(A word of caution: SPOILERS below!)
If the season eight premiere of Game of Thrones focused primarily on the relationships between characters, the second episode took that idea and perfected it. Episode 8.02, entitled “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” wasn’t just good; it was one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. With the story focusing on Winterfell and the night before the hugely anticipated battle against the undead, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” zeroes in on an age-old question: how would you spend your last night on earth? After all, none of the characters seem to believe that they will be coming out of this alive – and though they all won’t perish in episode three (we still have three more episodes to go after that!), we have to come to terms with the fact that we will be saying goodbye to some of our favorites on Sunday. Given that, episode two cleverly focuses on human connections – both between the viewer and the characters (giving the viewer a chance to say goodbye), and between the characters themselves.
One aspect of this that I felt was brilliantly done was Arya’s choice to sleep with Gendry. Not only is the scene extremely in character for her (because it is so like Arya to demand that Gendry take his own pants off), but I felt that it was also shot very tastefully. It was quite respectful to the fact that we have seen Arya grow up on screen – but also to the fact that she is a young woman now. Plus, the fact that she was completely in charge of the situation was very empowering to women, a message that I believe is important to send the audience in this day and age. At the same time, I couldn’t help feeling bad for Sansa, whose first sexual experience was also at Winterfell – but she had absolutely no control over the situation, and Ramsay continued to rape and abuse her until her escape. She didn’t get to have the same type of empowering first time as Arya did, which is extremely unfortunate…but it is another way of highlighting the differences between the sisters. Over the course of the series, Sansa has become the type of person who takes charge of a situation by using her mind, whereas Arya has always been the type to take charge of a situation by jumping directly into it and taking action. This scene definitely showcases that aspect of Arya’s character, and if she and Gendry both survive the battle, it will be interesting to see how their relationship continues to play out.
However, the real focal point of this episode for me was the relationship between Jaime and Brienne, which has always been one of my absolute favorite aspects of the series. While the two began as adversaries when Catelyn Stark first tasked Brienne with bringing Jaime back to King’s Landing back in season two, their time on the road saw their relationship grow into one of mutual respect for one another. Brienne came to see Jaime’s true honor underneath the façade of the “Kingslayer” persona, and Jaime came to see her as a strong and loyal fighter whose honor and loyalty made him strive to be better. More than that, there has been a sort of unspoken bond between the two, a story told only by their eyes (if I can become half as good of an actor as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie are in these moments, I’d count my career as being successful). To me, it is clear that they have loved one another for a long time now – though with Brienne fighting for the Starks and Jaime fighting for the Lannisters (and, you know…still kind of in a relationship with his sister), neither one has ever acted on these feelings or even let them really bubble into consciousness. But they are fighting on the same side now.
The most beautiful thing about “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is seeing the culmination of what this relationship has become. Brienne brings out the absolute best in Jaime; it was because of her words in the season seven finale that he gained clarity on the situation with Cersei back in King’s Landing, knowing that he had to keep his word to ride North and fight at Winterfell. Even more than that, Brienne brings out an honesty in him. A good example of this is the scene in the courtyard, where he is openly able to admit that his capabilities as a fighter have been greatly diminished without his right hand – and then tells her that he’d be honored to serve under her command in the battle at Winterfell. This implies that with the end of the world at their doorstep, Jaime is determined to die with honor… and Brienne is the epitome of honor in his eyes. What better way die than to go out fighting under her lead? As someone who was once extremely arrogant, it is a very humbling move on Jaime’s part, and it shows just how much his character has changed since the first episode of the series. It also means that Brienne and Jaime will be fighting side-by-side with Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, the Valyrian steel sister swords that Tywin Lannister had melted down and re-forged from Ned Stark’s sword, Ice. There is something very poetic about Ned’s sword being used to defend Winterfell; it’s a long-awaited meeting of the two halves of a whole that were always supposed to be together, much like it seems to be with Jaime and Brienne.
On top of this, one of the biggest moments in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is the scene from which the episode draws its name : Jaime knighting Brienne in one of Winterfell’s halls. This is one of my favorite scenes of the entire series (it may or may not have made me cry); not only does it go against the gender norms that have been set by Westeros (where traditionally, only men can be knights), but it showcases the love and respect between these two characters. Jaime truly believes in Brienne’s capabilities as a fighter and knows firsthand of her loyalty, bravery, ferocity, and honor (of course), and he knows that she deserves to be a knight more than anyone he’s ever met. Brienne, on the other hand, has dedicated her entire life to becoming a skilled fighter and serving honorably (from Renly to Catelyn to the Stark sisters), wanting to be a knight but also believing that she’d never be seen as a true warrior because she is a woman – and, on what might possibly be their last night on earth, it is Jaime who grants her this wish (it is actually Tormund who gives him the idea in the first place…but Jaime doesn’t seem too fazed by Tormund’s brazen attempts to grab Brienne’s attention, as he knows all too well that Tormund’s way won’t earn her affection). It’s so moving to watch, as the viewer knows how much Brienne deserves to be a knight, and it is evident how much it means to her when looking at her face as the scene goes on. And, as the viewer watches both Jaime’s and Brienne’s eyes, the love they have for one another abundantly clear, with the scene itself almost feeling like Jaime’s declaration of love to her. It’s so touching and pure (which is a stark contrast to Jaime’s relationship with Cersei), and I sincerely hope that we are lucky enough for both of them to survive the battle in episode three so that we can see more of what transpires between them. But, if not, I am so, so grateful for the years that Game of Thrones has given us with them, because the relationship between Jaime and Brienne has warmed my heart and inspired me in ways that I cannot even begin to describe.
