Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 2 Review
It’s Gonna Be A Long Night
With everyone now ready for the long-awaited Battle of Winterfell, this had to be episode swords clashed and characters began dying right? Well, no, the exact opposite in fact. With the Night King’s army just a night’s ride away, we get to see just how the characters we love spend what is most likely their last night in Westeros. This is “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”.
Well, This Is Awkward…
Let’s talk subverting expectation for a moment. It was once a rare treat in film and television, but now it’s in everything *cough*Marvel Cinematic Universe*cough*. So, consider for a moment that you’re a show still trying to subvert your audience’s expectations after eight seasons, how do you do it? Well, if you’re Game of Thrones, you leave your previous episode on a big emotional cliff-hanger between Jaime and Bran only to have the first scene of the episode remind you “Oh yeah, JAIME KILLED DAENERYS’ FATHER!”
So yeah, Jaime doesn’t receive the warmest welcome from, well, anyone really, and all praise goes to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau during these scenes. Whether it’s defending his past actions, feeling genuine regret over what he did to Bran or his strange conversations with pothers, he is playing his character exactly as the audience needs to see him. Vulnerable and lacking some confidence yet hopeful and willing. The audience needs this. If season 1 Jaime was to die now, everyone would be cheering, but if season 8 Jaime dies, everyone will be devastated.
In other awkward moments, its round 2 of Sansa vs. Daenerys and it’s a vast improvement over their interactions last episode. Gone is the vanity and back is the strong forthright Sansa we’ve come to know and love. Their bonding over Jon’s height, or lack thereof, looks like the string that will pull them together. That is, until Sansa asks what will happen to the North once Daenerys takes the throne. Her lack of reply speaks volumes and adds to how desperately she now hungers for the Iron Throne, which could end up being her undoing.
Speak of “undoing”… Yep, its divided the fanbase but we’re putting Arya and Gendry’s midnight tryst in the awkward category too. Don’t get us wrong, Arya’s journey into womanhood has been a fan-favourite arc though much of the later seasons. However, we’ve been with her since she was a precocious little tomboy, so for some its like watching their way younger sibling have sex. They can do what they want, but it’s still a bit weird to think about.
Who Needs Enemies When You’ve Got Friends Like These
It wasn’t all uncomfortable though, if anything, this is probably one of the most wholesome episodes in the show’s history. Two of Jorah’s three scenes this episode we’re well done, even if his reunion with Lady Mormont suffers for its clunky, expositional dialogue towards the end (they’re cousins don’t you know?).
The arrival of Theon and the Ironborn and the Eastwatch survivors brings more joy than sadness too. Theon begins repairing his ties to the Stark family by promising to guard Bran while he is being used as bait to lure the Night King away from his army. Jon, Sam and Edd Tollett reminisce atop Winterfell’s walls and Beric and the Hound moan what could be their last. However, even these moments of levity have nothing on the most wholesome scene in the episode, a scene so memorable that the episode is even named after it.
Putting Tyrion, Jaime, Podrick, Davos, Brienne and Tormund together in the same room sounds like the start of a very elaborate Game of Thrones joke, but its anything but. Back in season 1, Jaime wouldn’t have been seen dead in the same room as a Wildling, while Brienne and Tyrion would’ve been the butt of every joke, but now they sit around the fire as equals, all just looking to survive. Jon’s vision for a kingdom united realised even if only for one night in both laughter and celebration.
Tyrion, as always, has something witty to say but the biggest laughs come from Tormund. From his terrible attempts to flirt with Brienne to a very eye-opening story about giant’s milk, the look on everyone’s face is priceless. Davos wins our prize for best reaction though, “Maybe I will have that drink” indeed. However, even in scene with great moments, there is a greater moment still with the knighting of Brienne of Tarth.
A Knight Of Our Hearts
Now Brienne’s arc across the show is, in this reviewer’s opinion, one of the most relatable stories ever told on television, especially for women. At her introduction, Brienne had consigned herself to her fate as well, the freak in the middle. Not pretty enough to be a “real” woman, but still woman enough for her talents to be ignored. All professional working women around the world just shuddered and have no idea why. Many have given up in situations like this, but not Brienne. She shouldered her burden and continued to fight not because it suited her, but because it was right.
Brienne is brave, fighting no matter the odds. She is just, keeping her word and judging those as they come. Then most importantly, she is defending the innocent, and the men finally see her for who she is, the best. A knighthood (or a promotion) may seem trivial in the face of death (or little change in a company overall), but the grin on Brienne’s face after Jaime bestows her knighthood shows just how much it means to be accepted for your strengths, even if its difficult road to travel.
A Beautiful Fool…
Meanwhile, in true plot progression, Jon’s inner Ned rears its head at exactly the wrong time as he tells Daenerys about his true heritage. We imagine this was the moment everyone shouted at their screens telling Jon he was an idiot. This was just not the time and with just how thirsty Daenerys is for the Iron Throne, he’s only succeeded in painting a second target on his back. If he dies in battle, who’s going to know if it was a White Walker spear or a Targaryen sword?
Yet Jon might be spared thanks to some deep lore foreshadowing from Podrick. His song, “Jenny of Oldstones”, tells of a woman a previous Targaryen gave up the crown for, something Jon could end up doing. Then again, this could just be baiting the theorists away from the truth, we wouldn’t put it past the writers at this point.
This episode will split many. Some will enjoy this rare episode of levity while others will be disappointed that a second episode of only 6 was given over to more talking. As far as we’re concerned? This episode needed to happen. Characters needed their arcs concluded. Stakes needed to be established. Players needed to be moved into place and in a show as human as Game of Thrones, one emotional night weighs just as heavily as a grand battle. It may be “Winterfell” Part 2, but it is still a stunning episode.
Our Stand-Out Moment
Props go to Florence + The Machine’s version of “Jenny of Oldstones” that played over the end credits. Both graceful and foreboding after the war horns heralded the arrival of the undead. There’s even a full version of the song which can be found here. A good listen and one for your Florence + The Machine playlist.