This was the episode of every fangirl’s fanfic dreams – all of the characters, together in Winterfell, on the night before the final battle, dealing with their imminent demises.
And it delivered pretty much what fanfic writers would have hoped for.
I’m absolutely in love with the new opening for this season. After years of trying to cram countless locations into the opening credits, we’ve zoomed right in. We have the Wall – now destroyed – and the advancing ice, getting farther south every week. We dive into Winterfell’s halls and its crypts, before heading to King’s Landing, where we see the dragon skull in the catacombs and finally end on the Iron Throne, with the Lannister sigil above it.
The opening has always been epic, but I just LOVE how it’s come together here – and I can’t wait to see the sigil above the Iron Throne change as the story continues.
Jaime On Trial
My general reaction to this episode can probably be summed up by my first note on this section: “IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING.” EVERYTHING is finally happening. In this scene, we had Jaime face Dany and his most infamous crime, Jaime face the kid he shoved out of the window in the first episode, Jaime and Brienne reunite, Brienne stand up and vouch for Jaime with her own life…
Why do I get the feeling that my “reviews” this season are going to be less analysis and more fangirling?
Stepping aside from the fangirling for a second, though, the show once again insists on not quite making sense. Jaime has shown up to tell them that even if they defeat the dead, Cersei now has an army that can crush them. Last season, Jaime was the one who said again and again that there was no beating Daenerys. Cersei has 20,000 men from the Golden Company, right? Are they all resistant to flames? Do hypothetical elephants beat dragons? I did a quick Google, so this might not be 100% accurate, but it seems Daenerys has 100,000 Dothraki horsemen, several thousand Unsullied, and, because I cannot state this too many times, two full-grown dragons. Their numbers might be decimated by the battle with the White Walkers, but even then, she’d be pretty set against Cersei, right? Either they all die and become zombies that march on King’s Landing, in which case Cersei is screwed, or they defeat the White Walkers, and even if only 10% of Dany’s army survived, she certainly wouldn’t be destroyed by Cersei, considering how well just part of her army did against traditional soldiers last season.
Anyway, I guess it’s all moot unless they actually survive. Back to the fangirling.
Jaime’s in the north, ready to fight for the living, even if the living would rather cut off his head. Luckily, he has Brienne to speak for her. She might tend to prefer to melt into the background, but she cannot stay silent when Jaime is at risk. She declares Jaime a “man of honor,” and tells Sansa that she wouldn’t be alive without him, and this is literally the moment I’ve been dying for since finished reading Storm of Swords eight years ago. And because Sansa trusts Brienne with her life, she says that he should be allowed to stay.
Later, we cut to an absolutely beautiful shot of the Godswood, the tree’s red leaves contrasted against the snow, as Jaime approaches Bran. While I feel sorry for Bran’s family members when they’re faced with the Three-Eyed Raven, I LOVE whenever he uses his insight to troll everyone else. Bran echoing Jaime’s words in the very first episode of the series – “the things we do for love” — made all of Bran’s previous info-dumping worth it.
But Bran is pretty chilled out now, taking a more philosophical position here. Jaime would still be the old Jaime if he hadn’t pushed Bran out of the window, and Bran would still be the old Bran – and although Bran doesn’t say it, without him being the Three-Eyed Raven now, they’d all be doomed. Besides, he wants Jaime in the fight, which just seems to further confirm that Jaime is doomed in some narratively significant way.
Look, I know, logically, that Jaime is a dead man walking. Narratively speaking, it’s the only thing that makes sense. These opening episodes have put him more clearly than ever on a redemption arc, and you just KNOW he’s going to end up dying to save Westeros. It’s pretty much guaranteed in the books and it’s pretty much guaranteed here. But I really want the story to prove me wrong. I want my Jaime and Brienne happy endgame please.
Jaime and Brienne
SPEAKING OF JAIME AND BRIENNE, Jaime gets distracted from his reunion with Tyrion by the sight of Brienne preparing the battlefield. And look. I’ve talked a lot about how show!Brienne is an insult to book!Brienne and show!Jaime is a walking disaster without any personality – like, a lot a lot – but as soon as the show puts them even vaguely close together, I’m suddenly all swept up in the memory of their epic disastrous roadtrip and how their character arcs in the books perfectly mirror one another, and… I love Jaime and Brienne, guys. I love them. So now Jaime is here, being nice to Brienne to the point that it freaks her out, and he tells her he would be honoured to serve under her command, and I am VERY, VERY HAPPY.
Except Jaime is going to die in Brienne’s arms being stupid and heroic, isn’t he? God dammit.
Dany and Sansa’s Bonding Session
After last week’s tension between Dany and Sansa, the show decided, hey, maybe we shouldn’t have the two female leaders be at odds with each other without any attempt to understand one another. So Dany comes to talk to Sansa about Jon and about Sansa’s apparent distrust for her.
