Season 8, Episode 2, ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’
“The things I do for love.”
“Game of Thrones” essentially began with that quip, a romantic cliché given twisted new meaning by its context, as a cad shoved a child to his presumed death in order to protect his secret affair with his own twin sister.
Plenty has happened since then. The child is now a cryptic wizard and the cad has been broken down and rebuilt — at times literally, in the case of his behanding — partly because a giant warrior maiden brought out his better self and partly because he was never really all that bad. (Given what we’ve learned about Jaime over the years, the cavalier way he shoved Bran out the window way back then doesn’t really scan.)
But Jaime’s past still precedes him, which meant that before he would be allowed to fight for the living, as he pledged on Sunday (and in the trailer), he would have to face up to it. This was most fraught with Daenerys, the daughter of the madman Jaime killed to secure his kingslaying reputation. It was most hilarious with Bran, who threw Jaime’s words back at him.
“Everything I did, I did for my house and my family,” Jaime said at his mock trial.
“The things we do for love,” Bran said.
It was both an excellent callback and a fun way to mess with Jaime. But Bran’s quip also suggested a theme for the episode, as people gathered all over Winterfell for a final bit of human tenderness before the terrible White Walker horns echoed across the wintry waste.
Missandei and Grey Worm. Arya and the Hound. Arya and Gendry. Sam and Gilly. Sansa and Theon. The Lannister brothers hosted a drinking and knighting party by the fire, enlivened by Pod’s lovely voice and Tormund’s nutty giant stories. (Every party needs a Tormund. But only one.)
One of the main themes of “Game of Thrones” surrounds the tension between loyalty and duty — think about Maester Aemon’s speech to Jon back in Season 1, speaking of secret Targaryens. Jon wanted to ditch the Night’s Watch to join Robb’s war effort, but Aemon reminded him of his oath and shared his own tale of family tragedy. “Love is the death of duty,” he said.
“We all do our duty when there’s no cost to it,” he added. But eventually “there comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose.”
The people at Winterfell, just by virtue of being there, have already made their choices. But if blind loyalty to one’s clan is what led to much of the death and destruction that defined the story in the early days, it is a sort of love for the larger human family that has led them to make this final stand.
In this last week before the big White Walker clash and the presumable carnage and loss of beloved characters it will entail, it was a reminder that the things we do for love can be heroic as well.
We’ll have a longer recap later, but for now here are some other things that happened this week:
• Jon finally told Dany about his heritage, and it went about as well as you’d expect. “If it were true,” she said through gritted teeth, “you’d have a claim to the Iron Throne.” Interesting that when your boyfriend tells you that he’s your nephew, that’s the first place you go.
• That song Pod sang was called “Jenny of Oldstones,” a melancholy ballad to parallel the episode’s general sense of final shared moments and impending doom. The version heard over the titles was by Florence + the Machine — you might recall bands like the National (“The Rains of Castamere”) and the Hold Steady (“The Bear and the Maiden Fair”) doing similar recordings in previous seasons. Sigur Ros also appeared as a beleaguered wedding band at Joffrey and Margaery’s interrupted nuptials.
• The Bran Plan amounts to turning him into a three-eyed Rat-L-Trap to lure in the Night King in order for Jon and the gang to kill him, and thus take out everyone he has turned. (You’ll recall that was the key bit of intel from the otherwise foolish voyage north of the Wall last season.) Sounds good. What could go wrong?
• I bagged on Gendry’s game last week after his fumbling flirting with Arya. I stand corrected.
• Last season “Game of Thrones” didn’t suffer many meaningful losses, clearing the way for plenty of heartbreaking deaths in the final season. That starts next Sunday, and I can’t have been the only viewer playing a macabre parlor game this week: Does this character’s nice moment mean she’s about to die? This week’s candidates include Brienne, who accepted her knighthood from Jaime with perhaps her first moment of unbridled joy. See also: Grey Worm, who was making sweet postwar plans with Missandei, pretty much guaranteeing that one or both won’t live to see them through.
• I guess you could throw Gendry in this category, too. And Theon. And … actually, I guess you could throw most people in it. Who seems the most doomed to you next week? And whom are you pulling for the hardest? Please share your thoughts in the comments.