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“Dark wings, dark words.” It’s one of the great quotes from HBO’s Game of Thrones, signaling the dark omens baked into the words that ride on the backs of ravens, sprung from the minds of the sprawling cast: Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and so many others.
Throughout the final season, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Westeros beat reporter Josh Wigler (that’s me!) will round up some of the most important lines of dialogue featured in the past week’s episode of Thrones, offering context and divining clues about the hidden meaning in a weekly column: Dark Words.
Following “Winterfell,” we next turn to the final season’s second episode: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” written by Bryan Cogman. The 58-minute installment featured a litany of intimate conversations and character moments, from the trial of Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to the knighting of Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and everything in between. Narrowing the list down to 15 choice quotes was no easy feat; all the same, here they are:
1. “How do you know there is an afterwards?”
The first several minutes of the hour center on Jaime’s arrival at Winterfell. Plenty of choice highlights from the “trial,” such as it was, but the best exchange comes afterward when Jaime meets Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) in the godswood. The Three-Eyed Raven all but thanks Jaime for pushing him out the window all those years ago; if it hadn’t happened, these men would not have grown in the ways they have. Bran also brings up the tense point about the future beyond the White Walkers — namely, there might not be a future.
2. “I always pictured myself dying in my own bed at the age of 80…”
No need to finish the line, you know how it goes. It’s an early callback to Tyrion’s first encounter with the mountain clans of the Vale, all the way back in season one — and apparently, it’s a method of death he had sketched out numerous times before, since Jaime’s able to complete the sentence. One of the many ways in which “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” winks and nods at Thrones history.
3. “What about the North?”
Daenerys and Sansa (Sophie Turner) have not been getting along. The mood takes a turn for the better when they sit down for a meeting of the minds, bonding over their shared journeys of leadership. (“Men do stupid things for women” is another fantastic quote.) Just as their friendship comes close to solidification, Sansa brings up Northern sovereignty, which immediately chills the relationship. The Mother of Dragons and the Lady of Winterfell still have a long way to go before they see eye-to-eye.
4. “I want to fight for Winterfell.”
Welcome back, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). His reunion with Sansa was unexpectedly emotional, but not a surprise in hindsight; they are survivors of the Bastard of Bolton, and will always have that same experience in common. And by “always,” of course, I mean until next episode when Theon is killed by the Night King; later in the episode, Theon volunteers to guard Bran in the godswood, which is as sure a sign of his impending demise as it gets.
5. “He wants to erase this world, and I am its memory.”
At last, the Night King’s true mission stands revealed — and it’s not complicated. He wants destruction at all costs, as per Bran Stark’s summation of his ancient nemesis. Does that mean you need to bury the theories about the Night King as a Targaryen or whatever, out of hand? Not if you don’t want to, but for me? It’s done. Night King wants vengeance against the Three-Eyed Raven for his association with the Children of the Forest, who created the White Walkers; he wants to destroy the living, paining the Raven as a result. More than enough motivation from my point of view.
6. “You’ve had a strange journey.”
When the war room strategy session ends, Tyrion pulls up a seat next to Bran, wanting to hear all about his experiences over the past several years. We’re not privy to the full extent of the conversation, and one can only imagine what it entailed. I’ve had a hard time seeing what Thrones has in mind for Tyrion, frankly, but his sit-down with Bran helps illuminate the future: House Lannister’s cleverest son will become a spiritual successor to the Three-Eyed Raven, insofar as keeping the Raven’s mission of remembering history alive. Not likely we’ll see Tyrion warging into trees anytime soon, but surviving the series as the person who can recount history to new generations in Westeros? That’s an easy one (and a happy one) to picture.
7. “My people are not peaceful. We will protect you.”
Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) are toast. It is known. Sad to say it, but the two of them even dreaming about their post-war future together all but guarantees their deaths in the episode ahead. Start grieving accordingly. If they survive, it’ll be a happy surprise. If they don’t? At least you’re prepared. In fact, here’s a full list of expected deaths. Again: Grieve accordingly.
8. “It’ll be safe in the crypts.”
Different variations of this same phrase are repeated countless times throughout “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” and with good reason — because the crypts of Winterfell are very much not safe, and will prove to be a tremendous source of terror in the big battle.
9. “Last man left, burn the rest of us.”
Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) are the last three men of the Night’s Watch remaining — at least, of the main members of the Watch. Seeing them look out for each other in one last calm before the storm is incredibly touching, given what they’ve endured along the way. The odds that all three of them walk away from this battle are tragically slim; enjoy the sight of them together while you can.
10. “They call me Giantsbane. Want to know why?”
Nobody says yes, but that doesn’t stop Tormund from telling his story anyway. Not a quote from the episode, but a quote from our interview with Kristofer Hivju, which is worth reading if you haven’t; here he is when asked about how much milk he was forced to drink for the scene: “I didn’t drink much. Most of it went into my beard. It smelled like milk for a century.”
11. “I fought for you, didn’t I?”
A tender moment from the Hound (Rory McCann), who hasn’t had much of an opportunity to shine just yet in the first two episodes of the season. His quiet hope for acknowledgement from Arya (Maisie Williams) is one of the more underrated instances of emotion in a highly emotional hour — and one that’s likely to fuel what’s coming next for the Hound, as he picks his ax to fight for Arya and the rest of the living.
12. “We’re probably going to die soon. I want to know what it’s like before that happens.”
Arya and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) escalated their friendship in their final hours together before the big battle, one of the first moments of physical affection Arya has experienced in… well, years. Since before she met Gendry, even. Among other things, it’s the fulfillment of the wishes of Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and Ned Stark (Sean Bean) from all the way back in the series premiere, when King Robert said: “I have a son, you have a daughter. We’ll join our houses.” The houses aren’t joined quite yet, but we’re well on the way.
13. “I think we might live.”
There’s a whole lot of doom and gloom surrounding our heroes’ odds in the next episode, but is all the fuss for nothing? No, probably not; people are absolutely going to die. But the war may be another story, and some of the likeliest candidates for death may make it out with their lives intact. More on the subject here, but the short version is this: Have a little bit of Tyrion’s half-drunk hope while we still can. Plenty of time for mourning later. For now, keep hope alive.
14. “Ser Brienne of Tarth! A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms!”
If nothing else, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” delivered the single happiest moment in modern Game of Thrones memory: Jaime knighting Brienne, an impromptu ceremony that fulfills all the promise of her arc. With any luck, it won’t be her final moment of peace; if it is, it’s a beautiful note to go out on.
15. “High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts…”
Speaking of beautiful notes, how about that song from Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman)? It comes from George R.R. Martin’s novels, partly at least, and the backstory may contain some major clues about how the quest for the Iron Throne will play out. Brush up here if you haven’t done so yet.
Bonus: Wordless Moment of the Week
As Podrick sings “Jenny of Oldstones,” the audience is treated to one last look at the major Game of Thrones players in their final wordless moments before the battle: Arya and Gendry in the aftermath of sleeping together, a mournful look on the young woman’s face as the peace isn’t going to last for much longer; Samwell Tarly in bed with his family, taking in one last evening of calm before the Night King comes; Sansa and Theon enjoying a final meal together, two people who have survived incredibly unlikely odds in the past. Speaking with THR, writer Bryan Cogman described “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” as a love letter to Game of Thrones. Consider the message well and fully delivered.
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