One area of Thrones I don’t talk about perhaps as much as I should is the writing. Given how successful the show has been, its surprising to think that the show only has ever had six writers work on it. Only three of those writers have written more than 4 episodes. While the Lion’s share have been done by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the two showrunners, a lot of significant episodes, such as Jon Snow and Ygritte’s romance in ‘Kissed by Fire’ or Tyrion’s trial in ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’, have been written by a third writer: Bryan Cogman. Cogman’s episodes tend to be character-driven ones rather than epics with tons of fight scenes, and that’s exactly the case here (surprisingly, this is one of the VERY rare Thrones episodes where no one dies – not even an extra!). ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ is Cogman’s swansong (all 4 remaining episodes are written by Benioff and Weiss) and its fittingly one of his best entries for the series.
If the point of the first episode was to reintroduce the characters, reacquaint them with each other and get them in the right places for the season, this episode is designed solely to remind you why you should care about all of them. With the Battle of Winterfell looming in episode 3, its likely some, perhaps even many of these characters won’t make it. So episode 2 decides to focus all its energy on spending some time with them, to make the inevitable gut punches of the next episode hit all the harder. Almost every character, from main players like Daenerys and Davos to supporting characters like Beric Dondarrion and Gilly, get something here. The action being entirely focused on Winterfell helps immeasurably, as diversions to King’s Landing wouldn’t have added anything.
There’s a fair amount of humour here, both from scathing one-liners from Arya and Tormund’s latest, hilariously futile attempts to seduce Brienne. None of it falls flat, and the actors and actresses hit the right notes consistently. Maisie Williams owns this episode, particularly her sex scene with Gendry (it had to happen eventually) and her reconciliation with the Hound. Sansa and Daenerys’ conversation also made for a great scene, with Daenerys initially successful attempts to break the ice ultimately failing to sway a Sansa who clearly distrusts Dany’s intentions.
There’s a few more meaningful reunions too, mainly involving Jaime, with Nikolas Coster-Waldau being the other standout actor in this episode. His reminiscing with Tyrion, his sweet gestures to Brienne and his earnest apology to Bran were all perfectly played. It was also nice to see Jon and Sam reunited with Edd and Tormund.
This episode did seem to both set up potential endings and draw character arcs to a near close in case the ones involved are killed next week. Theon and Jaime’s redemption arcs are now complete, while Grey Worm and Missandei’s romance is set for either a dream ending or, more likely, a tragic outcome. Pod seems to have learnt most of the lessons he needs to from Brienne, who finally achieves her dream of becoming a knight in what may be the episode’s standout scene. Arya and Gendry’s romantic connection is finally brought to the fore, Daenerys’ mistrust of Tyrion’s abilities seems resolved and Jorah found some measure of peace after a conversation with his cousin Lyanna.
Speaking of Lyanna, Jon really has no sense of timing in terms of delivering truth bombs does he? The potential for a late season Jon-Daenerys conflict seems to be growing with every episode… assuming they both survive the coming battle of course. The White Walkers are finally at Winterfell – and while Bran’s plan of taking out the Night’s King seems viable – you can bet it won’t be that simple…
Overall, episode 2 is a heartfelt, character-based, very entertaining hour of television, which sets the stage perfectly for the upcoming battle. If you’re complaining about the lack of action, you’ve missed the point entirely. Bryan Cogman’s reminded us all why these characters are some of the most compelling on TV, and why we should miss them if they don’t survive next week…
Rating: 5 out of 5!
If I had to guess casualties of the upcoming battle, my money would be on Grey Worm, Theon, Beric, The Hound and Tormund. But as gut-wrenching as those would be, there is the possibility that it could be much, much worse. Let’s hope those crypts are as safe as the alliance thinks they are…
Next Week should be a hell of an episode. We’re all worried about character deaths, but I swear if there’s an undead Hodor in the White Walker’s army…. tears are coming.