So Game of Thrones Season 8 is moving at an incredible pace, with the Night’s King now literally on the doorstep of Winterfell. Episode 2: A Knight of Seven Kingdoms has us preparing for one of the most epic battle sequences next week that took a staggering 11 weeks of night shoots to accomplish. Apparently, the best place to be is in the CRYPTS. Because that’s where we’ll be safe. In the CRYPTS. Note, what won’t be safe in the CRYPTS as you continue reading, are spoilers. You’ve been warned.
I’m very impressed at the opening title sequence not only changing from last season to now, but also changing in between every episode. The path of the White Walker tiles have already been flipped at The Last Hearth, and are now making their way south. Winterfell is preparing for battle with fortifications surrounding the castle grounds, and again, we make our way through the CRYPTS. In case you haven’t noticed, they mentioned the CRYPTS a lot this episode. The safest place is in the CRYPTS. Bran wants to use himself as bait, so he can’t stay in the CRYPTS. Lyanna Mormont and Samwell Tarly don’t want to go to the CRYPTS. Has no one realised what the CRYPTS contain? Is no one thinking about all the dead Stark bodies that are down in those CRYPTS? Does no one remember what happens when the Night’s King raises his arms around dead bodies?
Remember that promotional trailer for Season 8 that was cut to Arya running scared through the hallways? What could possibly scare Arya? She knows death. He’s got many faces. She looks forward to seeing this one. You know what doesn’t have a face? Ned Stark’s decapitated body as he climbs his way out of him tomb to terrorise the cowering women and children of Winterfell in the CRYPTS. The same CRYPTS that are apparently the safest place to be. Sure they are.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This week had a lot of nice moments in and of themselves. I almost cried several times, but none more so than when Jamie Lannister knighted Brienne of Tarth. As I pointed out in last week’s recap/review, Game of Thrones has made a habit of giving us emotional moments with characters, before ripping the rug out from underneath us. What more emotional moment could there be for Brienne, not only in her standing up and vouching for Jamie, but to kneel before him, and rise again as a Knight. Commendations to Gwendoline Christie for really, one of the most moving performances I’ve seen on this show, where a character who truly and utterly deserves something, actually gets what they most want. All of the applause for her. What I’m taking this to mean is there’s a very, very high chance of us saying goodbye to Ser Brienne of Tarth next week.
Now Jamie on the other hand (wink wink), isn’t going anywhere just yet, because he’s got unfinished business with a certain queen down south, and that’ll surely come to a head later this season. But it was a nice moment, watching Brienne vouch for him in front of Sansa, Daenerys, Tyrion, and the rest of the Lords and Ladies of Winterfell. It’s also great to see Jamie and Tyrion getting some more scenes together. I was a particularly big fan of Tyrion telling Jamie off for knowing all along what Cersei was, but loving her anyway. It’s great for an audience who have come to care for Jamie (thanks, in large part, to his misfortune) to remember that simply because bad things happen to someone and you feel sorry for them, doesn’t admonish the bad things they’ve done before that. Nice introspective moment there, for those who are a fan of not tying everything together in a neat and tidy bow.
Speaking of nice moments between characters, Sansa and Dany almost coming to an agreement was a nice change of pace, followed by an even nicer conversation between the two women on how best to tackle their complicated relationship. Maybe it’s just because I was so sick of the infighting after an entire season of stupidity with Sansa and Arya last season, or maybe it’s just because we simply don’t have the time anymore with the White Walkers right on the doorstep, but I like that Dany and Sansa had a good little talk. I like that it wasn’t completely left resolved, with a lingering twinge of discomfort as Sansa asks what’s to come after The Great War. I also like the discussions, open admissions of love, and how that corrupts and manipulates people to do stupid things. Which is essentially, much of Game of Thrones. Cersei and Jamie. Robb and Talisa resulting in the Red Wedding. Let’s not forget Littlefinger twisting his way around Lysa Arryn to try and have his way with Catelyn Stark, which ultimately set most of the events of the show into motion. We can go so far back as to Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. And on, and on, and on. Yes, love makes people do stupid things all the time.
