“GoT” LAST SEASON, EPISODE 2 Shows Calm Before Undead STORM

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Seeing as it only has one more than a handful of episodes for its final, conclusive season, we can afford to reserve the start of the week for musing on the new Sunday’s chapter of “Game of Thrones” on HBO. Battle lines are soon to be drawn as the world-ending army of White Walkers and undead wights, led by the Night King, are soon to meet their first determined resistance south of the broken Wall. That battle does not actually happen in season 8 episode 2, titled “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” But what does transpire solidifies fan reception to the characters at Winterfell before they risk dying soon.

Indeed, the climax of the previous episode and final season premiere for “Game of Thrones” saw some of the last of those who chose to fight for Westeros arriving in Winterfell on the North. Among them is Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who arrives in time to meet the boy he tried to kill in the series premiere (Bran Stark – Isaac Hempstead Wright). He is then seized an put on trial by Queen Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) for having killed her grandfather in Robert’s Rebellion years ago, only for his companion Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) to speak on his behalf, thus sparing him.

From there, the narrative moves to the resigned defense of Winterfell by its occupants. Jaime had revealed that no help was coming since his sister wants them to be slaughtered by the White Walkers first. Daenerys blames this lack of oversight on her Hand, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) who tried to forge an alliance of convenience between her and Cersei (Lena Headey) on the Iron Throne, only to be taken in by another falsehood. The consequence of the treachery is magnified when Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) arrives with his party to announce the fall of House Umber, meaning the Walkers might arrive in the middle of evening.

In signature “Game of Thrones” style, this fragile alliance seems on the verge of collapsing even in the face of common annihilation. A major factor is Dany’s now-pathological obsession over the Iron Throne and her rule over the Seven Kingdoms. Because of this she fails to instill further trust in Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) by remaining mum on the fate of the North, should they win. And when she finally learns the truth about Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in one of the episode’s climaxes, she looks about ready to kin-slay.

Another climax of “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” happens when many of the principal warriors gather to muse on their chances of survival. It is brought up that Brienne, for all her prowess and armored look, is not actually a knight. Jaime lays the matter to rest by knighting her, fulfilling Brienne’s impossible dream. (And cementing their relationship perhaps?) One more point of interest has Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) badgering Gendry (Joe Dempsie) to make her a new weapon, and then sleeping with him later so as not to die in battle a virgin.

This part can be off-putting especially for those who have followed “Game of Thrones” since the beginning in 2011. Maisie was a kid then; so was Arya. But in the eight years the show aired (and the 1-2 years of hardship and assassin training her character endured in-universe) both have grown up. If any longtime viewers felt icky, that is understandable. Williams is 22 now.

Meanwhile, Bran has proposed a strategy in the coming battle. As he was cursed by the Night King in past seasons so as to always know where he is, he plans to bait his location in the forest outside Winterfell. Presenting himself to help guard Bran is the returning Theon Grejoy (Alfie Allen) who pledges to fight for his second home. The arrival of the White Walkers outside finally spurs the defenders into action, and delays what drastic reaction Danerys might have had over Jon Snow, that is, Aegon Targaryen.

With the personal-focus story threads out of the way, Episode 3 next Sunday will provide the epic battle as well as the heartstring torture as some of these characters run the chance of being killed off. The character interactions done here have done their job in making audiences care for them anew, and hurt when they start dropping like flies. “Game of Thrones” season 8 airs Sundays only on HBO.

Image courtesy of YouTube (screenshot)

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