Caution: Potential spoilers ahead.
Memories of days past and reminders of looming death punctuated the second episode of the eighth and final season of the HBO series Game of Thrones. In A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, interpersonal battles share space with the impending war against White Walkers. Directed David Nutter, the episode has been written by Brian Cogman.
The series is based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. As Winterfell shores up its defences, the few moments of calm before the storm provide opportunities for reckoning, reconnaissance and reconciliation – and even some randiness.
‘Everything I did, I did for my house and my family’
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms picks up right where the season premiere left off . Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has arrived at Winterfell and finally confronts Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). In a continuing story arc that places House Stark and survival against the White Walkers above Daenerys’s ambition to sit on the Iron Throne, Jaime justifies his actions (including slaughtering Daenerys’s father): “Do you want me to apologise? I won’t. We were at war. Everything I did, I did for my house and my family. I’d do it all over again.”
Daenerys is increasingly sticking out like a sore thumb at the Stark castle Winterfell. If the previous episode exposed Jon Snow (Kit Harington) to the truth of his parentage, the new series of events further pushes Daenerys’s ambition towards irrelevance. She gets a little lecture from the loyal Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) on doing the right thing and has a stiff conversation with Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), the Lady of Winterfell. Much unites the strong-willed women, but a lot separates them too, including Jon Snow. Both women have pithy lines worthy of memes and T-shirts. Sansa: “Men do stupid things for women.” Daenerys: “Someone taller.”
‘The things we do for love’
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) too has his share of loaded one-liners, which includes an astute callback to the first season. “The things we do for love,” Bran wryly notes, setting the tone for the balance of tension and tenderness that runs through the episode. Bran has another great line about what the Night King really wants: “An endless night.”
‘Death. That’s what they’re like’
Move over, Jon Snow, the series has a new pin-up. As the Night King’s White Walker army comes closer to Winterfell, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) is hard at work making weapons out of dragon glass, one of only two substances (the other being Valyrian steel) that will be remotely effective against the zombies. Gendry’s made-for-fans encounter with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) plays out against the sweat and grime of the forge, and at least temporarily, has dislodged Jon and Daenerys as the couple to root for. Gendrya is finally a thing.
‘I know Death. He’s got many faces.’
Arya isn’t going to mush, however, and continues to drop hints of her fighting prowess. Having mastered sword fighting, cross-bow shooting and the art of disguise over several years on the run, Arya makes clear that death does not scare her: “I know Death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to see this one.”
‘Yes, here we are. Together again. And the masses rejoice’
Amid a crisis of confidence, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) has a joyful reunion with brother Jaime. Tyrion has had little to do in the season so far, and has lost some face for failing to pre-empt his sister’s betrayal. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) had claimed she would join forces in the fight against the Night King, but chose to stay on at King’s Landing and scheme to hold on to the Iron Throne. The ever-wise Tyrion isn’t used to being wrong, but fortunately, his perspicacity hasn’t abandoned him: “I made a mistake common to clever people. I underestimated my opponents.”
‘The big woman still here?’
Amid the timely reminders that death and possible annihilation are on the horizon, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) gets a chance to reveal her strength and desirability. Her scenes with Jaime are far more effective than the Gendrya track, and she also faces the affections of Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) at Winterfell with aplomb. One of the best characters in the HBO series, aptly described as “the big woman”, is finally getting the attention she deserves.
‘How long do we have?’
Not too long: with four episodes left, including at least one that will focus entirely on the Battle of Winterfell, described as the “the longest consecutive battle sequence ever committed to film”. Game of Thrones episodes are being aired at 6.30 am on Mondays on Hotstar and at 10 pm on Tuesdays on Star World.