The second installment of the final season of “Game of Thrones” served effectively as an ode to all of our favorite living characters, and any fan who felt it was disappointing or anticlimactic is no true fan. Ramsey warned us years ago: if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention. Simply put, HBO treated us to a series of satisfying moments and touches of humor this week in preparation for the inevitable heartbreak of the final four episodes.
Knights of the Seven Kingdoms…
For the first time in “Game of Thrones” history, the writers have chosen not to reveal the title of each episode until it airs—likely due to our tendency to try and dissect the meaning behind them. Take Margaery Tyrell’s wedding to Joffrey in “The Lion and The Rose”—a Season 4 title that served a dual purpose. A simple title at first glance: The Lion married The Rose. After weeks of guessing who killed Joffrey, we learned it was Olenna Tyrell (The Other Rose) and that the answer was staring us right in the face.
Easter Sunday’s episode title, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” is similar in that it's impossible to decipher which knight the episode is named for: Jaime, the knight who finally honored his vows; Brienne, the first Lady of Westeros ever to be knighted; or Jorah, the knight most likely to be nearing his final episode.
A man of honor and the things he’s done for love. The episode description says simply, “Jaime argues his case before a skeptical audience.” Until he knights Brienne, the title and description indicate that this is Ser Jaime’s show. He is not the Golden Lion he once was. Jaime walks confidently into the Great Hall at Winterfell well aware that any one of them could order his execution, or that Bran could reveal the truth at any moment; but he made a promise that he finally intends to keep.
When Bran greets Jaime at the gates, it signifies that he knew Jaime was coming and therefore that Cersei lied about sending her armies North, but didn’t bother to tell anyone. Without question, the Starks would have killed Jaime then and there if Bran had revealed their prior connection. Instead, Bran keeps this all to himself because he knows they need Jaime—a seasoned strategist with a Valyrian steel sword—to win this battle. Whether Bran will feel the same about Jaime afterward is a question for another episode.
Rather than apologizing for all his wrongdoings, Jaime explains that everything he did was out of love for his family—which is admirable, but isn’t necessarily true. He saved the entire population of King’s Landing when he stabbed Dany’s father in the back, and he didn’t do it only to protect his family; he also did it to save thousands of innocent lives. If Jaime survives the night, hopefully he or Bran will see fit to explain this.
Another man of honor with another Valyrian sword. Ser Jorah's storyline was too prominent in this episode to believe he will survive past Episode 3. Although we already know that Dany forgives Jorah for his betrayal, this is the first time we have heard her say so out loud. The declaration comes moments before what is likely to be his final words of wisdom as the Dragon Queen's most trusted advisor.
In case that wasn't enough, the knight’s betrayal of House Mormont also seems long forgotten, as little Lady Lyanna wishes her cousin good fortune as she heads out onto the battlefield herself (oh no!). Perhaps the most telling moment, however, is when Sam Tarly hands over his Valyrian steel sword—one of the few weapons that can kill the White Walkers—knowing that Jorah will make better use of it in the battle to come. We know that it's likely the majority of these characters will be killed next week, but Jorah's scenes in this particular episode indicate that he will play a major role in the battle prior to losing it.
Just before the credits roll, we catch another telling glimpse of Ser Jorah heading toward the gates on horseback; and we also know from the trailers that he will stand on the front lines. When Jon & Co. fought beyond The Wall, it was Jorah who suggested that they go after the Walkers—"Maybe we'll stand a chance," he says—so I don't see why his strategy would be any different now. In other words, at least Sam's sword is going to see some decent action before it gets returned to him.
A woman of honor. As commander of the left flank, Brienne thinks she and her men/women will have an advantage when they meet the dead next week and will be able to “beat them back.” But if she survives, the newly anointed knight might have other issues to worry about.
This is an unpopular opinion, so bear with me. Although Brienne once wondered why anyone would want to die “defending a Lannister,” I can’t help but think she just put her own life on the line by defending one…
“We are all liars here.” It took her several years, but Sansa has become one of the better liars of the bunch. When Brienne vouches for Jaime Lannister—a known enemy of the Starks despite her pledge to defend Sansa against her enemies—Sansa’s reaction is poisonous to anyone who knows how to spot the liars. She goes along with it because she trusts Brienne and understands Jaime’s value, but in the event that Jaime turns back to Cersei, it’ll be Brienne who pays.
