A Haunting Final Night at Winterfell: Game of Thrones Finale Season Episode Two
By Grace Gay
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” stands out as one of the best episodes in Game of Thrones history. Rich with well-earned moments between characters, the episode sparkles with the quiet conversation that made the first few seasons standout. The episode resonantes as an emotional goodbye to characters whose lives hang in the balance, many of whom will undoubtedly die in the next episode, the long-awaited battle for Winterfell against the Night King.
But before the characters we’ve grown to love (and hate) possibly say goodbye to us next episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” offers a Sorkin-esque character study, not in its fast pacing, but in its love and care to each character (and more importantly, between them).
The hints for this week’s episode were quickly tied up in the first few scenes, from Jaime and Brienne’s reunion, Jaime’s trial, and later in the episode, Jon finally revealing his parentage to Daenerys. It looks like book readers will be left without an appearance by Howland Reed to help confirm Jon’s parentage and instead Bran and Sam will have to make the case to the rest of the realm about Jon’s true identity as Aegon Targaryen (if they make it through the next episode, that is). For a look at what we expected for this episode, check out our article covering the premiere. Perhaps the only other surprise of this episode is the lack of Thrones’ signature graphic violence—but episode 3 hints to make up for the stunning lack in the first two episodes of the season.
At long last, we have an explanation for Bran’s creepy stare. Bran, or rather, Isaac Hempstead Wright, turns out to just really need glasses and cannot film with them in Westeros. Bad vision is perhaps the most relatable thing about Bran in seasons. And maybe we all owe Wright a tiny apology for turning in vision problems into a meme (doesn’t mean the memes aren’t good, of course).
Surprises and Disappointments
One of the most surprisingly divisive scenes of the episode came from my favorite: Arya and Gendry finally getting together. This has been long awaited for some book fans; in Storm of Swords, Arya is at one point forced into a dress, Gendry compliments her and they end up wrestling (literally) in the mud. There are other hints about a possibility of future romance between them in the books, and in the show as well, harkening back to the poignant line where Arya tells Gendry that, “I could be your family.”
The divisiveness of the scene has mainly stemmed from two main issues: trouble realizing Arya is now an adult, not the little girl she was when the show began, and claims that Arya and Gendry (played by Maisie Williams and Joe Dempsie) simply don’t have chemistry. In a show that has featured Arya murdering people since she was a child, the sudden need to see her as one still is a little odd. In terms of what is more damaging, sex or violence, the murder should be a larger concern with those folks advocating that they feel uncomfortable watching Williams get naked on screen. And while the scene is incredibly tasteful by Thrones standards, perhaps the more shocking element of the sex scene is that Arya is actually advocating for her own sexual desires and needs, a rare occurance in a show where rape and sexual violence have been used as set dressing since the very beginning. Also, Gendry is by far the hottest guy in town, so even bigger congratulations to Arya on the sex (and rediscovering some of her humanity before the world ends).
The other most talked about moment in the show was without a doubt Jaime’s knighting of Brienne. In tear-jerking fashion, Brienne finally earned the title that she has embodied for so long, and Gwendoline Christie portrayed her joy at the moment with stunning and subtle acting. In one of the most earned moments of the show, the scene acts as both a cap for everything that has happened before and as foreshadowing for Brienne’s possible death in the next episode.
Theon, another person fated for tragedy, got a heartwarming welcome as well with Sansa hugging him as he returned to Winterfell. His arrival puts a beautiful bow on his complicated feelings about the Starks, and perhaps more importantly, intensifies the drama between the Northerners and Daenerys.
Sansa and Daenerys’s scene discussing the future of the realm (and making Kit Harington height jokes) began positively enough, but by the end, it becomes clear there will be no compromise with Daenerys. The biggest disappointment in this scene, in addition to not passing the Bechdel Test, is that Daenerys is beginning to prove herself unreasonable and unfit for rule over the Seven Kingdoms.
Further exasperating this conflict is Jon’s untimely reveal of his parentage to Daenerys, and her immediate response of suspicion and anger for someone she claims to love. Jon and Daenerys were interrupted from resolving this tension (or confronting the fact that they committed incest) by the one constant that has been building for the entire show: the attack of the White Walkers, finally here.
And while “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” did not check the boxes off everyone’s list, with a disappointing lack of Cersei and Ghost just in the background of a scene, the beauty and sadness of the night before the battle more than make up for where the episode falls short. The quiet urgency and intimacy created as the characters confront their deaths on a scale never before seen creates one of the most haunting and touching episodes of Thrones’ yet. And that bodes quite sadly for their fates in the next episode.
What to Expect for Episode 3
Death. So much of death. Picks include: Brienne, Theon, Gilly and Little Sam, Jorah, and Gendry OR Arya
Tyrion redeeming himself for the mistakes he’s made in the last season
Chekov’s crypts not being as safe as everyone seems to think
A surprise attack from the South of Cersei’s army?