So, last week was the reunion episode. This week was Real World: Winterfell. We had some people getting drunk in the common room, a lovers’ quarrel in the basement, a couple doin’ it in a back bedroom, and confessionals everywhere. That said, much of it was, I thought, really well done. Some of it, though, was just fan service, and left kind of a bad taste in my mouth.
First, the good stuff.
I was glad to see Jon not deny the truth. I was worried for a second, but then he started icing Dany out, and it became clear that he wasn’t going to bone his aunt…again. Her reaction is interesting as well. She does not balk at the idea that she’s in love with her nephew. Her mind immediately goes to the fact that he would have “a claim” to the throne (actually, he would have the only just claim, if we’re going by the letter of the law). She could turn on him very easily. But, Jon was saved from that conversation by the approach of the dead.
Knighting Brienne, which gives us our title, seemed like a very crucial moment, beyond just giving her what she’s always wanted. Jaime is trying to find a way to be honorable now, when death is near. He seems to have well and truly shed his incestuous love that lead him to do terrible things. He even talks to Bran of his own accord, and Bran explains why, while it was a terrible thing, his motivations were understandable and it did begin the changes that have brought them both here, now, to face the Night King together. He acted to protect his family. But now he is fighting to protect humanity. Knighting Brienne just confirms that shift within him. And, it marks an important milestone for Brienne. She is no longer just a great warrior, she is now a leader of men. She is not just a warrior, she is a virtuous and honorable knight, moreso than most of the men who hold that title. And now, she will face the White Walkers, not as a conflicted and somewhat lost woman warrior, but as a true knight. The difference might only be in her own mindset, but that could be everything.
Sansa’s acceptance of Jaime to the fight and her conversation with Dany were quite effective as well. She has truly become a leader as much as Brienne has. She refuses to accept Dany’s superiority over her. And she raises a very important question: what happens after? Should they be victorious over the dead, and then crush Cersei, what happens then? Because the North wanted to go its own way. Does Cersei crush them to bring them to heal? It seems she might. But that will have to wait until after this fight.
The Mormont girl refusing to back down to Jorah was cool, too. And Sam giving Jorah his family’s sword.
I wanted to see Tyrion’s conversation with Bran. I was kind of stunned that we didn’t. Tyrion pulls over a chair…and that’s it. What did Bran tell him? How did he react? That seems infinitely more important than the conversation in the Great Hall. That conversation was interesting enough, but it was kind of a standard fantasy trope: let’s have everyone drink before battle and have things finally get real. And then, right when something tense is about to happen, the battle will start. It’s all sort of standard. And that’s disappointing.
For a show that made its bones confounding the standard fantasy tropes and ruthlessly killing off characters when the situation brings them to danger, this episode sure had a lot of really hacky fan service.
First, there’s Arya gettin’ it on with Gendry. How does that advance her character? Or Gendry’s? Her dialogue was kind of cringey, too. “We’re probably going to die soon. I want to know it’s like before that happens.” Groan. The scene was kind of stupid. Hopefully, it connects with something in the future, but it just felt like, “Whelp, people like Gendry, and Arya has a playful relationship with him. And we haven’t had any sex this week. Here we go!”
Also, was her special weapon really just a Darth Maul double-bladed quarter staff? That seems like it wouldn’t have taken him that long to make, so I hope there’s more to it than that.[Note: my wife has a theory that the weapon has some function to let her de-face a Walker and assume its identity to assassinate the Night King. She just wants that noted publicly in case it happens.]
The conversation between Sam, Jon, and what’s-his-cloak on the Winterfell wall was some pretty standard action movie pre-battle reflection as well. Pretty thoroughly unnecessary.
They also only mentioned the dragons in passing. I mean, I assume they’re planning on the dragons helping them, right? Where were they in the battle plan? It seems like a pretty shitty plan if you leave out your best weapon. But Dany never even mentioned them. That seems like a pretty big oversight.
And then there’s Tormund. Look, I love Tormund as much as the next guy. But how the hell did he survive the Wall collapsing? He should be dead! For him to survive the Wall collapse is so cheesy, so soap opera, that it ought to be beneath Game of Thrones. And yet, here we are. They could have just not had him at the Wall. Or, they could have given a plausible escape. Or they could have killed him. Instead, they seem to have just said, “Everyone will be so happy he’s alive, they won’t ask questions.” And, judging by many people’s reactions, they’re kind of right. But it bothers me. A lot.
All of that said, I liked this episode. We needed one more week of character development before all hell breaks loose. We needed to set up the battle between real, flawed, vindictive, spiteful, heroic people, and the dead that march against them. As Sam says, death is forgetting and being forgotten. Once you forget all of your memories, you are no longer a person, in any real sense. This episode, showing people being human, clarifies that distinction before the masses without memory come to take them all.
And so, we wait for next week, when death arrives in Winterfell. I have hopes that many characters we know, and some that we love, will die. I have no real guesses as to who that will be. But, given Tormund’s soap opera survival, they might all just survive. And that would be disappointing.