A wonderfully tense, excellently written episode – perhaps one of the best of the series – unfolded tonight and brought together characters to ponder their rapidly approaching deaths and reflect on past decisions. I’m not 100% sure of the title (can it really be “Jenny’s Song?”) but it’s one for the ages.
Spoilers Dead Ahead!
We open with Jaime already standing before the Queen of Dragons, who is NOT happy to see him. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve grown bored with Dany’s little “you killed my father” sense of outrage. C’mon Dany, your father killed your boyfriend’s grandfather and uncle (not to mention, planned on flambé-ing most of Kings Landing), You’ve seriously got to stop getting self-righteous every time you get a potential new ally. Luckily, both Bran and Brienne went to bat for the Kingslayer, and Sansa was able to see past the past. Loved the pained look on Jon Snow’s face when Dany turned to him, expecting the not-Bastard to have her back, and he instead backed up Sansa (“We need every man we need”). He looked a little distracted, like he had something else on his mind. I guess finding out you’re the one true king will have the effect on you!
Arya and Gendry shippers rejoice, as the world’s cutest assassin and the studly royal bastard blacksmith made a connection. I know Arya is all grown up now, but I did feel a wee bit awkward. Probably says volumes that I can deal with her slicing throats and taking names, but I squirm when she gets a little action. There’s a whole lot happening in the scenes between the two, and some real chemistry between Maisie Williams and Joe Dempsie that makes you forget he’s almost a decade older than her, and they first met when she was only twelve.
Throughout the series, the relationship between Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister has done a wonderful job driving the plot and revealing both their characters, and this episode so close to the end really captured that. From Brienne backing Jaime up in the opening scene to Jaime pledging his sword to her in the courtyard, the connection between these two characters just sizzled. The knighting scene was an acting tour-de-force, and Gwendolyn Christie did a masterful job, her face reflecting the mixture of joy and fear, of achieving something she didn’t dream about here in this final hour. In the face of the dead, that knighthood means nothing, an insignificant title that wouldn’t be recognized outside that room. But for the people in that room, this one small gesture, this one achievement meant EVERYTHING. I can’t help but think this emotional turning point will be significant later in the season.
As will Sam’s presentation of his family’s sword, Heartsbane, to Jorah. I don’t know if he’ll take out a White Walker when they finally cross the walls, but the Jorah we have now is much different from the one we first met back in Season One. He’s wiser, of course. His defense of Tyrion and his counsel on Sansa may have helped cement the alliance with the North, but there’s more. While he’s always performed heroic acts before, it seems like Jorah is truly ready to become a hero, and his new Valaryian steel sword simply seals it.
Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen is already a hero, and by episode’s end, he’s one with a burden that’s caused him to avoid Dany. She finally tracks him down in the crypt, of course, and Jon reveals his secret. Dany is rightfully skeptical. I’m glad for the express lane story-telling these final episodes require because it greatly shortened Jon’s ghosting of Dany. I’m equally glad for Dany’s skepticism. It sets up some additional tension (like this episode needed it) and something else to build upon (assuming anyone survives next week!)
Some additional areas of excellence:
If last week’s episode was about reunions, episode two went deeper into the relationships those reunions have impacted. So we get Jaime and Tyrion talking about their sins of the past. You get Bran putting a positive spin on getting pushed out the window, and Sansa and Theon showing the power of forgiveness and redemption. All of this driving home what’s at stake. It’s not about kingdoms, it’s about people.
Loved how Game of Thrones loves to tweak traditions and gender roles, obviously with the knighting of Ser Brienne, but smaller areas as well. Gendry trying to convince Arya not to fight, still thinking of her as a feisty little girl, until she showed off her dagger skills. And Jorah, begging his fierce cousin to head to the crypts, a battle of wills he has no chance of winning.
And lastly, we finally know what the Night King is after. It’s Bran, after all, because Bran as the Three-Eyed Raven represents the combined memory of man. It was a nice touch that explanation shifted from Bran to Sam, who most represents the storyteller of this tale.
So what’s next? The dead are outside the gates. Will Winterfell fall? Will we find out next week or will the showrunners tease us and send us back south to King’s Landing? I guess we’ll find out next week when HBO brings us “Another Unnamed Episode.”