When last we left the folks in Westeros, we were basically all reaffirmed that children are creepy as heck - especially when they’re screaming, undead and burning while nailed to a wall surrounded by amputated limbs.
Did I think that was a sentence I’d write? No. Do I stand by it? Absolutely.
In any case, the looming threat of the White Walker army is now feeling very real, and as we begin the second episode of Season 8, it’s time to see just how dangerous they really are.
The Kingslayer’s Redemption
The episode opens with Jaime Lannister standing in the middle of the War Council room, facing Daenerys, Jon and Sansa as he awaits their judgement.
Daenerys is understandably not too keen on the guy, given that his entire legacy was built upon murdering the mad Targaryen king. And at first, Sansa seems to be siding with her in a rare moment of solidarity between the two.
A cheeky throwback from Bran is definitely fan service here, but it works. “The things we do for love,” he says. The exact words Jaime uttered before shoving Bran out the window in the very first episode.
And admittedly, things are looking a bit dire for Jaime. But it’s hard to fail when suddenly you have the world’s most honourable human, Brienne of Tarth, backing you.
Brienne’s word is worth everything to her, so for her to stand up in front of the entire council and vouch for Jaime is not only a really sweet nod to their friendship, but also a bold move in general - and it’s enough to convince Sansa.
Daenerys is not impressed with her change of mind (sorry gal, the solidarity is fleeting), and almost smugly asks Jon for his thoughts. “What does the Warden of the North say about it?”
It’s kind of a dick move, to discount Sansa’s opinion and seek Jon to side with her, so it’s pretty satisfying to see him opt for more soldiers instead of siding with Daenerys after her “pick meeeee” grab.
Heating Things Up In The Forge
We’re back in the blacksmith forge with Gendry whacking away at some steel and forging what seems to be a bunch of daggers and dragonglass weaponry.
In pops Arya and hoo boy, feel that sexual tension crackle. It still feels extremely weird to be advocating for Arya to get some, because in my mind she’s still only a kid (friendly reminder: she’s actually 18 and yep, I feel old).
Gendry’s been dragging his feet in making her fancy weapon (which actually seems fair considering, you know, there’s a whole army to equip), but Arya wants to demonstrate that she needs to be fighting.
Gendry however, apparently reckons she should be in the crypt with all the other women and children, and LOOK HERE BUDDY. She’s a perfectly capable killer - which naturally she demonstrates by flinging a bunch of the daggers at a wall in perfect precision before walking out with her head high.
She definitely wants his tools.
A Lannister Family Reunion
It’s always fun to see the notorious Lannister brethren reunite. Jaime and Tyrion have a really easy, open dialogue that’s refreshing in heavy episodes, so to see them chatting again is a sight for sore eyes.
And while it’s even more refreshing to hear Tyrion talk about how he’ll go rip Cersei apart if he winds up part of the undead army (oh the money I’d pay to see that), the other reunion we’ve been waiting for is about to happen.
Jaime is distracted, catching a glimpse of Brienne and Podrick down on the ground, training. He heads down amid all the whirls of swords, and approaches Brienne.
It’s clear that he’s got something on his mind though, and even Brienne can tell, calling him out by saying, “We have never had a conversation last this long without you insulting me.” I can sympathise, I’m the same with my mates.
Though Brienne/Jaime shippers probably hoped for something a little more romantic, it was a really touching moment to have Jaime humbly ask to fight. “I’m not the fighter I used to be,” he said, “but I’d be honoured to serve under your command if you’d have me.”
Don’t Mess With My Queen
Daenerys is fast becoming one of my least favourite characters, I won’t lie. After sulking post-council and having a rage at Tyrion for not realising his sister was OBVIOUSLY not going to actually give them her army, she’s approached by Jorah.
Sweet, friend-zoned, annoying Jorah. He’s actually doing some good this season, and despite Daenerys’ anger at Tyrion (and a long-standing rivalry with him for getting the Hand of the King position), he’s actually vouching for him.
Plus he has one last piece of advice for her: deal with Sansa.
So off she pops, interrupting Sansa’s meeting to have a ‘private chat’ which absolutely makes it seem like she wants girl talk in the most passive aggressive way.
Sansa sees through Daenerys’ crap easily, and though they share a moment of laughter over a height joke at Jon’s expense (poor bloke, he’s not that little), it’s short-lived.
