Game of Thrones - Calm Before The Storm
Heading into the final season of Game of Thrones, the pacing of the show in Season 7 and how that would impact the final episodes was a topic of great discussion. Many hands were wrung over the fact that the show had spent the first six episodes deliberately moving the chess pieces across the board only to then move characters around Westeros and Essos at breakneck speed in Season 7. So, the question became whether we would get to spend some quality time with the litany of characters that had come to occupy a special place in our hearts over the past decade in GOT or whether the show would keep its foot on the gas heading into a final confrontation between the living and the dead. With an entire hour spent only at Winterfell with various combinations of the Stargaryen Alliance members, we definitely have our answer.
While Knight of the Seven Kingdoms did not feature a big battle or dramatic flashpoint like some of the best episodes of GOT, it made up for this in scene upon scene of heavy emotional weight. What has made the first two episodes of Season 8 so enjoyable is that the interactions and reunions between the characters has felt so earned and layered due to the past history of the show? Confrontations such as the interaction between Bran and Jaime have been years in the making. A quiet moment alone between Sansa and Daenerys allowed us to really revel in how much these two powerful women have in common while also giving a greater foundation for the still on-going rift between them. The beautiful and haunting song “Jenny of Oldstones” sung by Podrick Payne gave us a montage to see all of these characters in their last moments before the Long Night. The title of the show – which comes from the shared name of the novel of combined stories from George R.R. Martin about Ser Duncan the Tall and the future Aegon Targaryen V, the Unlikely – further highlighted the Jaime-Brienne relationship that served as the fulcrum of the entire episode. The look on Brienne’s face after she was knighted by Jaime packed just as much emotional punch as any battlefield triumph in the show’s history. Brienne’s smile reflected every facet of her character arc, which has been defined by honour and courage in the face of suffering and slights.
Knight of the Seven Kingdoms was simply classic GOT at its best. Tyrion’s comment in Season 6 that the true history of the world is a history of great conversations in elegant rooms perfectly summarized what has made the show so richly rewarding. Of course, the big spectacles such as dragons, epic medieval battles, and wildfire explosions have added to the greatness of the show. But it has been the dialogue and conversations between our beloved characters that have added gravity and importance to all of those major plot points. The scene in front of the fireplace between Tyrion, Jaime, Davos, Tormund, Brienne, and Pod gave us moments based on years of past moments with those characters, as well as new interactions. It takes some very skilled writing to craft a scene filled with side-splitting laughter one moment, and tear-jerking happiness the next.
This episode also gave us one final moment to spend with many characters who will not make it past Episode 3 of this season. The upcoming battle at Winterfell is sure to claim the lives of both main and secondary characters. In the same way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be radically different after Avengers: Endgame comes out this weekend, Episode 3 will change everything we know about GOT. As such, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms was not only a chance to take stock of the journey we have travelled with these characters, but it was also an opportunity to spend one last night in the Seven Kingdoms before the world of Westeros is turned upside down. Anyone complaining about the slow pacing of the past two episodes truly cannot be pleased because the time given to the characters to breathe and live has been incredibly well spent. Much like Arya, hopefully, everyone took advantage of that time while it was still here.
Scrolls From A Raven: Quick Messages On Scenes from “Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
- For some, it was a bit shocking to see Arya – someone who we had seen grow up since an 11-year-old girl – have a sex scene with Gendry. However, this was actually a pretty important moment for the show. One of the biggest criticisms of GOT is how it has handled the treatment of women. Unlike many women in the show, Arya was able to choose on her own terms when she wanted to have sex for the first time. Agency – or lack thereof – for women in GOT has been a common element since the pilot. Cersei, Daenerys, and Sansa were all essentially sold off in marriage pacts against their will and suffered to varying sometimes horrible, degrees. The fact that Arya was able to make a choice in her personal life where so many other women did not speak volumes for both the strength of her character and also the evolution of the show.
- If you blinked, you might have missed it, but Ghost made his triumphant return to the show after spending about two seasons somewhere backstage. It has been rather odd that the show has not given Jon and Ghost as many moments together in recent seasons seeing as the books placed great importance on the connection between the Stark children and their direwolves. While CGI budgetary concerns may have been the reason for a lack of direwolf screen time in the early seasons, Season 8 was the opportunity to really explore the studio space. So, it will be very disappointing if Ghost was brought back for one minor moment before being used only to add to the death total in the Battle of the Winterfell. Ghost – and the viewers – deserve better than that.
- Speaking of upcoming deaths, the leaders in the clubhouse for Most Likely To Die Next Episode have to be Brienne, Theon, Grey Worm, and Beric. Theon basically signed up to sacrifice himself by volunteering to protect Bran in the Godswood. Brienne’s character arc appears to be at its end, and her death could set up a greater Jaime-Cersei conflict if he blames his sister for Brienne’s death as a result of not sending the Lannister armies north to fight the White Walkers. Beric seems eminently expendable and no longer has Thoros to bring him back. But the biggest death warning signs went off when Grey Worm borrowed the Live Forever boat from The Simpsons by telling Missandei that they should sail off into the sunset after the battle is won. Grey Worm made a tiny, huge mistake by making future plans before the greatest battle seen in Westeros since the last Long Night.
- Based on the fact that the first two episodes have been important build-up episodes to the big battle at Winterfell, and also the fact that it’s been widely reported just how much money, time, sweat, blood, and tears went into filming the battle, it would be a shock if Episode 3 doesn’t immediately take its place among the top GOT episodes. Frankly, I think that the combination of an incredible cinematic spectacle and hard-hitting emotional moments sure to come in this episode give it better than even odds to be the best episode of the entire series. There’s that much riding on it.