‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 2 Recap: The Knight Before

All in all, this was a simple but emotional episode, focusing on relationships in the tense lead-up to a battle.

This recap, obviously, contains spoilers.

This is a recap of the second episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, (click here to review last week’s), which gears up for an imminent battle at Winterfell against the army of White Walkers.  We begin with Jaime standing before Daenerys, who claims he “murdered” her father and that she and her brother had often fantasized about how they would kill him.  We recall that Jaime is called “Kingslayer” because he stabbed Dany’s father, the “Mad King” Aerys. Dany asks Jaime why he has arrived without the army Cersei promised: “It appears your sister lied to me,” she says.  “She lied to me as well” is Jaime’s heartbreaking reply.

Tyrion tries to vouch for Jaime, but Dany shoots him down.  Sansa agrees with Dany that Jaime cannot be trusted, citing her experiences with him during her time in King’s Landing as Cersei’s prisoner, but then Brienne speaks up.  She vouches for him, saying Jaime lost his hand defending her and then armed her so that she could find and rescue Sansa. Sansa says that she trusts Brienne with her life, and that Jaime will be allowed to stay.  Dany can say nothing to this, and the hall quickly empties in awkward silence. In an antechamber, Dany scolds Tyrion for believing Cersei, questions his judgment, and threatens to replace him as Hand of the Queen. 

Arya finds Gendry at the forge.  She asks about the weapon she commissioned from him last episode, and he explains that he has not started it yet, since he’s busy making dragonglass weapons for Winterfell’s armies.  Arya tells him to make hers first, and Gendry tries to convince her to hide in the crypts with the non-fighters, where it’s “safer.” Arya deflects, instead quizzing Gendry about White Walkers. Gendry says they’re “like death,” clearly trying to discourage Arya from fighting them. Arya says the following, punctuated by a series of flawless knife throws: “I know death. He’s got many faces. I look forward to seeing this one.”  She demands her weapon again, and as she walks away, Gendry visibly swoons before getting back to work.

Jaime finds Bran in the godswood, where he apologizes for pushing him out a window in the very first episode of the series, causing the injury that led to Bran’s paralysis.  Bran says that he is not angry, and that neither he nor Jaime would be the people they are if it hadn’t happened. Jaime asks why Bran never told anyone who caused his fall, and Bran implies that even then he had some knowledge that Jaime would be needed in the fight against the dead.  Though, since Bran immediately follows this up by expressing doubt that they can win, it’s cold comfort.

Tyrion and Jaime find each other in the courtyard.  Tyrion explains that he has faith in Dany, and laments his foolishness in underestimating Cersei.  He asks if Cersei’s pregnancy is real, and Jaime says it is. They fall into banter about their likely pending deaths at Winterfell, the house of their former enemies, but Jaime immediately abandons Tyrion when he sees Brienne. They exchange a few pleasant words before Brienne, alarmed that Jaime is being polite where he would usually insult her, asks his intentions. Jaime explains that he came to Winterfell to fight under her command, and she agrees to let him join her forces.

Jorah finds Daenerys and explains to her that, while it broke his heart when Dany first named Tyrion her Hand, he now thinks Tyrion was the right choice.  Despite having made mistakes, he thinks Tyrion is clever enough to be worth keeping at her side. Dany agrees that she may have been too harsh, and Jorah (it is implied) advises she find Sansa and make nice with her. The two bond over their shared terrible pasts, but it gets real when Dany asks Sansa why she’s so leery of her relationship with Jon. Sansa says Jon is in love with Dany, and that men in love are easily manipulated; Dany says she is in love with Jon as well, and points out that meeting him changed her whole course, detouring to Winterfell to fight “his” war against the White Walkers.  Sansa seems pleased that Dany loves her brother, but puts an end to their nice chat by asking, “What about the North?” and saying that the Starks, after losing their home and being forced to retake it, swore to bow to no one.

They are interrupted by Theon’s arrival in the hall.  Dany asks after Yara, and Theon explains that she is now free and headed to take back the Iron Islands in Dany’s name.  Theon, however, is here with his small force of Ironborn to fight for Winterfell–to fight, as he makes clear, for Sansa.  She responds by hugging him fiercely, showing her forgiveness.

In the courtyard, Davos is distributing stew and workmanlike words of comfort to the people of the North.  A little girl, perhaps six or seven and with a birthmark that recalls Shireen Baratheon’s greyscale scars, comes up next, and asks Davos whether she should stay in the crypts or fight. She explains that both her brothers were fighters and that she wants to be like them.  Gilly says she would like the girl to be in the crypts to defend those who are sheltering there. 

