynamic forms as Tyrion and Jaime sit before a burning fireplace. Tyrion expresses his wish that their father were here to see his sons about to fight for Winterfell. The two discuss just how far they’ve come since they first set foot in the Winterfell castle all the way back in the first episode. Brienne and Podrick join the brothers, as does Davos and Tormund. It is with this unexpected band of pals that Tormund decides to tell the story of how get got his name Giantsbane. When he was ten, Tormund killed a giant, slept with and was breastfed by the wife. He posits that giant’s milk is what made him so strong before proceeding to chug milk in a hilariously awkward moment as Brienne and the others look on in confusion. Tyrion points out the fact that everyone in the room once fought the Starks, but are now here defending their castle. He makes a strong point that the number of battles everyone has survived is some reason to believe they might make it out alive here. The conversation turns to the fact that Brienne is not a knight due to the tradition of women not being allowed that title. Tormund literally says “fuck tradition,” and Jaime notes that a knight may make another knight. The absolute best moment of the episode comes as Jaime pulls out his sword and tells Brienne to kneel, formally bestowing the title of knight upon her. It’s an undeniably powerful moment as Brienne rises with tears in her eyes as everyone in the room claps and cheers for her. After everything she has been through, she is so deserving of this.
Meanwhile, outside of the castle Jorah desperately tries to convince Lady Mormont to ride out the battle with the others in the Crypt. We all know that is never going to happen and Lady Mormont declares loudly and proudly that she will be fighting alongside everyone else. Sam steps forward to speak with Jorah and offers him his family’s sword, mentioning Jeor Mormont as an integral figure in his life. Considering the fact that Jon now wields Longclaw, it is fitting that Jorah is given another treasured sword to wield in this battle. The episode transitions into a montage of the characters in their final moments before the battle kicks off with Podrick singing “Jenny’s Song.” Sam and Gilly lay in bed with Little Sam, Theon and Sansa share a meal together, Arya and Gendry lay in bed with one another, Grey Worm kisses Missandei goodbye before joining the Unsullied, and Jorah looks at the treeline for the approaching Army. In the Crypt, Dany finds Jon standing in front of Lyanna’s statue. Jon tells the story of how Lyanna and Rhaegar were married in secret, having a baby together after Rhaegar’s defeat at the Trident, and Ned Stark being entrusted with protecting the baby. He tells Dany his real name is Aegon Targaryen, which radically shifts her face and she’s left bewildered with this new information. She brings into question the validity of this secret, not seeming to trust Bran or Sam. Suddenly, the sound of three horns rings out, alerting everyone that the Army of the Dead has arrived. The episode concludes with a chilling shot of the massive army staring down Winterfell, ready to make their charge and kill our favorites.
The good in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
- Jaime not sugarcoating or apologizing for his actions in the past is very much in line with his character. As is his apology to Bran.
- All of the Tyrion and Jaime scenes.
- Theon’s reunion with Sansa is so rewarding and is really what this show is all about at its heart.
- Davos and Gilly speaking to the brave young girl who wants to help defend Winterfell. This is an amazing take on the price of war.
- Jon’s reunions with Tormund and Edd, as well as the last remaining Night’s Watch trio scene.
- The war room scene involving so many important figures in the series, discussing the coming battle.
- Arya and the Hound making peace with one another.
- Arya taking charge of her sexuality and having a powerful consensual hookup with Gendry.
- The fireplace squad hanging out with one another at the end of the world.
- Tormund being Tormund
- Jaime knighting Brienne is PERFECTION.
The iffy in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
- Daenerys continuing to act higher than thou in an especially dire situation where titles genuinely don’t matter. Her attitude is extremely frustrating, although it seems that this may be part of her development into more of an antagonistic figure for the endgame.
Top performances in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
- Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
- Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
- Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister
- Kristofer Hivju as Theon Greyjoy
- Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
Lingering thoughts and predictions
- Bran’s line “how do you know there is an afterwards?” is quite chilling and may serve as foreshadowing for how everything will end.
- Sansa tells Lord Royce to keep the gates of Winterfell open for as long as possible to assure that those fleeing from the countrysides can seek shelter in the walls. How many people actually made it to Winterfell and will those that didn’t be part of the Army of the Dead now?
- Is it possible that the White Walkers will actually be defeated and the threat will shift to Cersei for the final episodes? That might be too anticlimactic.
- The little girl that vowed to protect the Crypts had a burn/greyscale mark, clearly meant to remind Davos of Princess Shireen.
- With how much talk of the Crypts being safe, they probably won’t actually be.
- HOW WILL IT ALL END?
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is a much-needed calm before the storm. In many ways, this serves as the conclusion to the character arcs of pretty much everyone. In the battle to come, anyone that dies should likely be fitting due to this episode, which is the culmination of years of storytelling. The dead are here. Get ready for the Battle of Winterfell.
Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.