I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to feel about the arrival of the Night King’s army at the end of “The Rightful Queen,” the 2nd episode of Game of Throne’s final season.
From episode one, the show has hammered home a central theme of how there really is only one battle that matters: the battle against the Night King and the army of the dead marching not only to defeat every man, woman, and child in Westeros, but to erase the memory that man ever existed.
Yet here it is, that epic battle that means more than everything appearing next week with three more episodes to follow.
So I guess defeating the Night King really isn’t the most important battle?
Now, on the other hand, the fight for the Iron Throne is more compelling than defeating the Night King. I mean, sure, he’s bad ass and all, but he’s fairly one dimensional.
Compare that to the Iron Throne, where Cersei sits and waits with a 20,000 strong sellsword company to take on Dany and/or Jon (together or separate, I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks). And then there’s the whole Sansa being all “You don’t get the North blonde bitch” curveball thrown in during tonight’s episode.
So we’ll see if saving the Iron Throne for last turns out to be the best decision.
As for tonight’s episode, it was a series of truly beautiful moments as everyone makes peace with the fact that in a matter of hours, they all could be fighting for the Army of the Dead.
“The Things We Do For Love”
Before we get to all those tender scenes, Jamie Lannister must first deal with the many people he’s wronged throughout his life.
And to be honest, he got off really easy. Dany calls him to task first for killing her father (hence the name “Kingslayer” for those who may have forgotten).
In a rare moment of agreement, Sansa says that, indeed, Jamie Lannister cannot be trusted. And further proof of that is the fact that Cersei’s troops are not with him.
Another Tyrion blunder, a fact Dany points out as Tyrion tries to speak up for his brother. But one witness does testify to Jamie’s character, and she gets Lady Sansa’s attention.
“He Saved Me, and He Saved You.”
Brienne of Tarth speaks up for Jamie, and Sansa takes notice. It’s interesting how the events here are recalled in order, illustrating the change in character Jamie underwent over the course of the show.
And Sansa was not aware of the things Jamie did to save Brienne and to save her. Knowing how honorable Brienne is, Sansa takes her at her word. And to Dany’s surprise, she accepts Jamie into Winterfell. Jon agrees as well, but he’s clearly got “I slept with my Aunt” thoughts on his mind.
“How Do You Know There is an Afterwards?”
One person who did not call Jamie out in front of everyone was Bran. Bran quoted Jamie from that very first episode during the meeting, but only three people know what Jamie said to end the pilot episode (and amazingly, all three of them are still living). So the rest of Westeros has no idea what Jamie did.
Bran has about as good an attitude as you can have when presented with the man who crippled you. Bran knew Jamie would be killed if that bit of gossip made its way around Winterfell. By not talking, Bran ensures Jamie can fight in the battle to come.
After a brief conversation with his brother, Jamie asks to be included in the left flank, the troops Brienne is commanding. This Jamie is one not even Brienne recognizes.
What About the North?
The next set of conversations involved the “Mother of Dragons.” First, Queen Daenerys discusses her struggling hand. Tyrion made another blunder claiming his sister was sending troops. And Dany is considering replacing him.
But one potential replacement, Jorah, defends the half-man he traveled with throughout season 5.
“He makes mistakes,” says Dany. To which Jorah responded with “He owns his, and he learns from them.”
Jorah also recommends meeting with Sansa, another person Dany has not exactly warmed herself up to.
And for the first time, the two women seem to be in agreement. Daenerys convinces Sansa it was Jon who changed her actions, not the other way around. And she’s right. Without Jon’s convincing, Daenerys would be taking on the Golden Company for the Iron Throne while the Army of the Dead makes a beeline for King’s Landing after blowing over the North.
Then, Sansa brings up the subject that sours Dany the entire night: Dany’s claim to the Iron Throne. Sansa reasserts the North’s desire for independence. And she wants to know, “What about the North?” What are things going to be like once Dany takes the Throne? Will she allow the North to be independent from Westeros or does she intend to force the North into submission?
“I Want to Fight for Winterfell, Lady Sansa.”
The two women are interrupted as Theon arrives in Winterfell. The queen addresses him first, where he reveals where Yara is and why he is not with her.
Then, he addresses Sansa. She and the Starks appear to be where his true allegiance lies as he asks if he can serve defending the Starks.
Sansa gives him a warm embrace, and Dany looks dismayed for the third time this episode.
“He Wants to Erase This World.”
Before Daenerys can spew at everyone’s lack of reverence for her again, Tormund and company arrive and give the bad news: the Night King will be here before sunrise tomorrow.
Preparations go into overdrive and a war council convenes to discuss strategy. And it’s a fairly simple strategy: kill the Night King. He is the one they all follow. Kill him and they all die.
