The things we do for love.
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: Bryan Cogman
It is understandable to be a bit frustrated that, after two episodes of this six episode final season, Game of Thrones has yet to give us any of the bloodshed that was originally promised to us. "Winterfell" was full of heartwarming reunions and several other emotionally investing scenes, with the idea that it would be the last time we would ever get to see our characters be happy and act like they were at least somewhat enjoying each other's company (most of the characters anyway). Of these final six episodes, it's safe to say that episode two was easily the least anticipated, not because no one cared to know what would happen, but because it made the most sense to predict that the episode would be something of a transition period from cheerful, "I'm so happy to see you again" moments to demoralizing, "The dead are here. We're all gonna die." Going from happy reunions in one episode to the most intense battle ever fought in Westeros in the next would evoke all the breakneck pacing complaints that hampered season seven, so it's a good thing that Game of Thrones give us a little more calm before the storm, because nothing will ever be the same the rest of the way once the battle between the Living and the Dead finally gets underway this weekend.
Until then, Game of Thrones delivers another round of engaging conversations and character analysis. A lot of our beloved characters will soon meet their end, so why would Game of Thrones have it any other way? This series has prided itself since day one on making us fall in love with certain characters, only to crush our spirits by having those characters get suddenly and brutally killed. While there is a slightly nagging feeling that "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" is more of the same from last week, David Nutter's direction and Bryan Cogman's writing both hit the nail on the head: showing us what exactly these characters are fighting for, and what most of them will end up losing before the sun comes up the next day. On top of a whole spectrum of emotions, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" delivers some more genuine surprises and comes to an end with an ominous shot of the White Walkers looking over Winterfell, promising us that there will be no more set-ups that will keep pushing off the inevitable action.
We are strictly in Winterfell for this episode, so we'll most likely catch up with Cersei and all her "friends" in King's Landing in episode four. For now, all eyes are on Jaime and the cold reception he gets upon arriving in Winterfell. Trust remains a very fragile thing among Daenerys and all the Northern lords, and it takes some serious vouching from Brienne to get everyone to agree to let Jaime fight beside them. Almost everything that has defined Jaime's life is brought forth in his conversations with the Northern lords and later with Bran: his decision to slay King Aerys aka Daenerys' father, his decision to push Bran out the window, the decisions he made to protect his House during the War of the Five Kings, him losing his right hand and regaining his sense of honor. I think this episode does almost the same job that re-watching seasons one through seven would do: put into better perspective who Jaime Lannister is as a character and how he is the most developed character whose last name isn't Stark. Has Jaime ever really been a man with evil intentions? Even some of his most heinous acts have not been without understandable motives. Jaime pushed Bran out the window so to keep his incestuous relationship with Cersei a secret and protect his House's honor. Jaime confronted Ned Stark because he cared about his younger brother. Jaime slayed his own King to protect the lives of thousands of innocent people. Early on, he was a bit on the fence about how to have the ends justify the means, but after losing his right/sword hand, he finally started to sort out his moral complexities and properly express his values and beliefs.
Watching Jaime willingly travel to Winterfell to fight alongside those that have been opposed to him since the very start of the show is a testament to how much he has changed and how his transformation has become one of the most uplifting parts of Game of Thrones. He has absolutely no intentions of stabbing someone in the back for the sake of having House Lannister prevail over all. He made a promise to fight for the living, and he will uphold that promise with no tricks and no conditions. The scenes with Jaime are when "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" are at its happiest, particularly for the scene when Jaime knights Brienne: a reward for all her hard work since season two. Brienne has been a workhorse ever since she came to be one of the series' main characters, and because she succeeded in upholding her promise to keep Sansa and Arya safe, it feels right that she earns such a prestigious prize. It also feels right that Jaime was the character to give her such an award. The one person Brienne has grown closest to during the series has been Jaime, despite the two being apart for long stretches of time. Brienne was there for Jaime when he was it his lowest, and she was the first one to realize the true nature of his decision to kill the Mad King. Brienne has been the only character to come to see Jaime the way we as an audience see him now, and for that, it makes sense that the two get to share such a proud moment, hours before the fight of their lives. It's as if the two secretly promised one another that they would find a way to uphold their respective honor and one day come to fight on the same side. Today, the day of the White Walkers' ultimate invasion, is that day, and while the knighthood is Brienne's reward, Jaime's reward is being able to give the knighthood to her.
