Written by Evan Northrup
Season 8 Episode 1 was full of call backs to some of the earliest episodes of Game of Thrones, like the mirroring of the arrival of Dany and King Robert, or the final stare down between Jaime and Bran. However, if Episode 1 was a nod to specific events from the earliest seasons, then Episode 2 was a callback in substance and quality; reminiscent of character interactions, emotional weight, incredible dialogue and surprising moments that made us fall in love with the show all those years ago. Where Episode 1 was heavy handed and fast paced, Episode 2 gave the characters room to breathe and interact.
The pacing in Episode 2 allowed for some of the truest to character dialogue and actions we have seen since the earliest seasons. Tyrion’s dialogue was superb, Arya reminded us her adventurous nature isn’t confined to battle, Jaime's and Brienne’s character arcs peaked with a wordless stare that could only be described as love, and to close the episode Podrick delivered a chillingly beautiful rendition of “Jenny Of Old Stones," proving the bedroom isn’t the only place that Podrick lays pipes.
For now, these tender moments of love and longing are beautiful interactions between people we have watched grow for the past eight years. But next Sunday these sincerely heartwarming moments will develop into goodbyes. Scenes that were full of love will become melancholy, acts of passion becoming tragic last moments of freedom, and secrets yet to be told will become secrets never to be heard.
So try to enjoy these beautiful moments with your favorite characters as much as they enjoyed their final moments with each other, because by the time the closing credits roll on Sunday, you better believe many of them will be fighting for the wrong side.
The episode begins at Winterfell with Jaime Lanister standing trial for basically everything he’s ever done. Dany wants him dead and Sansa agrees until Brienne intercedes on the Golden Lion’s behalf, but not before Jaime informs everyone that Cersei has hired the Golden Company with no intention of fighting the dead. Jon gives Dany the cold shoulder and Dany gives Tyrion the ultimatum of, "Stop fucking up or you’re fired."
Arya stares hungrily at Gendry while he bangs some hot metal, then asks him if she's ever going to get that big rod she asked for. Later Arya gets tired of asking and takes that big rod, along with the weapon Gendry made for her.
Jaime and Bran reminisce on the window shove that lost them a combined total of one hand, two legs, two identities, and countless family and friends. Later the Lannister brothers reunite on the Winterfell grounds until Jaimie is distracted by Lady Brienne and asks if she would allow him to serve under her command in the battle against the dead.
Ser Jorah councils Dany to forgive Tyrion of his failures as well as try to make peace with the Lady of Winterfell, which goes remarkably well until Sansa basically tells her that she has no intention of kneeling for Dany, whether she has the Iron Throne or not.
Edd, Tormund and Beric arrive, informing the castle that the dead will be here before sun up. All the leaders assemble and Bran finally decides to do something useful by informing us the Night King has one goal, the erasure of this world and a night that never ends. They make a plan that centers around using Bran as bait to draw the Night King into the open, and Theon offers to protect him with the rest of the Iron Born. The biggest issue with this proposed plan is that it's literally putting the fate of the world into the hands of a House that Jaime once referred to as, “Not good at anything.” Nice choice.
Night approaches and the characters stand vigil, waiting for the dead. Jon, Sam, Edd and Ghost have a Night’s Watch reunion on the battlements of Winterfell.
Jaime, Tyrion, Brienne, Podrick, Davos and Tormund warm themselves with wine, fire and good stories.
Arya drinks with the Hound, who reminds her who kept her alive after she left King’s Landing, until Beric shows up and she decides to go hang with her boo thang.
Back in the great hall with Tyrion and co., Jaime makes Brienne an official Knight, which Jaime’s actor, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, described as an “act of love,” and this action of love completes the duo’s character arc from squabbling prisoner and captor to respectful comrades at arms.
Sam gives Jorah his family’s Valyrian steel sword, and Jorah tells him he will wield it in his own father Jeor Mormant’s memory, who was more of a father to Sam than Randall Tarly ever was.
Podrick surprises everyone with a verse of “Jenny Of Oldstones,” which leads into a final montage of the characters we love spending their last few moments together. As the song ends we are left with a forlorn Jon standing in front of his mother’s tomb, Dany at his side.
This was the moment of the show that everybody was waiting for, when "Jon" tells Dany that he is Aegon Targaryen, and Dany responds with disbelief and anxiety about the stress this puts on her claim to the Iron Throne. The horn blows to signal battle, and the final shot we are given is a long line of White Walkers staring down upon Winterfell from across the field that surrounds it. Chilllllllllllllllllllllllls.
What this Means Moving Forward
This episode was a final love letter to the fans and characters. Although the story definitely developed, for the most part we just got a doubling down on the plot threads that were set up in the previous episode. Sansa and Dany’s tension is heading towards a collision at breakneck speed, especially when Dany reacts to the news of Jon’s parentage in the worst possible way (but in the end, the way we all knew she would), and the dead have arrived on Winterfell’s doorstep.
Similarly, the show doubled down on the thematic elements of love, duty, family and survival that they introduced in the first episode. Podrick’s singing of “Jenny of Oldstones” is a literal representation of this, a song about a Targaryen Prince who gave up his crown to be with the woman he loved, choosing love over duty, then dying because of it. This aligns with the choices we knew Jon would have to make once he knew who he really was. Family or duty? Responsibility or the woman he loves?
Although this episode built itself around characters and their relationships, the show runners did foreshadow one thing we already knew was coming; Death. And lots of it. So instead of diving into plot predictions and end game theories, here is a list of all the characters who we think will meet a sticky end next week during the Battle of Winterfell.
Future Wights All-Star Team
Ser Brienne never wanted power, glory, or riches. All she wanted to do was serve, and whether or not she could admit it to herself, be respected by those around her as the great and faithful warrior she was. Last Sunday we got to see her most inner desires come true.
First, we saw Brienne get the respect and trust she finally deserved from Sansa, allowing a man who fought her father to live because Brienne told her he could be trusted. We also saw that she had her own command of soldiers in the upcoming fight, and more importantly the man she loves finally respects her enough to ask for a place in that command.
Lastly, Jaime knighted her, completing her character arc from being boo’d for winning Renly’s tournament to becoming a Knight at the hand of the man who for so long denied her that respect she deserved. And she might have gotten away with it too. She might have lived to become a world renowned Knight or even a future Kings Guard. But then she had to go and smile about it. And not just any smile. Oh no. This was a face splitting, toothy, pure happiness grin.