Spoilers for the entirety of HBO’s Game of Thrones will follow.
Game of Thrones has struck a chord with millions of people around the world during the course of this decade. With every season, new relationships were made, bonds were forged, and hearts were broken. As the final season plays out, ramifications from the previous seven seasons are being addressed. Everyone has their own personal view of what they love most about Game of Thrones and what it means to them. Coming into the final six episodes, there was a significant amount of speculation about whether the show would be able to pay off all the different plot and character threads that have been established during its lengthy run. How do you make bring a show together more rich in character and world-building than anything we’ve ever seen before on television? How do you make the fans of the show’s action, the show’s politics, the show’s mythical and supernatural elements, and the show’s romantic relationships all happy by wrapping things up in just six episodes? You give them an episode like “A Knight of Seven Kingdoms,” that’s how.
In this episode, we are given payoffs to a shocking number of character and plot threads dating all the way back to season one. Whereas last week’s episode served to merely reintroduce us to characters and ideas from the show’s past and settle us into the show’s current Winterfell setting, the second episode sought to payoff stories from seasons’ past and reward the viewers and characters alike for their time spent together, while also preparing for the battle to defend Winterfell next week. It was a simple yet effective play for the season’s second episode and it played out brilliantly.
The star of the episode was Jaime Lannister, played brilliantly by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The hour started off by Jaime being brought before Daenerys and other people of power in Winterfell, following his arrival at the end of the previous episode. It of course becomes known that he does not have Cersei’s army with him as Tyrion had been promised, and this looks very bad for the both of them. Luckily for Jaime, Brienne vouches for him, appealing to her good faith with Sansa. This is the beginning of what would be a very meaningful episode between the two of them, capitalizing on the bond the two of them developed many seasons ago. Later on, this would be further explored in a scene shared between them and others as they sat around a fire late at night and they got drunk together, trying to enjoy what they all knew could very well be their last night on Westeros before the White Walkers would arrive in the morning. As if the scene of beloved characters like Jaime, Brienne, Tormund, Podrick, Tyrion, Davos simply mingling around a fireplace sipping wine weren’t already enough, Jaime, the knight that he is, officially knighted Brienne in a truly moving and heartfelt display of affection, played so exquisitely by Nikolaj and Gwendoline Christie. The scene will go down as one of the most cherished moments in the show.
Despite all the depth and nuance given to Brienne and Jaime’s relationship, theirs was only a small part of the episode. Jaime was also seen bonding with his brother Tyrion over their past foibles, and Tyrion was able to somewhat bandage his relationship with Daenerys via help from Jorah. An exceptional amount of care and good writing went into making these interactions not only feel natural, but also important and rewarding. We’ve seen these characters grow through the years and overcome a tremendous amount of adversity, so seeing a scene like Daenerys trying to develop a relationship with Sansa (two characters who had never met before last week’s episode), was inherently powerful. Emilia Clarke and Sophie Turner both appear to have budding careers ahead of them, so seeing them go toe to toe in a mini-standoff felt like something of a meta moment. However, unlike many of the interactions from last week’s episode that felt too much like forced fan service, this was critical to the progression of the story. Judging from the cold end to their conversation and later Jon’s reveal to Daenerys about his true heritage and her reaction to that news, Daenerys remains the ultimate wild card to the show in its last four episodes. It is very much unclear what she intends to do with this new information and assuming that she survives the pending battle with death, she will have to decide how she wants to approach her relationship with Jon and his claim to the iron throne.
There are strong character beats throughout: Arya exploring her sexuality with Gendry; Greyworm’s pledge to Missandei to run away together after the battle; and Theon and Sansa sharing a moment over their kindred experience with Ramsay Bolton. So much transpired that this could properly be termed as a “bottle episode,” with the full runtime taking place in Winterfell over the course of one day. Casual viewers may view this as simply another episode of setup, a continuation of the previous episode, lacking any action or earth-shattering revelations. But no, “just setup” this was not. “A Knight of Seven Kingdoms” was Game of Thrones at its very best: a show about characters, relationships, interactions, compassion, strategy, friendship, family, and love. The depth to which all of these human characteristics are explored is why we fell in love with this show in the first place. Maybe we had forgotten, but tonight we were reminded that Game of Thrones at its very best is something that we can all cherish, admire, and enjoy.
‘Game of Thrones’ continues Sunday night at 9pm ET on HBO