Watching Brienne receive knighthood also seems to be a clear indicator that her and/or Jaime will die in the upcoming battle. Arya seems to think she will die in the upcoming battle, so just in case it's her last night as part of the living, she decides to get busy in bed with Gendry, and wow was this a surprise: The main reason this sex scene startled people is because we literally watched Arya grow up since she was a little girl way back in season one, and not ever did we give any thought to Arya ever engaging in a scene like this. News flash: she's no little girl any more, and hey, a big girl is gonna do big girl things. I actually think this sex scene fits very well into Arya's character arc and her personality overall, having always been the one Stark sibling who derived pleasure from things that the other Stark siblings did/do not enjoy. Whereas Sansa and Bran have not ever taken delight in swinging swords and killing others, Arya has found tremendous joy in committing such, 'whatcha ma call them, sinful acts. Arya's running under the assumption that she won't make it out of the White Walker battle alive, so because she has started to make a living out of getting her hands dirty, she figures she might as well get her hands dirty the one other way she has not done so yet. It's tough to say if Arya suddenly fell in love with Gendry or anything like that, but the important thing is that she does not completely force herself on to him, because she knows her and Gendry's relationship has been strong enough that he could not be completely opposed to her. She simply wants to have the experience, but just to be safe, she questions Gendry of his sexual history and makes sure that there is at least some consent between the two. It helps establish that Arya is not some hungry animal gone wild, and that, even for young people, there is a way to have sexual encounters that are not any form of assault. I don't believe it's my place to go into a deep analysis of how Arya's sex scene coincides with the #MeToo movement, so check out what other people have to say if you're curious about other interpretations of this scene.
It's pretty astonishing how unimportant that Jon and Daenerys appear to be in this episode, even when Jon reveals to Daenerys his real name and the fact that he has a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than her. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing: Game of Thrones doesn't want to completely sideline its other, non-Targaryen characters, even when we can count the number of remaining episodes on one hand. I think it was intentional by Bryan Cogman to have Jon and Daenerys slid into the background for this episode, because so many other characters' arcs are (presumably) coming to an end next time out, and the heartbreak wouldn't be there if these first two episodes were nothing but the Jon and Daenerys love show. For the sake of the plot, it wouldn't make sense for both Jon and Daenerys to die during the battle, although there are logical arguments to be made for one of them dying. For what Game of Thrones has been building up to since that first scene of the three men of the Night's Watch encountering the White Walker, the end game will no doubt heavily revolve around the prophecy that Jon and/or Daenerys must fulfill, so in order to achieve a more balanced character structure, the likes of Tyrion, Brienne, and Tormund get more screen time.
Jon is largely invisible this episode, but Daenerys certainly does enough to make her presence felt, most notably in a friendly-turned-tense conversation with Sansa about what will happen in the North if the White Walkers and Cersei are all defeated. Sansa is proving herself to be a borderline genius at this point, voicing legitimate concerns that, unfortunately, don't get proper answers only because someone feels the need to interrupt the conversation. My favorite part of this scene is the way Daenerys rips her hand away from Sansa, signifying that she's given up trying to be friends and get on good terms. These little things add to the drama of when everyone has to fight alongside each other. Can Daenerys and the Northern lords really put all their differences aside, even when they're up against an enemy that treats them all the same?
Bran gives us some valuable insight of the enemy, particularly why the Night King is after him: the Night King seeks to have an endless night, to erase Westeros and all its memories. Bran is something of Westeros' memory bank, holding all records of its past, its present, and its future. The strategy to treat Bran as bait certainly generates a lot of interest for what the Night King will decide to do. There has yet to be one second of screen time for the Night King in season eight, so right now, he's something of the hidden monster in the dark that everyone is waiting to see come out. So not only do we learn more about what the Night King and the White Walkers want, it adds an extra layer of terror to them altogether and how they are such a horrifying representation of death. The White Walkers do not feel. With death, there is nothing to feel, because there is nothing at all. Back in early season six after being brought back to life, Jon said that, while he was dead, there was just nothing. This complete state of nothingness that Jon described is what the Night King wants for all of Westeros: the endless night with no memories and no sense of living.
Podrick sings a song simply called, "Jenny's Song", which plays over very quiet shots of everyone getting ready for battle and contemplating what is about to happen. This scene eerily reminded me of the "Nearer My God To Thee" scene from Titanic: the juxtaposition of something peaceful and soothing like music alongside scenes of imminent disaster. It's such a powerful and emotional way to conclude our final, peaceful moments: this does feel like the end. No, it's not the end of the series, but it's still the end in several ways: it's the end of watching our characters grow and bond together as living, breathing humans. It's the end of feeling safe and like our characters are out of harm's way. It is like watching the water rushing into the Titanic: so many good-natured, honorable people are about to die, at the hands of something that doesn't feel and doesn't know how to feel. So many characters have had something to live for, and their struggles to live have all brought them here, to confront an enemy that intends to strip them of their ability to live.
By the time "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" comes to an end, you're too emotional and terrified to let the episode's flaws weigh you down. With so much fire, blood, and death to come in next week's epic clash between the living and the dead, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" pauses season eight's overarching story telling to firmly remind us of what it means to live and how all these characters in Winterfell have always had something to live for. Even if it's a bit repetitive from "Winterfell", there are too many emotions floating around that it's incredibly hard not to feel moved by hearing all these different characters' stories like Tormund's experience with giant's milk and to see proud moments like Brienne being knighted and Arya losing her virginity. The realization that everything is coming to an end in Game of Thrones hits hardest during Podrick's song, despite the fact that we've still got four more episodes to go. The time for talk is over. No more delays. Next week, the battle that Game of Thrones has advertised since "Winter is Coming" finally goes down. I hope you'll be ready, because I know I won't be.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: