Author: Cameron Fairchild
(The following contains spoilers for Game of Thrones)
Welcome back, Westerosians. No exclamation point today because this is a muted episode of Game of Thrones, or at least it thinks it is, that we’re talking about today. Here again is my deal: I’m trying to not be a dick about this show, really, but on the other end of that is the fact that the internet is ready to refute me, and probably, given the mass following of this show that I don’t really belong to, in a way that is convincing and sincere and legitimate. But man, between “Winterfell” and the latest episode, season 8 really feels like it’s got nothing left to say about its increasingly bland roster of edgeless characters.
There is exactly one scene from Sunday’s episode that is really good, and that’s the moment where Jaime, paying off years of character growth and pouring that development into a single decent act, knights Brienne of Tarth. It’s a great payoff for both characters and actors, with Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj-Coster Waldau playing the scene with an unforced tenderness, the most patient of the deliberately-dialogue-heavy episode’s rambunctious interactions. “Rambunctious,” I think, is a good word for what’s going on in GOT’s final season so far, as characters conveniently have the space to gather and hash out their remaining issues before becoming the Avengers. This wouldn’t exactly be a problem, except that nearly every interaction in the last two episodes has been some variant on “remember how I had a character arc, and you had a character arc? Pretty weird!” Tyrion literally has the same line of dialogue twice in “Knight” to that effect, and it feels both times as a too-conciliatory, too-safe, too schmaltzy means of codifying every living character as unabashedly good. Barely anyone fights with each other; they all just seem kind of cool with every bad thing anyone’s ever done to them. Remember when Game of Thrones relished in moral grays? Well, now there are zombies to kill, and speeches about how history is good, or something, so forget all that.
The one bone of contention between characters left here is between Daenerys and Sansa (and, to a similar extent, Jon), which remains the one good, prickly development left in the season. The two still can’t find agreement here on the question of the North’s independence from Westeros, and Daenerys, snapping at Tyrion and discovering Jon’s birthright to the throne (although at this point, what is/who cares about lineage?), is ever more poised to emerge as an incidental antagonist if and when the Night King is dealt with. I don’t want Jon to win at the end of this thing, and the more I see of Daenerys’ ruthless side, the more I’m starting to root for her to kill him. That certainly seems to be at least part of the mood when Jon confesses his lineage, as she immediately expresses disbelief and seeks to undermine the possibility of his inheritance. If every other character is chilling out and having a good time reminiscing about how great Game of Thronesis, I need one to upend the status quo in a major, narcissistic way, like in the good old days, and Dany is shaping up to be that one.
As a duo, “Winterfell” and “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” feel like they could have been bolstered if the events from both were contained in one episode (cut the dragon riding scene from the former, speed things up just a little bit). As a pair, and as one-third of the final season, it’s disappointing just how much wheel-spinning and nostalgia-baiting the show is engaged in. The Night King’s army arrives at Winterfell at the very end of this episode, and while the battle to come will certainly be exciting, I’m hoping it’ll also be able to give these characters a more exciting, murkier world to grapple with when it’s over.
- Jaime’s going to die. Hoo boy, center an entire episode around one character and how much he’s developed right before the army of the dead shows up? There’s no way he’s not nobly sacrificing himself here soon.
- Daenerys is going to win the Game of Thrones. Last week I put Cersei in this spot, but I would be just as cool with Daenerys ending up here if its means her reign is really bad for everyone else. All I want is for Westeros to suffer under a despot again.
- Those crypts are not safe. You thinkthe zombie necromancer Night King isn’t going to raise the dead down there? Are you kidding me?
- Arya’s going to live. I legitimately can’t see Arya dying. She’s way too powerful.
CAMERON FAIRCHILD | KXSU Arts Reporter