THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE SECOND EPISODE OF SEASON EIGHT OF GAME OF THRONES. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
Well, this episode certainly brought all the emotions you can imagine. In a nutshell, this is the calm before the storm. The entire episode takes place at Winterfell as we travel between different sets of characters on this day before the biggest battle of the series (and television history, for that matter). Everyone here gets their own moments to shine throughout the episode, and we’re reminded multiple times of where these characters started and how far they’ve come.
The episode opens with Jaime in the great hall of Winterfell, standing in front of Daenerys, Sansa, and Jon, awaiting judgment after his unexpected arrival. There are so many different threads and past events that make this scene work on every level. Dany obviously despises Jaime for what he did to her father and Sansa doesn’t want to trust him either. We get Bran throwing a “The things we do for love” jab at him when Jaime says all his actions had been in the name of his family. And it’s eventually Brienne of Tarth that saves Jaime’s skin and convinces Sansa that he has changed and is a good man.
Jaime’s character arc is one of the best on the show. He’s so radically different from the man we met in the pilot episode. This is true for essentially everyone though. We get a fantastic scene of Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Podrick, Sir Davos, and Tormund all drinking by the fire, contemplating their journeys and impending doom. We also see the completion of Brienne’s character arc as Jaime knights her, something she’s more than earned (I don’t think this bodes well for her chances next episode, but we’ll see).
We also get a few scenes with Arya, including her talking with the Hound and Sir Berric Dondarion. The back and forth between Arya and the Hound, though significantly different from what it used to be, is still great. Then we also get a few scenes between Arya and Gendry, one of which contains one of the biggest surprises in this episode. I know I said I’d get into spoilers but I’m actually not going to talk about this one yet because I’m not sure how to feel about it.
About halfway (I think? I wasn’t checking the time, it felt halfway so that’s what I’m going to go with) through the episode Dany visits Sansa essentially attempting to extend an Olive Branch. They have some common ground both being women who rule and as Dany points out they both love Jon (that’s a big fist pump for me when Dany says she loves him) and Dany tries to reassure Sansa that she isn’t a threat. It appears that the two may finally get along until Sansa asks what will happen to the North after they defeat the White Walkers and Cersei. This immediately cranks the tension up to 11 and kills any hope of them being completely on the same page.
Bran’s reaction to Jaime is about what I expected it to be. Bran is too smart and knows too much now to still be angry at Jaime for what happened. The exchange between the two is one of the most interesting on the show purely because of their first interaction and thinking about all they’ve been through since. Another aspect of this episode that’s sort of subtle but I think does a lot is the transformation of Winterfell. Throughout the episode, in the background, there are constantly people working to fortify the castle, and you can even see Dragonglass protruding from many of the exterior walls and on other spiked defenses. It’s a small touch but it elevates that sense of tension as we know what’s coming for them.
Jon was fairly absent from this episode, aside from a scene with Sam and Edd atop the battlements of Winterfell which brings such strong memories of the time the three spent standing on the Wall. This is one of my favorite scenes from the episode, it’s chilling seeing the three of them in such a familiar situation yet so far from where they were and having gone through so much. There’s also a scene in which all the major players at Winterfell are gathered in the battle room, preparing their plans for the battle. It’s here that we see just how impossible these odds are. They establish that killing the Night King, who will go for Bran, is basically their only chance but even that isn’t much of one. Every character understands that this battle means death for most, if not all of them and it’s bone-chilling.
Then the other major scene Jon has this episode takes place in the crypts and it’s game-changing. I wasn’t sure how long Jon would wait to tell Dany the truth about his parentage and sure enough, he decided to tell her before the episode was through. Standing in front of Lyanna Starks statue Jon tells Dany that his real name is Aegon Targaryen. Her reaction was slightly more tame than I thought it would be. You can tell that she’s certainly not happy about it, but neither is Jon. You can also feel that they love each other and don’t want this to destroy them. I don’t think Jon has any wish to sit on the Iron Throne, but Dany does acknowledge that if this is true it means he has a claim to the Throne. Then they’re “saved” by the bell as the White Walkers finally arrive in sight of Winterfell and the episode cuts to black.
Overall this was another episode that was heavy on character and all the better for it. It felt like the last night that we’ll see so many of these characters and you’re constantly plagued by the feeling of Death marching towards them. Every line and scene holds such a weight of finality. It’s surreal and terrifying to think how far everyone has come and know that the end is in sight. Though it’s to be expected I feel compelled to mention just how excellent this show is from a production standpoint as well. The cast is phenomenal, the cinematography is striking, the sets and costumes are superb, and the score continues to elevate everything. This makes two episodes in a row with no major character deaths which is both a relief and incredibly stressful. Next episode is the Battle of Winterfell and is going to be a pure spectacle and I can only imagine how many casualties we’re in store for.