Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 2 featured no deaths, but that will change soon.
Eagles star Chris Long, will recap Game of Thrones and share his thoughts on each episode every Monday on SI.com.
A Knight of Seven Kingdoms is the first episode in five years (and only one of three in eight seasons) not to feature a single on-screen death, but its overtone remained obsessed with just how many there are about to be. You sensed it in every conversation, around every corner and anticipated it before sunrise. And we’re still left anticipating it. We’ll anticipate it all week, looking out our windows anxiously—like Tyrion peering through an opening atop the rampart. The entire episode occurs almost exclusively inside the castle walls, intentionally heightening the tension and, ultimately, claustrophobia.
For me, the episode is essentially a peek into the locker room of a 1–14 NFL team just before they're about to take the field against the division leader ready to clinch and celebrate. I’ve been there more than a few times early in my career. It almost feels futile. It’s going to be ugly. Marshawn Lynch is probably going to spike the shit out of the football three times to the sound of 65,000 hipsters exploding my eardrums and I’ve got to get on a plane back to St. Louis that lands at 3 a.m. followed by exit meetings at 8 a.m. But we also might win and get to 2–14. So there’s that. At least we had a buffet set up at the Marriot the night before. Dany fed all their food to the dragons. Oh, and these guys don’t get fired or cut. They just have to join the army of the dead. But here we are. And a hard road ahead like this one reveals interesting character and personality traits.
One theme I underestimated going into Sunday night was the nearly unanimous resignation to defeat expressed by even Winterfell’s bravest characters. Tyrion’s nervousness manifested in humor, musing macabrely about the possibility of dying and marching down to King’s landing to rip Cersei apart. Tormund gets shitfaced on about a fifth of mead out of a yak horn and tells breastmilk stories. Even the Hound is nervous.
“You never used to shut up. Now you’re just sitting there like a mute,” he says, imploring Arya to fill the dead air with noise. You’ve got Sam giving Jorah a sword that sure feels like goodbye and you’ve got Bran asking Jaime, “How do you know there’s an afterwards?”
The episode was epitomized by Tyrion and Jaime drinking in solitude by the fire. Like old friends staying up late at the kitchen table after a funeral, they closed loose ends, reminisced and drank. Only this was their own funeral. It was a funeral for the living. As Brienne, Davos, Podrick and Tormund joined their company and the night grew darker, it was clear everyone was wondering if this was their last night as part of the army of the living. Upon her entering the room, Tyrion joked that Brienne was looking for a place to “contemplate her imminent death.”
But amid all the jokes, I heard Tyrion's voice the loudest when it came to a few votes of confidence regarding the imminent clash. “I think we might live,” is a line I’ll remember if they find a way to make it out of Winterfell unscathed. He’s been wrong a lot lately, but does he break the slump here? It’s also quite the pivot from his earlier attitude, and conveniently on the heels of an offscreen conversation with Bran. Tyrion is an unconventional leader. He’s got the power of an influencer, without the self-righteous edge. Not only does he make the bold prediction, but proceeds to build the confidence of each character seated around him individually.
And Tyrion will remain influential, at least in the Queen’s circle, thanks to an unlikely and unsolicited vote of confidence from Jorah. (Relegated deep into the friend zone, he’s really leaning into it by taking the least self-serving action personally. Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for him.) As the episode neared a close that lended itself to more anticipation, it’s Tyrion who’s staring out from behind that Castle Wall. In the words of Mills Lane… let’s get it on.
ARYA’S STRANGE DAY
With the mood centered on impending doom, Arya pulls an Independence Day on Gendry.
I’m pretty sure half the country fumbled into the Google search bar to make sure Arya was old enough to make this scene "OK" to watch. (Maisie Williams is 22.) Having seen her grow up through the show’s existence, I was still uncomfortable. Either way, Gendry (played by 31-year-ol Joe Dempsie) has a lot to prove to Arya’s parents, which is now the collective viewership. And there’s not much time left. After asking Gendry “how many,” a customary inquiry in fictional medieval times and real-life modern times (multiply by at least two, Arya!), she’s good with it. As her nine layers of stiff, canvas clothing gracefully hit the floor, she quips “I’m not the red woman. Take your own bloody pants off.” This was the moment Gendry probably wondered if it was really her first time. Nevertheless, the scene had the Internet buzzing, teeming with theories on its potential importance. The hookup could have Iron Throne implications if there’s a baby, but why do we always assume that no one’s pulling out? Even if Arya is soon to be with baby, nine months will likely unfold far beyond the series’ end (unless there’s a flash forward). For this reason, I don’t see it playing out. But Arya’s day will be an absolute roller coaster ride. Two screen grabs say it all. The first is her sleeplessly deep in thought with Gendry (looking satisfied) by her side.
We may never know what she’s thinking, but what’s going on in her mind in the second image (found in the Episode 3 preview) has my wheels turning.
