Game of Thrones S8E2 Recap: Preparing for the Battle of Winterfell, Ser Brienne of Tarth, Pod’s Song

I’d like to use this blog to defend the show for a minute. A lot of people are frustrated by the lack of unpredictable actions and plot twists in E2, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” I understand the frustration. I get it. I think a lot of us forget that not every single episode of this show has dropped a bombshell moment, so whenever something huge doesn’t happen—especially now, when we’re on the final 6 episodes—people tend to freak out a little. I get it. But I think things will be OK. I mean, we got Ghost on screen for the first time in almost a full season! How bad could it be? We have 4 episodes left, folks, and all of them are well over an hour. That’s plenty of time!

I can’t believe I have to say this but…

***SPOILER WARNING***

So, S8E2 was very clearly the final “filler” (if we have to call it that) episode of the season, as E3 is clearly going to be the Battle of Winterfell that we’ve all been waiting for. To be completely honest, I think this next episode, which is the longest of the season at 1 hour and 22 minutes, will easily swing all the frustrated fans back to loving the show. But I do understand the frustration. To be blunt, this episode was a little predictable—we all knew Jaime was going to come out of the trial unhurt, we all knew Jon was going to tell Dany his newly learned identity (although maybe not in that way), and we all knew that Tyrion and Jaime would reunite. The few things we didn’t see coming, per se, were Brienne getting knighted, Grey Worm and Missandei making a plan to leave, and Arya and Gendry getting down (though we kinda knew this was coming). None of those events were incredible, plot-twisting moments. Ultimately, the episode was basically just S8E1 “Winterfell” Part 2. But there were some important things, and I don’t think it was a bad episode.

Like in the first recap, I’m not going to go frame-by-frame here. Instead, I’ll point out the things that I thought mattered the most to the story—if you want to point something out, ask a question about the series or want to share a sick theory, shoot me a DM on Twitter @matt_hoff_ or email me hoffman@wtpsports.com. Also, on my podcast, Live from the Middle Urinal, we talk Thrones, among other things, and we go live on Instagram after each episode to share our instant reactions and answer questions and shit. Do a peep and check them out. I digress.

Main Theme of the Episode

While E1 was centered around the reuniting of a number of characters, E2 is focused more largely on a stage of grief: Acceptance. Sure, Jaime and Tyrion reunite (they legit just saw each other in King’s Landing, though, so it’s not exactly up to some of them from the last episode), but this episode was very clearly pointing to the human side of things—a theme that they have hammered home since Season 6, when we got all those scenes showing the toll that war takes on those who aren’t the heroes (Ayra meeting Ed “me eyelids are burning” Sheeran and his buddies, when the Hound buries the farmer and his child, etc.). Much of the episode focuses on secondary characters and their experiences. We get heavy focus on Brienne, Grey Worm and Missandei, Jorah and Lady Mormont, Gilly, Ser Davos, etc. All characters we care about, but clearly all expendable to the Night King, and thus the plot.

In S8E2, we open with Jaime essentially on trial, which is both Jaime—the “good” Lannister—seeking acceptance from the North and the North learning to accept the reality of the situation. Jon has spent the last 6 episodes exclaiming to anyone who will listen that this war is the living vs. the dead, and not the Starks vs. the Lannisters vs. the Targaryens vs. the dead. On top of that, we get Dany accepting that even the best advisors are going to make mistakes (shoutout Jorah) so Tyrion deserves some slack, we get Brienne finally being accepted for who she is, we get Sansa and Dany beginning to accept that they have common ground amid their differences (this one is a little bit of a stretch), and we get Jon accepting who he really is: Aegon Targaryen. As for Dany accepting that? Well, not so much—but to be honest, can you blame her?

Interestingly, no Cersei in this episode. Which could mean the show is focusing solely on 1 enemy at a time, and/or that she’s planning something for the second half of the season (we still have episodes 4–6).

The 3 Biggest Moments

1. Growth of the characters. Like I did for E1, this is the “lumping several moments into one” pick. This episode, in its attempt to remind us just how many characters we love that are ultimately going to die, focused a lot on showing us just how far everyone has come. Bran constantly showed off his role as the Three-Eyed Raven, including a much-needed conversation with Tyrion (I see a plan developing!) about his journey. We see Tyrion coming to terms with his past mistakes, and in conversations with Jaime, we see how much the two of them have changed since they first came to Winterfell in S1E1 (shoutout Tyrion for hanging onto his dream of death at age 80). We also see Arya literally become a woman (did not anticipate the Maisie Williams nakedness), on top of watching Sansa become their mother and duel in a conversation with the Dragon Queen. We also get to see how far Podrick has come since being assigned Tyrion’s squire (also good lord my dude’s pipes! more on that later), and how Theon is planning to spend his final days being accepted (there’s that theme again) at Winterfell despite his errors.

2. Brienne gets knighted. Not only does this tie into the episode’s main theme, but this is probably the final “feel good” moment we’re going to get for a little while. Brienne of Tarth, the Sapphire Isle, has been an outsider her entire life, and after years of being the only person in Westeros who has never broken a vow, she is finally knighted. Since the majority of the people in that room are most likely going to die before the end of the season (or even E3), it was kind of nice to get this moment. I know this stuff is slow, and it makes the episode feel like another filler, but once the season and series are over, we’ll look back on this moment and be happy that it happened.

