Major spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones episode "A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms." You've been warned.
Towards the end of Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, a bunch of characters are sitting in a firelit hall in Winterfell, drinking and waiting for the end of days to arrive at their doorstep. It's a tradition to sing a song before a battle, but nobody has one on hand. Podrick, who's mostly kept his mouth shut as the more boisterous characters around him like Tyrion and Tormund riff a bit, starts belting out the words to what book readers will recognize as "Jenny's Song."
"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."
It's not a song TV watchers will recognize (it's certainly not the "Rains of Castemere"), but it's a pivotal song, especially if you break down the lyrics, which tells an important tale from Westeros' past.
Without bogging you down with details, "Jenny's Song" is about a woman named Jenny of Oldstones, who ended up marrying Prince Duncan Targaryen. He's famous for abdicating his claim to the throne, leaving his brother Aerys Targaryen (the one that was overthrown by Robert Baratheon) to rule. Jenny herself perished in a gigantic fire.
It's not exactly a happy song. Jenny's love caused death and destruction and now her ghost haunts the halls of a castle longing for a time before. It's an odd, depressing choice for a pre-battle song, but as we know, nothing is done on accident in Game of Thrones. We may long for simpler times, but it's impossible. As much as our characters want to, they can't live in the past.
We knew ahead of Season 8 that Episode 3 was set to feature the longest battle in the show's history, so it's understandable that Episode 2 is all about setup. Considering the stakes of it and the enemy army that's on its way, it was also expected that along with some strategic planning, there would be some retrospectives, some drinking, and of course, some lovemaking as people contemplate what their last night on Earth will look like.
We knew ahead of Season 8 that Episode 3 was set to feature the longest battle in the show's history, so it's understandable that Episode 2 is all about setup.
Before we get into that though, we have to deal with that whole Jamie problem that was introduced at the end of last week's episode. We immediately jump into Jamie being interrogated by all the ruling characters. Daenerys doesn't trust him (he did kind of murder her father when he was sworn to protect him. People forget that he's called Kingslayer for a reason) and Sansa doesn't either. For a second it looks like these two women are finally going to get along, but Brienne vouches for him, saying he's an honorable man, and Sansa believes her.
Daenerys is overall not happy with the Lannisters, and that includes Tyrion, her hand. Cersei had promised she would send her troops north but Jamie said she was lying. Daenerys berates Tyrion for believing his sister.
The Lannister brothers go through a lot of emotions this episode. Tyrion is wondering when Daenerys is going to take away his title. In a subsequent scene, Jamie apologizes to Bran for that whole "pushing him out of a window" thing and Bran tells him he's sort of OK with it because he never would've become the Three-Eyed Raven otherwise. Jamie then meets up with Tyrion. The two talk about Daenerys and whether she should be trusted before noting the people training in the courtyard, including Brienne and Podrick. Jamie approaches Brienne and says that while he's not the soldier he used to be, he would be happy to serve under her. The reason he came to Winterfell was to fight off the White Walkers and that's what he's going to do, his house be damned.
Daenerys and Sansa have a moment alone where they can talk about their differences. Daenerys notes that the two have a lot in common — both being women who came to power despite a world that said otherwise — and Sansa seems to agree. The problem is that Sansa still doesn't trust Daenerys with her brother or to leave the North alone once the White Walkers are done with. Daenerys doesn't seem to know what she wants to do either.
But that's a problem for another episode. Theon arrives in Winterfell with his small army and he and Sansa embrace. Two scenes later, the small band from beyond the Wall show up, too. Jon greets his one remaining Night's Watch brother, along with Tormund, who tells him that they had to ride around the army of the dead to get to Winterfell first. They'll be there by daybreak.
That's when we get a strategy session with every major character still alive (yes, that includes Bran, who would never have been there if the plot didn't call for it). While they plan their defense, Sam brings up a good point about why the Night King would want to destroy the world of the living.
The world of Game of Thrones (or a Song of Ice and Fire if you're a book devotee), is built around the concepts of myth and storytelling. Early on, the young characters are regaled with stories about their fathers, their brothers, their ancestors, the creatures of its past, magic, and more. Before Daenerys walked into a fire with dragon eggs, it was accepted that dragons were extinct. Before Bran started receiving visions, the idea of wargs was nothing but a myth. Magic didn't exist either; it was from children's stories.
