Game of Thrones
The second chapter of this final season divides itself quite nicely into two halves. The first half reads as a continuation of the events and thematic structure of the previous episode. Jaime is brought before the Queen and his motives are questioned until he finds Brianne vouching for him, convincing Sansa who then in turn convinces Aegon and Dany. With Jaime inactive most of the previous episode, the narrative takes a little bit of time catching him up with his reunions, featuring scenes of him pledging to fight under Brianne's command and having a bonding moment with his brother Tyrion.
Dany and Sansa have an interesting sit-down in which Dany acknowledges the tension between the two leaders and attempts to win the heart of Sansa only to have those hopes dashed like a wave hitting a stone wall as Sansa reasserts that the North does not intend to bow down to anybody ever again. The conversation is interrupted by another arrival, though-- Theon has brought a company of Ironborn to defend his former home of Winterfell.
A number of other encounters spread throughout this first half of the episode, from Jaime apologizing to Bran to the triumphant return of the survivors from Eastwatch. Gilly even gets a moment in the spotlight as all of Winterfell goes about preparing for imminent battle. At the midpoint of the episode, a war counsel is convened and battle plans are drawn.
The second half of the episode took on a slightly different form as the characters endure the "calm before the storm" so to speak. With insurmountable odds ahead, we track many characters and how they choose to spend their possible last night alive. Sam gifts his family sword to Jorah before retiring to spend the rest of the night holding his family close. The Hound and Beric, briefly joined by Arya, sit atop the ramparts and share a drink. Arya tires of this scene quickly and takes off to take Gendry as a lover, at least for the night. And then there's this scene:
Jaime and Tyrion, sitting by the first and talking of how much things have changed, are quickly joined by a host of friends. Pod, Brianne, Tyrion, Jaime, Davos, and Tormund sit around the fire, drinking and talking story, boasting of their accomplishments (Tormund's explanation of how he came to be known as Giantsbane is not my story to tell), lamenting their failures, and in some cases, casting hope on their dire situation. The revelation that Brianne is not a knight, though, steals the scene. The tradition to not make women knights sparks a "fuck tradition" response from Tormund and then a "fuck tradition" reaction from Jaime, who, as a knight, has the authority to make right what should have been done by Renly in Season 3. And Ser Brianne is knighted and all rejoice.
Which only leaves the small matter of Dany and Aegon. As Aegon spends his final night in the crypt of his family visiting his true mother, Lyanna Stark, Dany approaches and Aegon finds his "perfect moment" to reveal his true parentage to her. Her reaction was as expected-- incredulity mixed with thinly veiled fear-- but before they can expound on the matter, the horns blare, signaling the arrival of the Army of the Dead.
There are undoubtedly many arguments rising about this season being “too slow” or “too much fan service” across the expanse of the internet as I sit here to write this review. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t. Brianne’s knighting, for instance, was a beautiful and well-deserved sequence and it made many fans feel good despite the terror of whatever hell next week will unleash but was it really necessary for the development of her character? Arguably no. A better argument could be made for its import to the development of Jaime, however, and his “hero’s journey” redemption trajectory. Perhaps it was fan service to have Arya bed Gendry but it could also be viewed as a sort of culmination of her course as well, from childhood to womanhood. When we see her atop the ramparts drinking with the Hound, he notes how much quieter she is as a marker for how much she has changed since her journey across the Narrow Sea and back. As we inch closer to the battle, it is important to remember that many of these apparently small developments could mark the final developments for these characters. Next week, I expect a number of gut-wrenching deaths. If I’m wrong, then so be it. I hope I’m wrong. But if I’m right?
The acting by many of the players in this episode was superb. Brianne’s goofy smile, Tormund’s heartfelt applause, Arya’s sly looks and assertive presence, The Hound’s lament– all of these epic performances helped to make an episode of slow pace feel action-filled. None out shone the range of Tyrion’s Peter Dinklage, of course, but that is a difficult feat. In a single episode, we saw him belittled and humbled by his Queen only to be built back up by her later, we see the clever little whoremonger and witty character we fell in love with, and we witnessed the depth of his maturation as a character. Hats off to Dinklage. The soundtrack for this episode was also a high point, punctuated by Pod’s barroom dirge that was timely, relevant, and hauntingly beautiful.
A major curiosity in this episode that seems to be lost amidst discussion of the knighting, the bedding, and the suckling seems to be Bran and his role in the upcoming battle. In the war room, Bran explains that the Night King is coming for him because he is the memory of man, and with memory lost, Eternal Night can descend. We know very little, really, regarding the Three-Eyed Raven and its role throughout history but it seems clear that Bran knows something he isn’t telling everybody else. Except maybe he did. We leave the war room with Tyrion asking Bran for his story and it is not spoken of again. It will be quite interesting to eventually learn what Bran shared with Tyrion when the doors were closed.
All said and done, this episode and the last had more of the feel of Season 1 than Season 7 and that’s just fine. Character arcs are coming to close right where so many of them began. Next week, the end begins.
Winter is here! The first act of the final season comes to a close as the Army of the Dead marches on Winterfell. Game of Thrones has all the major pieces in place to charge headlong into a spectacular finish.
Game of Thrones Ep802: One Last Knight…
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Acting - 10/1010/10
Music - 10/1010/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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