[This story contains spoilers for season eight, episode two of HBO's Game of Thrones, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms."]
Winter is here, and so is the war for Winterfell — almost, at least.
In the closing moments of the final season's second episode, Game of Thrones finally delivered on one of its oldest promises: full-blown war between the armies of the living and the dead, with the home of House Stark as the bloody battlefield. Bodies are destined to fall, much like the snow the Starks are always warning everyone about. Thankfully, no bodies have dropped quite yet, which was far from a certainty heading into the episode, given the final notes of the season premiere: Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) arriving in Winterfell and reuniting with Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the boy he pushed out a window oh so long ago.
Jaime's fate was one of the biggest question marks heading into the second week of the final season, as so many different characters stand out with reasons to want the man dead: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), for instance, whose father was murdered by Jaime long ago. Her wrath toward the Kingslayer was one of the hallmarks of the trailer for the episode. How did that wrath play out? And what else took place as director David Nutter and writer Bryan Cogman set the stage for the biggest battle yet? Read on for all of the highlights.
The Lions and the Dragons
It all begins as teased: Jaime standing before the gathered forces at Winterfell, on the receiving end of some harsh questions. Beyond the Kingslayer of it all, Daenerys wants to know more about why Jaime is here on his own, without the army promised by Cersei (Lena Headey). Jaime fesses up: she lied, and never intended to send aid to the armies of the living. Instead, she's rallied a force consisting of Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek), his fleet and 20,000 men from the Golden Company: "Even if we defeat the dead, she'll have more than enough to destroy the survivors."
Even with this information on the table, Jaime's role remains in question. He holds to his oath to keep fighting for the living, but that's not enough for Daenerys, even with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) vouching on his brother's behalf. In a rare move of solidarity, Sansa (Sophie Turner) agrees with Daenerys that Jaime can't be allowed to fight for their cause, not after all the pain he caused House Stark. For his part, Jaime won't apologize, stating that he did everything in his power to fight for his family.
"The things we do for love," Bran mutters, echoing Jaime's words uttered right before the fateful push all those seasons ago. He leaves it there, for now.
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), meanwhile, goes to bat for her old friend. She lays out all the ways in which Jaime saved her life during their time together on the road, and even credits Jaime for Sansa's own survival: "He armed me, armored me and sent me to find you and bring you home, all because he had sworn an oath to your mother." When Brienne says she trusts Jaime with her life, Sansa pays the trust in kind: "I trust you with my life. If you trust him with yours, we should let him stay." Daenerys looks toward Jon Snow (Kit Harington) for an ally, but he's firmly on Sansa's side: "We need every man we can get."
With that, Jaime's allowed to stay in Winterfell, head intact. A couple of scenes later, Jaime seeks out Bran in the godswood and asks why he didn't reveal more about what happened between them. Bran has a solid answer: "You won't be able to help us in this fight if I let them murder you first."
Next, the Lannister brothers share some time together, looking out over Winterfell and taking stock of their likely deaths. For his part, Tyrion takes comfort knowing he won't die the way Cersei wants. For Jaime, he has other matters on the mind: Brienne. He seeks her out, and requests that she allow him to fight under her command during the battle against the White Walkers. It's a touching moment, but one that pales in comparison to their later scene in which Jaime anoints Brienne as a knight of the Seven Kingdoms, all in front of a gathered group of unlikely friends.
Following the Jaime drama, Daenerys is understandably displeased with how it all played out. She's especially furious with Tyrion, threatening his status as Hand of the Queen. Tyrion gains an unlikely ally in Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who implores Daenerys to reconsider her fury. What's more, he wants Daenerys to consider taking another shot at a friendship with Sansa, the Lady of Winterfell, who clearly isn't the Mother of Dragons' biggest fan.
In private, Daenerys and Sansa finally meet alone, and it goes much better than expected. They both agree about Tyrion's good nature, although Daenerys stresses she also values Tyrion's intelligence and his occasional ruthlessness. They bond over their shared strength as leaders in a world dominated by men. They clearly have love for Jon Snow in common, too.