Of course, we don’t know how the Night King actually dies. Would dragon fire kill him? Dragon glass? But since the numbers advantage is clearly with the army of the dead, the best shot for Jon and crew is to take out the head of the snake.
And just how do you get to the Night King? By using Bran as bait. The Night King has shown a great interest in Bran over the last two seasons. And Bran revealed the reason at the council. The Night King doesn’t want to just destroy the race of men. He wants to erase any memory of man’s existence in this world.
And that means taking the one who remembers literally everything man has ever done.
So in conclusion: Bran will serve as bait with protection from Theon to draw the Night King in so he can be killed. In the meantime, everyone else will just have to hold off the army of the dead until that happens.
“We’re All Going to Die, at Least We’ll Die Together.”
Not much else to do now but share a series of humorous, touching, sensual moments with the race of men before the battle begins.
-Grey Worm and Missandei discuss plans for the future.
-Jon, Sam, and Dolores Edd reminisce about their time as member’s of the Night’s Watch and insult each other.
-An eclectic group including Tyrion, Jamie, Davos, Brienne, Pod, and Tormund all talk and drink inside the halls of Winterfell.
-Arya and the Hound talk atop the main wall when Beric walks up with the instruction to give “No Sermons” from the Hound.
-Jon and Dany talk in the crypts of Winterfell.
“We’re going to die soon. I want to know what it’s like before that happens.”
Well, it’s official: Arya has grown up.
Gendry delivers the weapon Arya asked for earlier and gets more than he bargained for as Arya starts questioning his sexual history.
So those looks between the two last week were not some little flirtation to throw away.
Arya kisses Gendry as the two strip down and knock boots before the world comes to end.
“Most Everyone Here’s Fought the Starks at One Time or Another.”
After Tyrion reviews the battle experience of everyone in the room, the subject of Brienne’s knight hood (or lack thereof) comes up.
Brienne says she’s not a knight because she’s a woman and women can’t be knights. Everyone in the room and the television audience agree that’s garbage. But what can you do? There’s no king here (another small slight to Dany?), so who could knight her?
Turns out “Sir” Jamie Lannister can. Knights can knight other knights so let’s get on with the knighting before the Night King comes in middle of the night.
In the night’s best moment, Jamie knights Brienne, declares her “Sir Brienne of Tarth” as Tormund and the rest of the room applauds.
“My Real Name is Aegon Targaryen.”
We get one last look at everyone contemplating their final moments before the Army of the Dead arrives to the song “Jenny of Oldstones,” as sung by Pod.
But before the Night King appears, Dany needs to hear one more “Your not wanted here” conversation (at least that is what I’m imagining her hearing).
In front of Llyana’s tomb, Jon reveals his true name and identity: Aegon Targaryen, 6th of his name. The realization hits Dany that his claim to the throne is greater than hers (though thinking about getting boned by her nephew might be there as well).
But once again, before we can hash all this out, a horn blows to signal the Army of the Dead is here.
-I don’t think Dany has come to grips yet with the fact that Westeros is not Slaver’s Bay. Yes, slaves who you’ve freed will show undying loyalty to you. But free people in the North who’ve clawed to get their land back after years of war and famine only to have you show up and proclaim yourself queen are going to be much harder to convince.
-Tyrion really needs a win. But victories might be hard to come by with him hanging out in the Crypts while everyone else is fighting. Something tells me the half-man won’t be staying down in the crypts for the whole fight next week.
-When Tormund brags, he brags about things no one should be bragging about. Back in season 4, he bragged about having sex with a bear. And tonight, he bragged about how after killing a giant, he jumped into bed with the giant’s wife who started nursing him. He claims that milk is why he is so strong today. Great job by everyone in that scene clearly showing the discomfort we were all feeling as Tormund drank down a horn of milk from something.
-Davos was reminded of Shireen when he saw a little girl with grey scale asking for food.
-Missandei and Grey Worm make plans to go back to Naath (Missandei’s home island). And Grey Worm seems to indicate he will be taking the Unsullied with them. How willing is Dany to let them go?
-The stubborn Lyanna Mormont would not heel when Jorah requested she not fight. Not surprised by that at all. I think Lyanna’s glare might be enough to bring the Night King down on its own.
-And that is not an uncommon thing for the women of Bear Island, who are known for their female warriors.
-Jorah does receive better news from Sam, who gives him Heartsbaine: the sword of House Tarly.
-The final note deals with the song Pod was singing at the end of the episode, “Jenny of Oldstones.”
That song is about a girl that a Targaryen abdicated the throne to be with. Because of that, Aerys Targaryen (Dany’s father, the “Mad King”) became king.
It was also a favorite of the Witch of High Heart, a prophetess who in the book prophesied that Azor Ahai (the savior who was promised) would come from the line of Aerys.
And as we know now, that could be Jon or Dany.
We have a battle-centric episode next week as the fight with the Night King as finally arrived. See you then.