KEITH: Oh that’s better.
While nothing much happened in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” the urgency that the season opener so clearly lacked was present throughout. It seemed like every word, every moment was dripping with a thousand fears and desires. In short, it was great.
I was happy that so much of the episode went to developing Jaime and Brienne’s relationship, and it all started when we opened on the great hall at Winterfell. How did you feel about the way that things panned out here?
NICK: Jaime and Brienne, together again. While I didn’t think any harm or imprisonment would come of Jaime, it was special to see Brienne rise and vouch for him. She, of anyone, knows his true self. They found a reflection in each other long ago, and though bent, it was never broken. We see it strengthen when Jaime asks to fight under her command. How difficult would that have been for Jaime to ask a season or two ago? He’s been humbled repeatedly, and there she always is. He repays her by knighting her and naming her Ser, the one thing she’s wanted her entire life. The smile on her face says it all. And seeing her smile after earning Ser only made it more difficult to come to grips that she’ll unlikely survive the next episode.
This episode is the first time the true weight that some of these characters we’ve been following for so long are going to die. The Hound talking with Arya, then Beric. Everyone seated in front of the fire. Jon and Dany in the crypts. Jorah learning what the rest of us already knew about his cousin. Sam handing over Heartsbane. And was that a smile from Sansa as she talked with Theon? Thinking about these separate, circuitous journeys feels strange given where things are now. Throughout the series we’ve come to expect death. We’ve come to expect that the good guy doesn’t win out. If anything, being good has led to a quicker demise. Ned and Robb were two of the most honorable men in the realm. Jon’s only still with us because of a miracle. If this were any other story, those three would’ve had more time together. Instead, those who lie, cheat, and manipulate have largely fared better. Brienne is the only one who has remained steadfastly noble and has yet to receive death.
The entirety of the fireside chat was one of the more beautiful moments in the entire series. A collective group who, in any other circumstance, would have likely ended up in a brawl rather than reminiscing on past choices in an uncertain future. The reflection each has helps encapsulate the aforementioned weight of the situation. While there were a handful, the one which stuck out most to me was with Tyrion and Pod. The Hand of the Queen pouring the squire who once saved his life a full cup of wine instead of a half combined with a wink and a smirk of appreciation just hit in a way that’s difficult to explain. You can say these two have been through a lot, but so has everyone else in that room. But it shows the collective idea that this may be their last night alive. For being so certain about oncoming death, the relative calm was encouraging. Maybe the wine helped.
What were your thoughts on the night before the coming battle? There are some new revelations, new weapons, and new lovers to discuss.
KEITH: It was absolutely incredible, and a return to form, I think. While the series has always had breathtaking moments and epic battles, gorgeous CGI and stellar costuming, the true strength of Game of Thrones has always been its characters. And on the eve of what’s likely to be the single most important episode in the series, we just got to spend time with these characters, exploring how they felt about the fact that, in all likelihood, not many of them will see more than another day or so. It reminded me a lot of the conversation that Jaime and Tyrion have on the eve of Tyrion’s trial. Just like that scene from season four, the fireside chat is going to go down as one of my favorite scenes in the show.
In all honesty, I’m kind of surprised the Hound and Arya haven’t picked up back where they left off, although she does make a really good point—she’s changed quite a bit, as has he. I’ve always said that the Hound’s character arc is probably my favorite in the series because of how much he changes for the better, but until now I don’t think it really hit me how much Arya’s changed. We got hints of that in the first episode with her reunion with Aeg-Jon, but it’s just now hitting me.
It also kind of struck me as odd that Arya had never slept with a man before. She’s, what, 20 by this point in the series? Something like that? And she’s been off on her own nearly her entire life. You’re going to tell me she never got it on with anybody? Sounds like orc mischief to me. But I found it appropriate that she’d choose Gendry to be her first lover, and I thought it was in fitting with her new character that she was the one who was just like “we’re doing this, take your pants off, thanks.” I will say, though, that it doesn’t look like she was entirely satisfied with her experience there at the end.
Speaking of dissatisfaction, we got Aeg-drop, part deux when Jon and Dany met in the crypts of Winterfell (which, seriously, how many times did we hear the word “crypt”? Something is afoot). But Dany seemed to take the news about as poorly as we’ve expected her to, and boy oh boy did it look like she was about to call Drogon for a little BBQ action. It might end up being the only time Jon was ever glad to hear that the White Walkers were on their way.