Daenerys: "I'm here because I love your brother. I trust him. I know he's true to his word. He's only the second man in my life I can say that about."
Sansa: "Who was the first?"
Daenerys: "Someone taller."
Laughter aside, a very big obstacle stands in the way of peace between Sansa and Daenerys: the sovereignty of the North. Sansa wants to know what happens to her people once Dany wins the Iron Throne. Will they be free? Dany doesn't get a chance to answer, but the look on her face makes the answer fairly clear.
The Long Night
Soon, the warriors three of Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) arrive in Winterfell with grim tidings: the Night King is on the move, and his army will arrive before sunrise. It leads to a meeting of the minds, as everyone strategizes about how best to handle the coming battle. Jon posits a theory Beric first put forth back in season seven's "Beyond the Wall," in which he suggested killing the Night King will kill all the rest of the dead.
But how to lure the Night King out into the open? Bran Stark has a plan: he'll act as bait, since the Night King wants nothing more than to destroy the Three-Eyed Raven: "He wants to erase this world, and I am its memory." The plan is set: Bran will wait in the godswood, with Theon (Alfie Allen) and his Ironborn allies waiting in the shadows as support, as well as a dragon or two nearby for good measure.
With conflict imminent, the various men and women littered throughout Winterfell gather together for some final encounters. The highlight reel:
• First, Tyrion picks Bran's brain about his "strange journey," wanting to hear all about how the Three-Eyed Raven came into existence. Put a pin in this; feels like a critical moment in the journey for both characters.
• Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) meet in the courtyard and decide once the war is over, they will leave the North and return to Missandei's home of Naath. Bad news: no chance these two return to Naath. Winter is coming.
• Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Podrick, Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Tormund form an unlikely drinking party, in which Tormund regales everyone with tales of his giant-slaying while ferociously chugging fermented milk. Less disgustingly, Jaime knights Brienne in one of the series' most genuinely happy moments, and Podrick sings a somber song with huge ramifications for the end of the series, based on its history in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. More details on that coming soon to a THR deep dive near you; friendly reminder to bookmark our Thrones page so you don't miss it.
• Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) first shares a drink with the Hound (Rory McCann), and eventually ditches the party when Beric shows up with his "miserable" Lord of Light antics. Arya then meets up with Gendry (Joe Dempsie), and seals the deal with her teenage crush. "We're probably going to die soon. I want to know what it's like before that happens," she says, right before kissing and sleeping with Gendry.
• Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) delivers his family's ancestral Valyrian sword, Heartsbane, into the hands of Jorah Mormont, guaranteeing some White Walker slaying in the very near future.
• Daenerys and Jon Snow's first and only conversation of the hour, right before the episode closes. They meet in the crypts, standing before the tomb of Lyanna Stark, Jon's secret mother. Daenerys learns why Jon has been acting cold toward her: he's just learned the truth about his secret Targaryen heritage, which he in turn reveals to Daenerys. The news lands with all the force one might expect: disbelief at first, and then a mixture of fear and fury. "If it's true," she says, "it would make you the last male heir of House Targaryen. You would have a claim to the Iron Throne."
There's no more time to pick apart the news, as three horn blasts blare throughout the castle grounds. The White Walkers have arrived — just in time for the episode to end.
Read all of THR's Final Path series, featuring character-by-character predictions:
1. Jon Snow
2. Daenerys Targaryen
3. Tyrion Lannister
4. Cersei Lannister
5. Jaime Lannister
6. Sansa Stark
7. Arya Stark
8. Bran Stark
9. Samwell Tarly
10. Theon Greyjoy
11. The Hound
12. Brienne of Tarth
15. Davos Seaworth
16. Jorah Mormont
18. Tormund Giantsbane
19. Beric Dondarrion
20. The Dragons
21. The Night King
22. Across the World of Ice and Fire
23. Final Predictions
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