Sansa is never going to trust anyone who has previously betrayed her family; not after all that’s happened to her. If not for Jon, she would have punished the Umbers long before they were all killed. In Sansa’s eyes, Brienne’s defense of Jaime Lannister is just another betrayal. This is all guesswork and I could be wrong, but would it not be poetic if the most honorable character in the whole series is executed for treason?
On a happier note, I may or may not have teared up a bit when she was knighted.
The knight who isn’t a knight. If anyone has proven himself worthy of a knighthood, it’s The Hound. Maybe Arya doesn’t see it this way, but Sandor Clegane has been “defending the innocent” from the beginning. I don’t think his story is over—he still needs to face his brother—but it felt necessary to honor him just in case.
The knight with the flaming sword. One final "Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" worth mentioning is Ser Beric, another name that Arya has removed from her list and another character who might be in trouble next week. Beric Dondarrion believes the Lord of Light will show him the way in the upcoming battle, in which case we might finally learn why Beric has been kept alive for so long.
What about the North?
Once again, Sansa asks all the right questions. Jaime explicitly asks Bran how he will feel about the Kingslayer “after this,” and Bran reveals that he has no way of telling whether there will be an “after this.” So the question is: if the living prevail, what’s next?
Sansa could not have been thrilled with Dany’s referral to Jon as “the Warden of the North” in the opening scene. She makes some headway with the Mother of Dragons, but still doesn’t trust her and isn’t ready to bend the knee.
They were on the verge of agreement with Jaime, further proving that the two have more in common than either would like to admit—but, as previously stated, Sansa not only knows how to lie but also knows how to pick out the liars. Dany only approaches the conversation with Sansa at Jorah’s suggestion and Sansa sees right through her attempt at sincerity. The North is Sansa’s and she's not going to be manipulated out of it.
(As a side note: Sansa really needs to get over the fact that everyone trusted Cersei. If she thinks she knows Cersei better than anyone else, she should’ve gone to King’s Landing herself instead of sending Brienne in her place.)
If you give a mouse a cookie…
The King in the North. When Yara requests independence for the Iron Islands in Season 6, Tyrion warns Daenerys that others would want the same. Dany responds simply that “the others are free to ask as well.” If Yara can maintain her position as Queen of the Iron Islands, why can’t Jon maintain his as King in the North? Jon warned Dany that his people would never accept a southern ruler again, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find Sansa wanting the same independence for her country.
In fact, I’m willing to bet Dany would have caved had Jon not bent the knee. After all, he did so after she had already agreed to fight for the North. He could have just said “Thank you, Dany” and went back to sleep, but he didn’t—and now Sansa is left with the burden of explaining why the Starks went back on their promise never to bow to anyone again.
The Mother of Dragons. Dany gave her word that she would fight for the North partially out of vengeance for her lost dragon, but also because she knows they’ll all die without her. She rides rather than flies to Winterfell to show the people that she is not coming to conquer the North, but to save it. Her intention was to show the North that she is different from her ancestors, who made all seven kingdoms bow to the Targaryens out of fear as they rode their dragons from city to city. Why Dany allowed Tyrion to speak for her in the premiere rather than explaining her own motives, I’m still not sure.
More respect for the Starks…
Theon grows a pair. It’s worth noting that while Yara heads to the Iron Islands to take them back in Dany’s name in case she needs a place to flea, Theon heads to Winterfell—not for the Dragon Queen, but for Sansa. Little by little, Daenerys is beginning to understand why Sansa is someone worth following. My guess is Theon’s probably got a little thing for Sansa, but it’s not only Sansa that Theon wants to protect.
If Theon hadn’t taken the castle from him, Bran would never have left Winterfell in the first place, and Ramsey Bolton (nee Snow) wouldn’t have been sent to take the castle back. Now Theon will do whatever it takes to remedy that mistake.
