Another week, another stalemate in the mortality pool. It’s a rare episode where no one died and there was a complete dearth of action, but I think that the show proved how connected we are to the characters throughout this ‘night before the battle’ episode because I don’t know a single person who didn’t leave it without some moment of absolute thrill and delight.
As far as bottle episodes go, this one used all of Winterfell as its bottle, but the show never let us forget that these characters are all shut in together- spikes and trenches are being constructed around the keep, and the whole of Winterfell is bracing for the siege of the White Walker army, but at least they’re not waiting on an army that isn’t coming, let’s dive on in:
Jaime Lannister, King Slayer, Knight in Service to Another Knight
I called Jaime’s trial and its result last week, even if I was slightly off in my prediction (I thought Bran would reveal Jaime’s attempted murder to his brother and sister, but he kept it under wraps). My theory is confirmed because we have Bran plainly stating that Jaime has a role to play in this war (note, he doesn’t specify which war), and I don’t believe Daenerys bringing up his murder of her father is accidental.
There’s a lot of what I think could be foreshadowing happening in this episode, and I’ll deal with it as it comes, but for Jaime the important through line for this episode is redemption, or at least him being brought back to net zero in terms of his reputation and standing in the Seven Kingdoms. Brienne vouched for him, Sansa pardoned him, and he’s right back to having people sneer and slander him for being a Lannister just as it always was for ages prior to all the intrigue of this saga. Jaime’s act of knighting Brienne was a spectacular moment, and maybe I’m being optimistic but I believe it indicates his profound appreciation of where he is- even if that is facing certain doom in Winterfell with people who have hated him all his life.
As for Jaime’s past as the King Slayer, and his potential to be the brother who kills his sister on her throne, that wasn’t the only bit of foreshadowing I caught regarding a Lannister…
Last week I pointed out Tyrion was going to be on very thin ice with Daenerys, and this week that bore out. Tyrion’s restoration of status and grace in her sight was at the behest of Jorah Mormont, who gave a moving speech on the Lannister’s behalf. It’s easy to say that Tyrion appreciates the value he has to Daenerys, the battle plan scene where Daenerys insists he go to the crypts where it’s safe was masterfully directed- Dinklage showing the subtle shift of at first taking offense for being demeaned for his height but then realizing he’s truly back in the Queen’s good graces was subtle and powerful.
However, it’s earlier in the episode that made me gasp at an implication of an omen: Tyrion looked at Jorah when Daenerys gave him a tongue lashing and advised Mormont “I suspect one of you will be wearing this before it’s all over.” It could foreshadow Tyrion’s death and the passage of his role, or it could be foreshadowing that Jon would choose a new hand as he’s now the next in line to the throne. I shared last week that I see a way in which Tyrion is the one meant for throne all along both in imagery throughout the series and now with his sister creating a path of succession to the throne for him: someone else may end up being Hand of King/Queen because Dany and Jon will be out of the way and it’ll be Tyrion on the throne.
That being said, season one callbacks continue: Tyrion recalls his old line about wanting to die at the age of 80 with a belly full of wine, etc. I’m holding out hope we’ll get to hear the end of that joke he’s tried telling three times already before the end. He also said he hopes to march down to King’s Landing himself and tear Cersei apart…
Sansa & Daenerys & Jon, Oh My
After Tyrion’s good graces were won by Jorah’s intercession, Dany spoke with Sansa, and not much need be said here that Sansa didn’t say plainly: she’s worried for her brother’s infatuation with Daenerys, and with what becomes of the kingdoms and their alliance after the war.
Overall, Daenerys is having a crisis of faith this episode. A lot of the things she’s held as true for some time now are coming back to bite her in this new battlefront. “Take the throne and rule?” Guess what, not everyone wants to respect the Iron Throne anymore, least of all the largest of the seven kingdoms (“The North” is larger than the other six combined), and definitely not what’s left of the Tarly house. Daenerys wasn’t just surprised at Sansa’s implied pre-rebellion, I think there’s a part of Daenerys that is used to getting her way or being able to burn her way to it. Westeros is proving a far more complex campaign than she’s used to, and besides that she’s been told by Jon that she’s not the clear and automatic heir to the throne.