One other dissatisfaction: Tormund. His overtures to Brienne were brilliant and an absolute highlight for me. The real question, I think, is who does Ser Brienne of Tarth, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms choose?
NICK: Jaime, no question. The history between the two is vastly deeper than Tormund’s high-school hijinks, as funny and well-meaning as they are. He looks at her more out of lust while Jaime knows her, and vice versa. That being said, the decision may not have to be made because, you know, there’s a massive army of wanton death and destruction at their doorstep and I find it hard to believe all three of them survive.
You’re right. Dany reacted exactly (or Aeg-xactly) (sorry) as expected (or Aeg…no, no, I must resist). As she states in the episode, she’s spent her whole adult life with the solitary goal of sitting on the Iron Throne, and after everything she’s been through (being sold into marriage, the death of her son and husband, betrayal, liars, thieves, assassination attempts, two fires, and losing a dragon) this news hits her harder than the Night King’s javelin. In the blink of an eye, her claim is rendered moot. Not exactly the best timing for Jon, given he needs her help and now she’s got this breaking story burning her brain, but Jon was never the best at strategizing conversation. But, given the circumstances, I get that he wanted her to know before they all face imminent death. As you said, Jon was saved by the horn. I mean, who wouldn’t rather face 100,000 undead instead of their girlfriend’s impending wrath?
I’d just like to add…WELCOME BACK GHOST! His return wasn’t acknowledged, but just seeing the Good Boy with the remaining crew of the Night’s Watch felt better than not seeing him at all for fifteen episodes. The conversation between the three friends was wonderful. Edd’s joke about their watch beginning and Sam running through the list of things he’s done was just another beautiful reminder of his journey since being beaten repeatedly while training in the courtyard after he takes the black. The remembrance of Grenn and Pyp was a nice touch as well.
Keith, the army is no longer coming; it is here. We know the battle is next, and maybe more than anything, I’m looking forward to seeing how such a long battle-scene (as boasted by the cast and crew alike) was filmed. It’s going to be horrifying and epic and gut-wrenching and intense, and I can’t wait. Aside from that, I’m curious to see the Grand Bran Plan. Setting him up as bait for the Night King feels like an easy mistake and I don’t think NK swallows the hook if he even shows up at Winterfell at all.
But what say you, good Ser? What do you have your three eyes focused on for episode three?
KEITH: I think you hit right on what I’m most excited for—the film style nerd in me is salivating at the notion of seeing how such a lengthy battle sequence is written, acted, shot, and edited. Ever since we got glimpses into the process of filming the battle of Winterfell, I’ve been imagining what it must have been like to see Miguel Sapochnik walking around set and asking actors “why are you here?” to keep them focused on the fact that their characters have been doing something since the last time they were on screen. Properly done, this is going down as one of the most impressive action sequences ever set to digital celluloid.
That said, it’s a near-certainty that not all of our heroes are walking away. Well, they might, just as a part of the Night King’s army—but you take my point. I’m gonna go ahead and call my shot on this one: I predicted three big deaths, and I think those three are Jorah, Brienne, and Theon. Call them major, call them minor, these are three characters that are more important than your average fighter, and I’ll be sad to see them all go. I could also maybe see Beric finally giving up the Ghost (but Ghost survives, because duh), but I’m not sure.
I’m looking forward to seeing the super secret Godswood Night King fake out extravaganza in action, although I think we’re both very much predicting that this isn’t the actual plan and that they’re going to store Bran in the safest place in Winterfell, the crypts. Which, of course, means that that’s the first place that he’s going. What I’m more looking forward to is seeing Theon finally get the moment that he’s needed for like five years now. It’ll be sad to see him go, but if anybody deserves an epic sendoff/redemptive moment, it’s that guy.
Of course, this all remains to be seen and Game of Thrones has never shied away from taking my expectations and pooping all over them before, so for all I know that little girl that Davos served soup to is going to slay all of the wights and Arya will take out like 15 White Walkers with her new twin blade of doom. Either that or Drogon dies. Who knows? All that’s left for us to do is wait and cross our fingers.