One other thing that is slightly off topic but worth noting about the episode relates back to my review of “Winterfell,” and it revolves around Daenerys’ reaction when Jon reveals his true parentage to her. Jon spends much of the episode avoiding her, not wanting to reveal the truth just yet; it isn’t until the episode is almost over that they finally have the conversation. However, Jon doesn’t get quite the response he was expecting; while he appears to be upset at the news because it means that they have been committing incest, Daenerys is mostly concerned with the fact that Jon being a Targaryen means that he can contest her claim to the Iron Throne (after all, the Targaryens were notorious for committing incest, and Daenerys spent much of her young life believing she’d marry Viserys, so she’s more than used to the idea). Though she says that he would be the last male Targaryen heir if the information is true (she believes/hopes that it is suspect, since she doesn’t trust Bran or Sam as Jon – or the viewer – does), it is not his gender that makes him a threat. Jon actually has the better claim because he is Rhaegar’s last living legitimate son – and, as the firstborn child of the Mad King, the Iron Throne would have to pass to Rhaegar and then his children before Viserys or Daenerys. In any case, Daenerys is clearly disturbed by this information, and Jon is clearly disturbed that she’s more concerned with the succession of rule than with the fact that they’re aunt and nephew and they’ve been sleeping together. This gives Jon even more cause to see Sam’s side of things as presented in the premiere, possibly pushing him – and the viewer – further down a path of questioning how well-suited for rule Daenerys actually is.
Overall, I felt that the performances in this episode were brilliant, and the writing superbly elicited a wide range of emotions from the viewer (I went from hysterical laughter in one moment to crying in the next upon my first watch). And while we dread what is to come in the next episode as a collective whole, you can read through some of my other highlights and questions from “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” below.
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” Highlights and Notable Moments
- Bryan Cogman, who is credited as the writer for this episode, also wrote episode 3.05: “Kissed by Fire,” which includes the bath scene where Jaime confesses to Brienne why he killed the Mad King. This is another one of my favorite episodes of Game of Thrones, and it is clear that Cogman has a deep understanding of the relationship between Jaime and Brienne.
- Bran throws Jaime’s own words from the season one premiere back at him during the trial: “The things we do for love.” Well played, Bran. Well played.
- Sansa’s trust in Brienne is heartwarming, and the fact that the two of them together hold so much weight in the decision to allow Jaime to stay is pretty awesome. Not only that, but it’s very possible that she relates Brienne’s story of Jaime saving her from rapists back to her own experience of Theon helping her to escape from Ramsay. Sansa had once despised Theon for the terrible things he had done, but he more than atoned for those things in her eyes when he saved her from Ramsay’s endless abuse. Perhaps she thinks that since Jaime did something similar for Brienne, he isn’t beyond redemption for his past crimes, either.
- It’s wonderful to see Jaime and Tyrion together again and working on the same side. My favorite moment between them in the episode is the look Jaime gives Tyrion when he says, “I wish father were here.” It’s twistedly hilarious.
- Theon’s reunion with Sansa is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
- Davos’ conversation with the little girl who has the scarred face is heartbreaking, as it reminds the viewer so much of his relationship with Shireen. If you listen closely, the music in the background is the melody to “It’s Always Summer Under the Sea,” which Shireen sings in 3.05: “Kissed by Fire.”
- Beric Dondarrion confirms that the Umbers have all become a part of the undead army. Guess that answers my question from last week.
- The fact that Tormund’s first question directly after telling Jon that the undead will be at Winterfell before sunrise the next day is, “The big woman still here?” absolutely cracks me up.
- When making the battle plans, Tormund says, “We’re all going to die.” Unfortunately, that’s probably an understatement when it comes to this impending fight.
- GHOST IS BACK!!! Need I say any more about this? Though it does leave me wondering whether or not Nymeria will make another appearance before the end of the series…
- Sam’s determination to participate in the fight – and the fact that he is unafraid to do so – truly shows how far he’s come as a character since season one. However, he gives Jorah Heartsbane to fight with in the battle, meaning that Jorah will be House Tarly’s Valyrian steel blade. This means that Sam will have to participate in the battle using a different weapon, and I am intrigued to see what exactly it will be.