There’s a brilliant flash of fire and treachery in her eyes as she articulates the truth, and if there was any doubt that the two are Fire & Ice, there it was in the crypt. Jon steadily and placidly revealing the truth to her. Daenerys trying to question the source, Jon’s basis for it, and accepting what his belief in it means even if she hasn’t accepted the truth. I think it’s telling that Jon simply shared his name and lineage with her. She said out loud it means he’s heir to the throne. Jon didn’t repeat that tidbit, nor has he told anyone else. It may be the tragic flaw that consumes them, but it’s true to Daenerys’ character that she may assume Jon wants the throne and is now a rival to her, when his keeping this fact hidden may actually mean the opposite.
Tormund Giantsbane – Got Milk?
I actually smiled when Tyrion and Jaime were joined by Brienne and Pod (Podrick btw has leveled UP since last we saw him, he looks like he could be a match for Bronn by now). I literally giggled with delight when Davos and Tormund joined the party. I already mentioned what a powerful moment Brienne being knighted was, but Tormund’s overall energy throughout these scenes was magnificent. Not just more Tormund boasting about killing a giant and suckling on a giantess (Ygritte’s gone so I guess he’s elevated the story from bear to giant), but his attempt at “we’re all going to die, might as well be together.”
There’s not much to dissect here, just look up the hearth scenes and delight in them. Davos deserved the bit of calm before the storm considering what a sweetheart he continues to be with little kids, the scene in the food line with the little girl damn near broke my heart. I mentioned the theme of redemption running through this episode and Theon was an unexpected heart of it: his return to serve Winterfell in the coming war, his pledge to stand watch of Bran, it was a beautiful culmination and reflection of his arc and missteps. It turns out redemption is possible, you just have to find the courage to pull as much of yourself together as you can and fight on.
Arya & Gendry
I’m running pretty high on my predictions and Arya hooking up with Gendry was a bit of welcome fan service. There was some vitriol and recoil at their union on social media but I don’t really get it. That’s a very human response to the threat of impending danger and doom, they’ve clearly held onto feelings for one another for years now, and in a show where women are objectified and demeaned (it’s the one reason I can’t put Bronn in my favorite characters’ pool), Arya having complete agency of this sexual encounter was refreshing and reflective of the woman she’s become.
What to Watch For
Next episode is a battle episode and the constant refrain of the crypts being the safest place? They’re filled with dead people waiting to wake up, folks. Also: is it me or do their plans for the battle not seem to account for the Night King having a resurrected dragon? Bran definitely pointed it out in the past episode, but no one seemed to be incorporating the Night King’s aerial ability (nor factoring in their own dragons). Since the mortality pool was a kiddie pool this week here are the deaths I’m afraid of, Horror Movie Rules apply:
- I’m going to keep sounding the gong on this one, but Arya can’t have it all. She owes the many faced god more than just the names she promised him at this point.
- Continuing with Horror Rules, Grey Worm and Missandei, two characters of color agreeing to run away when it’s all over? Oh dear, me.
- I hope we get to visit King’s Landing for a bit, but if not, we’re seeing the end of the Night King next week and then the battle of last people for the throne to bring us home. I’m honestly more intrigued to see the series end as it began: with humans being the greatest threat to ourselves.
- Hot Pie isn’t in Winterfell- at least we haven’t seen him- I now fear for the safety of my favorite thicc baker boi.
- Maybe it’s my OCD, but I suspect the pairings of folks after dark wasn’t accidental. Methinks each gathering around the Winterfell bottle portends a death between each pairing, and I’m letting that thinking guide some of my picks in the mortality pool this week.
- I’ve been clinging to this one as well, and put her in my mortality pool for this week (which flopped because not only did we not see King’s Landing, we also didn’t see anyone die at all), but check out this article on Cersei’s recurring handmaiden, I’m certain we’ll see her again before the end of all things.