Season 8, Episode 2
When I fell in love with Game of Thrones, it wasn’t because of the battles or the dragons or the huge budget. It was the nuanced and varied characters and the relationships they shared that made Westeros so irresistible. As the series has grown, my main gripe is that this character development has been lost a little, replaced with bombastic battle sequences and expensive special effects. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms goes some way to repairing that backwards step.
The second episode of GoT’s final season is an episode in which nothing much happens in terms of plot. Last week, that was a criticism, as we spent far too long watching character reunions and listening to exposition. In this episode, the lack of plotting is a blessing. For the first time in what feels like years we spend some time with the characters. Real time. Time that doesn’t just exist to move the cogs on the huge machine that is Game of Thrones.
The scenes in which the A team of Tyrion, Jamie, Tormund, Podrick, Brienne and Ser Davos sit round the fire laughing and joking are some of the best we have seen in a long time. Sure, the battle sequences will always get the headlines, but it is the little scenes like this that makes us care about what actually happens within those battles. This all culminates in the genuinely beautiful knighting of Lady Brienne by the show’s best character Jamie Lannister. If you didn’t smile when Lady Brienne rose as Ser Brienne you have already succumbed to the Night King.
It is frustrating that just when Game of Thrones reminds us how good it can be, the horn of battle sounds and along with it comes the realisation that we will probably never have an episode like this again. Drink it in. For one episode we spent an extended period of time with the greatest ensemble cast of characters in television history. How many of them will be left after the next instalment?
- Jamie Lannister is a man who has defined himself on being a legendary fighter and dedication to his family. In A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms he renounces both, first by distancing himself from Cersei and then by admitting to Brienne that he isn’t the fighter he used to be. It used to be that my choice of Jamie Lannister as the best character was something of a niche option. No longer. He has the best character arc, the best dialogue and in Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the most understated yet brilliant performance.
- What is striking in this episode is the fact that Dany is still holding on so vehemently to what it means to be a Targyrean. Everyone else, especially Jon Snow, have realised that there are only two armies now, the living and the dead. The only other person in denial about this is Cersei. A lot of characters have pinned their survival on the fact that Daenerys is different to those that ruled before her. On this evidence I’m not so sure how true that is any more. This is emphasised in her cold reaction to Sansa’s questions about the future of the north.
- It really is astonishing that the show that is the biggest cultural phenomenon of my life time is not Breaking Bad or Mad Men but a show in which one of the characters can talk at length about the time when he suckled on a giant’s teat. That is some achievement from George Martin and the show’s creators.
- The scene in which Beric, Arya and the Hound trade insults was another example of the show at its very best. I will miss these moments the most.
- I know Maisie Williams is an adult now but watching her in a love scene still felt wrong somehow. It was a stark (I’m here all week) reminder of just how long Game of Thrones has rumbled on and how much these characters have grown.
- As well as having threesome’s left, right and centre, Podrick Payne also has a lovely voice. Good for you Pod, good for you.
- The show’s conclusion and supposed show stopping moment was the big reveal to Dany what we have all known for months. The scene was predictably flat and lifeless with both actors again seemingly unable to muster any real chemistry. Game of Thrones is a show that has delighted in killing off its main characters in the past. Let’s get rid of one of these two next week aye? Fingers crossed for Dany…