Here we are, with the second episode of Game of Thrones‘ final season. This was an interesting episode that took place entirely at Winterfell, focusing on the characters gathered there ahead of a massive battle on the horizon. If you missed my review/recap of the previous episode, you can check that out here. Continuing this series, let’s dive into the second episode. Here’s my Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 2 – A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms review.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 2 – A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Review

First off, as I neglected to talk about this in my review of the first episode, I have to mention the astounding credits. They’ve been completely overhauled for the new season, focusing solely on Winterfell and King’s Landing. They’re more intricate, showing details like the crypts of Winterfell or the dragon skulls under the Red Keep. There’s also an icy trail that is making its way further south, keeping track of the Army of the Dead.

After the credits finish, the episode opens as Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is listening to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) talk at length about the stories she’s heard of the man who murdered her father. Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) grills Jamie about the offences he has committed against her family in the past. When Jamie defends his past actions, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) gives a chillingly awesome callback by saying “The things we do for love.” Despite honoring his pledge to come to the North and fight and despite informing the assembled council about how the Lannister soldiers won’t be coming North and that Cersei intends to use the Golden Company to wipe out any survivors, Jamie’s prospects look grim until Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) speaks up about how he lost his right hand by protecting her from would-be rapists. After Jon Snow (Kit Harington) reminds everyone that they need every man who can fight, Jamie is handed back his sword and allowed to stay.

We get to see Arya (Maisie Williams) checking in on Gendry (Joe Dempsie) at the castle forge. Gendry insists she should be down in the crypts, Arya has other ideas. After neatly showing off her accuracy with some dragonglass daggers, she gets him to bump up her weapon in the priority list. The romantic tension between these two continues to build.

Jaime takes a moment to talk to Bran in Godswood, questioning why he didn’t reveal that it was in fact Jamie who pushed Bran out of the tower all those years ago. Bran explains that he would never have become the Three-Eyed Raven otherwise, while Jamie wouldn’t be the man he is today. He also cryptically implies that there might not be an “afterwards,” though he doesn’t specify for whom. Despite showing no emotion, Bran has a strong presence in every single scene he’s in. He knows more than he’s letting on but does he even know to let more on, or is he simply overloaded with information? It’s a question I find myself asking every time he speaks. On a small note, the cinematography in this scene is fantastic.

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is on thin ice after he spoke up for his sister sending the Lannister army North, so he and Jaime get to talk, with some humorous callbacks on how Tyrion would like to die (and a funny implication that he’s explained how many, many, MANY times) leading to Jamie and Brienne having a chat. There’s an air of respect between the two, though both are clearly afraid of saying too much.

Jorah (Ian Glenn) talks to Daenerys, encouraging her to forgive Tyrion’s mistakes in judgement. At his nudging, Daenerys also goes to speak with Sansa. They talk about Jon, how men in love are easily manipulated and Daenerys poses an interesting question of who manipulated whom, since she came North? They even seem to be bonding for a while, until Sansa asks the question of what comes after and whether the North can be given its independence. They’re interrupted before this conversation can continue but it’s clear that things haven’t progressed as needed. Sophie Turner and Emilia Clarke both do a great job in this scene and Sansa Stark echoes a lot of Littlefinger’s mannerisms and ways of speaking as she tries to find common ground. She’s studied how Cersei and Littlefinger manipulate people and it shows.

There’s a joyous reunion as Theon (Alfie Allen) and his Ironborn return to Winterfell. Theon asserts that he’s here to fight for the Starks, prompting Sansa to embrace him. This is one of the strongest reunions in the series, with quite a bit of baggage and weight attached to it. Seeing Theon come full circle like this is utterly heartwarming.

We get another great reunion as Tormund, Edd, Beric (Kristofer Hivju, Ben Crompton, Richard Dormer) and the rest of the survivors from Eastwatch arrive at Winterfell. The music swells to a wonderful as Jon goes to embrace his brothers…then drops as he gets tackled by Tormund. His bear hug and utterance of “My little crow” is a hilarious and lightening moment that really emphasizes just how far these two have come.

Davos (Liam Cunningham) is serving soup to new recruits when a little girl walks up to the line, asking where she should go. Her face is burned and scarred, clearly reminding him of Shireen Baratheon. It’s another quiet, meaningful moment, as well as yet another time that the safety of the crypts is emphasized. Foreboding? Perhaps.

Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) speak about retiring and going to Naath when the war is over. It’s a sweet moment and one that makes me concerned for their prospects in the upcoming battle.

As the battle plans are formed up, we get to see details of how the armies will form up. Soldiers put out dragonglass-coated stakes, test traps and trebuchets, all while Jon gives a voiceover speech. Game of Thrones usually doesn’t go for voiceover montages, so it’s an interesting change of pace. As Jon lays out the battle plan (they need to draw out the Night King) Bran casually reveals a major piece of information: the Night King wants to bring an eternal night. As a result, he hunts the Three-Eyed Ravens, as they are the world’s memory. Theon agrees to protect Bran in the Godswood, to make up for when he once took the castle.

The amount of detail put into the siege preparation is incredible and makes me anticipate the battle next week even more.

