Image owned by HBO and from Hollywood Reporter (The Stark siblings prepare for an icy reception)
I probably should’ve taken the initiative last week and done a review for the season premiere but since I decided on doing this tonight and on the spot, here we go.
Sometimes, dragging something out can have an unexpected positive benefit, as the first two episodes of Game of Thrones’ final season have done. Aside from setting the stage, the players and their proper positions for the mother of all climatic battles, these episodes serve to allow us to enjoy the company of the still-living lineup of characters before many, and if we are being particularly bleak, all of them end up dead or something worse than dead.
Episode two of Season eight, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, was in all the best ways, unbearable. You know in the bottom of your gut that the final season of television’s most notoriously kill-happy series is not going to miss the opportunity to rip your heart out one or many more times. Even though the much anticipated yet dreaded siege of Winterfell is only now about to happen in a six episode season, you become increasingly focused on the behavior, dialogue and actions of each and every character featured.
Could a banal, apparently harmless statement be foreshadowing for one’s dark fate? Could a moment of romantic yet melancholic farewell be a dead giveaway for that character being a goner? Could some of these moments be red herrings, making us feel more concerned than we should be for them?
There are a boatload of theories on how Game of Thrones will resolve itself. Most still believe and it thematically would make sense for the Night King’s White Walker army to be defeated. As many conventions as A Song of Ice and Fire in novel and television has broken, a resolution that involves one side conclusively winning or losing is guaranteed.
It’s the near inevitable cost that leaves so many fans, viewers and critics so wired up. They know people they’ve come to care about for almost a decade at least aren’t going to make it. Many of them could be leaving us next week. The irony is that we don’t want them to die and yet we would be frankly disappointed if that weren’t the case.
Despite seven prior seasons of having to endure many losses that tugged at our heartstrings and clogged up our eyes and noses, we still aren’t desensitized to the violent moments that matter most: of those with names and narratives we have followed. The show is still working because of that.
I was expecting the Battle of Winterfell between the combined armies of Daenerys, Jon Snow & co. and the vast, horrible White Walker army to happen tonight. The preview from last week definitely suggested that. Instead, we get the expected but no less stomach churning “calm before”. I had to stop several times while watching to catch my breath as the tension kept rising and rising. Despite my personal discomfort, it is better this way.
Battle plans are drawn, things that should be said are said and much pondering on how so many disparate individuals ended up preparing to defend a place many of them had tried to conquer for their house and family seasons ago.
It was particularly special seeing Jaime Lannister, a man who had in the past done really reprehensible things, some for love, other times not so much, become more or less a real redeemed man. That I can feel legitimately at peace yet concerned for a man who has committed incest and fathered incestuous offspring is one of the strangest accomplishments of the show.
The moments that stick out the most in the end are the discussions, the confessions and the consummations before everyone goes “Battle Stations!”
Tyrion, Jaime, Tormund, Davos, Podrick and Brienne sit and drink at the fireplace, telling each other stories real and obviously fake. They weigh the odds of ending up alive tomorrow and find that all things considered, they do have a precedent for the odds not being too terrible. Then again, they might be running out of luck after so many close calls. That plot armor is getting more and more loose…
One moment that struck me as a standout wasn’t Jon finally revealing to Dany what he learned from Sam last week: that he is Aegon Targaryen and thus the heir to the throne of Westeros. That’s certainly memorable and powerful to boot, but the impact is lessened because you know it has to happen. Yeah, the timing was really, really bad. I mean, right before the humongous battle that will chill to the bone.
I can be forgiving of Jon for that because one, he could end up dead for real this time pretty soon. Two, he’s an honest man who does care, maybe love Dany. Most likely is that Dany comments on Lyanna Stark’s grave in Winterfell’s crypt and how her brother Rhaegar did horrible things to her. In the heat of the moment, honest Jon couldn’t keep the lie going and told her the truth at the right place at the wrong time. What I’m trying to say is that Jon’s action makes sense in spite of the timing.
That moment I mentioned that struck a chord with me that didn’t involve the Aunt and Nephew accidentally in love was between two possible love birds. These two have been shipped as soon as they met in the second season: Arya and Gendry. I did not see that coming. In other words, Game of Thrones’s magic is still in effect.
Many will be uncomfortable with the idea of Arya, one of the most beloved figures in the series, who we have known since an adorable yet bold preteen, shacking up with anyone. Of course, Maisie Williams and her character Arya, are adults now, so it’s not really wrong to show her get down and dirty, especially with a character many had long hoped she would end up with.
To HBO’s credit, they don’t really go R-rated with Arya & Gendry as they decide to spend a night together before it could be too late. Yes, Arya undresses but they are careful not to really show the naughty parts and they cut before the two really get into it.
It’s likely they know audiences would be disconcerted with a person they may have vicariously viewed as something similar to a sister or friend despite her increasingly dark story arc( Frey pie anyone?). Perhaps out of respect for the girl having grown to a woman, Arya and Gendry mostly get the privacy we all want them to have. Will their relationship last?
That’s assuming they make it out of the next episode alive and together. Well, Arya went for it not so much because she is in love with Gendry, but because he’s the only young male individual she knows that she would want to bunk with. Perhaps in the little time remaining, something more real will come out of it. Of course, GOT loves to hurt you when you’re vulnerable.
Even though I suspect much of the viewership is, as the memes would entail, are bracing themselves for the worst, episode two is all about reminding us of what we are going to lose soon.
Without characters like Jon, Jaime, Dany, Tyrion, Sam, Edd, Arya, Tormund, Brienne, Pod, Davos, Gilly, Grey Worm, Missendei, Jorah, Lyanna Mormont, The Hound, Gendry and many others, why should we care what the White Walkers do anyway? Of course, most of this wide selection of characters have done things we all ethically dislike and many are definitely, despite redemption big and small, flawed.
Maybe that is why we are so scared. If they were black and white in their morals and acts, would it be as effective? Perhaps we would prefer the Night King triumphant in such a scenario. At least the more interesting yet evil side have something going on.
Originally posted 2019-04-22 06:14:39.