I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s episode of Game of Thrones. The final season’s second installment wasn’t the most action-packed episode, nor was it an episode full of plot twists and revelations. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was all about focusing on the show’s characters- in particular how far each of them has come. The characters themselves marvel aloud at how their various, convoluted paths brought them here, to this exact moment. On the eve of battle they spend their time reflecting on their choices as we the audience reflect on their character arcs since the show’s beginning. In many ways I felt that the show was having a dialogue with its viewers, with many of these reflective characters referring to explicit moments in the show’s early days. Several lines of dialogue were repeated as the characters recalled memories of their earlier selves and reminded us of the people they used to be. The scene between Jaime and Bran was especially satisfying; as Jaime insists that he’s not the man he once was, Bran shrewdly remarks that in fact Jaime had to do what he did in order to change. The guilt he felt at pushing a child out of a window was a driving factor of his catharsis, causing him to look inward and reevaluate the kind of person he wanted to be, leading to his path of redemption. It’s ironic, because he had to do a bad thing to become a good person- but then this episode has been rife with irony. And once again this theme is voiced aloud by the characters. They understand the absurdity of their situation and it amuses them. These are strange times, with Jaime Lannister fighting for the Starks, with Theon defending the castle he sacked in season 2, and with Arya fighting alongside several of the people once on her list.
On the surface, not much happened in this episode. And yet my eyes were glued to the screen from the first minute to the last. I enjoyed the episode’s many dialogue scenes, all of them emphasizing the personalities of those involved with a well-written mix of humor, irony, and poignancy. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite scene, but in terms of emotional impact I really liked Theon’s reunion with Sansa. It was a short scene, but it underscored how the two of them were brought together through their mutual suffering. It was nice to see someone happy to see Theon for once. I’ve always liked Theon because he’s the most pitiful character in the show. He’s always getting beat down like a mangy dog no one wants. I also liked seeing Jaime fulfill Brienne’s childhood dream of being knighted. It was just a technicality of course, because she’s already a knight in everything but name. She has the most rigid sense of duty of any character in the entire series; she’s about as old school and traditional as a knight can be, right down to her stony face and stoic demeanor. So she doesn’t need the knighthood per se- its value is all about how it’s given to her. It’s an act of love. I don’t know whether Jaime and Brienne will kiss this season, but if they don’t, that’s okay. Jaime knighting her and giving her the respect and recognition of the whole room is as powerful a scene between them as we could possibly get. Sometimes a love scene doesn’t have to be a kiss, or a breathless rumble in the hay. This works perfectly for Brienne and Jaime’s relationship, because respect has been a major theme for Brienne and the way Jaime comes to appreciate her.
Overall, I thought this episode was much better written than the previous one. The dialogue was sharp, the scenes had a steady pace, and the tension really builds towards the end. You really get that feeling that it’s the last day on earth, and it’s interesting to see how this affects our characters. But let’s break down the episode with a little Q & A.
Why does the Night King want Bran?
If you’ve ever read The Giver by Lois Lowry, you’ll understand just how important Bran is to Westeros. As he says, the Three-Eyed Raven is the keeper of history. He holds the memories of everything that’s happened on this particular continent. He has a connection to the very land itself, its creatures, its trees, its soil. That’s what Bran means when he says he’s not exactly human anymore. Inspired by the druids of Celtic folklore, the Three-Eyed Raven is very much a link between the human world and the natural one. And just like The Receiver of Memory in The Giver, the Three-Eyed Raven is a position that one adopts. Kill the Three-Eyed Raven and you vanquish all memory of life on Westeros. Bran’s like a walking library, so think of it as an invading force burning all the history books of the civilization they’re invading. Aside from this, Bran also has a strategic purpose. He’s our biggest asset against the Night King- more so even than the dragons. He can see everything that’s going on in Westeros by seeing through the ravens. So taking out Bran essentially blinds the forces of Westeros.
Gross! Why did they give our little Arya a sex scene?
Shut up. Arya’s scene with Gendry was beautiful for two important reasons. Firstly, it was probably the most empowering sex scene for any female character on the show. Secondly, it’s satisfying to see someone like Arya- whose spent much of the show’s history as a cold-blooded assassin- able to reclaim her humanity and experience a little warmth for the first time in her life. Despite everything, she’s still a person, and it’s deeply touching to see her value the same simple things as everyone else.
What’s going on with Dany?
This might be the most interested I’ve been in Daenerys as a character since the show’s early seasons. She’s got a big heart but she’s also hungry for power. As much as she loves Jon, she went cold when she realized he was a threat to her claim over the Iron Throne. Obviously this news is still very raw for her, but she’s been fixated on the Iron Throne her entire life, to the point of an unhealthy obsession. I find this really interesting, because Dany is going to have to reassess how important being the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms is to her. What will happen depends on how cynical the writers are. If we get a good ending, Jon and Dany will get married and rule as equals. If we get a darker ending, Dany will indulge her worst instincts and have Jon quietly eliminated at the end of the season. What do y’all think will happen?
What did I miss?
There are a couple little things I feel the need to point out from this episode. The first one is only implied and not outright stated, but I think it’s highly likely that Podrick’s hidden singing talent was the reason those prostitutes refused payment from him all those seasons ago. I feel like that’s a better answer to the mystery than him having a ten-inch cock or something. I also think it’s the sort of thing that’s intentionally left for the fans to piece together themselves.
The second thing I wanted to point out is that it’s worth remembering that each of the White Walkers (except for the Night King) are each the sons of Craster, and therefore the brothers of Gilly. That’s why there aren’t loads of White Walkers- each of them had to be created via ritual after Craster offered them in tribute.
Who will die during the Battle of Winterfell?
My picks are Beric, Grey Worm, Jaime, Tormund, Jorah, Theon, and Brienne. I also think we will see at least one of these return as an undead wight. As for unnamed characters, I think there’s a strong possibility we’ll see the Dothraki all but wiped out. I’ve always liked the Dothraki for their steppe culture, and seeing the superior fighting skills of their horse-archers make short work of Cersei’s conventional Lannister infantrymen is straight from my wettest dreams as a fan. But I don’t see any scenario whereby the Dothraki horde either settles in Westeros or sails home. Their way of life just wouldn’t work long term in Westeros, they’d end up wiping out each of the Houses. I predict that as much as 99% of them will be fighting for the army of the dead by the end of the next episode. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Rhaegal perishes at the hands of his reanimated brother.
How will the battle end?
I don’t think Winterfell will even exist by the end of the episode. But that’s not to say everyone will die. I think there will be some sort of twist at the end of the episode. Some fans have speculated that Melisandre will show up, but I’m not totally convinced. It might be strange if they introduce a whole new faction right at the end. I think it’s more likely she’ll show up when Dany and what remains of her army retreat to the Iron Islands in episode four. It should also be noted that it’s very likely there will be some kind of battle in episode five. Miguel Sapochnik, the director of next week’s episode, has been the show’s go-to director for battle scenes. He’s the guy that did “Hardhome” and “The Battle of the Bastards”, so when you see his name show up it’s a good indication that there will be some kind of extended action set piece. It won’t be as big a battle as next week’s, and I don’t think it will take up the entirety of episode five, but it will be very interesting to see who is fighting whom. I for one will put money down right now on Dany, Jon, Drogon, Yara, Euron, the Hound, and the Mountain all being active participants.