In “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Winterfell prepares for war while receiving some last-minute volunteers. Most spend the eve of war contemplating death in the face of an enemy that doesn’t tire, doesn’t stop, doesn’t feel. Despite the overwhelming odds, there are those still considering the future, asking what will come afterward. Bran reminds us all, “How do you know there is an afterward?” Game of Thrones creates a richly detailed character-driven episode with moments of warmth, conflict, and humor.
Jaime Lannister returns
After attempting to live up to the promise of joining the fight against the dead, Jaime Lannister finds himself on trial. They don’t call him the Kingslayer for nothin’ and Daenerys Targaryen is out for blood. It’s Jaime’s sense of honor and duty that led him to Winterfell and ultimately spares him from execution. Brienne of Tarth speaks on Jaime’s behalf, pointing out that he lost his hand protecting her honor, and that he armed and freed her in order to fulfill his promise to Catelyn Stark. Brienne’s word is enough for Sansa Stark to look beyond the wrongs he has committed against House Stark. When Jon Snow agrees, Daenerys has little choice but to let him live. She doesn’t seem super psyched about it, though. When the meeting disbands, Tyrion faces the brunt of the Queen’s anger. She tells him, “Cersei still sits on the Iron Throne. If you can’t help me take it back, I’ll find another hand that can.”
Jaime seeks out Bran Stark in the godswood to offer his apologies. Bran is pretty chill about the incident that led to his injury, though lately Bran is chill about most things (except smalltalk). The events that followed Bran’s fall from the tower changed Jaime, just as Bran experienced his own personal transformation. Bran accepts it because it led to them banding together for this seemingly unwinnable battle against the White Walkers. Let’s hope it was worth it.
Later Jaime has a more personal reunion with Brienne. She can’t figure out why he’s being nice to her, as she anticipates an insult that never comes. Instead he tells Brienne, “I’m not the fighter I used to be, but I’d be honored to serve under your command if you’ll have me.” She’s not sure how to take this and neither are we. Does he return her feelings? Or is he simply showing her the respect she’s due? Of course, if everyone dies, we’ll probably never find out.
Arming for battle
Everyone has their role in the preparations for war. Davos Seaworth encourages men who have no choice left but to fight, while Gilly instructs the young and the old to take cover in the crypts once battle begins. Gendry forges weapons of dragonglass and Brienne teaches men to fight.
Arya Stark wants to know what to expect from the approaching army of the dead. She asks Gendry what the enemy is like:
Gendry: “You want to know what they’re like? Death, that’s what they’re like.”
Arya: “I know death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.”
Arya lights a fire under Gendry to complete her special weapon by showing off her mad knife skills. It’s a fun moment, particularly in light of everyone constantly underestimating Arya.
Sansa Stark and Daenerys Targaryen take a meeting wearing their awesome new lady power suits. The great thing about the power suit is the ease of styling. You can get a plain colored design and wear it with your favorite chain or accessory. For the petite, shoulder pads can amp up your volume without you having to say a word. It’s a great look for chilly mornings. Daenerys tries to use the glass ceiling to bring them together:
“We both know what it’s meant to lead people who aren’t inclined to accept a woman’s rule. And we’ve both done a damn good job of it, from what I can tell. And yet I can’t help but feel we’re at odds with each other. Why is that?”
Daenerys mentions the personal sacrifices she’s made in regards to her own ambitions by coming to the North. She does it for her love of Jon Snow, something else they have in common. Sansa appears contrite, telling Daenerys, “I should have thanked you the moment you arrived. That was a mistake.” Just as they seem to be reaching a win-win end to their sit-down, Sansa brings up a final point of contention.
Sansa: “What happens afterwards? We defeat the dead. We destroy Cersei. What happens then?”
Daenerys: “I take the Iron Throne.”
Sansa: “What about the North? It was taken from us. And we took it back. And we said we’d never bow to anyone else again. What about the North?”
We love her Northern pride, but Sansa is focused on an afterward that may never happen.
Jaime Lannister’s arrival may have added to the tension at Winterfell, but there are other, more joyful, reunions. When Theon Greyjoy unexpectedly shows up he provides a brief report to Daenerys, then quickly turns to Sansa, offering, “I want to fight for Winterfell, Lady Sansa. If you’ll have me.” Sansa’s cold exterior drops as she hugs Theon. They have a bond from growing up together, but they also have the shared experience of being brutalized by Ramsay Bolton.
Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion, along with Eddison Tollett, have arrived at Winterfell. Sam and Jon Snow warmly greet the group. Tormund grabs Jon and calls him “my little crow.” They warn that the dead will be there by sunrise. Their impending doom doesn’t distract Tormund from his romantic interest, asking if “the big woman” is still at Winterfell.
