The latest episode of Game of Thrones is an exercise in tension as Winterfell waits through the calm before the storm. On the eve of the battle that most expect will be their last, emotions run high and forgiveness is in the air.
In the last moments of last week’s episode, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) arrived at Winterfell. This week picks up with the Kingslayer facing off against a table full of young adults whose families he has harmed.
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is disinclined to show mercy towards the man who killed her father. Beyond blaming him for all the misfortune that befell her and her family after that fateful moment, she is furious to find that he has arrived without the armies she was promised by his sister.
Before she can issue any decrees regarding his future, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) steps forward to speak on his brother’s behalf. Dany is so angry at Tyrion for having been tricked by his sister that his words don’t much affect her.
Seeing this, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) steps forward to assert that Jaime is a man of honor, and that Sansa (Sophie Turner) wouldn’t be alive if he hadn’t armed her and sent her to fulfill his promise to her mother. Sansa confirms that Brienne trusts Jaime with her life and would willingly fight by his side, and that’s enough for her. She believes Brienne and is ready to welcome Jaime to fight with them.
Peeved, Dany turns to “the Warden of the North” to see what he says. Jon (Kit Harington), conspicuously not looking at her, says they need all the men they can get. With that, Jaime is given leave to stay, and Jon excuses himself hastily.
Throughout the proceedings, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) regards Jaime with his unnerving and unblinking stare, but he says nothing to anyone about his history with Jaime. He does quote Jaime to himself, in the same way he did with Littlefinger the last time someone was on trial in this hall, saying, ‘The things we do for love,” which was the line Jaime delivered as he threw Bran from the tower window in season one.
When the crowd disperses, Dany tells Tyrion in no uncertain terms that his role as her Hand is in peril as a result of the mistakes he’s made with his sister.
Not on duty as executioner for this trial, Arya (Maisie Williams) drops by the forge to see how Gendry (Joe Dempsie) is coming along with her weapon. He hasn’t started working on it yet, prioritizing it behind the myriad weapons he has to make for the army. He even pleads with her to plan on sitting out the battle in the crypt with the other women and children. He knows she isn’t afraid of anything, but she doesn’t know what this army is like.
Arya asks him to tell her about the army of the dead, and the best he can do is to say that they’re very bad. When pushed, he tells her that they are death and that she doesn’t want anything to do with it.
She leans in, grabs a spearhead from a pile near him, and tells him that death has many faces as she effortlessly hurls it across the forge and into a post. She tells him she’d like to see this face as she follows with two more expertly aimed spearheads.
Gendry gets the point and tells her he’ll get to work on her weapon immediately.
Elsewhere, Jaime tracks down Bran by the Weirwood tree. He apologizes for what he did to Bran and explains that he isn’t that man anymore. Bran says that’s because of what he did, and that if he hadn’t done it, he would still be Brandon Stark. Now he’s something else.
Jaime asks why Bran didn’t tell everyone what he’d done, and Bran responds that Jaime wouldn’t be able to fight for them if they murdered him first. When Jaime alludes to what will happen after the fight, Bran suggests that there might not be an after.
Saved from Dany’s wrath and feeling forgiven by Bran, Jaime finds Tyrion in the courtyard, and they walk together, talking of the oddity of their reunion and their likely imminent death. They climb the battlements to survey all the activity below of people preparing for battle, and Jaime sees Brienne in the field, overseeing a training exercise between Pod (Daniel Portman) and another young man.
Jaime leaves Tyrion to go to her. He talks with her about battle strategy, complimenting her on her leadership position and supporting her ideas about how to fight. She finds it uncomfortable for him to speak to her for so long without insulting her, and she says so. Humbled, Jaime tells her that he isn’t the fighter he used to be and that he would be honored to fight under her. She’s flustered, and she leaves without giving him an answer.
Meanwhile, Jorah (Iain Glen) seeks out Dany to tell her he thinks she chose the right Hand in Tyrion and that she should forgive his mistakes. He also has a suggestion– that she make peace with Sansa.
Dany accepts all of his advice and she immediately goes to speak with Sansa.
