‘Game of Thrones’ Contemplates Life & Death on the Eve of Battle (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
Helen Sloan/HBO

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 2, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”]

Though Game of Thrones is a show riddled with — and well-known for — death, there is perhaps no other episode that takes it as seriously as the second episode of Season 8, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”

The ultimate showdown with the Night King is coming, and everyone in Winterfell feels the imminent nature of their demise. This pushes characters together who’d previously been circling around each other, creates unexpected friendships, cements old bonds and even brings forth some beautiful songs (looking at you, Podrick).

The Trial of Jaime Lannister

The episode opens with Jaime’s trial. Dany’s not feeling too forgiving — she notes both Jaime’s connection in her father’s death and Cersei’s false promise to send her army north. Jaime explains that they’re doomed: even if they win, they won’t be able to defeat the Golden Company. Tyrion comes to Jaime’s defense, but it doesn’t work — Sansa sides with Dany and cites Jaime’s crimes, and he says he was fighting for his house and he’d do it all again. “The things we do for love,” Bran says.

Brienne stands and defends Jaime, calling him a man of honor. “Without him, m’lady, you would not be alive,” she tells Sansa. Her word convinces Sansa to let him stay, and Jon says they need every man they can get. “Very well,” Dany says. Grey Worm gives Jaime a sword, but Dany doesn’t look pleased.

This Is Death

Dany has reason to not be pleased; she notes that Tyrion is either a traitor or a fool for believing Cersei, and she tells him if he can’t help her, she’ll find a hand who can. Arya goes to see Gendry in the forge, and they flirt a little, bicker about her weapon, and discuss the wights. Arya wants to know what they’re like; how fast they are, how hard they are to kill. “This is different,” Gendry tells her. “This is death.”

Jaime goes to see Bran at the Weirwood Tree. He apologizes for what he did to him, but Bran notes he wasn’t sorry then, and that him pushing him out a window led them both to become who they are today. Jaime also reunites with Tyrion, and they talk about Dany — the Northerners don’t like her, but Tyrion has faith. They also talk about Cersei, and her lies. Jaime says she wasn’t lying about the baby, and Tyrion notes that she never fooled him; he always knew what she was, but he loved her anyway.

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The youngest Stark daughter appears to have a plan up her sleeve.

Jaime talks with Brienne as she watches Podrick train, and they discuss battle plans. Brienne snaps at him, asking what he’s doing — they’ve never talked that long without him insulting her. Jaime tells her why he rode North: “I’m not the fighter I used to be, but I’d be honored to serve under your command if you’ll have me,” he tells her. She leaves without giving him an answer.

Dying Together

Meanwhile, Jorah advises Dany to forgive Tyrion. Seemingly at Jorah’s request, she goes to see Sansa. Dany says they have common ground, but they are at odds with each other. The heart of the matter seems to be that it bothers Sansa that Jon is in love with Dany, because men do stupid things for love. On the contrary, Dany tells her — she’s half a world away from her goal, fighting Jon’s war. If anyone’s being manipulated by love, it’s the Dragon Queen.

This appears to win Sansa’s trust, and she asks Dany what’ll come after. “I take the Iron Throne,” the queen responds. Sansa doesn’t like that: “What about the North?” she asks. At that, Dany’s smile fades.

Their meeting is interrupted by Theon’s arrival. He tells Dany Yara is sailing back to the Iron Islands, but he wants to fight for Winterfell. Sansa embraces him, tears in her eyes, and he is allowed to fight for the North.

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Dolorous Edd, Tormund and Beric arrive at Winterfell. Jon greets them, and they share the tragic news about the Umbers. Tormund tells him the dead will be there before the sun rises the next day. All of the major characters meet to discuss strategy, and Bran says the Night King will expose himself to get to him. The mark he left on his arm means he can always track him, and he suggests using himself as bait: Theon says he’ll guard Bran and defend him. Tyrion wants to fight, but Dany won’t allow him to do so.

