I am officially eating my own words. Sunday's episode was much stronger than the first—this one had better character interactions, better dialogue, and while the pace was a little slower, this was a virtue when compared to last week's breakneck pace that ran faster than Gendry. This episode was bitter–sweet and full of sexual tension, but it was hard to really enjoy it knowing that this was the final night many of our favorite characters would spend in the world of the living. The army of the dead is outside of the walls of Winterfell, but before the second War for the Dawn begins, we're greeted with some of the the sweetest moments of the entire series.
This episode started off right where the last one ended: the trial of Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster–Waldau). At this point in the series, all of the Lannister siblings have been forced to answer for their misdeeds. This was a nice moment that mirrored Tyrion's mistrial in Season 4 and Cersei's walk of shame in Season 5.
While Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Cersei's (Lena Heady) cases were some of the most character–altering in the entire series, I'm upset that Jaime was not rewarded with the same development. I wanted a shattering moment for Daenerys where Jaime would tell her the horrors committed by her father—finally pushing her off of her high horse and forcing her to face the truth about the Mad King's treatment of his sister/wife and of the people of King's Landing. But at the same time, I don't think Jaime would be the one to reveal it, especially given that he only told Brienne the truth when he connected with her in a very vulnerable moment. He let people call him Kingslayer his entire life, but I think the truth will come out sometime before the series ends.
I also appreciated his refusal to apologize for the crimes he was charged with, namely, for attacking Ned Stark (Sean Bean) in the streets of King's Landing ("We were at war") and for killing the Mad King ("I would do it again"). This is an homage to the cocky Prince Charming Jaime we all hated in Season 1, but it's a stark contrast from the man that stands now: one–handed, dark–haired, and no longer fucking his sister.
This episode also had many reunions, but the slow pace allowed them to actually be enjoyed this episode. The Jaime–Bran reunion, Jaime–Tyrion reunion, and Ed–Tormund–Jon reunion were just some of the funnier moments in this weeks episode that allowed these pairings to reflect on their relationships with each other.
During the battle planning scene, the camera pans over the defenses around Winterfell, and while they appeared very impressive, they were completely overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Night King's army. Jon explains that they only need to kill the Night King to defeat the army of the dead and the other White Walkers, revealing that his main target all along was the Three–Eyed Raven—Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright)—who represents a living memory of the entire world. They set up a plan to use Bran to bait out the Night King, but I don't think he will be coming to Winterfell. Instead, I think he will ride his dragon down to King's Landing to raise wights in the South and meet the living in a battle with two fronts. He wants to bring about the never–ending night, a representation of death in which all is forgotten. It would be interesting if Samwell is actually writing the history of what happened—calling it "A Song of Ice and Fire." It would be very Lord of the Rings–esque.
The look that Daenerys (Emilia Clark) gave Sansa (Sophie Turner) when she disagreed with her in court was colder than the Land of Always Winter. This is a great dynamic to watch because Sansa is one of the few that outwardly defies Daenerys—she doesn't buy any of Dany’s shit. Unless one of them dies, this conflict will outlast the war between the living and the dead, as Sansa will continue to challenge the Iron Throne’s claim to the north.
Theon (Alfie Allen) and Sansa also reunited this episode in a very touching moment, reminding us of their escape from the Boltons at the beginning of Season 6. She really cares about him a lot, but the reason he came back was to atone for taking Winterfell in Season 2. He will protect Bran in the Godswood, but plans never work in Game of Thrones. I think Theon will die trying.
Throughout the series, Jaime and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) have built a compelling relationship, way better than Jon and Dany's, which seems artificial. In their reunion this episode, there is so much sexual tension because neither of them are prepared to address the way they feel about each other. The two of them had one of the best scenes in the entire series. Brienne was finally knighted—and it was done by the one and only Ser Jaime Lannister. During this scene, they actually played the same music as when he gave her Oath Keeper (Kingslayer by Ramin Djawadi), Jaime's former theme song. Brienne is one of the only remaining honorable people in the entire show, and Gwendoline Christie is such a great actress—her shock and happiness was so contagious, I almost cried.
The scenes of everyone around the hearth were also entertaining. Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) is a little over the top, but it was funny because of Brienne’s horrified reactions. The love triangle between Tormund, Jaime, and Brienne was silly, but it cut through the tension of Jaime and Brienne's relationship. They’ve been setting up for these scenes ever since Season 3 Episode 6 when Jaime explained how he became the Kingslayer (in literally the best moment of Game of Thrones–ever).
One of the most shocking scenes came when Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) finally got together. It was awkward, and it mostly felt like some weird fan–fiction you'd find online. There was a small moment when he started to notice her scars, and his look of shock and hurt was reminiscent of Dany's reaction when she saw Jon's scars back in Season 7.
This episode also gave us one final bomb–drop: Jon Snow finally told Daenerys that he is actually Aegon Targaryan. At this point, it's just another point of drama that will need to be resolved after the battle with the Night King. Dany doesn't believe Jon. She’s only thinking about it from a succession stand point, seeing Jon as competition for the throne she wants. But at this point, it is pretty clear that Dany will not be the one to sit on the Iron Throne when the series ends. It was sad, though—their relationship just started, but she has little trust left for Jon.
Also, Ghost was in this episode—he didn’t do anything, but he was acknowledged, and that's enough for me.
The final montage of the characters saying their goodnights, their final goodbyes before what might be the Long Night, was bitter–sweet. Samwell and Gilly laying with their (now grown?) son in between them, Sansa and Theon exchanging tender stares, the Hound and Beric drinking on the wall. The episode dragged on, but it needed to. This is the last time we will see all of these characters like this, which is heartbreaking because most of them just reunited after years apart. This is the home stretch—this is everything that has been set up for nine years. Dan and Dave are calling the next episode Helm's Deep, yet another homage to The Lord of the Rings. In the next episode, the biggest battle in TV history is said to be epic and run at around 80 minutes, giving us a much longer episode than one and two.
I really enjoyed this episode, but watching it just reminded me that a lot of these characters will die off, and a lot of these happy and sweet moments were indeed final goodbyes. Nine years later and I don't think I'm quite ready for the sun to rise.
Episode Rating: 9/10