“What about the North?”
It’s the question nobody has dared to ask Daenerys just yet - is she just going to rule over them as well, despite her so-called love for Jon and the people?
But before we can get a response, we’re interrupted yet again. This time it’s the arrival of Theon Greyjoy and the Ironborn, bearing tidings from Yara and offering their swords.
Bran The Homing Beacon
We should never have expected anything less from the return of the Night’s Watchmen than Tormund practically crash-tackling Jon in the middle of Winterfell.
It’s a touching reunion, but it’s tinged by the drama and trepidation of the Big Bad White Walkers showing up at any second. Tormund’s ominous declaration of, “Whoever’s not here now is with them” is only tempered by the inevitable follow-up of, “The big woman still here?”
They all head off to a teeny room with one of those war tables, which always reminds me of that kid’s rug that apparently everyone had in the early 2000s with roads and buildings on it. You know the one?
The plan is simple: Bran is somehow apparently a homing beacon for the Night King, who always knows where he is. This is a fact that apparently doesn’t seem to concern all the people who’ve been surrounding him this entire time, despite now knowing that he was essentially pinging the bad guy a Google Maps location with every unblinking stare.
So given this development, they’re gonna chuck Bran in the God’s Wood as a trap, protected by Theon and the Ironborn (who are absolutely going to die, sorry). Meanwhile the rest of them will try to keep the army at bay.
The Weirdest Of All Flexes
In a strangely refreshing period of calm, a lot of this episode has been conversations - much needed ones, to strike the balance when the inevitable large-scale battles come.
Tyrion and Jaime are sitting beside the fire, discussing how far they’d come since the last time they were together behind those walls.
Jaime summed it up pretty well: “I was sleeping with my sister and you had one friend in the world, who was sleeping with his sister.” Not an ideal situation all round, even then.
But it seems like this is a popular room, because then in come Brienne and Pod to crash the party - and before long, they’re joined by Ser Davos and Tormund as well. This scene alone has some of the best characters in the entire series all in one spot.
It would be moving, if not for Tormund’s bizarre bragging fest. “They call you King Killer, they call me Giantsbane.” You’ll 100% regret asking why, because it leads into a truly ridiculous tale of how he killed a giant at the age of ten, snuck into his wife’s bed and was suckled at her teat like a baby so that he could become so big and strong.
Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. Absolutely. Not at all the weirdest mental image I’ve experienced. Totally normal areas here. Milky areas.
A Girl Gets Laid
It’s the scene we’ve been waiting for - and yep, it still feels just a little bit off. Arya, killer of men and wearer of faces, finally GOT SOME.
She’s practicing archery and in walks Gendry, with his hand clutched around the spear. Ahem. Her spear - the one he made for her. Get your filthy minds out of the gutter.
We get the small talk out of the way quickly. She finds out he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard son, he tells her about getting stripped and leeched by Melisandre. As you do.
Arya starts up what can only be regarded as the Westerosi version of a sexual health questionnaire. How many women has he been with? Was that his first time?
And then it happens. “We’re probably going to die soon,” she says. “I want to know what it’s like before that happens”.
NOW KISS. KISSSSSSS WHILE WE ALL FEEL SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE.
Because yeah, watching Arya and Gendry bump uglies is a bit awkward to watch (turns out armour has a LOT of layers to remove) and the height difference doesn’t really help the fact that we still feel like she’s too young for this.
She definitely earns serious sass points though, for calling out Gendry with, “I’m not the red woman, take your own bloody pants off.”
I’m Not Crying, You Are
We’re back around the fire and the atmosphere is actually quite sweet. It’s a pretty resigned mood, but they’re all content with each others’ company at what could very well be the end.
At one point, the issue of Brienne’s ladyship is discussed - and blessed Tormund, champion of women’s rights, is rightfully appalled that women aren’t allowed to be knights.
“Fuck tradition,” he says. “I’m no king, but if I were, I’d knight you ten times over.” He is an absolute gem and I’ve already practically forgotten his weird milk backstory.
Now, if there are any folks out there secretly hoping for a Brienne/Tormund/Jaime love triangle, you’ll absolutely go off at Jaime’s subsequent one-upmanship because, in easily the most touching moment of the season so far, he realises that you don’t need a king to knight someone - and he bids her to kneel.