3. Jon tells Daenerys who he is. This is obvious. I know most of us, myself at least, didn’t expect Jon to tell Dany right away. To be honest, this information was a bit of an advantage for Jon, something he could reveal at the right moment for his gain or loss. But to do it now tells me that he really is all in on Dany. Aegon is clearly still willing to give up his crown for love (Interesting that Pod’s song is just before this scene, too. More on this later.), but as Sam points out to his best bud last episode—and based on Dany’s face when he tells her—I’m not so sure she will be.

The 3 Biggest Questions

1. Was Podrick’s song foreshadowing Dany and Jon’s future? So this one is a wild one. But as we know, nothing in Game of Thrones is done by accident, and the choice to have Pod sing this specific song is a huge, huge hint about the future—or a red herring. Buckle up. The song he sings is straight from the books, or at least the first line is: “High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts.” Here’s the whole song:

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 had been gone for so very long,
She couldn’t remember their names.
They spun her around on the damp old stone,
Spun away all her sorrow and pain,
And she never wanted to leave.
Never wanted to leave.
Never wanted to leave.
Never wanted to leave.
Never wanted to leave.
Never wanted to leave.

So here’s what makes this a big deal. The song is supposed to be a reference to a story about a king who gave up his crown for love. The Jenny in the song? Jenny of Oldstones, who was a Northerner that married Duncan Targaryen (Dany’s Great Uncle) many years before the events of the show. Duncan was the heir to the Iron Throne at the time, and he gave up his claim to the crown in order to stay with Jenny, despite the best attempts of his father, the king, to end the marriage. Both Duncan and Jenny are believed to have died at the tragedy of Summerhall, in which a fire broke out in an attempt to hatch dragon eggs. Jenny, interestingly, had a friend who she brought to court who was a woods witch. That woods witch is believed to be the Ghost of High Heart, who Arya runs into in the books, and who requests this very song be sung. The woods witch/GoHH is important because it is she who makes the prophecy that the Prince That Was Promised would be born of the line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen (Dany’s parents), the prophecy that essentially consumed Rhaegar’s life. The freaky part? Aery’s father, Jaehaerys II, only took the throne because his brother, Duncan, gave it up to marry Jenny.

Now, in the lore, the song’s writer is unknown, though there are rumors and theories that Rhaegar Targaryen wrote it. Rhaegar, who is Jon’s father and Dany’s brother. And who, very conveniently, Dany mentions loved to sing songs in the scene immediately after the scene where Pod sings this song. Rhaegar was also obsessed with the woods witch’s prophecy and believed until the end that either he or his son would be the Prince That Was Promised. Although Jon’s parentage isn’t confirmed in the books, many book readers believe that the only reason Jon was born is that Rhaegar married Lyanna Stark in an attempt to fulfill the prophecy. On top of all of that, Jon reveals this parentage to Dany in the scene directly following this song, which is a clear hint at the prophecy and Jon’s parentage and his role in the story. It’s also interesting timing as the song is a reference, again, to the story of a king who gave up his crown for a woman—sort of like Jon did. Could Dany do the same? Will Jon do it a second time? There is a lot to unpack here.

2. Who survives the Battle of Winterfell? This is a kind of obvious one here. The episode ends with the arrival of the White Walkers to Winterfell. Clearly, we’re going to open E3 with the battle, and a lot of people are going to die. Currently, the odds are against the majority of the characters, especially the ones we spent a lot of time with this episode. I’d imagine Jon will survive this battle, as will Dany. But when it all comes to an end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these people dead: Grey Worm, Ser Davos Seaworth, Ser Brienne of Tarth, Jorah Mormont, Theon Greyjoy, Podrick Payne, Beric Dondarrion, and Tormund Giantsbane. May they rest in peace in peace.

3. Is Cersei the ultimate enemy now? The way this season is set up has made me rethink how this will end. We know we have 4 more episodes left, and the Night King is already at Winterfell. Is it possible that we’re going to completely wrap up the Great War in E3? The Night King could die, and the remainder of the season could be focused on the power vacuum and struggle that occurs once there’s no common enemy. Then we’ll get the Starks vs. the Lannisters vs. the Targaryens. But wouldn’t that feel kind of cheap? We’ve spent every moment of the show ultimately building toward this clash (the show’s first scene is literally White Walkers slaughtering some men of the Night’s Watch), so wouldn’t it be a little lame if the battle comes and we just end it right there? Don’t get me wrong, Cersei is a great enemy, but the Night King has always seemed like the real monster. We get a hint at his motives from Bran, that he wants an endless night, death of life, etc., but it seems like they’ve set him up to be slightly deeper than that as a character. There’s a lot that could happen in E3. They could have figured out a way to make it work. Not sure what Tyrion is concocting in his conversation with Bran, but it feels like there’s something afoot. This episode was a little predictable, so perhaps the twist is at the end of the battle. We have a full 82 minutes to find out. On the other hand, I guess that’s the way it was always going to go—in a big battle for life. And to be honest, it’s very much Game of Thrones style to have the show end with the political struggles of the living, and not in the battle against the dead. We’ll see.

I’m going to do this every week until the series concludes in May. If you want to ask a question about the series or want to share a sick theory, shoot me a DM on Twitter @matt_hoff_ or email me hoffman@wtpsports.com.

Photo: HBO.

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