Hello, loyal Watchers, and welcome back to week 2 of How Can HBO’s Providers Screw Up The Roll-Out of the Final Season of the Biggest Show in the World! This Sunday, fans were treated to an early preview of HCHPSUTROotFSotBSITW, leading to another stellar evening’s entertainment. But was it better than last week’s season premiere? Let’s take a look and decide.
Spoiler Note: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones!
Checking out the credits and hey it’s a Cogman episode! Look out, nerds, ’cause here come the book references, as the people gathered at Winterfell prepare to fight for the living. (Edit: I didn’t know the title of the episode before I wrote this sentence. Well played, Bryan. Well played.)
The episode doesn’t make us wait for the good stuff, AKA where we finished at the end of the season premiere: what happens now that Jaime Lannister has turned up in Winterfell, with Bran Stark staring into his soul and telling him he knows what he did last summer seven seasons ago? The northerners waste no time putting the Kingslayer on trial for all his misdeeds, with Daenerys actually quoting her brother Viserys as if she didn’t straight-up have him murdered for being a dick. Not exactly what you’d call a quality character witness, was he, Dany.
To his credit, Jaime admits Cersei’s massive deception and tries to convince the audience of his own good intentions. Dany is extremely done with Tyrion, and while not telling anyone what Jaime did to him, Bran does take the opportunity to unnerve him by throwing out a S1E1 reference of his own by quoting “The things I do for love.” He may be the Three Eyed Raven, but a part of him is still a snarky teenager. The issue is resolved when Brienne stands for Jaime; that’s enough for Sansa to reverse her firmly fuck-that-guy stance. Practical Jon isn’t going to turn down a living ally, so Dany capitulates while seething and taking out her ire on Tyrion in private. Her Hand suspects he may not hold onto the gig for much longer.
Gendry is down in the forge sweating and while I’m not opposed to lingering shots of sweaty, open-throat-shirted Gendry (and neither is Arya by the looks of it), I’m not sure why because he should be chiseling and shaping dragonglass, not melting it. That’s a nitpick- I realize they still have to make handles and things of that nature- but it looked like they were forging dragonglass at one point and I was honestly confused about the properties of the material. Maybe it’s just me being really distracted by Joe Dempsie. Anyway, I don’t blame Arya for engaging in some intense stare-flirting. And I love the way the music lightens whenever she sees him, it’s a nice subtle touch.
Gendry gives Arya the low-down on their enemy: they’re death, which sounds bad (“really bad”) but we’re in luck- she’s better acquainted with death than anyone in Westeros. He’s suitably impressed by her knife trick and based on his reaction, before the scene ended I was 95% certain they were going to have sex.
In the godswood, Bran waits. (Who rolled him there? How long has it been? Is anyone concerned?) Jaime apologizes for his misdeeds but Bran calls bullshit on that. He reveals that he didn’t tell the others what Jaime did because they need his help in the fight. Jaime wonders what will happen after the fight, but Bran points out, “How do you know there’s an afterwards?”
Hopping over to a more friendly face, Jaime and Tyrion have some brother bonding and honesty time about what a lying ass Cersei is. Tyrion seems to be using this time to accept his death as inevitable at Winterfell, before the battle comes. He recalls his long ago wish to die with a mouth on his cock, bellyful of wine, etc etc. But Jaime is distracted by a tall blonde in the field below. Sorry, Tyrion, your gloom and doom can’t compete with that.
Commanding the men in the yard (and observing a much-improved Pod), Brienne and Jaime chat, without insults! It’s funny, they’ve been apart so long I think sometimes we have a tendency to idealize them and forget that they’re almost always at odds, despite the respect built between them. It’s still hard for Brienne to let down her walls. But he volunteers to fight under her, and she’s touched.
Jorah and Dany confer and he surprisingly pushes her to forgive Tyrion. He admits his past misgivings but sees Tyrion’s gifts, and also sees that she needs to work with someone. And then we see Daenerys heading to meet with Sansa.
