It’s almost 3 AM and there’s a cat climbing on my chest.
For this post, I’ll take a look at the first two episodes of Game of Thrones, Season 8 (GOTS8). The first third of the final season is not bad at all. This is not the ripe load of flaming hot nonsense. This is the part where we think the final season is good and will do justice to all the years we spent paying attention. Episode 801 is a perfectly serviceable GOT episode. It is, perhaps, emblematic of the last two seasons of the show being rushed. Feels like checking off boxes, but what happens is reasonable. Episode 802 is outstanding. Gets our hopes way, way up. Much of our frustration with GOTS8 in general must be understood in the context of the ways these first two episodes appeared to be making sense.
Theon and Yara! Much of Theon’s arc in GOTS7 was about balancing the identities of Greyjoy and Stark. So for this episode, the balance is that he rescues Yara and she gives him her blessing to go fight for the Starks while she resumes control of the Iron Islands. Okay! Theon goes back to Winterfell and Sansa is super happy to see him and it’s adorable. He offers to guard Bran in the godswood as restitution for having forced Bran and Rickon out of their home in Season 2. See now, this is fine. Bran accepting Theon’s offer is a good example of restorative justice. The correction is in being of service to those he’s harmed, rather than being punished. So we may ask, how does Theon’s showing up for the battle keep up with the theme of balancing Greyjoy and Stark?
Cersei has hired Bronn to go and kill her brothers. This is fine. Bronn is good at killing, and her brothers need to be punished for turning against her. I was hoping Bronn would show up in time for the battle, though. Ah well. Anyway, Cersei’s looking pretty lonely in KL, having to fuck Euron Greyjoy to keep him on her side. He wants to get her pregnant and she thinks to herself, “Okay, I can use this.”
Bran insists Jon needs to know he’s really the son of Rhaegar Targaryen. Of course he delegates the task out to Sam, as Bran has more important things to do. But still, Bran wants to make sure Jon knows, before the big battle, that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne, and surely Bran knows it is entirely possible that Jon will go and tell Dany about this and Dany will have some feelings on the matter. So we’re left to assume there is a reason, in-universe, why Bran wants Jon to know about his parentage, and there is a narrative-structure reason why, first, Jon needs to be a Targ at all and second, why Jon needs to know he is a Targ and why Dany needs to find out.
Arya tells Jon Sansa is the smartest person she knows. First demonstration of Sansa’s brainpower is when she meets up with Tyrion and she already knows Cersei isn’t acting in good faith. Speaking of Tyrion, when was the last time he did anything especially clever? Really?
Speaking of Bran having more important things to do! While Sam is telling Jon he should be Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Bran is sitting out in the cold all night long waiting for Jaime Lannister to show his face at Winterfell. Not that I blame him; I’d sit out there waiting for that face to show up, too. That Bran made such a priority of being the first one to greet Jaime at the gate suggests he still has some feelings about having been thrown out the window, and that’s fine. He’s allowed to feel that way. That he says “the things we do for love” at the trial scene in 802 is another example of his needing to hear Jaime’s apology.
But first! The entire reason why Jaime needs to be put on “trial” at all is that his lonely arrival proves Cersei is full of shit, which means Dany is embarrassed, and rather than just admit she made a bad deal and get on with the battle, she’s gotta put on a show of turning Jaime into the bad guy. And this is where Sansa really puts on her Smarty-Pants. She lets Tyrion march himself into a trap, and she pretends to agree with Dany juuuuust long enough to goad Brienne into making Jaime look like an angel in front of the entire Winterfell court. But then! Look at what happens after. Dany is pissed as fuck at Tyrion for letting his sister pull one over on them, and Sansa tells her to get her head on straight and take some responsibility. So…Sansa has just played Dany like a fiddle, hammered a fat wedge between her and Tyrion, but also stays in control of the situation long enough to make sure Tyrion isn’t punished. Sansa is clever. She is not careless.
Now back to Bran waiting up for Jaime! The apology is private, and there’s a reason for that, which is that Bran doesn’t need anyone else to know Jaime’s the one who tossed him out of that window and that is because he believes his siblings would execute Jaime if they knew, and Bran foresees Jaime being of vital service in the coming battle. What happens after the battle? Bran doesn’t know. Anyway, Jaime does apologize for the harm he did to Bran, and he insists he’s not that person anymore, and for his part, Bran seems to…accept his apology? He’s all like, hey man, we cool, I’m glad you’re here.
The fact that Jaime does apologize to Bran, and Bran does accept his apology, should count for something.
But more importantly, that Bran says just enough at the trial to make Jaime squirm, but also does nothing to mitigate Sansa playing why-are-you-hitting-yourself on Dany, suggests something about his priorities. He’s made sure Jon is aware of his parentage, and he has no problem with Dany embarrassing herself in front of the Northern court and her own troops. This is undermining Dany’s authority, before the battle. Which suggests either Bran is totally unwilling to present a challenge to his big sister, or he feels like Jaime’s contribution to the battle will be more important than Dany saving face with her armies.
More on battle planning! They ask Bran if dragonfire is effective against White Walkers. He doesn’t know. Which tells us, first, there are limits to Bran’s powers. (Or he’s pretending to know less than he does, which would be incredibly irresponsible.) Second, it establishes that Jon and Dany really don’t know if the dragonfire will be of any use against the WWs. They already know any sort of fire gets rid of wights. That much is established. Jon also knows Valyrian steel gets rid of WWs. What they know, contrasted with what they don’t know, really ought to inform their battle strategy.
Sam gives Heartsbane to Jorah Mormont to use in the battle. Again, Valyrian steel is a known, effective weapon against White Walkers. VS is a rare commodity and there are a limited number of combatants on the field who are carrying VS blades. Jon, Arya, Jaime and Brienne, and now Jorah. Sam giving his family’s VS blade to Jorah should be a reminder to us that they need every VS-wielding soldier they can get.
Arya fucks Gendry! It’s understandable that Arya doesn’t want to die a virgin. Gendry isn’t just Mr. Right-Now, though; Gendry’s a dear friend to her. She once told him, “I could be your family.” They could have a future together.
Back to Jaime! He really seems to be living his best life in 802. “This isn’t about loyalty, this is about survival.” He makes sure to apologize to Bran, and he means it. We know he finally went cold-turkey from his Cersei Addiction in the S7 finale, and since then, he’s doing just fine. He could stay and talk with Tyrion about how they’d like to kill Cersei, but instead of having that conversation, he gravitates toward Brienne. I mean, he also confirms that Cersei’s pregnancy is real, which suggests that could be a concern for him later. For now, though? He’s all about his big wench. He wants to fight under her command. He scrambles to his feet when she enters the room, and he wants her to sit beside him. He bestows knighthood on her and it is glorious. He…really seems to be doing just fine without his Cersei Fix, as long as he has Brienne. One might think it’ll stay that way.
Dany and Jorah are super-adorable together. Jorah is the advisor she needs, if not the one she deserves.
Missandei and Grey Worm are super-adorable too. I can see why they’d want to get the heck out of the North at the first opportunity. We’re rooting for them to run off to Naath together.
I’ll probably think of some more points after I’ve slept.