The War Council meets to discuss battle strategy. Jon Snow points out that with so many dead, the White Walkers can’t be beaten using traditional tactics. Bran offers himself up as bait to draw in the Night King. There’s some odd dialogue between Bran and Sam about endless night and being forgotten, which the others pretend to understand. Theon’s redemption arc peaks when he offers to protect Bran in the godswood. He tells Bran, “I took this castle from you. Let me defend you now.” Sure, it’s all very contrived, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t tear up when he said it.
Tyrion wants to be on the wall during the battle, but Daenerys wants him in the crypt. With some guidance from Jorah Mormont, she has realized that Tyrion’s mind for strategy is too valuable to risk him on the battlefield. The threat of the impending attack isn’t all bad news, as Tormund reminds them all, with a special look to Brienne, “We’re all going to die, but at least we’ll die together.”
The Eve of Battle
Once the planning is done, folks begin to search for some kind of human connection as they wait for battle to begin. Missandei and Greyworm are making their own plans. The hostility they’ve faced from the people of Westeros has made the realize that the Seven Kingdoms may not be an ideal place to live out their days. Greyworm tells Missandei, “When Daenerys takes the throne there will be no place for us here.” As their love grows, their hopes and dreams for the future begin to grow as well. Let’s hope there’s an afterwards for these two.
Arya Stark, Sandor Clegane, and Beric Dondarrion have an awkward reunion, though Arya quickly realizes this is not how she wants to spend what could be her last hours. Instead she tracks down Gendry, whom she’s been flirting with since his arrival at Winterfell, for experience and companionship. The “last night on earth” line may not have worked for Tormund, but Arya’s approach is more effective.
Eddison Tollett joins Samwell Tarly and Jon Snow, repeating the vow of the Night’s Watch. When Jon suggests Sam could stay in the bunker with Gilly and the baby, Sam sharply reminds them that he was the first to kill a White Walker. Eddison teases, “Samwell Tarly, slayer of White Walkers, lover of ladies. As if we need any more signs the world was ending.” This may be the last gathering of these old friends and it’s a timely acknowledgment of the Night’s Watch, the heart of the series for many seasons.
Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Podrick, Tormund, and Davos all find their way to a Winterfell fireside. Tormund tells a fantastic story about being suckled by a giant and drinks a horn full of milk in an effort to impress Brienne. The scene is almost too comical for Game of Thrones, but we loved it. On a more serious note, Tyrion points out they have all fought the Starks at some point, and now they stand together to defend Winterfell. Tyrion thinks they might live, but the others are more skeptical of their chances.
Tormund is surprised to learn that Brienne isn’t a knight. She tells him tradition prevents it because she’s a woman. Tormund tells Brienne that if he were a king he’d knight her ten times over, leaving his concept of “knighting” open for interpretation. Jaime points out that they don’t need a king, and knights Brienne. Her rare smile is enough to show how much the honor means to her. No one deserves the title of knight more than Brienne of Tarth. The moving scene is the height of emotion in an episode full of meaningful character moments.
Outside, Jorah Mormont is trying to tell Lady Lyanna Mormont she should stay in the crypts to safeguard the legacy of House Mormont. He clearly doesn’t know his cousin Lady Mormont very well. When Lyanna departs, Sam approaches Jorah with Heartsbane, the sword of House Tarly. Sam explains, “Your father, he taught me to be a man, how to do what’s right. This is right. It’s Valyrian steel. I’d be honored if you take it.” Jorah agrees to take the sword into battle: “I’ll wield it in his memory, to guard the realms of men.”
Daenerys finds Jon in the crypt of Lyanna Stark. He reveals the truth to her about Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
“He loved her. They were married in secret. After Rhaegar fell in the Trident she had a son. Robert would have murdered the baby if he ever found out and Lyanna knew it. So the last thing she did, as she bled to death on her birthing bed, was give the boy to her brother Ned Stark to raise as his bastard. My name, my real name, is Aegon Targaryen.”
Daenerys physically reacts and voices her skepticism. She responds, “If it were true it would make you the last male heir of House Targaryen. You’d have a claim to the Iron Throne.” They are interrupted by the horns announcing the arrival of the White Walkers and their army. Though Jon looks towards the call to battle, Daenerys continues to stare intently at Jon as she processes the news that Jon is her rival for the Iron Throne.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
In the lead-up to the battle between the living and the dead, Game of Thrones gives us dread, conflict, tenderness, humor, joy, redemption, and solace. The focus on Winterfell allows for some amazing moments between characters. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is a powerful episode, focused on the relationships between people and their individual qualities. Each person has a story we know in depth, adding to the meaning of these moments. We’ve grown to love these Game of Thrones characters over eight seasons, and “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” brought their varied stories together into a moving narrative. Now we’re ready for battle.