He has the power to create knights, as a knight himself, and Brienne has earned her own knighthood ten times over. Seeing her face look back up at Jaime with such swelling pride and honour is so moving that she wasn’t the only one who had tears in her eyes.
And Tormund, the most supportive wildling in the world, is first out of his seat clapping her. I love him, big milky giants and all.
If Samwell Tarly Dies, We Revolt
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. If anything happens to my precious Sam Tarly, I will implode. He’s a genuine soul and deserves to survive the inevitably gruesome battles ahead.
But, thanks to this scene, I have a bit of niggling doubt that he will. He approaches the two remaining Mormonts in the courtyard of Winterfell, as Jorah attempts to convince his much younger cousin but absolutely bad arse ruler, Lyanna, to remain in the crypt instead of fighting.
As the cousins bid each other good fortune, Sam takes the moment to gift Jorah his sword, Heartsbane. Though it had been in the family for generations, Sam just can’t lift it upright.
It’s quite touching that he chooses to give it to Jorah in the end. He speaks of Jeor Mormont, Sam’s first Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch - and Jorah’s estranged father.
“Your father, he taught me how to be a man,” he tells Jorah. “It’s Valyrian steel. I’d be honoured if you’d take it.”
Pod For Westeros Idol
I’m a bit iffy about including songs. I know that the name of the book series is A Song of Ice and Fire, so it really should have been our first indication, but still. The only exception for me so far has been Pippin’s song in Return of the King.
But I’ll willingly admit that Pod’s voice singing Jenny of Oldstones as we pan over some of our favourite characters preparing for the end is strangely effective.
Theon and Sansa (having a bit of a weird moment, but I’ll take it), Arya and Gendry lying in bed together, Grey Worm and Missandei kissing deeply before they part (one of them is absolutely going to die and I hate the world for it), and finally Jorah on the front lines.
It’s foreboding in a really nice, melodic way.
Well if you weren’t convinced before that Daenerys really only wants the throne after all, this scene is the one to convince you. She walks up to Jon deep in the crypt, standing before the statue of Lyanna Stark, who we all now know to be his real mother.
Daenerys waxes lyrical about how all the stories she’d heard about Rhaegar were so positive so it was hard to believe that he’d raped Lyanna. And well, this is now the moment Jon can’t really evade telling her the truth anymore.
In a measured voice, he tells her the story of what really happened. Telling her his real name and essentially claiming his real place as Aegon Targaryen, the last male heir of the House. To absolutely nobody’s shock whatsoever, Daenerys is none too pleased.
She claps back casting doubt on the validity of Jon’s brother and best mate being the ones to say so (well, not really his brother after all), and almost venomously accuses him of having a claim to the Iron Throne.
Before Jon can respond though, the horns sound.
The White Walkers are here.
Assorted Memorable Moments
1. What’s a shove out the window between friends? Jaime and Bran reuniting in the Old Wood was sweet, if a little anticlimactic, but it’s interesting to note that Bran still hasn’t told anyone that it was Jaime who pushed him, leaving him unable to walk. Bran knows, “You won’t be able to help us in this fight if I let them murder you first.”
2. Ser Davos is a lunch lady - but he’s also a great motivator for the troops. Even the very smallest ones, like the teensy little girl who wants to fight like her brothers did. In walks Gilly (we missed you, gal), convincing the lil bub to ‘defend them in the crypt’ and it’s almost enough to inspire some maternal feeling in my black heart.
3. Grey Worm offering to take Missandei away after the war is over is a very Aladdin-esque “I can show you the world” moment. It’s beautiful and romantic and yep, I stand by it, one of them is going to die.
4. Seeing Jon, Sam and Edd reunite on the battlements. It’s the Wall all over again, and Ghost is even there for good measure. Jon offers Sam the opportunity to go into the crypt, ‘to protect’ the others, but Sam is having nothing of it. “Everyone seems to forget that I was the first one to kill a White Walker,” he says.
5. Arya and the Hound sharing a quiet drink on the battlements, before Beric Dondarrion shows up. Arya questioning why the Hound is even fighting gives way to one of the sweetest exchanges the two have had. She asks, “When was the last time you fought for anyone but yourself?” He responds, “Fought for you didn’t I?” Aw.