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A long time ago, in a realm far, far away, a warrior wandered the world of Westeros, wielding Valyrian steel, with nothing in her heart and mind but a vigilant sense of sworn duty.
That warrior was Brienne of Tarth, the towering hero played by Gwendoline Christie on Game of Thrones ever since the show’s second season. After premiering as essentially a sidekick to Lord Renly Baratheon, Brienne subsequently found herself on a mission that’s taken her to all sorts of corners of the Seven Kingdoms, working with and against a vast array of fan-favorite heroes and villains.
While Christie remains embroiled in HBO’s fantastic world of ice and fire, she’s now involved with another universe as well: Star Wars. The actress stars in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Captain Phasma, a masked villain sporting a dark armor that would give Brienne serious pause.
Before all attention falls on Christie’s big-screen performance, however, let’s take a moment and honor five of her best moments on Thrones — with many scene-stealing turns still to come.
1. “Rise, Brienne of the Kingsguard!”
The first time we met Brienne in season two, she was heavily armored, in the middle of a sword fight against another talented warrior, surrounded by a who’s who of onlookers, including Catelyn Stark, Margaery Tyrell and Renly Baratheon. It was only after Brienne removed her helmet that the audience, on both sides of the TV screen, learned that this masterful swordsman was actually a woman. It was as powerful an introduction as any character in this great epic, one that cemented her status as the second season’s most interesting new players, and one that earned her a role as part of Renly’s Kingsguard … short-lived as that tenure was.
2. “Guards! The Kingslayer!”
Brienne’s season-three journey with Jaime Lannister was one of the most anticipated stories for readers of A Song of Ice and Fire, the novels on which Game of Thrones is based. They begin their relationship as skeptical enemies before reaching a place of mutual admiration — and perhaps something even more, based on some interpretations of the dynamic. Anyone looking for signs of romantic tension between Brienne and the so-called Kingslayer need look no further than “Kissed by Fire,” the fifth episode of season three, featuring a mesmerizing monologue from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau that offers an entirely new perspective on his one-handed swordsman. But the way Christie plays Brienne’s reaction to Jaime’s confession deserves an enormous amount of respect as well.
3. “You’re Arya Stark…”
Put the ensuing fight with Sandor Clegane aside. Brienne’s first encounter with Arya, after spending the whole season searching for her and Sansa as part of her sworn duty to the late Catelyn, stands out as one of the most moving scenes in the entire fourth season of Thrones. “I wish I could have been there to protect her,” she mournfully answers when Arya asks why Brienne was not around to save her mother from the Red Wedding. It’s a soulful, stoic turn from both Christie and Maisie Williams, complicated ever more by the presence of The Hound.
4. “There’s no safety …”
… and let’s just cut the quote there, for the sake of clean language. But the nastiness of the verbal sparring perfectly mirrors the nastiness of the battle between Brienne and The Hound, one of the most ferocious fight scenes in Thrones lore. It comes after the aforementioned emotionally taxing exchange between Brienne and Arya, then quickly intensifies even further with the clash of metal and the gnashing of teeth, leaving both warriors reeling, but only one of them still standing: Brienne, exhausted but alive, closer to Arya than before, and yet, further than ever.
5. “Go on, do your duty.”
What Brienne lacked in luck in her search for Arya and Sansa Stark, she more than made up for it with finding her sworn enemy: Stannis, the middle Baratheon brother who used blood magic to kill his own sibling, Renly. Brienne finally avenges her late lord at the end of season five, encountering a mortally wounded Stannis in the snow-covered forest outside Winterfell. Even in his final moments, Stannis accepts his inevitable fate at Brienne’s hands like a tired businessman, aware of his failings and ready to finally rest. It undercuts the satisfaction that could have been gleaned from his execution at the hands of Brienne — a notion that speaks to one of the show’s central ideas, that despite expectations, revenge typically tastes bittersweet.
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