“When the time comes, you’ll be down in the crypt. They’re the safest place to be. Through that archway right there.”
Gilly’s seemingly pointless, standalone line is one of so many clumsy assurances that those below ground will be safe. But you may as well be loading someone onto the Titanic in 1912. Safest place to be. Huge ship. Couldn’t possibly sink. Safe crypt. Certainly won’t be overrun with the living dead. Speakeasies are all the rage right now. Nothing cooler than the doorman leading you down two flights of stairs, through three narrow hallways and through a 7-foot door only to find a sprawl of people partying wall-to-wall. F-ck speakeasies. F-ck anywhere without a sufficient amount of exits. I’m always looking for them. My ass would be outside. That crypt is a medieval speakeasy and the fire alarm will be going off tonight. Only this is not a drill.
Assurances and commentary like Gilly’s are littered throughout the episode. It’s like an Easter egg hunt that’s moving too slowly, so the parents' hints become more and more obvious. The hints are getting forceful. I would hope most of us found the eggs.
As Davos serves a meal to a line of what seems to be hopeless dead men walking, a little girl makes a plea to join the conflict. She’s desperate to do what her two deceased brothers did—fight. She’s manipulated rather quickly into believing that guarding the crypt is more important. Clearly, what seems like fiction to Gilly and Davos will have more than a thread of truth to it.
Nothing in the actual episode solidified this prediction of carnage below ground, but an image briefly teased in the Episode 3 preview will haunt the dreams of many all week long. I’m not sure if Twitter is an exact science in measuring a character’s likability, but it seems that Arya has reached a rare level of admiration experienced by only a few people—real or fictional. I think if she were real, she could end world hunger and ease political tensions. She’s Steve Irwin-level likable. And there she is bloodied and terrified, running through a dimly lit corridor. The crypt is doomed, but is she? Arya’s trained and fought blind long ago with a recently reintroduced weapon. That will come in handy. But the prospect of who she will have to defeat to see the light of day ever again is hands down the most heartbreaking and exciting possibility of Episode 3.
You’re either going to see the Night King’s army infiltrate the crypt through various passageways referenced seasons ago or you’re going to see something far more enthralling. I cannot wait for the poetic and chaotic scene that’s stuck in my mind’s eye. It’s pitch black. The flames have all been extinguished. The only sounds are distant echoes of anguish as the dead finish the living. Maybe a few have escaped, but Arya remains there in darkness. She lights a candle. The glow is fleeting as a draft of air turns it to smoke. But before the draft comes an image of Ned Stark’s lifeless face closing in on his daughter, reanimated by the Night King along with all of the other celebrities of yesteryear buried in the crypt. Arya’s sightless training will give her a fighting chance, but mustering the strength to kill her own family members will be a challenge for even the most hardened soldier.
Just hours ago she insisted that Gendry tell her what fighting the dead was like. “You want to know what they’re like? Death. That’s what they’re like.” To which she replied, “I know death. He's got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.” She may recognize this face more than she could have ever anticipated. It will be an absolutely epic and haunting sequence, and I look forward to it.
WHAT ABOUT THE NORTH
Per Jorah’s suggestion, Dany is to make nice with Sansa. It seems to be going swimmingly, as the Winterfell newcomer extends an olive branch of sorts. “I can’t help but feel we’re at odds with each other.” They exchange concessions and the two draw closer as Dany positions her hand over Sansa’s. Dany’s face relaxes for the first time in the episode and Sansa’s disposition momentarily follows suit. Dany professes her love for Jon and contends that she’s the one who’s truly been manipulated into fighting Jon’s war. Self–deprecation, humility and a love for Jon. For a milisecond, these two powerful women caught somewhere between adversaries and begrudging allies seem to be trending toward friendship. There’s even a joke at the expense of Jon’s height to lighten the mood further.
But Sansa is emerging as a power player late in the game and she acts accordingly. “What about the north?” she persists. Her tone hardens. She’s asking the uncomfortable questions, and I believe she planned on it all along. An episode ago, she wondered aloud if Jon’s alliance was truly rooted in concern for the North, or in Dany’s pants. Dany is speechless and rattled. She’s usually indignant or annoyed when she doesn’t get what she wants. But Sansa sent an uneasiness over her face that I hadn’t seen in some time. And that hand… man that hand. When Dany thought she literally had the upper hand in this war of wits, she placed it lovingly over Sansa’s. She couldn’t remove it quick enough, nervously gripping at air before the tense exchange mercifully comes to a close. Awkwardness aside, it’s one of the most seemingly important questions looming: Who will win the North and will there be an after for both Jon and Dany? I don't think so.
THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE
You know the uncomfortable part of rehab where the alcoholic has to go back and right all his wrongs? He’s got to painstakingly relive all the bulls--- he’s put people through. Jaime had to do his in a castle hall in front of 100 people. And apologies like these are never slow. They never end with the person seeking redemption uttering “I’m sorry.” Most apologies don’t end that way. The forgiver usually has the floor with a chance to twist the knife before dismissing you, wondering if the problem is actually resolved. This was no exception. Admittedly, Jaime makes it clear he won’t apologize for any of his deeds. He was always protecting his house, at war. But make no mistake, this painful rite of passage in that castle hall was the only thing standing in the way of Jaime completing his long journey into good graces. It is a journey eight seasons long. His character arc has crept forward for nearly a decade in real time, finally settling in comfortably as a redeemed and humble man. This vulnerability is solidified in pleading with Brienne to allow him to fight for her and his admission that he’s not the fighter he once was. It’s solidified in his seeking out Bran by the tree.
Ironically, Bran’s forgiveness and protection of the ugly truth is what gives him a chance at one last fight. Bran spares Jaime in the hall, but not without delivering one of the most powerful lines of the evening. “The things we do for love,” is an esoteric reference that probably made Jaime’s hair stand on end. Bran didn’t snitch, but he let Jaime know not to step out of line with that one.
I say Jaime’s journey as a character is complete because I’m afraid he won’t make it out of Winterfell alive. At daybreak tomorrow, his conscience will be clear, even if it’s his last sunrise. Beyond the impending battle, his sole possible purpose is now killing Cersei. And as much as I’d love to see him do it personally, Arya can always wear his face.
Tormund has become a caricature of himself. One of my favorite characters for seasons, I feel like he’s caught in a washing machine of bad lines forced on us by writers who’ve gauged his popularity. The only thing more universally wanted by viewers than more Tormund is seeing him close some distance between him and his crush. Brienne’s attention is turned squarely toward Jaime, especially after he knights her. (The funniest GIF of the episode has to be the way Brienne turns her head when she’s ready to be knighted). Tormund has no idea what to do. He’s in a no-win situation. Literally, all he can come up with is telling a story about drinking a giant’s breast milk. Bless his heart. For all of his remarks that read like one-liners from a Commando redux, he still manages to drop a progressive gem. One big win for Tormund’s character was that he was all for women’s rights. Brienne cited tradition as to why she can’t be knighted. “F-ck tradition.” Beautifully put, big guy. She didn’t even hear you. She was caught in the Jaime tractor beam. Real shame. As an aside, it’s consistently amazing to me how they make him seem so hulking, when (Kristofer Hivju) is only 6-feet tall. Anyway, I found a picture of Tormund before the breast milk.
OH THIS STATUE?
Jon Snow didn’t spend much time front-and-center Sunday night, but we did get the big reveal. Dany is concerned and she’s been looking for her new boo. If they had cell phones, she could easily fire off a “Are we good?” text. Naturally, Jon would probably reply, “Yeah.” And at that point, judging by the single-word response and the punctuation, she knows they’re not. But she’s got to find him. And he’s conveniently standing in front of a Leanna Stark statue. Was Jon standing there so it’d be easy to break the news to her? "Oh yeah, sure. Let’s talk about this statue. Funny you bring it up.” Her reaction isn’t shocking at all. She may love John, but she loves power the most. The tension is interrupted and it’s go time. Beautifully unresolved. Like a married couple in an argument for the ages and unexpected company rings the door bell. Don’t be surprised if she watches Jon die this coming weekend and does nothing about it. I’m not sure she has the guts to kill him, but she’s cold enough to look away. Plus, this last episode felt like a Jon Snow phaseout.
TWO WORTHY WORMHOLES
There’s been a couple of believable theories floating around for a while now involving Missandei being a Lannister spy. Imagine the look on Greyworm’s face when she’s exposed. That’ll throw a wrench in all the “let’s run away together” talk. She’s beautiful and dangerous, so there’s a chance Greyworm goes anyway.
But the most compelling, diabolical theory that you need to pursue involves a character that’s been “dead” for two years now. And that’s Petyr Baelish. Little Finger is alive folks. It’s believable. And in the most twisted way, I want it to be true. He’s a cockraach, able to survive a nuclear holocaust, or the Game of Thrones equivalent. I expect to see him again. Try the theory on for size. “Chaos is a ladder.”
• Bran looks like Roger Waters. Anyone else agree?
• In an episode relatively light on the Jon Snow, it’s a good time to reference this gem dropped by one of my favorite Twitter follows @dragonflyjonez.
Jon Snow is George Costanza.
Bro that's George Costanza— Beyonce has an uncle named Larry Beyince. Bruh.... (@DragonflyJonez) April 22, 2019
• Iron Islands: They’re starting to look real inviting. Can the dead swim or not?
• With 320 minutes remaining, the dead can’t win outright this coming weekend. Compelling characters have to escape at the very least. Lot of ballgame left.