For the past week, the first episode of Game of Thrones dominated the cultural conversation. The first episode was a solid re-entry into the world of Westeros. The anticipation for the second episode was still high.
It was a smart move for Game of Thrones to not start with a battle right away. While Game of Thrones has certainly excelled in previous battles, no one wants the final season to be battles, battles and battles. The audience has stuck around with the show because of the strong attachment to the characters on the show. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” may be one of the best episodes of the series because of the powerful interactions among the characters.
The preview for this episode of Game of Thrones promised a trial of Jaime Lannister. It wasn’t as dramatic as previous trials like the trial of Tyrion Lannister but it still worked because of characters vouching for each other. First, Jaime is chastised by Daenerys Targaryen for not bringing the promised House Lannister men and for his previous actions against the many others in the room, specifically the Targaryens. Then, she questions why he shouldn’t be executed on spot. Jaime is notably honest in this scene and informs the rest of them of Cersei’s new aide from the Golden Company.
Brienne of Tarth immediately vouches for Jaime. Brienne’s voice is heard because of her protection of Sansa Stark. Sansa realizes that Brienne would not be safe if it weren’t for Brienne’s protection and Brienne was also protected by Jaime. Despite Daenerys’s anger against Jaime, Jon Snow and Sansa decide to let Jon fight for the North, believing Jaime’s intentions are pure.
Throughout the episode, we see undercurrents of romantic feelings between Brienne and Jaime. Brienne doesn’t seem to have brought those ideas to surface but it’s clear that the two deeply care about each other. Caring for others that are not a part of his family is very significant for Jaime Lannister. At the start of the show, the only people he cared about were his six family members.
By the eighth season, Jaime’s eyes have begun to awaken to the plight of others. This is the character growth that the show desperately needs for it to succeed. We see quite a few other instances of it throughout the episode.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the trial is when Bran Stark says, “the things I do for love,” which is what Jaime Lannister said to Bran right before he shoved Bran out of the window. Bran is not angry with Jaime. Instead, he sees the greater picture, realizing that the North needs Jaime’s help and that Jaime has greatly changed since his first visit to Winterfell.
Daenerys and Sansa
For the first time in the show, Daenerys and Sansa have a moment alone. The character dynamic is really exciting because we haven’t seen this pairing before. There is significant tension between Daenerys and Sansa. Daenerys comes to break the ice. She tries to reason with Sansa and show that her intentions are pure by relating to their mutual affection of Jon.
Sansa, the smartest character of the show, realizes that the both of them may survive the war. If Daenerys takes the Iron Throne, what will happen to the North? The North will need serious rebuilding after this battle. Daenerys is so focused on controlling the Seven Kingdoms that she doesn’t realize that a monarchy is incredibly ineffective. Sansa realizes this.
Unfortunately, the scene is cut short by the arrival of Theon Greyjoy. Sansa and Theon’s reunion is much more powerful than I thought it would be. It’s a testament to the strength of the performances from Sophie Turner and Alfie Allen that this scene works so well. Through their warm embrace, we are reminded of all the horrors the characters went through together. Eight seasons in, the showrunners are very wisely taking into account what has happened in the past, which especially enrichens the scenes of this episode.
The Battle Room
At this point in the episode, there is a marked difference in tone. The war is coming. The show’s lead characters all gather together once more, debating on how to combat the white walkers.
Remarkably, not much is communicated in this scene as all of these characters understand the threat and where the Night King is going to attack.
In the next episode, it’s clear that the white walkers will have an overwhelmingly large army. The fighters will only be able to attack so much of that army. The true key to defeating them is to kill the Night King along with Viserion. Do we know how to kill the Night King? For now, it’s unclear. I would be shocked if the threat of the Night King is vanquished in the next episode. I believe we’ll have to wait for the series finale if we get that moment.
Bran Stark takes control of the scene, offering his knowledge as the new three-eyed raven. Bran reveals that the Night King just wants to see the Seven Kingdoms fall into a long night. It’s not quite clear what the Night King wants and it’s more unclear why the Night King is after Bran specifically.
Here’s to hoping that we finally get answers about the white walkers and the Night King within the next few episodes. I do not believe all of the show’s characters will die by the hands of the Night King. If the characters died in that way, it would be incredibly unsatisfactory if we didn’t really know much about the Night King’s want other than mass destruction. Every villain has more of an ulterior motive than mass destruction. A show as complicated as Game of Thrones certainly has a few more plot twists up its sleeve.
Arya and Gendry
In the most controversial scene of the episode, Arya Stark has intercourse with Gendry Baratheon. The scene is controversial because the ages in the show are ambiguous. Arya’s character is either 17 or 18 while Gendry’s character is similar to Jon Snow’s age. He is roughly 23 years old.
What is interesting about the scene is the history between the characters. Arya met Gendry in season two when she was much younger and untrained as a fighter. The two struck up a friendship,but there was no romantic connection between two of them because of the age difference.
In “Winterfell,” there was certainly romantic tension between the two but many of the audience members, including myself, believed that it would not lead to any encounters, similar to Brienne and Tormund’s connection.
The war is approaching in a few hours. Arya realizes that she may not survive this war against the Night King. She, quite simply, doesn’t want to die a virgin. Gendry empathizes her in a way that isn’t creepy and the two hook up. When we see them lying together afterwards, it’s unclear if Arya is staring off because she is thinking about the hook up or if she’s thinking about the war. If I had to guess, I’d say that Arya is too preoccupied about the impending war to even think about her encounter with Gendry.
The Meeting Hall
In the meeting hall, many of the characters meet before the war begins. The characters (Tyrion Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Tormund, Podrick, and Davos Seaworth) realize that none of them would realistically be able to fall asleep under such dire conditions.
