[SPOILER WARNING: Please don’t read unless you’ve seen the episode. I mean, come on, you know how this works]
There’s one thing you should know up front about episode two of Game of Thrones season eight, and it’s this: the big battle they hint at will not occur in the following 50-odd minutes. The reason we mention this is because, viewed as an episode that’s building to something big, it might feel like something of an anticlimax, or at the very least a delayed climax. However, delaying a climax, in dramatic terms, can leave the eventual payoff feel all the more satisfying, and “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” has some wonderful moments. But first, let’s recap.
The episode begins, and in fact exclusively takes part, in Winterfell. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is facing Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) in the main hall and boy, tough crowd! Dany talks about how uncool it was of Jaime to murder her father, and Jaime takes it on the chin and informs the group that Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) will, in fact, not be helping out against the walking dea- erm, white walkers. This doesn’t exactly endear anyone to Jaime’s side, and it makes Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) look like a bit of a dickhead for believing Cersei in the first place. However, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) vouches for Jaime as a man of honour, which causes Sansa to do the same.
“I trust you with my life,” Sansa tells Brienne, “if you trust him with yours… we should let him stay.”
Post meeting, Dany is seriously pissed off at Tyrion for his lapse in judgement. Tyrion reckons his long term employment potential is starting to look a little dicey.
Elsewhere, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) is knocking out some lovely weapons using Dragonglass. Arya (Maisie Williams) pops by to say g’day, have a perv and ask where her bloody weapon is. Gendry seems to think Arya is still the same innocent little girl he first met back in the day. Arya showcases her blade-chucking skills to prove, pretty convincingly, that she’s very much not. Gendry is a little bit scared, a little bit horny.
In the Godswood, Jaime wants to know why Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) never dobbed him in about the whole ‘pushing him out the window, breaking his spine’ caper. Bran talks somewhat cryptically about the nature of fate and free will, and suggests in a subtle way, that these things happen for a reason. Bloody hell, Bran, you’re turning into a creepy InspiroBot quote machine these days.
Jaime then heads off for a chinwag with Tyrion and the pair reflect on life, death and the cruelly ironic nature of things. Jaime leaves Tyrion mid-monologue and pops down to the training grounds to chat with Brienne, telling her he’d be honoured to fight under her.
Meanwhile, Dany gets a visit from Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) who suggests that maybe Tyrion is a good resource to be used and not cast aside because of one mistake. He further suggests perhaps there is one other who should be kept close, which leads us into a lovely scene with Dany and Sansa. The pair really seem to connect, particularly while lightly mocking Jon, and they almost become besties… but it comes down to the issue of power yet again. Sansa wants the North to be free and Dany wants to rule over all the Seven Kingdoms. Neither seems willing to budge an inch, and though the conversation is interrupted, we get the sense this particular argument is far from over.
Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) arrives to much jubilation and hugging from Sansa, and much awkward shrugging from Dany. He pledges his allegiance to Sansa and the Starks.
Outdoors, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) is feeding the troops, although many of them are far from ready for battle. A small child, scarred in a way that reminds him of Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) bravely offers to fight. Davos is touched but unsure how to respond when Gilly (Hannah Murray) saves the day, by asking the cute kid to defend the crypt where she and the children will be hiding.
With the announcement that the dead are near, thanks to Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), final battle plans are made. Bran will be used as bait in the Godswood, because the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) is super horny to maggot him. Theon offers to be Bran’s bodyguard and Tyrion offers to fight with Davos. Dany tells Tyrion she needs his big brain and he should probably keep it safe, showing that she forgives him and still needs him around. Awww bless. The rest of the plan is nutted out and can basically be summarised as “try not to die”.
We get short, but very well executed, character moments next. Firstly, Tyrion wants Bran to tell him his whole story, which Bran obliges. Gray Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) make travel plans for a post battle life, virtually guaranteeing one or both of them will die. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) gives Jon a bit of shit for not telling Dany his big secret, but then Edd (Ben Crompton) rocks up and the trio have a little Night’s Watch reunion. It’s quite funny, and very human, and a nice look back at the show’s twisty history.
In the episode’s funniest scene, we begin with Tyrion and Jaime drinking by the fire. They are soon joined by Brienne and Podrick (Daniel Portman). And then Tormund, who has clearly lost none of his passion for Brienne, pops in also, and then Davos. Tormund tells an alarming, and unlikely, tale about suckling on a giant’s tit and then drinks a hornful of grog, pouring a good third of the contents on himself. After that Davos decides to sink some piss too.
Outside and Arya has a chat with the Hound (Rory McCann), in which it’s clear that they have both changed a lot over time, and all is forgiven. Well, for the most part. Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) arrives and starts banging on about the Lord of Light, and Arya decides she’s got better things to do than listen to old blokes have a sook. Point of fact, Arya decides it’s probably time she got a root, so as not to die a virgin. Gendry is her chosen target and she very bluntly seduces him and gets into it. Gendry doesn’t seem to mind, though, and it seems like a fine time is had by both.
Back to the drinking group and we get the episode’s best scene. Brienne talks about how women can’t be made knights and Tormund thinks this is insane. Jaime agrees and right then and there makes Brienne a knight. Gwendoline Christie absolutely nails this moment, her face portraying genuine emotion, and a fierce sense of pride, and you may find yourself misting up just a little. Brienne is now the titular Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
We then quickly move through Jorah attempting, and failing, to get Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) to sit out the battle to come (as if, Jorah!) and then Sam hands over his sword to Jorah, in a gesture of trust and admiration. Also a gesture of ‘Sam would prefer not to fight because he’s a bit shit at it’, to be frank. Podrick sings a sweet tune and those who have loved ones hold them close as the night draws to an end.
Dany visits Jon in the crypt and he finally tells her the secret that has been eating away at him. Dany is shocked at the ramifications of Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne (but not the incest, strangely), but before anyone can get too worked up about it the army of the dead arrive.
Then a fantastic battle scene tak- wait, what?! No it doesn’t! The episode bloody ends! Argh, curse you weekly episode releases, how can you be so cruel?!
Taken on its own merits, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is a well written, well executed episode and another atmospheric hour from director David Nutter. Perhaps some of the character beats are a little more protracted than they need to be but it seems like next episode will probably dispatch at least a few cast members, so it’s essentially a little bit more calm before the storm. If you can get past the cliffhangery nature of the episode’s ending, it’s a grand session of character development, although the wait for the next ep will be dark and full of terrors.
Ser Pounce Watch: Still no sign of the furry legend, but that’s almost certainly because he’s just biding his time… see you next week!