Game of Thrones: 8.02 A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
If last week's episode was about setting the scene for the final stages of Game of Thrones, then this week's A Knight of the Seven Realms did what the show does best and give us one long last at our favourite characters before all hell breaks loose. Focusing entirely on Winterfell - which to be fair now covers about 90% of the show's cast - audiences were given a rich character driven hour of television with a healthy dose of comedy, drama, reunions and conflicts that will only make the eventual death and destruction to come next week all the more harrowing.
The opening act was devoted almost entirely to Jamie's arrival and the impact it had on the various characters involved. Starting with his 'trial' in the Great Hall standing judgement before Daenerys, Jamie's past actions caught up with him, both good and bad. While the dragon queen was ready to execute him for murdering her father, and Tyrion's passionate defence of his brother did little to sway her, it was Brienne's speech that saved him. Calling back to the events of season three that saw the beginning of his redemption - saving Brienne from rape and then loosing his hand - allowed Jamie to be spared execution and join the upcoming fight against the dead.
Some truly wonderful Jamie moments followed - a reunion with brother Tyrion who continued to feel a fool in front of Daenerys for believing Cersei would join them in the fight. The meeting with Bran was interesting, the Stark not revealing Jamie's role in throwing him from the tower at the end of the very first episode. It certainly raised questions for what role Bran might foresee him playing in the battle to come. Greater still was his scene with Brienne on the training ground; instead of playing insults he vowed to fight under her command, showing just how far he has come as a person.
But this episode was far more than just how Jamie fit into the company at Winterfell. Theon returned home, receiving a lovely hug from Sansa. I loved that they spent time together in the final night before battle. I fear this was the last step in his redemption; volunteering to protect Bran in a trap to lure the Night King out is surely going to end his death (and resurrection?). The confirmation that Bran is the one the Night King is coming for has long been suspected and I can't wait to see how that pays off next episode.
Sansa and Daenerys's scene was interesting, suggesting perhaps a war between them to come. There was a moment that suggested they would become friends and not just allies, but that was broken by Sansa's defiance in suggesting that the North would be free. Of course, it wasn't the only threat Daenerys found herself facing this episode. That final scene with Jon in the tombs as he revealed his parentage was meet with disbelief as suspected, but worryingly her first reaction was the threat he placed to her gaining the iron throne. This episode saw her speak openly of her love for Jon, but I suspect her ambition and ruthlessness will win over. And it makes me genuinely wonder how the rest of the season will play out. I would be surprised if the war with the dead was resolved next episode but it seems that there's far more to come before it is decided who will sit on the iron throne...assuming there is one at all come the series' end.
It was nice to see Gilly take an active role this episode; she is no longer the meek frightened girl Sam rescued many seasons ago and A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms saw her working to protect the women and children of Winterfell by arranging sanctuary in the crypts. There was also something bold and disturbing about that little girl wanting to fight and challenging Davos not to hide away when the battle comes. Kudos then to Gilly then for convincing her to 'protect the crypts' from the enemy.
And talking of girls, we got a scene I never even knew I wanted as Jorah met his cousin, the fierce Lady Lyanna Mormont armoured and ready for battle. Bella Ramsey has been something of a revelation as the Lady Mormont and I both fear and am excited to see what she might do leading her men of Bear Island against the dead next episode.
This episode gave every character a little something to do. Tyrion found his strength renewed in Daenerys's vow to keep him as her Hand, courtesy of a little wisdom from Jorah. Sam, Eddison got a little scene where they reminisced about their time at the Wall and friends long lost. Tormund's bear hug for Jon was another find reunion, while Grey Worm and Missandei shared their bittersweet hopes of sailing to Naath after the war. I hope their final passionate kiss before he marched to war was not their final scene but then it is almost certain that a number of the connections we saw this episode were the last encounters before the bloodshed to come.
Arya feels a little out of place, finding her home filled with people once her enemies or long thought dead. Her encounter with Sandor and Beric on the battlements brought back a lot of past anger as she challenged the Hound why he now fought for others. His assertion that he fought for her was a powerful moment, one that seemed to challenge her to the core. And then there was Gendry. Fans have been hoping for a reunion between them for years and her first sight of him last week was arming her old enemies. But that connection remains and we saw her find some passion, some humanity before the battle as she asked him to have sex with her. Something has certainly died in Arya over the years, but experiencing this passion with Gendry gives hope that she might find something to live for after the war is done...assuming of course she survives it.
My absolute favourite scenes of the episode were those in the Hall as characters joined the gathering one by one to share their last night together. It was lovely to see these characters together on screen, starting with a bit of reminiscing between Jamie and Tyrion before they were joined by Brienne, Podrick, Tormund and Davos. Tormund's pissing contest with Jamie to win over Brienne was fantastic, as was his story of slaying a giant aged ten and sipping on the teat of the giant's wife. But Jamie won this game; his decision to proclaim Brienne as a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms was a beautiful moment, Brienne letting her guard down as she gained something she had always wanted. Again, I hope this isn't her final hurrah.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms was a superb character-driven episode, with every performance, every scene rich and absorbing. It was also a pretty cruel move by the writers too; this episode gave us so much and next week's battle - set to be the biggest in televised history and taking 52 nights to film - is going to tear it all down. So enjoy what we got this week. Because the heartache is going to surely come thick and fast once the battle begins...