This scene is downright joyous to watch and the best part of the episode. Tormund bursting into the scene is a highlight as we learn more about Tormund’s origin story before his likely death. Tormund explains how a giant thought he was a baby and how he drank her breast milk for a few years until he gained the strength to defeat her. The rest of the cast, especially Gwendoline Christine as Brienne, sell the scene incredibly with their bizarre reactions to Tormund’s story.
The conversation quickly turns to knighthood and why women can’t be knighted. Brienne is a woman of honor. Arguably, Brienne is the most honorable character of the show. She served for Renly Baratheon and for Catelyn Stark long after the deaths of the two characters. She is a stronger fighter than many of the other knights on the show. The men in the room quickly realize the absurdity that Brienne is not a knight. Jaime, as a member of the Kingsguard, has the ability to knight Brienne of Tarth.
Brienne acts as if she doesn’t care about whether she is knighted or not. Jaime insists that he knights her, and in this scene, we see a mark in Brienne’s armor. She tries her best to conceal her emotions, but she lets a giant smile slip away. It’s the quivering smile that is at the heart of the episode. Brienne is a character that the audience has grown to love and care about deeply. This moment is incredibly emotional and played to perfection by Gwendoline Christie. After the scene, I couldn’t help but feel worried about her character. If this is the last smile we see of Brienne, it’s a glorious way to prepare the audience for her exit. Brienne’s mission of honor will survive the show even if her character does not.
Daenerys and Jon
After the ending to the previous episode, Jon avoids Daenerys for almost the entirety of this episode. He realizes that what Bran and Sam told him must be true. Daenerys finds Jon in the crypts of Winterfell and he realizes that he can no longer hide from the truth with the war only a few hours away.
He tells Daenerys of his true parentage and how the two are related. Daenerys is taken aback. She is in disbelief. Her whole character arc has revolved around how she is the last Targaryen. She has committed many of her actions in the honor of her fallen family members. Her one true goal was to claim the Iron Throne back. If Jon and Daenerys survive the war, Jon has the rightful claim to the throne because he is a man.
Daenerys likely feels invalidated by the reveal. She doesn’t like the idea that she is not the rightful ruler. More so, this complicates the relationship between Daenerys and Jon. Could a romantic relationship still be possible between the two despite what the two now know? It is unclear. If the two survive the next episode, and it’s a safe bet that they will, what will the two of them do about it?
The audience has a week to grapple with the ramifications, but the characters do not. Before Daenerys and Jon properly finish their conversation, it is interrupted by war horns. The war is about to begin.
Episode Grade: A
This episode might end up being the best of the season because of how fulfilling some of the emotional moments are. I’m looking forward to the battles, but what I’m looking forward to most is the emotional resolution among these characters. Ultimately, that’s what the show is about.
Arya and the Hound’s interaction (seen right) in this episode is wonderfully awkward. The two never figured out how to properly speak to each other but the Hound’s comment that he fought for Arya had me near choke up. Rory McCann is a stealthily good actor.
Missandei’s comment about her homeland Naath was the first time she talked about her origin since her character’s introduction. Grey Worm is so going to die in this battle though. The last embrace between the two characters felt awfully final to me.
Sansa enjoys her last moments before the war with Theon. I thought it was a nice touch. Since Theon is defending Bran, there is a strong chance that Theon will also not survive the battle in the next episode.
Daniel Portman’s (Podrick) singing voice was great. “Jenny of Oldstones” is a beautifully fitting original song to add to the lore of the show.
Lyanna’s insistence to fight in the war alongside the much older men was incredibly true to Lyanna’s character. If Lyanna doesn’t make it out of the next episode, which seems to be more and more probable, I hope she has a kickass exit.
Predictions for Next Week
Each week, I’ll make three predictions specific to the next episode. Let’s review last week’s predictions.
Last Week’s Predictions
- Jon tells Daenerys that he is a Targaryen, and Daenerys (unsurprisingly) doesn’t believe him.
Mostly accurate. Daenerys doesn’t outright say she doesn’t believe Jon, but she is surely in disbelief."
- The White Walkers arrive in Winterfell by the end of the episode.
Accurate. The last shot featured the white walkers making their grand entrance.
- New character Harry Strickland (seen right) delivers exactly one line.
Inaccurate. Harry Strickland does not appear
in this Winterfell-centric episode.
This Week’s Predictions
- Grey Worm, Jorah Mormont, and Tormund will not survive the episode.
- All of the Lannisters and the Targaryens will survive the episode.
- We will find out more about the Night King’s past, but what we find out is not enough in quick enough time. The episode will end with Winterfell in flames.
Who’s Still Alive?
Everyone is still alive (minus Ned Umber)! Surprisingly, Game of Thrones held back and opted not to kill anyone. After Sunday’s episode, this list is going to start dwindling fast. This battle is going to set the tone for the rest of the season. Are seemingly safe characters like the Starks and the Lannisters unsafe? We will soon find out.
- Alys Karstark
- Arya Stark
- Beric Dondarrion
- Brienne of Tarth
- Cersei Lannister
- Daenerys Targaryen
- Davos Seaworth
- Eddison Tollett
- Edmure Tully
- Euron Greyjoy
- Grey Worm
- Jaime Lannister
- Jon Snow
- Jorah Mormont
- Lyanna Mormont
- Podrick Payne
- Robin Arryn
- Samwell Tarly
- Sam (son of Sam & Gilly)
- Sansa Stark
- The Hound
- The Mountain
- The Night King*
- Theon Greyjoy
- Tormund Giantsbrane
- Tyrion Lannister
- Yara Greyjoy
- Yohn Royce
* = Although The Night King and Viserion and technically listed under alive, I acknowledge that they are dead entities that aren’t truly “living” in the normal sense of the word.
- Ned Umber