Another Sunday, another Game of Thrones has come and gone without a ton of action. Sure, there can’t be a major battle every weekend. That’s not what we’re saying at all. However, the most recent episode, titled “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” picked up where the season premiere left off in terms of character building and “setting the board” before the final chapter of cunning chess moves begins.
This episode wasn’t quite as frantically paced as the season premiere, and it resulted in a more enjoyable episode. Once again, the show focused on the preparations taking place in Winterfell for the upcoming battle. In the process, the characters are all facing facts with the very high probability that they will lose the fight against the army of the dead, and inevitably join the ranks of the Night King. Tyrion even makes a joke that maybe he’ll just reanimate as an undead dwarf, march down to King’s Landing, and tear Cersei to pieces as a deranged wight. So at least he’s taking things in stride, as Tyrion tends to do.
The episode kicks off with the Northern Council (which is an unofficial name that I just made up) holding court over what to do about the sudden appearance of Jaime Lannister. Daenerys wants him dead, naturally, since Jaime murdered her father and betrayed her entire family when he was a sworn member of the Kingsguard. The citizens of Winterfell despise everything about the Lannisters, since the War of the Five Kings (and specifically the Red Wedding) are all very recent memories for them.
In the end, the backing from Brienne of Tarth is enough to tilt Sansa’s opinion, which is enough for Jon Snow to think bigger picture about needing all the help they can get. Dany reluctantly agrees, but probably would still relish to opportunity to turn Jaime into a Lannister-kabob using dragon fire, if he steps out of line in any way. Interestingly enough, Bran keeps quiet about his personal history with Jaime, saving that conversation for later.
After avoiding execution, Jaime asks Bran why he didn’t rat him out. Bran (who we should remember is barely even Bran anymore) offers a confusing philosophical take that neither of them would be the very different (and arguably improved) men they are today without Jaime’s selfish actions in that tower so many years ago. Bran’s new role as the Three-Eyed Raven gives him the ultimate pragmatic approach to life: everything happens for a reason, and there’s no sense dwelling on who’s to blame.
Jaime then gets a change to reunite with his brother, as they discuss their own past mistakes. Then Jaime offers his service in battle to Brienne, a humbling experience that continues to prove that Jaime came to Winterfell for the right reasons. Despite his monikers of “Kingslayer” and “Oathbreaker,” the once-Golden Lion has turned into an honorable man.
Daenerys attempts to smooth things over with Sansa, and it starts out well. Sansa confesses that she is concerned that Jon will choose love over duty, if he’s forced with that ultimatum. Dany tries to ease those concerns by claiming that she has already chosen love over duty, by joining Jon Snow’s war in the North instead of flying her dragons into King’s Landing and claiming the Iron Throne for herself, which has been her single driving goal for the entire series. Unfortunately, Sansa snaps the female bonding session back to reality by asking what happens to the North after Dany has conquered everything. Sansa reminds her new Queen that the North vowed to never again recognize a Southern ruler. The tensions rises considerably between the two women, until a convenient interruption ends the scene. To be continued, we think…
Some more reunions take place:
-Theon returns, and pledges his service to Winterfell. Sansa greets him warmly, because Theon was the person who helped her escape the torturous clutches of Ramsay Bolton.
-Jon reunited with his wildling bro Tormund Giantsbane and former Night’s Watch member Edd, who unfortunately bring the grave news that the Night King is less than a day away.
-Samwell overs Jorah Mormont his family sword, Heartsbane. It’s Valyrian steel, and Samwell wisely realizes that it’s more useful in Jorah’s hands than his own. Remember that that it was Jorah’s father Joer, the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, who helped Samwell reach his full potential.
And Arya and Gendry reunite again. Only this time, Arya demands to know if Gendry has been with a woman before. When he confesses that he has, Arya informs him plainly that they will be having sex now. While the scene is awkward and devoid of any romance, we think that’s probably the way it should be. Arya is a virgin and was trained to be a souless killer by the Faceless Men. She almost renounced her Stark family name to become “no one,” only to eventually feel the emotional pull back to humanity. No one in Winterfell really knows that Arya is a face-changing mega-assassin, but this scene with Gendry once again proves that Arya wants to be connected with humanity, after having that instinct almost driven out of her in the House of Black and White.
It’s also interesting that this scene serves as the callback to Season One, when Ned Stark and King Robert Baratheon pledge to unite their houses through marriage. At the time, they were referring to Sansa and Joffrey. However, Joffrey was never really Robert’s son and that marriage never actually took place. Gendry, who is genuinely Robert’s son (and probably the last Baratheon alive), and Arya definitely united in this episode. It might not be an alliance-securing marriage, but at least it was something.
The pivotal scene of the episode was the mighty warriors of Winterfell calming their nerves with a drink by the fire. Tyrion and Jaime start as a duo, and are eventually joined by Brienne, Podrick, Davos, and Tormund. The threat of death is very real, and they all know it. With that looming over them, secrets begin to spill out. Brienne, despite her insistence otherwise, has always wanted to be a knight, only to be denied due to her gender. Jaime says to hell with tradition, and fixes that immediately. The smile on Brienne’s face after is worth a thousand words.
Tormund reveals the secret of both his last name and his considerable size. It’s an odd tale about killing a giant as a 10-year-old and then suckling from that giant’s widow. Tormund then guzzles (giant’s?) milk and spills it all down his beard in a super-gross-but-also-hilarious way. His sexual advances towards Brienne get a little more forward, since he knows they all might die by the end of the day. Shoot your shot, right?
The key secrets revealed in the episode, though, are two-fold. First, the plan to use Bran as bait in the upcoming battle. Bran insists the Night King will come for him specifically, and they theorize that if they can kill the Night King, his forces will fall. They hope to use dragon fire to kill him, but Bran admits that no one knows if that will work because “no one’s ever tried it before.” Plus the Night King has an undead dragon of his own. Still, it’s the only think resembling a real battle plan that the humans have come up with that doesn’t include “fight against an enemy with far superior numbers until they eventually overrun us and kill us all.”
The final secret revealed, which we are giving the “Worst Timing Ever” award to, was Jon telling Dany the truth about his real parents. Dany immediately recognizes what that means. No, not that she’s been sleeping with her nephew. That doesn’t seem to phase her at all. Instead, she instantly reacts to the possibility that Jon has a legitimate claim to the Iron Throne himself, as the last male Targaryen heir.
It’s a serious internal conflict for both of them. Jon has never wanted power, but frequently accepts high ranking positions when he realizes he’s the best man for the job (Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, King of the North). Dany, meanwhile, has been on a lifelong mission to eliminate anyone who threatens what she sees as her birthright to sit on the throne. Will it even matter that Jon is technically family, if he ends up in her way?
Many fans are hoping for the “happy” ending, where Jon and Dany combine their forces to defeat the dead, overthrow Cersei, and rule the seven kingdoms as King and Queen. However, the final conflict might actually be between the two Targaryen heirs. But before we get to that, everyone will have to survive the upcoming battle, since the Night King and his army have arrived at Winterfell, interrupting Jon and Dany before they can discuss the delicate matter any further.
Next week’s episode, which is about 80 minutes long, should be an epic one.