Arya catches up with Sandor Clegane, (who muses she’s much quieter these days) talking for a bit before Beric Dondarrion interrupts them. After the back-and-forth continues for a bit, Arya decides to go have some archery practice. Gendry brings her the custom spear she requested and she rewards him by playing the game of faces from her time in Braavos, eerily drilling him on how many women he’s slept with. Eventually, she makes her real intent known and they sleep together. It’s a powerful moment for Maisie Williams, who has been a part of the show since the beginning and has grown from a child to a young woman.

Jon, Samwell and Edd all reunite on the walls of Winterfell, again looking out over a wall into the cold night beyond. We also FINALLY get to see Ghost again, as he’s happily standing alongside this Night’s Watch reunion. The brothers get a laugh out of Sam’s love life while mourning Pyp and Grenn, who died during the Battle of the Castle Black in Season 4. “Now it’s just us three” is the grim reminder of how many have been lost. It was good to see these four (Ghost counts) get once last reunion ahead of the great battle.

Brienne, Jamie, Podrick, Tormund, Tyrion and Davos all find their way into a warm room with fireplace. Jamie and Tyrion share some mirth from the irony of their defending the seat of House Stark, with Jamie shooting Tyrion a great, confused look at his comment about wishing to see their father’s face. As they gather around the hearth, there’s amusement all around, with Tyrion overfilling Podrick’s wine glass (after Brienne insists he drink a half cup) and Tormund sizing up Jamie. Out of the blue, Tormund bursts into the story of why he’s called Giantsbane, finishing off the tale by messily gulching down his fermented goat’s milk. It’s a hilarious scene that really must be seen to be believed and everyone present does a great job sharing in the disbelief of what is happening.

Eventually, discussion breaks out as to why Brienne isn’t a knight. Tormund, ever looking to impress her, insists that he’d “knight her ten times over.” Jamie, however, can knight her and does. An incredible moment ensues where we get to a knighting ceremony of Westeros. Tormund claps enthusiastically, starting a cheer. Seeing Ser Brienne give a huge smile for the first time ever is just plain awesome.

Jorah and Lyanna Mormont get to catch up, as Lyanna insists she’ll be leading her soldiers in the defense of Winterfell. Still, considering Jorah’s history, they manage to wish each other well on good terms. Sam brings his family’s Valyrian Steel sword Heartsbane to Jorah, saying he can’t hold it upright and it should be wielded by someone who can use it.

I love the subtle symbolism of redemption in this scene. Longclaw, the sword of House Mormont, was passed to Jon Snow by Jeor, Jorah’s father. When Jorah fled into exile, he left that sword behind, thinking himself unworthy. Now, he’s being asked to wield a new Valyrian Steel blade by someone who saved his life. Jorah has been made worthy once more.

Eventually, as the night drags on, Tyrion suggests that someone sing a song. Tormund and Brienne decline, then Podrick takes everybody by surprise by singing “Jenny’s Song,” a song that has partially appeared in the books. Daniel Portman has an absolutely incredible voice and as he sings, some sweeping shots show different tender moments as final preparations fall into place: Sam lies in bed with Gilly and little Sam, Jorah rides out and scans the horizon, Grey Worm and Missandei share a kiss, Theon and Sansa brace against the cold while drinking some soup.

The song ends as Daenerys joins Jon in the crypts, taking his arm and talking about her brother Rhaegar, how everyone insisted he was such a good and kind man, yet he abducted and raped Lyanna Stark. Jon breaks the news: Rhaegar married Lyanna and she gave birth to a son, who was hidden away and whose real name, HIS real name, is Aegon Targaryen. Daenerys is shocked, realizing that if that’s true, Jon would be the male heir of House Targaryen and heir to the Iron Throne. Before things can go further, they’re interrupted by three horn blasts, a sign used by the Night’s Watch that the dead are coming. Emilia Clarke does a remarkable job conveying a mixture of confusion and subtle anger, despite the limited amount of time she has to react.

It’s at this moment that the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead arrive. It’s more White Walkers than we’ve ever seen on screen before, perhaps over a hundred. While there’s no sign of the Night King or his undead dragon Viserion, the Battle for Winterfell is about to begin.

Summary

On the surface, it’s easy to say that “nothing happened” in this episode. That there was no action, no fighting, no big twists (the Night King’s motivation aside) and that it was just putting off what we really need to get to. Nothing could be further from the truth. This episode was desperately needed. It’s perhaps the last chance we’ll ever get to have these characters talk and attempt to unwind. After over seven seasons, it was one last bit of payoff. Humor, love, tension; it’s all things that needed to be experienced. It felt earned, especially for an audience that has been invested for years.

This was an extremely character focused episode, the deep breath before the plunge. The absence of King’s Landing is noted and it makes me wonder what the cast down there is up to. The entirety of the episode took place at Winterfell and as a result, this bottle episode is very dialogue and character interaction-driven, with little action. Yet in spite of that, it might be one of my favorites from across the entire series.

There’s a battle on the horizon, love in the air, brewing distrust and people fighting for something, united by an idea of something, all in the same place. And now it begins. Or, perhaps, now it ends.