We wouldn’t have had this conversation though, if it weren’t for king-of-the-friendzone Jorah, and his lovingly wise counsel for Dany. Not just in respect to Sansa, but also in his advice regarding Tyrion. My favourite part of this though, is not drawing attention to the fact that Tyrion made mistakes, because we all know how smart Tyrion is. It’s drawing attention to how many mistakes Dany is making. It’s highlighting her near ruthless desire for the throne. It’s shedding more and more light, slowly, on that hubris of hers, and if there’s one thing medieval literature has taught us about hubris. It’s don’t. Just, don’t. I said it last week and I’ll say it again, it’s not Dany I want in charge at the end of all this. I think it’s very much going to be Jon. Not that he wants it, but where’s the drama in things working out all nice and simple?
Okay, Jon. Good. I’m glad we’re not beating around the bush here. But also, we’re not rushing through this arc without giving it the weight it deserves. Jon finds out he’s actually a secret Targaryen/has a claim to the throne last episode. He tells Dany this episode, and as I predicted, much less concern over the ickiness, and much more over the political repercussions. But they’re interrupted. Next episode, I don’t think we’re going to have much time to debate who gets to sit on which chair, with The Night’s King knocking at the door, which means we’ll be at episode 4 before we visit this arc again? It’s getting juicy. It’s getting tender. It’s not quite ripe yet, but I’m so here for watching all of this unfold.
It’s not just Jamie and Brienne, Sansa and Dany, and Dany and Jon that have tender moments this episode, though. Lots and lots of dialogue. Lots of funny, touching, and tender moments between characters all feeling their imminent death come the morning. Which makes me very, very worried for the death count for next episode. Theon and Sansa, almost cried. Tormund, laughed at almost every line (not a huge fan of giant’s milk, but he delivers it well). Davos and the little girl with the scar on her face who even had Shereen’s music played over her entrance, right in the feels. Grey worm and Missandei talk about their future plans. Lyanna Mormont argues for her right to fight. Podrick, turns out, is a competent swordsman now (and a singer?) What’s the bet that we say goodbye to a good many of these characters next episode? Again, my money is on Brienne more than most, simply because of how sublime her scene was this episode, but I wouldn’t question a good 40-60% of the people I just mentioned joining the army of the dead along with her. One thing I’m thankful for, Ghost, was only seen just briefly. He was there, but not a whole lot. Hopefully he’ll be around for a couple more episodes. The only completely safe characters for next week, in my mind, are Dany, Jon, Jamie and Tyrion. That’s it. Be ready to literally say goodbye to almost anyone else.
But now, the actress that’s come out of this episode trending, yes. Yes, we all got a glimpse of Maisie Williams with some tasteful sideboob and a teeny bit of butt. Yes, the world has been shipping Arya and Gendry for some time now, and I wasn’t a huge fan of that – but – I was a fan of how this was handled. Firstly, there’s the complication that Maisie Williams was a very young actress when she was first cast, and is now a full-grown woman, albeit one that we’ve watched grow up in front of us. In an EW interview, Williams pointed out that Dan and Dave gave her permission to show as much or as little as she liked, and I thought a rather nice balance was achieved. Not only is it an empowering moment for her character, but it’s also an interesting shift. As Williams puts it: “it was really interesting because it’s a very human relationship for Arya. This is something she’s stayed away from, an emotion we’ve never really seen her engage with.” For so much of Game of Thrones, Arya has been on a mission for survival. She has, in many ways, been dehumanised. It’s thrilling now, to watch her go through emotions like lust and (potentially) fear, next episode. It’s actually made me much more interested in watching her character, and where she goes from here.
So! Season 8, Episode 2, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. We have a knighting, and one very long night before a very big battle for the seven kingdoms. Lots of tender character moments. Lots of well-placed and delectable interactions, before what I’m sure is going to be one of the most thrilling battle sequences yet. After the Battle of the Bastards and Hardhome, I’m super-duper keen to see what they come up with for the Battle of Winterfell. Next Monday can’t come fast enough!