REVIEW: Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 – A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Game of Thrones delivered a moving episode as characters gathered in Winterfell the night before the end.

This was another quiet episode filled with interesting and exciting character interactions, much like the premiere, but this chapter felt less like moving the pieces into place but really took the time to savor each possibly final moment with each character. With the battle against the Night King looming ahead, everyone is keenly aware that these may as well be their last hours on earth, and how and with whom they choose to spend this precious time reflected the length and breadth of their journeys.

Game of Thrones is always best when it focuses on its characters and their development, and not on dragon flight or impressive battle sequences. It’s the quiet moments spent with these people that make their stories all the more compelling. The audience has spent years with each of the players, enduring some inconsistencies in the writing, and even some improbably character choices, but still, witnessing the changes in each character from the very beginning. We’ve been with them for so long that we deserve to see how their stories will end.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsBrienne and Jaime are the stars of this episode as their complementary journeys find a satisfying and well-earned resolution. Both of them are an embodiment of what it means to be a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms in different ways. Jaime was an actual knight with all the appearance of nobility but who had used his position for questionable acts, only later redeeming himself by learning humility and true service after several grueling trials. Brienne had always lived by the code of true nobility that all knights ought to aspire to but had never been granted the recognition she deserved for her virtue and courage.

Both of them have come a long way from the bickering captor and captive that they were years ago and their paths have led them back to each other, where they can finally become the people they were meant to be. The knighting of Brienne was a culmination of all of her efforts to live up to a sometimes impossible standard and to finally receive the acknowledgment that she so deserves. This was also a chance for Jaime to use his own position and privilege to bestow an honor on someone else. His arc has been to learn true humility while Brienne’s has been to step into her destiny as one of the few truly honorable people in Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsBrienne risked everything to vouch for Jaime, even in front of Daenerys and Sansa. And because Brienne has proven to be the most loyal ally, Sansa believes her and trusts her judgment, even of the man who had attacked her father. It is Brienne’s noble character and the faith she inspires in others that eventually saves Jaime and it is this sacrifice that he immediately seeks to repay.

With Jaime knighting her and choosing to serve under her command, their destinies have intersected in a meaningful way. They will fight side by side against their greatest foe, and they will be stronger than they have ever been. Whether or not you ship these two, you cannot help but admit that their bond has helped them both grow and they are one of the few couples in Game of Thrones that I am passionately rooting for (even if I believe that they’re probably both going down in flames, but at least they’ll be together).

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsArya first spends some time reminiscing with Sandor, with the latter quietly acknowledging their bond and how he had fought for her once. It’s another simple but powerful moment, unsentimental as befits both characters, but an effective synthesis of all they had been through together. They were hardly on friendly terms, but they had been companions on the road and through some truly tragic times.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsAfter a quick glare at Beric Dondarrion, Arya decides that she doesn’t want to spend her final hours with a couple of miserable old men. The other ship that sailed tonight was Arya and Gendry. I was not expecting such an explicit advancement of their relationship but given that this is the final season, the Game of Thrones writers clearly are in some rush to get from one point to another. The ensuing sex scene, initiated by Arya, elicited some mixed reactions from fans but I personally found it empowering and enjoyable. A girl deserves to get some before the end of days.

Dany has a lot on her plate in this episode (more so than usual). She has to deal with facing her father’s killer, her disappointment with Tyrion, Jon’s sudden distance, and Sansa’s steely resolve. The conversation between her and Sansa was still a highlight, if only for the “Someone taller” remark and the rare time either of them truly smiled. There was an air of mutual respect and admiration between them and if circumstances had been different, they would find that they shared a lot in common. Both women have had to remain strong in the face of great adversity and both have emerged triumphant in spite of all their struggles. But this does not change the fact that Daenerys’ claim to the North is one that Sansa will never accept. This will be a much more complex conflict to resolve than simply surviving the winter of the white walkers.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsThen, Dany has to contend with the huge revelation of Jon’s identity and all its implications. She is barely given time to process this information and what it means to her as someone who loves Jon, who is suddenly related to him, and who is now his fiercest rival for the throne. At this point in Game of Thrones, it would be a disservice to Dany’s character and her journey to simply hand the crown over to Jon, the most reluctant ruler there ever was, but the solution will surely still be a painful one. But both of them will have to survive the long night before they can properly deal with this development.

Also, many pivotal scenes seem to take place in the crypts of Winterfell. And given how many times people have mentioned that this is the safest place for the women and children, it’s clear that it won’t be. After all, it’s convenient to have a place full of corpses when an army of the reanimated dead is approaching.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsAgain, some of the strongest parts of the episodes were the simplest and most understated. There was Jon’s reunion with Edd and the ambush bear hug from Tormund. There was Tormund’s continued thirst for Brienne. There was Davos serving in the soup kitchen and facing a girl who reminded him very much of Shireen. Sansa’s warm welcome of Theon and their quiet moment sipping soup were also balms to the soul. Basically, all the scenes while Podrick sang his song. Game of Thrones can say so much with so little.

Even Bran had some interesting interactions in this episode. He said one thing to Jaime during the latter’s trial that may as well have been their own inside joke. But their conversation in the godswood showed that all was forgiven, bringing some closure to both of them for the event that pretty much triggered Game of Thrones. (Though one worries about Jaime’s fate when Bran cryptically asks “What makes you so sure that there’s an afterwards?”)

Bran also admits that he is the Night King’s target because, as the Three-Eyed Raven, he holds the memory of the world, prompting a reflection from Sam that death was about being forgotten and it was the stories that kept the world truly alive. Nice meta moment there, Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsTheon steps in to protect Bran, to make up for his past mistakes (everything Theon does now is practically signposting his redemption by death). And then Tyrion sits down with the young Stark and hears his story. Despite Tyrion’s recent lapses in judgment (that Jorah surprisingly convinces Dany to forgive), he is still one of the cleverest people on the show and he will surely have some valuable insights on what he has heard.

There were the scenes of Grey Worm and Missandei as they dealt with casual racism (really, Game of Thrones, really?) and planned for the future. Always a sign of foreboding on this show and pretty much a signing of a death warrant. But neither of them is after the Iron Throne, so can’t they both ride into the sunset after all of this is over?

One of my favorite moments was Jorah and Lyanna Mormont arguing on the future of their house. It rang true to both characters and I was just so glad that they got to share a scene together, as I wished last week. “I wish you good fortune, cousin,” just made my day, followed by Sam giving Heartsbane to Jorah.

Game of Thrones, S8 Ep2 - A Knight of the Seven KingdomsThe best part of the whole episode was the drinking session between the most unlikely group of characters ever assembled on Game of Thrones. And yet, it worked. Just seeing all of them, quietly sipping their wine and enjoying the calm before the storm was powerful. Tyrion’s remark on the irony that they had all, at one point, fought against the Starks but were now defending Winterfell was spot on. But his best line in this episode had to be “I wish father were here.”

Then, Pod gives his touching rendition of “Jenny of Oldstones” while everyone else listens wistfully. It’s difficult not to think of Pippin singing “All shall fade” in the halls of Minas Tirith, but this trope still works very effectively. The song plays poignantly as the rest of the characters ponder the roads that led them to this moment and what else lies in store for them if they live to see the dawn.

Florence + the Machine sings a hauntingly beautiful version of “Jenny of Oldstones” during the end credits, which was also made into a heart-wrenching lyric video. Let the feels overflow as you check it out below: