For everyone who said season seven was too much plot and fan service, may I humbly present to you “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” My goodness what a fantastic episode. Not a huge suprise, given that AKotSK was written by Bryan Cogman, the scribe behind many of the best character-centric episodes.
There were no battles, no deaths, no dragons, and only one location (making my location-based recaps very difficult), and yet this was one of the best episodes of the entire series. Game of Thrones is a high concept Sword & Sorcery series, but it’s bread and butter is people sitting in rooms talking. This was a return to form, and Cogman, along with director David Nutter, knocked it out of the park.
Reminder as we go forward, full spoilers ahead…
The Great Hall (Law & Order Edition)
We begin with The Trial of Jamie Lannister. Dany leads the prosecution, with a strong argument of, “Hey, remember that time you killed my dad?” Not a great argument, given the fact that pretty much everyone in The North was hella ok with the Mad King’s death.
Tyrion quickly steps in to defend his brother, somehting that went super well for him the last time, but it’s clear Dany want’s to give The Kingslayer the Ol’ Randall Tarley sentence.
Sansa chimes in with more accusations of Jamie’s past deeds, and two thirds of the head table seem to be in agreement (Jon is noticeably silent, likely contemplating whole bunch of other, incest-y things).
Then Brienne steps up. The Jamie/Brienne relationship is the most developed relationship on the show, and the way Brienne defends Jamie, it clearly shows. Brienne makes a case that Jamie is a good man, who was acting in service of his family. But now, in the face of a large threat, he’s said “Oh, fuck loyalty” and has come to fight for the living.
Dany isn’t convinced, but Sansa trusts Brienne’s judgement and brings the trial to a sudden end. This clearly makes Dany angry, and Sansa is reminding her that, thought Dany might be the queen, she’s still the Lady of Winterfell.
Jamie (along with Theon and Sansa) is one of my favorite characters in the entire series. He’s so dynamic and has had such drastic character development, it’s been a joy to watch. While he was on trial, you really remember that he started the series out as just an absolute Douche-Boat. Before Euron, Ramsey, and Joeffry, Jamie was the series’ “big bad.”
After the trial, Jon goes off to brood, Sansa makes an abrupt exit, and Dany takes her small council to yell at them in a hallway. She makes it clear to Tyrion that he’s made mistake after mistake, and letting Cercei dupe him might be the final straw. Later, Jorah persuades Dany to take it easy on Tyrion, and advises her to try and make amends with Sansa.
Sansa and Sassy Bitch Yohn Royce are discussing grain storage when Dany comes in for a chat. The two seem to settle their differences rather quickly, and it almost seems like Dany is about to ask Sansa to be her Hand.
Then Sansa asks what happens after they win the war. She explains that The North chose Jon as their King, and vowed never to let a southerner rule them again. Dany is pissed, and about to retort, but they’re interrupted.
Who’s that interruption? It’s Theon! He explains that he and a group of Ironborn have freed Yara, and now she’s gone to retake the Iron Islands. The then asks Sansa if he can fight alongside the Starks to defend Winterfell.
Sansa runs to embrace him, the two crying, and I’m fully crying as well at this point. Meanwhile, Dany sees their passion for one another and has quite the jealous look, thinking to herself, “Did everyone just suddenly forget about my fucking dragons?“
Tyrion and Jamie, hot off the heels of both nearly being executed, take a little stroll though Winterfell. Not much happens here in the way of plot, but its fantastic to see these two brothers interact again, and lovingly exchange jabs at one another.
When they get on top of one of Winterfell’s outer walls, Jaime see’s Brienne and Pod sparring with some northerners. Watching Pod wipe the floor with these northerners is fantastic, and it’s good to see hes proficient with more than just one sword.
Jamie goes to talk with Brienne, but she’s keeping him at a distance. They argue, and eventually he gets to the point of it all. Jamie, though not the swordsman he once was, wants to serve under the command of Brienne when The Army of the Dead come. Her reaction is mixed, and she doesn’t fully believe him, indicating she has some serious walls built up.
The Courtyard, but Different
Missandei and Grey Worm don’t like how Northerners are low-key super racist. They have a nice little conversation about how, once the war is over, they’ll return to Missandei’s home in Naath and settle down.
Screenwriting 101 dictates that if any two characters have a conversation about riding off into the sunset, living happily ever after, one of them is about to die. And since there’s a magic army approaching…
Fare thee well, Grey Worm. We hardly knew yee.
The Courtyard, But Soup
You know what I like? Ser Davos. And Ser Davos serving soup to a bunch of untrained warriors is just fun. He and Gilly(!) talk to a little girl who wants to go take on the Night King all by herself, and convince her to go to the crypts to protect her family.
What’s so great about this scene is the way it reminds the both of them of Princess Shireen, the girl who taught both of them separately how to read. Again, not much in the way of plot, just delightful character moments.
Also, this is like, the seventh mention of how “safe” the crypts are in under twenty minutes. Guys, those crypts are about to be hella haunted.
This is probably the most “plot heavy” scene we get in the episode. Jon, still surly and melancholy for some weird reason, explains that they’re basically fucked.
Bran let’s everyone know the Night King’s ultimate goal: an endless night. But it’s ok! Bran has a plan! They’re going to try and bait the Night King into the Godswood, where Bran will be waiting, and ambush him there.
