Welcome back to ‘Game of Thrones’ the final season, Episode 2, ‘The Two Towers,’ oh wait, I’m sorry, it’s actually called ‘A Knight of the Seven Realms.’ But if you were paying attention to all of the pieces they “borrowed’ from Peter Jackon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, especially ‘The Two Towers’ and the Battle for Helm’s deep, you will understand my confusion.
‘Thrones’ has decided to spend 2 of their 6 episodes of the final season on build-up, cementing character relationships and positions one last time before a massive White Walker battle which is sure to leave a good many characters dead. The whole thing felt like they wanted to make sure we remembered who every character was, who loved them, what their motivations were, why we liked them in the first place, where they came from, so that if / when they died, you would really, really feel it. And while I can respect that, I don’t know if I can agree with using 1/3 of the season on that. Plus, it felt like they were so light on ideas that they were just pulling things straight from that lead-up to Helm’s Deep, from the idea of major characters giving comfort to poor peasants roped into battle, to the idea of pulling ordinary men into solider life because they are under-manned, to sending women and children underground (caves in ‘Two Towers,’ crypts in ‘Thrones’), even to the many shots of characters on the castle walls staring down waiting for the enemy.
So the main story points, Jamie Lannister arrives in Winterfell and is greeted by a tribunal discussing his various misdeeds against the various denizens of Westeros, only being saved because Brienne speaks up and vouches for him and because Bran does not decide to push too hard against him. Jamie asks Bran later why he did not try to bring him down in the meeting and learns that Bran is now the Three-Eyed Raven and not really Bran anymore and that he realizes they need every man available for the fight. A point hammered home throughout the episode as we see Davos and others pushing citizens of the North either into the crypts for safety (mainly the women and children) and the men toward the armory, saying they need every available person for the defense, especially since Cersei is not actually sending an army to help them. Luckily, they do have Jamie now, and he manages to have some catching up moments with Brienne and Pod (who is kicking ass during his knight training) and with Tyrion as they commiserate over how things ended up and enjoy the thought of Tywin’s outrage if he had known they were prepared to die to defend Castle Stark.
Sam meets up with Jorah and gives him the Valeryian steel sword, “Heartsbane.” They have one of my favorite moments of the night, where Sam tells Jorah that his father “taught me how to be a man” and he and Jorah cheer the former head of the Night’s Watch by saying they will battle in his honor. And though he is given leave to stay in the crypts to defend Gilly and his child, Sam reminds everyone that he was the first to kill a White Walker, and he will be fighting with his friends, including Dolores Edd and Tormund, who have both made it back to Winterfell to warn of how close to White Walkers are. In a nice moment, Sam, Edd, and Jon even have one last “And our watch begins” as they peer over the castle walls, waiting for the arrival of the enemy.
Other highlights include Daenerys and Sansa chatting about their uneasy alliance, and how much they both care about Jon. While Sansa comes to appreciate all that Dani has given up to come North and fight Jon’s war, she does inform Dani that the North swore to kneel to no other King besides their own after the last war, which lets Dani know things will not be easy even if they survive the Walkers. Arya and Gendry get back together and he gives her the weapon she requested, which I’m sure we’ll see more of in the next episode, and then proceed to make love, an exceptionally awkward moment for some viewers as many still cannot help but see Arya as the little girl in the show, and to see her in the nude about to have sex just felt a little creepy.
The whole cast has an assembly to decide on war strategy, and they basically agree they are doomed, though Jon proposes if they can kill the Night King the rest might die away as the King created all of them. So they reluctantly decide to use Bran as bait, with him waiting in the Godswood for the Night King, with Theon (recently arrived, and given a very warm reception by Sansa, who is either very fond of him in a brotherly/ we’ve both suffered by the same man way, or else she might be developing other feelings for him) agreeing to protect Bran, claiming that he once took the castle from Bran, and it would be his honor to protect him now. And so they wait for the Walkers, with Tyrion hosting a little wine party with Jamie, Brienne, Davos, Pod and Tormund (who makes it clear all episode he is still VERY interested in Brienne). While discussing titles, Tormund learns Brienne is not a knight, and Jamie decides to buck the traditions of Westeros and make her one right then and there, regardless of her gender. And in my second favorite moment of the night, Jamie knights Brienne in a very touching scene with all the others watching.
Meanwhile, down in the crypts, Danereys finds Jon deep in thought before the tomb of Lyanna Stark, and Jon finally decides to tell her about his lineage and what it means for him now. Just as Dani bitterly says that if it was all true, that would make him the last male heir and the true heir to the throne, they hear horns and realize the Walkers have finally arrived. They head out to the walls of the castle to look, and finally, in the distance, the White Walkers appear ready for next week’s battle.
GAME OF THEORIES:
- Did the show jump so far ahead of George R. R. Martin’s books, especially in their decisions to excise so many characters and plot-lines from the series just to get the “meat” of the story, that they found themselves without much to do for the final 2 seasons, hence episodes like this week and last week where it felt they were treading water and just looking for drama and ways of killing time?
- Where is Melissandre? They went out of their way to remind us about her this episode, from her interactions with Gendry, to Beric and the Hound fighting about the Red God, I cannot help but wonder if they are setting up a triumphant return by her, perhaps to save the day with reinforcements a la Gandalf in ‘The Two Towers?’
- Whatever happened to that Prophecy about Azor Ahai? So much build up and yet no word about it this season, as they are literally preparing to face the darkness and could use this legendary leader. I’m kind of hoping that it turns out to be Tyrion grabbing Beric’s flaming sword and doing something massively heroic, but that’s just me.
- How will the Hound and Brienne react when they see each other during the battle? I kind of like the idea of them fighting side-by-side against the walkers, a mutual respect there because of the intense battle they fought before.
- Did Arya ensure she slept with Gendry because she plans on taking on Bran’s face during the battle and being the one to face the Night King? I could see her sacrificing herself that way, and she has asked a lot of questions about how to kill the Walkers.
- Anyone else concerned they put the women and children down in the crypts with all the dead bodies when the NIGHT KING is known for RAISING THE DEAD TO BE HIS ARMY? Seems awfully short sighted.
Even for another slow episode, there was still a lot of fun here, with many more characters meeting/greeting and reuniting, like the Hound and Beric for example, which is exciting to see after so many seasons of every character being on their own journey. Still, I cannot help but continue to wonder if the showrunners were just biding time, and suffering from a lack of plot, wanting to spend all of their time this season on battles, leaving little to do otherwise but meet, greet and reminisce before the White Walkers arrive.
Feel free to share your own opinions on the matter below, and make sure to head back here next week for the review of the third episode!