WARNING: This article is dark and full of spoilers.
We’ve had a week to contemplate Game of Thrones’ long awaited return and we know that ‘The Battle of Winterfell’ is due in episode three. So it was always going to be interesting to see what creators Benioff and Weiss would do with the second ep of the season, ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’.
What they delivered was a unique Thrones masterpiece more reminiscent of earlier seasons than what we’ve grown accustomed to in Westeros’ endgame. The plot of this episode is essentially that Winterfell prepares for its greatest battle while everyone within its walls contemplates their last night on Earth.
Nothing happened but SO MUCH HAPPENED. It was lovely to be able to sit in a moment and see characters just talk. That was always one of the show’s greatest strengths but, in the final stretch of accelerating the overarching plot, it feels like a while since we’ve been given a chance to do that.
The star of this episode was the Kingslayer himself, back in Winterfell. We open on his trial with a far-from-welcoming Mother of Dragons. It all got resolved pretty quickly thanks to Brienne, sidelined last week but taking centre stage this time round, who stood up to defend her old friend in what was an incredibly moving moment.
It was a pleasant reminder of the actions which have made us all love Jaime so much, and one of two huge character beats for Brienne, who defended her single most important friendship in the world.
Dany Breaks Bread
Daenarys has been very frosty since arriving in the North. She clearly doesn’t feel welcome and has been trying to assert her authority a little bit too much as a result. It was welcome, then, to see a strong act of leadership as she tackled her and Sansa’s issues head on. Two women who have shared extraordinary rises to power, they shared a lovely exchange of flattery and honesty. It wasn’t completely successful for Dany, though, as Sansa finished the conversation with a huge powerplay, suggesting that when Daenarys finally gets her throne, the North will want to keep its independence. Huge.
Another great moment for the phenomenal Sophie Turner came as Sansa’s conversation with the Queen was conveniently interrupted by the return of Theon Greyjoy. It was another tear-inducing moment as Theon, understandably wary of being outed by the Starks, was met with emphatic love from the Lady of Winterfell, who last saw him when he helped her escape from Ramsey’s clutches in Season Five. There even seemed to be hints towards a romantic connection in later scenes. An unexpected one but considering those two have probably gone through more shit than anyone else in the Seven Kingdoms, it would seem apt for them to find some happiness with each other. It could pose some problems if Sansa wants an heir to Winterfell one day though…
And Now Our Watch Begins
Meanwhile on the castle walls of Winterfell there was another surprisingly touching reunion. Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Edd Tollett, joined his old friends Samwell and Jon (plus Ghost!!) to reminisce on old times and lost friends. It nailed the Night’s Watch tone with just the right amount of dry gallows humour as they stood atop the (Winterfell) wall and looked out into the night. It also featured a superb burn from Sam, who mocked Edd for being the only one of them who’s kept his vow of celibacy.
Sam: “You need me out there.”
Edd: “Well if that’s what it’s come to we really are fucked.”
Sam: “Well, calling you fucked wouldn’t be strictly accurate.”
Winterfell’s finest military minds gathered to set out their plans for the impending fight. It actually provided a huge revelation as Bran revealed the Night King’s plans to come for him. It sets up a tasty premise for a battle – two armies duke it out at the doors of Winterfell while the big players try to bait the Night King into a trap. Finally we have an idea as to how the living may be able to defeat the dead, plus it’s another interesting drop of information about the King of the Dead’s motivations. Whether it does actually play out like that is a different matter but there are certainly potential acts of sacrifices on the cards for Bran and Theon, perhaps even Daenarys.
Grey Worm’s Romantic Plan
Slipped in among all the preparation was a pretty shocking revelation about Unsullied general Grey Worm’s post-war plans. In a heartfelt interaction with Missandei, he declared his intention to leave Westeros with her once Daenarys sits on the Iron Throne, to travel the world with the love of his life. Who knew he was such a romantic?
If that does happen, it will be interesting to see the Queen’s reaction. She’s always insisted the two of them are free people, but has she ever considered they may one day leave her?
That’s irrelevant anyway. Because if there’s one thing which this scene tells us, it’s that Grey Worm is 100 per cent dying in the next episode.
Calm Before the Storm
The last third of the episode was a delightful rumination on what feels like everyone’s last night alive. The show knows its characters so well so it was fascinating to see how everyone behaved. Lyanna Mormont prepared for battle, Sam gave Jorah his family valyrian sword in another powerful scene, the Hound opted to drink alone until Beric interrupted his peace, while an unlikely group gathered in the main hall for a piss up.
Who could have dreamt a few years ago that Tyrion, Jaime, Davos, Brienne, Podrick and Tormund would end up sat together drinking wine in the final season? From Tyrion and Jaime opening up to Tormund’s rather unusual origin story and Podrick’s beautiful singing voice. It was a gorgeous scene played superbly by the entire cast.
Arise Ser Brienne
The biggest and best moment of the strangest pre-drinks ever went to one of the stars of the episode. With Tormund making his rather unsubtle moves on ‘the big woman’, topic of conversation turned to her lack of Knight status, due to her gender. “Fuck tradition”, says Tormund. And, just when you think he’s beginning to win the battle for her affections, Jaime steps up to point out that, as an ordained Knight himself, he could anoint her there and then. You couldn’t help but feel that now Jaime no longer has eyes for his sister, perhaps he is warming to the idea of Brienne as a romantic option.
More importantly, however, is the significance of that moment to Brienne as a character. Her entire life has been a fight against gender expectations. She is one of the greatest warriors in the world, yet cannot fulfil her dream of being a Knight. Gwendoline Christie was amazing in this scene, internalising her pride as Brienne tried to play it down. It was a beautiful moment for the purest of characters, perhaps even the best moment of her life.
We know what that means though don’t we? Yep, 100 per cent dying in the next episode.
Gendry shows Arya his Weapon
This has been a hook up fans have been calling for in recent years. It could have been very weird, you know, Gendry knowing Arya as a small child and all that. Arya is a woman now, though, and it was actually quite special to see her have such a human moment. Her life has been so centred around revenge, training and surviving, she hasn’t had the opportunity to live in any real way. So fulfilling this desire was a huge moment.
Jon and Dany have the Talk
A huge question from last week was how and when Jon would deliver the news to Daenarys, that he is in fact her nephew and rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Like all big news in Winterfell it was delivered in the Crypts. And how well delivered it was. Looking at Lyana Stark’s statue, Dany expresses her sadness that her big brother Rhaegar, who she had heard was so decent, had raped Lyana. Little did she know that this was the perfect segue for Jon to explain the truth, that he had not raped her, that she married him and had a son, and that son was Jon. Like so much of this episode it was drenched in the history and lore of both Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin’s books, one of many times long-term show-writer Bryan Cogman’s brilliant work is there for all to see.
Dany’s reaction was fascinating. “That’s impossible”, she says, clearly not wanting to believe the truth. She doubts his sources and just as she tries to gauge whether he fancies making a claim for the throne, they’re interrupted by the arrival of the army of the dead, obviously.
If they both survive the next episode it will be fascinating to see where they go next. But in the meantime, as Tyrion looks out at an army of whites, it is time for the fight between the living and the dead.
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