Theon and the Ironborn volunteer to serve as Bran’s personal guard while all this is playing out. So if the Army of the Dead manages to cut through Wildlings, Dothraki, Northmen, Unsullied, two dragons, and Lyanna Mormont (the most dangerous of all), then surely Theon and a handful of seamen will be able to stop them.
The war council doesn’t amount to much after that, as Tormund puts it, “We’re all going to die (end of sentence),” and Jon continues giving Dany the slip.
Plus, Tyrion is apparently the only one fascinated by an immortal omnipotent being, as he pulls a chair up and asks what the hell Bran’s been up to all these years.
The Top of The Walls
Jon snuck off to go stand atop the wall with Sam, Ed, and Ghost, who the creators thought we wouldn’t notice has been gone for three seasons. It’s a really lovely reunion for the last of the Night’s Watch, and it basically cements that Ed will be joining Grey Worm in the battle next week.
We also get a scene of Arya and the Hound having a conversation that lasts longer than “You’re a real bitch, aren’t you?” Arya comments that The Hound has really seemed to grow up, and she’s proud of him maybe? Ser Beric Dondarian joins them, and Arya is quickly over their shit.
After some earlier flirting, Gendry visits Arya while she practices with a bow an arrow (just like we saw her do in the pilot). He presents her with he custom made weapon, and they do some catching up, in which Gendry reveals that he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard son, and he once met a woman who liked to be freaky with leeches. I love that Gendry has a highborn father, after seasons of teasing Arya about her bloodline.
After that, Arya takes the conversation in a decidedly more sexual direction. Gendry clearly still sees her as a little sister type, but Arya cuts through all that. She explains they might die tomorrow, and she just wants one night to feel fully alive.
They kiss, they get undressed, and all of America Googled “How old is Masie Williams?”
Sure, it’s weird to see someone we met as a child strip naked and do the dirty, but I thought this scene was handled tastefully. According to the show runners, they gave Masie Williams a lot of control over how she/Arya would be portrayed on screen. But honestly, the less you think about it the better.
The Great Hall (Cheers Edition)
This might be the single greatest scene in all of Game of Thrones. Tyrion and Jamie are having a final drink of wine before battle, when Brienne and Pod come in looking for a place to spar.
Tyrion invites them to drink, and I’ve never laughed harder at this show than Tyrion over filling Pod’s cup with wine. Next, they’re joined by Torund and Ser Davos.
What I love the most about this scene is how it just lets all the characters breathe. We know the battle is coming, they know it too, but we’re given one last scene to enjoy our time with them, sharing stories and telling jokes.
Tormund explaining that a giant thought he was her baby, and then drinking goats milk for a full minute, it just a perfect encapsulation of his character. Doesn’t bode well for next week, but I’m still in deep, deep denial that anything bad will happen next week.
The climax of this scene comes when Brienne tells Tormund that women can’t be knights. She plays it off like she wouldn’t even want to be a knight anyways, but Pod can see right through that.
Jamie steps up, unsheathes his sword, and asks Brienne to kneel. Again, she looks to Pod, her constant companion, and he gives a look of approval, “go on, you’ve earned this, you deserve this.”
Jamie recites a blessing over her, and asks Brienne to rise as a newly appointed Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Watching Gwendolyn Christie in this scene brought me to tears.
We met Brienne of Tarth when she asked Renly to make her a Knight in his kingsgaurd, something he never got around to before being murdered by a shadow demon. Her whole arc has been about honor, loyalty, and proving to everyone else that she’s capable of knighthood.
While no, Jamie and Brienne don’t have sex, this is the single most romantic and loving scene in the episode. Jamie knows that the greatest act of love he can offer her is a knighthood, and he jumps at the chance. Watching all her previously mentioned walls come crashing down, only to be left with pure, tearful joy, was a thing of beauty.
Plus, the two each have one half of the same Valyrian Steel sword (Ned Stark’s Ice), which is basically a warrior’s engagement ring.
Next, Pod sings a song, and we have a Sons of Anarchy style montage of people hunkering down before the battle. Basically, its a last ditch effort on the creators part to remind us who’s all going into battle, and who we’ll almost definitely lose next week.
The (Totally Safe & Secure) Crypts
Finally we’ve come to it, Jon has to tell Dany. She finds him in the crypts, and he explains that not only was her brother not the murderous rapist she always believed, but Jon’s father. What’s telling is how Dany reacts to this news.
First she calls into question the sources from which he heard this information, his brother (cousin) and best friend. Then, she says if it is in fact true, Jon would be the true heir to the Iron Throne.
Jon barely has time to react to the fact that his lover/aunt now see’s him as a political adversary, when a distant horn blows (that they can somehow hear underground??). They rush to the top of the walls, she the army approaching, and go to mount their dragons.
Tyrion looks over the walls, and we cut to the forest surrounding Winterfell. We see a horde of white walkers, more than ever before, and their accompanying Army of the Dead.
Winter has come to Winterfell. And everyone is fucked.
My goodness, what an episode. It may be a little slow in terms of plot, but with only four episodes left and two massive scale battles, this was likely our final moments with many fan favorite characters.
If the creative foot is going to be hard down on the gas pedal for the rest of the season, I’m glad we got to just sit with any of the characters we’ve come to love over the last decade.
Quote of the Episode:
Dolores Ed: “Samwell Tarly. Slayer of White Walkers, Lover of Ladies. As if we need any more signs the world is ending.”
Ser Brienne of Tarth (yes, I did start a whole new section just so I could keep gushing about Brienne.)