First things first, I suddenly realised, watching this, that Sansa should absolutely be Dany’s hand, not Tyrion. She’s as smart as Tyrion and less prone to mistakes due to arrogance or underestimating others. Make it happen, show.
For now, though, Sansa is just speaking up in Tyrion’s favour. And, ok, confession time. I don’t know what to make of the developing plotline between Sansa and Tyrion. I don’t want to ship them. I’ve harboured a lot of Tyrion hate over the years, and Sansa deserves nothing but the best. But then I hear them speak for one another, and defend each other’s intelligence and honor and kindness. Plus I just LOVE a narrative of growth, where the character arcs mirror one another, like Jaime and Brienne. Sansa has grown from the naïve dreaming girl to a shrewd, insightful, decisive but kind-hearted leader, while Tyrion has grown from a cynical but insightful jerk to a more honourable man who’s forced to face, once again, the fact that he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. The show could get me on board with this, and I’m not sure if I like that. It may be too late for me, though. My brain has already slipped onto the slippery slope of shippiness.
But back to the scene at hand. Call me cynical, but I don’t believe one moment of Sansa’s “bonding” here. She wants to find out more about Daenerys’ motivations, and so she allows Dany to think that she is in control of the conversation, letting an emotional connection to develop, just so that she can find out the truth. And she does. She finds out that Dany loves Jon – as well as Jon loving Dany – and that Daenerys is here because she knows Jon is true to his word. I’m sure Sansa didn’t miss the fact that Dany only spoke about being here for Jon, and not because fighting the dead is the right thing to do. I think Dany is there because it’s the right thing to do — the final two episodes of last season showed that — but Sansa doesn’t know that, and I’m sure that won’t help her opinion of her supposed new queen.
I could 100% see a turnaround here, where Jon decides he can’t support Dany anymore and Sansa suddenly tells him he has to, because that’s the only reason she’s here and they need her. I don’t think there’s time for that sort of plot twist, with the dead advancing so quickly, but it’s another facet of Sansa’s pragmatism vs Jon’s honor that I’d like to see.
Adding to the reunions of this season, Theon is back, seeing Sansa for the first time since they fled Ramsey Bolton. He tells Sansa he wants to fight for her and Winterfell, if she’ll have him. And the HUG she gives him – the hug!! Excuse me, I’m having a lot of feelings.
The Fanficcy Last Night
And then the Night’s Watch show up and tell them that the army of the dead will be here before dawn. “Whoever’s not here now is with them.” So, this is basically the perfect fanficcy situation. Who doesn’t love a “last night on earth” for shippiness, character moments, and general tension? And the show really rolls with it.
First, of course, they plan. Bran knows that the Night King will come for him, because he is the world’s memories, and the Night King wants to erase everything. So Bran will wait in the godswood to draw him out, with Theon volunteering as his guard. Last time they were both in Winterfell together, Theon betrayed him, and he’s going to make amends now. And AGAIN, MY HEART. This is all making me want to rewatch the early seasons of the show, even though I know that’s a terrible idea. Maybe I’ll go reread the books.
ANYWAY. Tyrion is going to be in the crypts (with Sansa, just to note – so they’ll definitely be having a scene or two amongst all the death and drama next week), and everyone else is fighting, along with the dragons. Weirdly, Bran says he doesn’t know if the dragonfire will stop them, and once again, I’m confused by the mythos of the show. I thought that the Three-Eyed Raven could see the future and the past. He can spy on past events, yes, but he has a sense of what might happen in the future too, right? I always had the sense that the Three-Eyed Raven, and so Bran, already knew how all of this would play out, but doesn’t say anything because he knows it’s not his place to do so. I thought he saw the whole of time, forward AND backwards. Can he not see this particular thing because it’s such a major event, leading to the possible end of time and memory itself? Am I confusing Book!Bran with TV!Bran? Or have I just misunderstood him all these years?
Anyway, they have A Plan. And then a LOT of things happen.
Grey Worm tells Missendai to run off with him after all this is done. They can go back to Narth, and his people will protect her. Somehow, I don’t think Dany will like all the Unsullied leaving with Grey Worm, but that’s a bit of interesting character tension for the future. For now, they’re just being super cute and shippy and I’m into it.
Meanwhile, GHOST EXISTS. That’s one Season 8 prediction I failed in. Jon is on the walls with Sam and Edd, and Ghost is literally just hanging out next to them, so naturally that I didn’t even realise there was anything momentous about his presence for a moment. Ghost lives! And he’s adorable.
Sam reminds us of his list of badass accomplishments, including stealing books from the library, while Arya and the Hound share some booze, and Arya hunts down Gendry for that key “we might die tomorrow” shippiness.