Arya enjoys a pair. Just to set the record straight, Arya is not a child and what happened with Gendry is the most normal thing she’s done since her family was slaughtered at the Red Wedding. This world has hardened Arya, and being home is bringing her back to life. There’s no concrete evidence of how old anyone is at the moment, but to put this in perspective: Tommen Baratheon was younger than Arya, so if Tommen was of an age to be married, so is Arya. Let the poor girl have a moment of happiness before she dies, which could happen at any moment.
The highly anticipated scene of a bloodied Arya sprinting through the halls of Winterfell, presumably being chased by someone or something, is only a week away. Although she’s well-armed with weapons capable of taking down the dead, I can’t remember the last time we saw fear in Arya’s eyes—and what she emotes in the trailer is most definitely fear. It could be an act, but I find it more likely that she either underestimated her opponent or the dead man she’s running from is someone she knows.
A claim to the Iron Throne. As expected, Jon Snow waited until the worst possible moment to hit Dany with the news; and her reaction was also as expected. I don’t have much too to say on this other than Jon better hope she doesn’t lose her temper and try to kill him mid-battle. At the very least, she should acknowledge the fact that he chose to reveal this news only to her and the fact that he might not have any intention of acting on his claim to her throne.
Upon hearing the news, neither seemed too concerned about their inappropriate relations. All I keep thinking is how much more difficult it would have been for Ned Stark to pass Jon off as his son if he had been born with the typical Targaryen look. Nevertheless, we should hope the diary that provides proof of Lyanna and Rhaegar’s wedding is among the books that Sam “borrowed” from the Citadel—because taking Bran’s word for it is not going to fly.
The Night King will never expose himself…
We finally have some insight into the Night King’s motives, and it’s not Jon or Daenerys or any other particular character that he’s after. He simply wants to erase life from the world, and the best way to do that is to kill Bran. Not only does Bran know where the Night King is at all times, making Bran a threat to the Night King’s army, but he also carries all the memories of the world that the Night King is out to destroy. “If I wanted to erase the world of men, I’d start with you,” Sam says in comprehension.
If luring the Night King into the open is their best chance to kill him, then Jaime is right: the Night King is not going to expose himself. And since fire cannot kill a living dragon, but can presumably kill an already dead one, Viserion likely won’t be there either. Bran points out that we don’t know whether the dragons are capable of defeating the Night King because “no one has ever tried.” But if one dragon was strong enough to break through The Wall, two could be strong enough to defeat him. If the Night King is smart—and we have no reason to doubt that he is—he will fly that ice dragon elsewhere while his army fights in the North.
Subtle but relevant…
An off-screen conversation. Tyrion pulls up a chair next to Bran and asks to hear his story. What they discuss is a mystery to us, but the conversation comes a week after the two exchanged a suspicious look during the premiere. We are left unsatisfied as the scene cuts to Grey Worm, who has a short and sweet conversation about the future with Missandei that gives us the impression that his hours are numbered. That was a goodbye kiss if I've ever seen one.
Who has Valyrian steel? In addition to being forged into weapons, dragonglass also currently decorates pikes all around the castle as means of stopping the wights from getting through. They also plan to light a trench on fire in a further attempt to stop them, but fire will not stop the White Walkers. What will stop them is Valyrian steel—and, finally, most of the existing Valyrian steel is all in one place. Jaime and Brienne each carry one half of Ned Stark’s Valyrian steel sword; Arya carries the Valyrian steel dagger that was used in the assassination attempt on Bran; Jon Snow carries the Valyrian steel sword that was once meant to be Jorah’s; and now Jorah has a Valyrian steel sword of his own.
What death really is. Sam's analysis of death reminded me what Beric and Jon both told us—that when they died, there was nothing. “The Darkness,” Beric called it. Even in our world, people tell themselves that whatever comes after death is “a better place” because it helps them fear death a little less. In this case, Jon and Beric are able to provide proof that there is nothing after death. Only darkness.
I would share my predictions for who I think will meet the darkness next week, but unfortunately it's longer than my list of survivors. The main standouts based specifically on moments from this episode are Jorah, Grey Worm, Beric Dondarrion and Podrick.
The Titanic sank on April 14 and Season 8 aired the same day. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
To read the recap of last week's premiere, click HERE.
Click HERE about the characters I expect to die this season based on previous scenes.