One-third of the final season of "Game of Thrones" is through, and the Night King has finally arrived. Well, next week. This hour, however, is about the deep breathe before the battle, the cliche calm before the million-dollar, weeks-long film shoot of a storm. So what'd we learn from this week's episode? Here are the five biggest takeaways from "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" – besides the fact that did anyone else really want a bowl of that soup Davos was dishing out last night?
1. The waiting game – but good this time
Winter is still coming ... eventually ... I swear. But while the "Game of Thrones" season premiere played like some pretty routine and rote table-setting, simply putting its pieces back on the board without actually moving many of them into action, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" played the waiting game much better and much more thoughtfully, providing basically a hangout episode where most of our characters contemplate what's likely to be their final hours.
Sure, you've got the newly arrived Jaime on trial, getting a pass thanks to Brienne standing up for his honor and Sansa standing behind Brienne. (Meanwhile Bran just smugly sits in the corner and throws delightful amounts of shade at the man who chucked him out a window all those seasons ago.) And you've got Sansa and Dany having a warm heart-to-heart that goes bitterly cold when Sansa asks about the state of the North after their battle versus the White Walkers is all done. So there's definitely plot machinery at work and chess pieces being moved.
But what viewers, I imagine, will remember most fondly about this episode is, amusingly enough, the waiting – especially the gaggle of characters (Tyrion, Davos, Brienne, Jaime, Pod and Tormund) sitting around a fireplace, pleasantly chatting and swapping stories, reflecting on how far they've gone since first we met them and, in general, having a human moment together before fighting the polar opposite of humanity.
From the bigger scenes (Tormund's story time, featuring a dead giant and three months of breast milk; Tyrion and Jaime talking about their first arrival to Winterfell all those years ago) to the little grace notes, like Tyrion pouring an overflowing cup of wine to Pod, the conversations had a light, touching humanity to them – all while feeling the weight of the upcoming battle and feeling the weight of the entire series that's come before.
Even outside of that room, with Sam standing up for his brave acts over the years to Bran and Jaime's temporary treaty, and Theon's return, this was an episode that felt earned, interactions and small moments of reflection paid for with seven seasons of character work. You felt the years accumulated on these characters' lives – and the weight of the minutes tensely ticking off of them. For an episode with really little actually going on, it never felt boring or staid, like it was spinning wheels.
During their battle-planning, after Bran explains that the Night King will come for him and his memory, Sam gives a short speech about how death is, above all, forgetting, people and their stories erased from time – and how if they lose sight of where they've been and what they've done, they're no much more man than the zombies they're fighting. And that's what "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" was about: reminding the audience that the massive battle to come may end up awesome and epic, but it's everything that's come before, that brought the show to this point, that'll make it actually mean something.
2. Brienne is the best
Of all the things people will remember about the fireside chats in Sunday night's "Game of Thrones," I left out the most notable: Brienne earning the honor of being knighted. Sure, she had to get it done in the presence of Tormund, beard probably still dripping of milk from his giant story – and you just know he was shooting her the unwanted horny eyes the entire night. (Though to Tormund's credit, it was his disbelief at her lack of rank, and his scoffing at "tradition," that inspired the makeshift ceremony. He may be annoyingly and unabashedly persistent, but at least he also views her as a queen to be honored above all.)
But to see in her face – Gwendoline Christie acted the hell out of tonight's episode, from the knighting to her defense of Jaime at the opening trial – what that moment meant to her, especially coming at the hands of Jaime, was easily the highlight of the episode. Her beaming smile as she was applauded and honored, even if by the smallest audience, was one of the very few "Game of Thrones" moments that you can call sweet and heartwarming.
3. Arya got her weapon from Gendry and, uh, more
So ... this happened.