The two women find common ground as leaders, with Sansa defending Tyrion as well. She also owns her fear that Jon may be manipulated by Daenerys. The queen points out all she has done for the North when her own goal is in the South- the Iron Throne. So who is being manipulated then? It seems like the two are coming to genuine understanding and warmth for one another, until they arrive at a sticking point: if Daenerys is going to rule the Seven Kingdoms, what does that mean for the North, who insists on remaining independent after this war? The women are back where they started, wary of one another, with very different end goals.
But a visitor has arrived…THEON! Looking sad and wet, but so alive. He declares he’ll fight for Winterfell. Sansa runs and hugs him and I’m a weepy mess. Oh god, he’s going to die, isn’t he?
The peasants of the North are being fed in the courtyard with Davos and Gilly, and people keeping telling them to go to the crypts because the crypts are safe. Has everyone forgotten that crypts are full of dead bodies and skeletons? Stop telling them to go the crypts! You people KNOW what the Night King can do with dead bodies, what are you DOING. We’re gonna see this spunky little girl dead and reanimated next week, aren’t we. CHRIST. Our dead kid quotient is gonna be through the roof this reason.
Tormund, Beric and the Night’s Watch men return from Last Hearth, picking flaming little boy bits from their hair. They report everyone has only “until the sun comes up tomorrow” before the attack. Everyone gets ready for war; this is the big show for real now.
At the team strategy meeting, Bran suggests putting himself out there as bait, because the Night King always goes after the Three Eyed Raven (he has with “many” of them- interesting). Sam makes a lovely speech about death being forgetting and “being forgotten” and then Jon tries to put Bran in the crypt for safety- STOP WITH THE CRYPT, JON.
The bait plan is accepted. Theon volunteers to stay with Bran in the godswood, as penance for taking Winterfell. And I am crying because this kraken is going to die very far from the sea, but I guess he is at peace with that. Bran finally admits to a limit to his knowledge- that which has not been tried, the dragonfire. So that’s the plan, and everyone’s hoping for the best, and really just assuming the worst.
Afterward, Tyrion offers Bran a comforting ear, and it seems to me he may be the only person so far to do so. His family has been struck so much by Bran’s transformation, his oddity, that they can’t grasp what he is, and don’t really want to be around him all that much when he can’t connect with him. Because he’s not really their brother anymore. So it was touching to see Tyrion reach out and simply offer to listen.
Missandei and Grey Worm make touching plans for after the war, to return to her native Naath. Which means he’ll probably die, because there is nothing good in this damned world. Their recurring music is up there as some of the most lovely music Djwadi has composed for the show, and it always makes me ache. They’re such an underrated couple. I hope they live, and escape Westeros.
It absolutely warms the cockles of my Watchers heart to see Sam, Jon and Edd standing for one last watch on a wall- Winterfell but still. (Oh, and Ghost for people who are into that sort of thing.) Another “They’ll be safe down in the crypt” mention. The more they say it, the more it sounds like a dirty lie. Sam defends his fighting abilities (including book-stealing among his street cred is flawless), and we get a shout-out to Pyp and Grenn. I love my Night’s Watch fellas. The shields that guard the realms of men, doing so one more time on this final night.
A fireside chat gang forms, with Tyrion and Jaime initially talking about how much has changed from their simpler but lonelier days. And then they’re joined by friends- Pod and Brienne- by the fire. These outcasts have a crew.
And then Davos, and Tormund come along, with Tormund picking up on the vibe between Jaime and Brienne. Perceiving a romantic competition between himself and Jaime, the wildling postures hilariously with an absurd giant-suckling story that is just what everyone needs when they’re about to face the undead en masse.
Arya and the Hound have a slightly warmer moment on the walls, sharing a drink. She questions his presence in the North, fighting for good. He seems to resent the implication that he’s never fought for anyone but himself before- because he fought for her. He’s got you there, Arya! Beric interrupts the nice moment, and apologizes for the Gendry-kidnapping thing. I honestly expected her to stab him in the eye then. But she didn’t, go figure. The Hound forestalls one of Beric’s trademark velvety-voiced religious lectures by threatening to throw him over the wall.