But all of these things now exist in Season 8. As the living prepare to face off against the dead, Sam notes that more than anything, the Night King wants to wipe out the memories and stories of the world. It's not just about killing people, but about wiping out every story, every tale, and every memory that existed as well.
The world of Game of Thrones is built around the concepts of myth and storytelling.
Either way, Bran suggests luring the Night King out of position, volunteering himself as bait. It's the only plausible plan, even if the Starks initially reject it. There are too many members of the White Walker army for Winterfell to take on, even with all the Unsullied, the Dothraki, and two dragons. If the Night King falls, the whole army should follow suit.
The rest of the episode builds upon the reunions from the premiere while also celebrating a slew of character journeys. Jon, Sam, and Eddison (that remaining Night's Watch brother) gather together as they reminisce about how far they've all come. This especially applies to Sam, who started off the series as a meek bookworm and became the first man to kill a White Walker. Missandei and Grey Worm talk about how they'll never be accepted in the North and how they want to return to Essos.
Tyrion and Jamie are drinking alone talking about how things used to be simpler back when Jamie was sleeping with Cersei and Tyrion just drank and slept around. They're later joined by Brienne, Podrick, Davos, and Tormund. In a moment of levity in a show that desperately needs it sometimes, Tormund tells the story of how he got the moniker Giantsbane. Apparently, he killed a giant and then the giant's wife nurtured him for three months. Tormund is so strong because he drank giant's milk, which is... gross but again, we needed some comedy.
In another moment of joy, Jamie finally knights Brienne. Women typically aren't allowed to be knights, but Jamie tells her that all she needs is another knight to give her a title. Brienne has been one of the most honorable and strong characters throughout the series, so it's about time that she got some recognition for all her efforts. The fact it comes from Jamie Lannister is just the cherry on top of the cake.
Elsewhere in Winterfell, Arya meets up with the Hound and they talk about how much they've changed. Few words are exchanged though as Arya goes to practice, but runs instead into Gendry, who's finally finished her weapon. In a scene that a lot of people were expecting, Arya and Gendry sleep together. Arya wants to know what it's like before they all die tomorrow.
So everybody's had a moment, but what about Jon and Daenerys? Jon's been avoiding her all episode after the revelation from Sam about his parentage, but while he's standing in the crypt in front of the statue of Lyanna, he finally tells Daenerys. She's obviously taken aback because this means Jon has a claim to the Iron Throne she's been working so hard for. However, the two can't properly discuss it because they're blowing the horns. The army is here.
Out of the multiple reunions and personal moments we got in Episode 2, the one that stands out the most isn't that obvious. Tyrion and Jamie, as I've previously mentioned, are ready for the battle, but wish for simplicity. They were broken, corrupted men when the series first began, but they didn't have to worry about things like White Walkers or impending doom. All across Winterfell, people are engaging in simple pleasures, whether it's alcohol, sex, hugs, or just a good song. And it's the most human Game of Thrones has been in a long time.
In a show about magic and mythical creatures, the core has always been the characters. There are spectacular set pieces and political tension to bring audiences back every week, but in the end, it's not about who ends up on the Iron Throne but who makes it to the conclusion to see what'll happen to it. We were invested in Jon's story because he was an underdog with good intentions that never seemed to get his due. We followed Arya and Sansa because we wanted to see how they can come out on top despite seasons of trauma.
So on the eve of the biggest battle in the show's history, to see that all these characters are engaging in simple pleasures is bittersweet. Jenny of Oldstones couldn't live in the past, and neither can any of our remaining cast. They have to look forward to bloodshed.
Questions we want answered
- Who's going to die? We predict that some of the minor characters still lurking will not see the end. Brienne is a definite considering her arc has come full circle, along with Gendry and possibly Theon.
- This is only Episode 3. Will this be the end of the Night King?
- How is everyone going to react to seeing the Ice Dragon? Probably not well. How's that going to factor into the battle?
Who died this episode?
- Nobody, which is just fine with us considering what's going to happen in Episode 3.
- No matter what you think, that Gendry/Arya scene is going to be controversial.
- There is some obvious prejudice Missandei and Grey Worm see from Winterfell residents. This might be the first time the show has addressed race in a straightforward manner.
- Tyrion mentions once again that he wants to die when he's 80. He mentions it first in Season 1, so hearing Jamie repeat it back to him is a nice touch.
- The costumes on this show have always been great, but Sansa's armor look is one of its best.
- Yes, that is Florence & the Machine singing a version of "Jenny's Song" over the credits.
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