“If we forget where we’ve been, where we’ve come from, we’re just animals.”

I planned on writing about the Game of Thrones premiere as well but to be honest: I didn’t have much to say. It was a group of non-sequitur reintroductions and parallels to the pilot episode that were cute but didn’t actually inform us of anything that we didn’t know. It was devoted almost entirely to characters discussing things the audience already understood. Even Bran saying “We don’t have time for this,” didn’t stop the episode from hopping between scenes with no discernible purpose, and lots of Daenerys demanding respect from people who don’t even want to be part of the Seven Kingdoms anymore.

So I’m happy to announce I really liked this episode! Not much happens in the general sense – and there are probably genuine issues that will reveal themselves as time goes on or given a healthy rewatch – but off the top of this viewing experience, the “wheel-spinning” felt appropriate. Where the premiere was void of purpose, these characters are saying goodbye to one another. Singing. Sharing food and drinks. Even romance! But that was the worst part of the episode so I’m just going to get that out of the way.

I never saw Arya and Gendry as romantic interests. Not just because actress Maisie Williams was a child when she started the series, but Arya’s journey with Gendry always felt like a found family. Gendry and Hot Pie were able to become that new family for her. It’s why them separating through their journey left such an impact. It’s the only major issue I had with this otherwise generally pleasant episode.

But I liked everything else! People not trusting Jamie until Brienne vouches for him? That tracks. Tyrion surprised that Cersei lied? That doesn’t track. Okay, so not everything else but that’s just hold over from the premiere.

Speaking of pleasant, Brienne getting knighted by Jamie Lannister might go down as one of my favorite moments in the series. After all they’ve been through together, they saved each other. They fought together. And now they’ll fight together as knights of the Seven Kingdoms.

Other returns revolve around the last of the Night’s Watch (Jon, Sam, Ed) all standing over the walls of Winterfell. Their final watch begins. Theon decides to protect Winterfell, Bran and Sansa included, as recompense for his past sins. Sansa and Theon’s shared trauma at the hands of Ramsey, even without words, are the only ones who can understand each other. Theon doesn’t have the dynamic character traits he used to, but this stuff felt earned.

Special shout out to Tormund as he tried to impress Brienne by talking about how he drank a giant’s breast milk for three months before chugging wine out of a horn… Tormund gonna Tormund. Like, yeah, some of these scenes are relatively pointless for character or enhancing a greater narrative, it doesn’t stop them from feeling authentic in a way the show hasn’t been since Season 6.

Watching these characters having grown together, apart, across various trials and tribulations hit me. I don’t know. Not that this is even one of the best episodes of the series, it just felt right for these people to spend their potential last day on Westeros together.

While we close the episode by watching the Night King’s army stand at the field in front of Winterfell, I find myself concerned for characters again. Not just for the terrors of ice, either. No, Dany’s quest for the throne seems to have transformed from a revolution to a standard conquest. She looks good right now because there is the ultimate evil on their doorstep. But what happens when that is gone? Sansa told her the North intends to secede. Jon told her he’s the rightful ruler. The stakes are being slowly raised in the background of an armageddon, and the season might just get more interesting. And depressing.

It’s these sort of character dynamics that reminded my of why I fell in love with the series. Like Sam’s quote I pulled up at the top, these characters have all been defined by various tragedies and victories. They’ve entered a world of monarchies and power struggles, things that have not allowed them to live lives outside of those pre-established conflicts. And now, with death literally at their door, people are still plotting against one another. I hope the show and its creators recognize it was the Iron Throne that caused this.

Random thoughts:

  • GHOST IS BACK! Jon’s Direwolf? The creatures initially setup as something super important back in the pilot episode? There’s still one of them in the show sometimes!
  • Watching the central characters interact with other human beings whose story we aren’t following? When’s the last time that happened? That made this episode feel whole in a way that hasn’t been in years.
  • Winterfell is racist, holy shit.
  • Grey Worm and Missandei are the best couple in the show, right? Like we’re all just in agreement? A romance built on mutual love and respect, providing progressive concepts of masculinity and feminine power. I’m starting to care less about the central players
  • The premiere was Dany heavy and pretty not great. This episode had minimal Dany and pretty good! I’m not saying that’s what made it better… but I’m not saying it wasn’t part of it.
  • Glad to see other people on twitter got just as emotional over the Brienne scene.
  • What’s the over/under on Dany leaving them for dead in Winterfell?