The following is a spoiler-filled review of the second episode of the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Expect spoilers for the episode in the review.
In the second episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, Ser Jaime Lannister (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) confronts the Starks and Daenerys at Winterfell, Bran (played by Isaac Hempstead Wright) reveals his plan, and the North gets ready for battle.
Though I truly loved this episode, I have to say that I am slightly miffed at the showrunners of Game of Thrones today. So before I gush about the episode, allow me to vent for a brief moment. Most frustrating for many viewers is the fact that we, once again, had a calm before the storm episode. It may have had nice moments — and one of them almost made me tear up (and probably will on subsequent viewings) — but it’s just another set-up episode, and I do feel slightly cheated this time around, as there are now only four episodes left of the series to kickstart the drama, the action, and the scheming.
I was slightly annoyed by how much select minor events of the episodes were drawn out, whereas the moments we had waited for received little-to-no-time-at-all. Jaime Lannister’s trial was over before we knew it. No one — except maybe Tyrion — was informed of what Jaime did to Bran. Jon Snow waited until the last moment of the episode to tell his lover that she is his aunt, even though he had the entire day to tell her, which is something I thought was a little bit contrived. I will say that it was really true-to-character (at least the character in the show) that when Jon Snow told Danerys of his parentage, she seemed to care more about her right to the throne than the fact that she was his aunt.
Okay, so let’s now talk about the ‘Arya sex-scene.’ I like Maisie Williams a lot, and I really like Joe Dempsie, who plays Gendry (or mini-Christian Bale, as I like to call him), but watching their sex scene was really awkward and uncomfortable. It’s probably due to the fact that we’ve followed Arya’s journey since she was a little kid. You definitely didn’t want to see her in that position. It felt like you were watching a relative ‘do the deed,’ so to speak.
In reality, this was another episode about reunions and long-awaited character moments. Only this time around it was all about the second tier characters like Brienne, Jorah, Theon, and so on and so forth. And, surprisingly, I think it worked much better than last week’s episode which was dedicated to the major characters. This is the first time in a little while that Game of Thrones really got me choked up.
The best moment of the season thus far — and I mean this — was the moment when Ser Jaime Lannister decided to give Brienne of Tarth something she had deserved, and chased (even though she wouldn’t admit it), all her life. Jaime knighted Brienne, thus breaking tradition and making her the first female in-series knight. It was an extremely emotional moment because Jaime and Brienne’s unlikely friendship — or relationship, pick your poison — has been one of the most satisfying and earned arcs in the series.
Jaime is one of my favorite characters on the show precisely because of his complexities which were all revealed in that crucial bathtub-scene with Brienne long ago. The knighting-scene is a testament to Jaime’s growth as a character, as well as an in-series confirmation of something we always knew, that Brienne is the most honorable hero of them all — no one deserves a knighthood more than her. Their relationship is the most exciting one to follow, even though I’m sure Tormund, who told a weird story about his nickname in this episode, still thinks he’s her one and only.
I’ll also add that both Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau do terrific work in this episode with glances that spoke a thousand words. Neither Coster-Waldau nor Christie have received the credit they deserve for the work they’ve done on this show, but this episode really gave their characters yet another proper, meaningful moment in the spotlight. If we lose one of the two — or them both — next week, then I’ll probably end up a blubbering mess.
This is an episode that, more than last week’s episode, made you feel the weight of impending doom. So many of the interactions in the season premiere were from the perspective of the most significant characters in the series, but, this time around, it felt like there was a chance these second-tier characters were actually saying goodbye to each other. Once more before a battle, they got to sit around a fire, tell stories and drink, or whatever they wished, and it was genuinely satisfying with most of the characters.
The fans who are most obsessed with great spectacle and major battles may be a little bit disappointed that we’re still waiting, and I really do understand that complaint. But this episode did something just as gratifying, as it provided us with more than one moment that really felt earned in the face of impending doom. As we wait another week for a great big battle, do find comfort in the fact that the writers of Game of Thrones found a way to validate one of the series’ greatest arcs and relationships. I genuinely believe the knighting scene is one of the best the show has seen for quite some time, and, therefore, I happily wait another week. Now the White Walkers are here, and there is no place to hide. Queens, Dragons, Ladies, Lords, and Sers are now all united, armed, and ready. Though, as one scene indicated, they may not all be sober.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.