Jaime and Brienne Take 2
And then, AND THEN, we get the scene of FANFIC DREAMS. A bunch of characters are all sitting around, drinking, scared of the dawn to come. Jaime, Tyrion, Brienne, Pod, Ser Davos, Tormund… it’s basically a collection of characters from a whole bunch of different plotlines, finally together for one moment before the end. They know they’re going to die. “At least we’ll die with honor,” Brienne says, and Jaime looks at her with about as adoring an expression as it’s possible to have.
But before they die, they discuss how Brienne isn’t a knight, because women can’t be knights, because tradition. “Fuck tradition,” says Tormund. And I swear, as soon as that line came up, I wrote the note “omg imagine if Jaime knighted Brienne right now, I’d die.” Followed, a few moments later, by a second note “OMG IT’SGOINGTOHAPPEN.” I feel like I should transcribe it exactly as I wrote it, to fully capture my excitement. “Any knight can make another knight,” Jaime says. “I’ll prove it.”
Guys, I’ve read too many fanfics of this moment. I can’t cope.
Do I think this is going to happen in the books? No. It’s too perfect and too happy-making. But I am SO HAPPY to see it here. Brienne is crying and GRINNING, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen Brienne grin like that before. She gets her dream, and Jaime is the one to give it to her, and look, I can’t write any proper analysis about this right now, because I’m having a lot of feelings.
I am not ready for any of these characters to die.
And then, as if to emphasise the whole “horror of their imminent deaths” thing, Podrick pulls a Pippin in Lord of the Rings and sings a mournful folk song while we get a last look at these characters we’ve spent the past almost-decade with. Sam and Gilly, trying to sleep. Sansa and Theon eating dinner and sharing a look of love and appreciation. Arya lying awake with Gendry. Missendai giving Grey Worm an epic kiss goodbye. And finally, finally, Dany cornering Jon after last week’s big revelation.
Jon Finally Speaks To Dany
So first, after all the speculation last week, Jon doesn’t actually seem to be all that horrified about what Dany did to Sam’s family, considering how he gives her such a gentle little smile when he sees her. He’s been avoiding her all episode because he doesn’t want to tell her the truth, not because he’s mad at her and turned against her.
Of course, when he first tells Dany what he’s learned, she doesn’t believe him. “A secret no one in the world knew, except your brother and your best friend.” I’m sure this is going to be used by the anti-Dany brigade as proof that she’s not as good a person as Jon, but she has a point. She got an icy reception from the north, and now magically the Northerners have found out that Jon is supposed to be heir to the throne? If it’s true, it shatters everything Daenerys has ever believed in. It threatens the power and security she has fought for so long to acquire. And it once again means that she cannot trust someone who she loves.
Three treasons you will know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love.
I don’t think this prophecy appeared in the show, but it’s one of the central pieces of Dany’s character development in the books, and I can’t resist thinking about it here. I always assumed “once for love” would be Dany betraying herself, but it wasn’t until this moment that I considered “once for blood” potentially being about Jon’s Targaryen status. Someone she trusts and loves has just revealed a blood-related motivation for turning against her. No wonder she’s freaked out, and is immediately thinking about the Iron Throne, and not about her love for Jon. After all, love has blinded her to betrayal before.
Also, side-note, but is there any significance to Jon calling her “Dany” in this scene? Perhaps it’s just because I only saw Season 7 a few weeks ago, but I very clearly remember Daenerys telling him not to call her Dany, because her brother called her that. I mostly remember it because, like most book readers, I call her Dany all the time, and I felt slightly targeted. But now I’m incredibly confused by what this moment meant. Was it just a mistake on the writers’ part? A slip of the tongue from Jon that nevertheless reminds Dany of her brother and how her family have always betrayed her? Or a purposeful attempt by Jon to put some distant between them?
Regardless, when Jon insists that he knows it’s true, Dany seems to believe him. But he doesn’t get chance to give his seemingly inevitable answer that he doesn’t want to rule the Seven Kingdoms or sit on the Iron Throne, because they are interrupted by the war horns. The dead are here. No time for chitchat, even important chitchat like this. They’ve got to fight for their lives, and let the inevitable questions about Jon’s honor come later, if they survive.
Oh, god, they’re all going to die, aren’t they? I’m not ready.
Quick prediction – Lyanna Mormont, Tormund, Podrick, Ser Jorah, Theon and possibly Gendry are going down next week. Jaime will live a few episodes more, as will most of the other big name characters, before the final battle I imagine will happen in episode 5.
This is, of course, assuming that the Night King zombie arc doesn’t end in Winterfell next week. I guess it could. But then the only thing left to do is fight Cersei, and that seems slightly anti-climactic. Cersei’s a cool villain, but she’s not quite on a par with an army of the dead with a zombie ice dragon, set on ending all of life and memory itself. So I reckon the ice will continue to advance through the map in the opening credits, towards King’s Landing, with the survivors of Winterfell coming up behind them for one last stand.
But hey, it could all be over next week, and the final three episodes could just be the cute, shippy adventures of Jaime and Brienne. That’d be pretty good too.