Their conversation begins with some reserve, as Dany points out the things they have in common (like being women ruling over people who aren’t crazy about having a woman in that role) and their love for Jon. Sansa tells Dany both that Tyrion is a good man who deserves a second chance, and that she knows Jon loves her and that men can be manipulated. Dany retorts that she loves Jon, and that if anyone has been manipulated, it’s her as she’s taken a break from her lifelong pursuit of the Iron Throne to fight his war with him.
As they warmly grasp hands and lean into each other with a new possibility of sisterly regard, Sansa asks what will happen once they’ve succeeded in defeating the dead and Cersei. Dany responds simply that she’ll take the Iron Throne, and Sansa goes frosty. She says that the North has pledged never to be ruled by anyone again, and she asks what will happen to the North when Dany takes the throne. Dany gets frosty, too, but before she can respond, they’re interrupted by an arrival.
Theon (Alfie Allen) is back! Both women are moved by the sight of him, and he bows to his queen first, giving her the news of his sister’s safety and her plan to take the Iron Islands in Dany’s name. Then he turns to Sansa and tells her that he’s come to fight for Winterfell, if she’ll have him. She runs to him and envelops him in a teary embrace. Dany gives them a little side-eye, telegraphing “oh, that’s how it is…”
Theon isn’t the only fresh arrival. While Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) are both at work in the courtyard getting people situated as either fighters or those who will be sitting out the battle in the crypts, a horn sounds. Jon comes rushing in as Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and Acting Lord Commander Edd (Ben Crompton) ride in with the men of the Night’s Watch.
They give him the news of the fall of the house of Umber, and that the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) and his army will be there before the sun rises again.
With all of the key players safe inside Winterfell’s walls, the leaders get strategic, making the best plan of battle they can. Jon points out that they’re so completely outnumbered that they don’t stand a chance if their objective is just killing all of the soldiers coming at them– they need to take out the Night King himself, and all the army of the dead should fall.
Jaime points out that if that’s true, the Night King won’t expose himself to risk unnecessarily. They’ll need to draw him out. Nobody knows if dragonfire can hurt him, as nobody has tried it before, but that’s essentially the plan.
Bran surprises everyone by telling them that what the Night King wants is him. He bears the Night King’s mark, so he always knows where Bran is. He wants to kill Bran, as he is the living memory of mankind, and bring on permanent night. Sam (John Bradley) hears what Bran’s saying and confirms to the room that if he were the Night King, he’d go for Bran for exactly that reason– without a memory, man would be nothing.
Bran declares that he’ll wait for the Night King by the Weirwood tree, and Theon says that he and the Iron Islanders will protect him. He tells Bran that because he took Winterfell from him once, he will make it up by being there for him now.
With their plan mapped out, the wait begins.
Tyrion stays with Bran for a bit, asking to hear the long story of Bran’s strange journey while they’re trapped in the castle with nowhere to go.
Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) finds Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and tells her that once he’s served his queen by defeating all of her enemies, he wants to take her somewhere better than Westeros. She tells him she misses the beaches of Narth, and he pledges to take her there. She says that her people are peaceful and can’t protect themselves, and he responds that his people are not peaceful and they will protect hers.
Jon and Sam stand watch on the castle wall with Ghost beside them. Sam pokes at Jon a bit about how he hasn’t yet told Dany the truth of his identity, but he stops when Jon glares him down. They’re joined by Edd and together they reflect on where they started and how far they’ve come. They’ve lost so many friends, and somehow it’s Sam who has become the killer of wights and lover of women.
Jon tells Sam that if he wants to be with Gilly and little Sam, it’s OK if he goes to protect them in the crypts. (Dany’s told Tyrion to go down there for the sake of protecting his mind, but Jon doesn’t think of that more complimentary approach.) Sam is offended, reminding them of his feats and survival to date. Later, though, he finds Jorah and offers him the sword he stole from his family since he can’t actually wield it, and he curls up with the woman he loves and their son.
In the great hall, Jaime and Tyrion find comfort in each other’s company in front of a warm hearth. Tyrion wishes their father could see them preparing to die for the Starks and Winterfell, and they laugh.
Brienne and Pod come in, seeking a warm place to wait for the battle, and Tyrion gets his former squire a cup of wine while Jaime’s former captor joins him by the fire. Soon, the four are joined by others seeking warmth: Davos and Tormund. The unlikely group reflects on how all of them have fought the Starks at different times, and now they’re all preparing to fight on the same side. They drink wine and joke about their mortality, and Tyrion accidentally calls Brienne “Ser” before correcting to “Lady.”