Last week, Arya and Gendry were all sparky and flirty – and even this week, there was literal steam during their conversation about fighting the White Walkers and trying to describe this impending menacing army. (Gendry goes with "really bad." Listen, he's a blacksmith, not a poet.) But even with all of that prelude and flirtation, I was ill-prepared for Arya and Gendry to actually get busy Sunday night – the moment that had the entire audience scampering to Wikipedia to see how old Arya's supposed to be and how weirded out they're supposed to feel. Verdict: at least weirded out enough that I don't want to make the "Gendry gave Arya his spear" double entendre that the scene clearly wants the world to make!
It's an awkward scene not because it's a young girl having sex – hey, it's her choice, no one else's, and on "Game of Thrones," that's a happy change of pace; plus, this is a girl who's both witnessed and committed a whole lot of murder, so if you think her losing her virginity consensually in possibly her last night amongst the living is crazy or out of line or nasty, you might need your priorities checked. It's just a little uncomfortable because we've literally watched this character grow up before our eyes. We've known her since she was an innocent 11-year-old, so to witness this intimate moment feels like walking in on our kid sister.
Overall, though, good for you, Arya – though that didn't exactly look like the most satisfied, pleased face in the aftermath. And Gendry, you better not hurt her. (But no, seriously, don't; she can and will dead you.)
4. Jon Snow has still learned nothing about strategy
So the White Walkers are literally walking up to you front door, and the battle for all of humanity is about to begin. Maybe, Jon Snow, now is not the time to tell your key ally – the person in charge of a large portion of your army plus two flying fire-belching dragons – that not only are you the actual heir to the throne that she's been ruthlessly and single-mindedly marching toward for years, but also she's been secretly boning a family member. We've got snow zombies ringing our doorbell, and you want to tell me, "Oh, BTW, the throne's technically mine – and also hey auntie"? NOT NOW, JON OR AEGON OR WHOEVER YOU ARE NOW.
Despite his ascendance to King of the North and his place as one of the few decent and honorable people on "Game of Thrones," Jon Snow has not quite turned out to be a master chess player. Remember when he ran himself, alone, into the middle of a battlefield and hung himself out to dry – and that was how he BEGAN the Battle of the Bastards? And remember when he, the newly knighted King of the North, decided he should roam past the wall to kidnap an undead soldier with the hopes of getting Cersei to care about the greater good of humanity rather than herself? How'd that work out – oh, look at that, Cersei's not sending any army and also the Night King has a zombie dragon now. Oops.
Nothing Jon Snow did in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" was quite up to those past levels of durr, but this was not his finest hour.
For one, he clearly wasn't paying attention during Jaime's brief trial at the start of the episode. So when Dany asked him for his opinion on Jaime's fate, Jon Snow made like a kid caught doodling in AB Calculus and just said the first words that came to mind: "Uh, sure, yep, uh, we need all the help we can get." Then, when all of the key figures were in the map room talking strategy, Jon not-so-confidently announced their big play would be killing the Night King with the hopes the rest of the zombie army would call it quits without their leader.
If it wasn't for Bran stepping up and offering himself as bait, seeing that the Night King wants him dead most of all, Jon Snow didn't seem to have many more ideas for this gigantic battle he's been prepping for over two seasons now. And then there's dropping the bombshell on Dany right before the fight of all of their lives – at best distracting her and at worst making her wonder why she bothered coming up to frosty, racist Winterfell in the first place.
Also: Just saying that when you're fighting an army of the walking dead, it seems like a poor strategy to lock the women and children in the place where you keep all your dead. I feel pretty confident we'll be adding that to Jon Snow's ever-increasing list of strategic whoopses next Sunday night.
5. Next week is gonna be a nightmare
Sunday night's episode featured more humanity and pleasant conversations in one hour than we've had on "Game of Thrones" in years. There were even characters smiling. I didn't even know smiles were allowed in Westeros unless you were some cackling villain smirking about exploding dozens of people or plotting somebody's violent death.
So next week is going to suck, isn't it? Like, the next episode is just going to be familiar faces getting soul-crushingly murder-stabbed by snow ghouls for 70 minutes, right? Just a cavalcade of misery that, for some reason, we all signed up for?
Sigh. Welp, we'll always have tonight at least.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.