Arya decides to not spend her possible final moments with two miserable old dudes when she can spend her final moments with one fineass young one. Gendry delivers the custom weapon she ordered and she is pleased with his workmanship, among other things. He reveals his royal bastard heritage and Arya finds out about the close Melisandre encounter, quizzing him on his sexual past. She is persistent, in more ways than one. Arya and Gendry get busy. He sees her scars, but she doesn’t explain. He can take his own pants off.
I am of two minds here. One, I am delighted. Get it, Arya. Get all of it. I love the way he looks at her in awe. Two, I am terrified because when people are happy on Game of Thrones they are generally miserable or dead shortly thereafter.
In less sexy camaraderie times, the fireside chat gang contemplate the irony of fighting for Winterfell when at one time, they all fought the Starks. Brienne’s lack of knighthood comes up and she’s terrible at pretending she doesn’t want it. Jaime gets right to rectifying that and knights Brienne, as a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
It’s not raining on my face, I’m fucking crying okay. Remember how everyone mocked and hated Brienne for wanting to play with the boys? Now she is accepted as she is by the people that matter to her. The knighthood is a technicality, but coming from Jaime, it’s a beautiful one that matters to her. So she accepts the title gracefully.
Outside Lyanna Mormont and Jorah have words. He wants her to hide in the crypts. You know what I think by now. She politely tells her cousin where to stick it. But good luck anyway, cuz.
Sam presents Jorah with the Tarly family Valyrian steel sword Heartsbane because it’s a generous gesture, and as Sam wisely notes he can’t do jack shit with this sword anyway. Valyian steel is very handy up against a White walker. Jorah just leveled up, my friends. This might also be a way of alleviating guilt too, because he stole the sword and then his family died. I wonder if Heartsbane now feels exactly like that- literally, “heart’s bane.” He no longer needs to carry it with him.
Tyrion asks for a song at the fireside, and wouldn’t you know it, Pod knows one. It helps that Daniel Portman (Pod) has a great singing voice. As Pod sings a Westeros folk song, we see scenes from people hunkering down for the night. Sam, Gilly and little Sam…Sansa and Theon sharing a meal…Arya looking inscrutably grim as Gendry sleeps next to her…Grey Worm kissing Missandei goodbye…Jorah saddling up, and finally Daenerys finding Jon in the crypts.
“Jenny of Oldstones”
High in the halls of the kings who are gone
Jenny would dance with her ghosts
the ones she had lost
and the ones she had found
and the ones who had loved her the most
the ones who’d been gone for so very long
she couldn’t remember their names
they spun her around on the damp oldstones
spun away all her sorrow and pain
and she never never wanted to leave
never wanted to leave
never wanted to leave
never wanted to leave
never wanted to leave
never wanted to leave…”
The song ends, and we see Jon is ready to tell Daenerys the truth. He points out the statue of Lyanna Stark, and she acknowledges the mixed reviews of Rhaegar, but Jon gives her the true story right away. R+L=J, and Ned’s not the father, Maury. Your boyfriend is your nephew, and a legit heir to the Iron Throne.
Dany smartly points out that having the only people who can back up your story being your brother and your best friend? That’s a little fishy.
Jon, this is where you tell her quickly you don’t want the throne, and that you just want her.
But… the horns are sounding, and it’s time. War has come, and the dead have arrived at Winterfell.
Obligatory rock star version of Jenny’s song!
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: Also the title of the book of “Dunk and Egg” stories. George RR Martin has revealed that the extraordinarily tall Dunk is an ancestor of Brienne.
Jenny of Oldstones: Always great to hear a song from the books. Loved the Daniel Portman version, and the Florence cover is interesting too!
Speeches for Sam: No one writes Sam as well as Cogman. The premiere was great for Sam, but so was this one. 2/2 for season 8 so far for John Bradley.
Gendrya: I’m sure some people will be having a heart attack over Arya having a sex scene but she’s 18 on the show (and Maisie Williams in her twenties). They’re a cute couple who care about each other. I’m bored in advance with the inevitable fandom discourse.
We Need To Talk About the Crypts: Did we need to belabor the point THAT much? I get that foreshadowing is a thing. But…still.
Pacing: There was some odd pacing issues in the episode where it felt like it needed breathing room in places early on, but then later on it worked much better.
Overall? 8/10. Some major high points, and more place setting for the big battle to come. Are you all ready?