Tormund questions this, and he’s outraged to discover that women can’t become knights in the Seven Kingdoms. He would knight Brienne 10 times over if he were a king. (He also says he’s as strong as he is because the widow of a giant he killed once suckled him at her teat for three months because she mistook him for a baby, but that’s another story.)
Although Brienne pretends she doesn’t care about being a knight, Pod gives her a look that says he knows she’s lying. Jaime knows it, too, and he realizes that you don’t need to be a king to make someone a knight– any knight can do it. He calls her over to him and instructs her to kneel.
He taps her right shoulder with his sword and says, “In the name of the Warrior, I charge you to be brave.”
He taps her on the left shoulder and says, “In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just.”
He taps her on the right shoulder again and says, “In the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the innocent.”
Then he withdraws his sword and says, “Arise, Brienne of Tarth, a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
She does, turning teary eyes towards her assembled witnesses as she breaks into the biggest smile she’s worn on the show to date.
The odd fellows gathered in front of the fire aren’t the only ones seeking solace in company and wine. Arya finds The Hound (Rory McCann) sitting with a wineskin on top of the castle wall and joins him. He prods her about how she used to talk nonstop and now she’s just silent, and she says she’s changed.
They drink together, and she tries to get him to tell her what he’s doing in the North. She accuses him of never having fought for anyone but himself before, and he retorts that he fought for her. They’re interrupted by the arrival of Beric Dondarrion, who apologizes to Arya for the way they left things. The Hound asks if Dondarrion is on her list, and Arya says he was for a while.
She gets up to leave, telling them she isn’t going to waste her final hours with those two miserable old sh*ts. Instead she goes for someone less miserable, less old and more warm.
She finds Gendry in the forge and asks if he has her weapon ready. He presents her with a double-headed spear with blades of dragonglass. She twirls it easily, enjoying the feel of it, and asks him what it was the Red Woman had wanted with him. He tells her that he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard and the Red Woman had wanted his blood and had extracted it with leeches.
Arya moves past the shock of Gendry’s parentage quickly, and fills in the blanks of his story. She asks him if the Red Woman was his first, then pressures him to tell her how many women he’s been with (three). She tells him that if they’re going to die soon, she wants to know what it’s like, then jumps him.
They grapple with their very many clothes while kissing hungrily in the firelight. When her shirt comes off, he pauses at the sight of scars on her ribcage. She tells him she’s not the Red Woman and he’ll have to take his own pants off, then she mounts him!
Later, as Gendry sleeps and Arya rests wakefully beside him, the group in the hall has run out of wine. Tyrion isn’t ready to let them go yet, and he calls for a song. It’s Pod who obliges, singing:
High in the halls of the kings who are gone
Jenny would dance with her ghosts
The ones she had lost and the ones she had found
And the ones who had loved her the most
The ones who’d been gone for so very long
She couldn’t remember their names
They spun her around on the damp old stones
Spun away all her sorrow and pain
And she never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
As the haunting melody fills the room, we’re treated to a montage of all of the people waiting for the army of the dead. Sansa and Theon sharing a meal and some *looks,* Grey Worm kissing Missandei passionately before joining his men, Sam and his little family…
Then Dany finds Jon in the crypt, where he is brooding in front of the statue of Lyanna Stark. Dany has come to force his avoidance to stop, and her inquiry about whose likeness they’re standing in front of gives him the opening he’s needed to tell her the truth. When he gets it out, she’s dumbfounded. She tries to counter that it’s a big coincidence that the only two people to know the secret of his birth are his brother and his best friend, but Jon insists he knows it to be true.
She visibly withdraws her warmth. She points out that if what he’s saying is true, he’s the last male heir to the Targaryen line and has a claim to the throne.
Before he can respond, a horn sounds three times. The army of the dead has arrived.
Everyone pauses whatever moments they were in the middle of and assumes their battle positions as the white walkers appear on the horizon.
- If I know television, and I think I do, look for anyone who planned a future in this episode to die next week. Sorry, Grey Worm. Them’s just the rules of TV.
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