- Tormund’s entire story about the giantess is hilarious. Even funnier are the looks that Jaime and Brienne – and Jaime and Tyrion – are giving to each other as he tells it.
- The scene between Arya and Sandor/The Hound subtly showcases his character arc throughout the series, and it feels like Arya definitely leaves with a better understanding of him.
- Arya never fails to crack me up with some of the things that come out of her mouth. For example, her words to Sandor and Beric: “I’m not spending my final hours with you two miserable old shits.”
- Lyanna Mormont telling Jorah off and insisting that she will fight in the battle is simultaneously badass and hysterical.
- The song that Podrick sings, “Jenny of Oldstones,” is hauntingly beautiful and ominous. It is also a clever nod to the books, where the song has ties back to the Targaryens and the Azor Ahai prophecy.
Questions Following “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
- Why didn’t Daenerys appear to display any aggression towards Jaime at the meeting in King’s Landing in the season seven finale? She had to be well aware of who he was then – and though she couldn’t pass any sort of sentence at that time because they were negotiating to work together, she didn’t seem to have any reaction to him at all. It seems a little strange in retrospect, given her strong reaction and desire to punish him for killing the Mad King in this episode.
- Will Arya’s throwing skills have a role to play in taking down the Night King and/or the White Walkers? Her aim was fantastic with the dragonglass daggers – and with her custom weapon now ready for the battle, it looks like she will be a real threat to the undead.
- We know that Bran can see the past and the present as the Three-Eyed Raven, but does he have the ability to see the future as well? When discussing the upcoming battle with Jaime, he asks “How do you know there is an afterwards?” Does Bran actually know how the battle at Winterfell will end, or is he simply asking a greater question here?
- When Tyrion is talking to Jaime on the ramparts of Winterfell, he speaks of Cersei, saying, “Maybe after I’m dead, I’ll march down to King’s Landing and rip her apart.” Could this possibly be foretelling Cersei’s death? Many fans (myself included) have assumed that Jaime or Arya will be the one to kill Cersei – but what if it’s someone else entirely? In the books, this part of the prophecy is as follows:
Maggy the Frog (upon Cersei asking if she and the king would have children): “Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
“Valonqar” is High Valyrian for “little brother” – or, perhaps more accurately, “younger sibling” (Missandei tells Daenerys in episode 7.02, “Stormborn,” that the noun in High Valyrian used to describe the “prince that was promised” has no gender, so it’s possible that the word “valonqar” is in the same boat). Given the specific language surrounding this part of the prophecy, what if it actually refers to the youngest of her children: her baby that hasn’t been born yet? If the undead reach King’s Landing prior to her giving birth and the child is then stillborn, it would likely become a wight…and would therefore be able to “choke the life” from her. While I still think there is more poetry to having Jaime be Cersei’s killer, the thought of it being her child is certainly an interesting one; after all, it is arguable that the only people Cersei has truly loved throughout the course of the show have been her children, so it would certainly be ironic if one of them were to kill her.
- Why does Daenerys need to have the North in order to take the Iron Throne? Jon argued for Northern independence prior to bending the knee to her, and Sansa is still arguing for Northern independence now. Would it be so terrible for the North to have its own governing body and for Daenerys to rule in the South, with the two working together as allies? It seems to me that her unwillingness to negotiate here is just another reason why she may not be as well-suited for rule as we had initially believed.
- How will the plan to lure the Night King to Bran play out? Will Bran actually to stick to this plan, or does he have another tactic in mind that he hasn’t revealed to the others?
- Why does everyone seem to think that the crypts of Winterfell are the safest place for those who will not be fighting? There are literally dead bodies down there, and both the Night King and the White Walkers can raise the dead to join their army. What is stopping them from raising the dead from the crypts? While it’s possible that the Starks’ ancestors had the crypts built with some sort of protection to withstand any attacks from the White Walkers, it seems to me that the entire plan to have people wait out the battle down there more than likely spells D-O-O-M.
- After speaking with Bran, does Tyrion know about Jon’s true parentage? If so, how is he going to handle that information as the Hand of the Queen to Daenerys?
- Have the Northerners never seen a person of color before? I know that they are wary of Daenerys and her army because they are outsiders, but the way that some of them look at Grey Worm, Missandei, and the people from Essos as a whole is kind of disturbing.
- As the episode closes and the White Walkers lead the undead army toward Winterfell, where exactly is the Night King? He always seems to be two steps ahead of the living, so what exactly is his plan here? Also…do we need to prepare ourselves for ice spiders? I am praying to the Old Gods and the New the answer to that last one is “no.”
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