With a general strategy formed, they part for the night. “We’re all going to die,” Tormund says. “But at least we’ll die together.”

Now Our Watch Begins

Missandei and Grey Worm make plans for what they’ll do after the war (so one of them is probably going to die), and Sam, Jon and Dolorous stand on the wall. “And now our watch begins,” Dolorous says. Sam’s determined to fight with his former brothers, but Dolorous suggests he should go the crypts and keep Gilly and little Sam safe. They reflect on the fact that they’re the last remaining members of the Night’s Watch. (Also, Ghost is there through the whole scene! Ghost has returned! The direwolf that was promised!)

Tyrion and Jaime think back to the first time they came to Winterfell, and as they talk about how they’ve changed, Brienne and Podrick barge in. Jaime invites them to sit by the fire, and then Davos and Tormund come in. Tormund shares a story about how he got so strong (hint: giant’s milk is involved) and it drives Davos to have a drink and doesn’t seem to impress Brienne.

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Arya goes to see the Hound as he sits on the wall, and she asks him why he came to Winterfell. “When was the last time you fought for anyone besides yourself?” she asks. He reminds her he fought for her. Beric comes to see them, and he apologizes for the circumstances of his parting with Arya. Arya stands to leave, and when the Hound asks where she’s going, she says she’s not spending her final hours with them.

A Knighthood for Brienne

Instead, Arya goes to train — Gendry brings her her weapon, and he reminisces about the last time he saw her, when she wanted him to come to Winterfell. They talk about what Melisandre wanted from him, and he reveals he’s Robert Baratheon’s bastard. This leads to a discussion of Gendry’s “first time,” and though he’s been with three women, Arya implies she’s never been with anyone. “We’re probably going to die soon,” she says. “I want to know what it’s like before that happens.” She leans in and kisses him, and they have sex.

Meanwhile, the Tyrion group has slipped into silence. He’s feeling optimistic — he thinks they might live, and he cites the unlikely scenarios many in the group have survived. This leads to Brienne revealing she isn’t a knight, and Jaime says any knight can create another. He knights Brienne as the group looks on, and after, for the first time in a very, very long time, Brienne gives a genuinely happy, radiant smile.

Sam gives Jorah Heartsbane. “I’ll see you when it’s through,” Sam tells him.

Jon’s Revelation

The Tyrion group considers disbanding, but Tyrion asks someone to sing a song. At first it doesn’t seem anyone knows one, but Podrick sings a haunting melody that overlaps scenes of all the characters preparing for battle. As the song ends, Dany goes to visit Jon in the crypts. She asks him who that statue is that he’s standing in front of, and he tells her it’s Lyanna Stark. Dany says Rhaegar raped Lyanna, but Jon knows better; he tells her they were married in secret, and they had a son… him. “My name, my real name,” he says, “is Aegon Targaryen.” Though Dany questions the legitimacy of the revelation, she notes that if it were true, he’d have a claim to the Iron Throne.

Their discussion is interrupted by horns: the dead have arrived outside Winterfell.

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Other Observations:

  • Sansa and Theon’s reunion was perhaps the most heart-wrenching of them all. It takes a lot for Sansa to display that much genuine emotion, and Theon earning her wholehearted acceptance at Winterfell would mean everything to him. If he dies during the battle, it’ll be a worthy conclusion to his arc.
  • The Night King apparently wants “endless night” and to erase the memory of Westeros, which… doesn’t really help figure out his motivation? Why does he want that? Here’s hoping we learn a little more about what makes the Night King the Night King in a later episode.
  • Where’s Melisandre??? She definitely might show up in the middle of the battle, but it’d be lame if she shows up, does something cool, and then immediately dies.
  • Death predictions, anyone? I’m thinking Jorah, Missandei and/or Grey Worm, Gendry, Beric, Tormund, Dolorous Edd, Podrick and Varys might all be in danger.

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