Edd arrives at Winterfell, along with Tormund and Beric.  They tell Jon of Lord Umber’s death.  They confirm that the White Walkers will arrive before sunrise the next day, and then Tormund asks, “is the big woman still here?” (meaning Brienne, on whom he has a well-established crush).

Next, we see a strategy meeting wherein Jon explains that, since the Night King is responsible for creating a large number of both White Walkers and wights, his death will take out a large swath of the army in one blow.  Bran says the Night King is sure to come after him, as he has targeted many Three-Eyed Ravens before. When asks why, he explains that the Night King wants to destroy the world as they know it, and that the Three-Eyed Raven is its memory. Thankfully, Sam, our resident nerd, untangles the esoteric logic of this by explaining to we humble viewers that symbolically, forgetting means death, so the death of the Three-Eyed Raven would be a huge symbolic milestone in the Night King’s quest to eradicate human society.  Still confused? Me too. But the material point here is that the Night King will go after Bran, and Bran demands to be left in the Godswood as bait to draw him out. Theon offers his forces to protect Bran, and Jon and Dany decide to wait nearby so that they’re ready with the dragons when the Night King appears. Dany tells Tyrion he’ll be joining the non-fighters in the crypts, saying his cleverness makes him too valuable to risk.  Tyrion, seeing this for the slant apology that it is, agrees. The meeting disperses, and Tyrion and Bran are left alone in the room. Tyrion asks Bran to tell his story, and the scene cuts away.

Grey Worm finds Missandei in the courtyard, where she is trying to talk to two little girls.  The children, who have never seen a black person before, run away, and Grey Worm approaches and observes that there is no place for the two of them in Westeros.  He says that he is loyal to Dany and will fight for her until she takes the throne, but asks Missandei if she really wants to grow old in Westeros. She admits that she wants to return to her home (in the Summer Isles south of Essos) and Grey Worm agrees to go there with her when the war is over.

Sam, Edd, and Jon meet on the ramparts.  Friends since the first season, they reminisce about their lost brothers.  Jon offers Sam a place in the crypts, but Sam objects that he was the first person to kill a White Walker (having been the one to figure out the secret of dragonglass) and has survived many battles.  Edd reminds us that his nickname is “Dolorous Edd” by doubting the outcome of the battle and saying, “Last one left, burn the rest of us.”

Jaime and Tyrion sit by a fireplace, talking, and are joined by Brienne and Podrick, then Davos and Tormund.  Tormund flirts with Brienne, who is unsuccessful in hiding her returned interest. They all pull up chairs to pass the night before the battle, and Tormund sets to telling tall tales.

Arya finds the Hound on the ramparts, where he offers her a drink.  They express their mutual fondness in their taciturn way, and Arya asks him why he is at Winterfell when he’s never fought for anybody but himself.  He replies, “I fought for you, didn’t I?” Beric joins them, and Arya leaves. She goes to practice shooting in an out-of-the-way chamber, where Gendry finds her and offers her the weapon she commissioned: a double-ended dragonglass spear.  Arya asks why Melisandre kidnapped him (which is how they parted ways the last time they saw each other), and Gendry explains that she took his blood for a spell because he is Robert Baratheon’s bastard. Arya uses this as an extremely awkward segue into quizzing Gendry about his sexual experience, then explains that she doesn’t want to die without knowing what sex is like, and kisses him.  We leave them mostly undressed on a pile of flour sacks.

By the fire, Brienne and company are discussing the coming battle.  When she is referred to as “Lady Brienne,” Tormund asks why she is not a “Ser,” and Brienne explains that women can’t be knights.  “I’m no king,” says Tormund, “but if I were, I’d knight you ten times over.” Jaime points out that any knight can make another knight, and asks Brienne to kneel.  He knights her, and everyone is delighted.

Sam finds Jorah in the courtyard, where Jorah is arguing with his cousin, Lady Lyanna Mormont.  Though Jorah would have been head of the family if he had not been banished from Westeros, Lyanna points out to him that he has no right to say she’s too young to fight.  She wishes him luck before angrily stalking off. Sam offers Jorah the Tarly family sword, Heartsbane, which is made of Valyrian steel. He explains that it’s too heavy for him, and since Jorah’s deceased father, the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, was “like a father” to Sam, he’d like Jorah to have it.  Jorah swears to fight with it in his father’s name.

By the fire, Tyrion asks the others for a song, and Podrick sings a haunting Westerosi classic, “Jenny of Oldstones.”  We see a montage: Sansa and Theon sitting nervously together, Arya wakeful beside a sleeping Gendry, Missandei finding Grey Worm for one last kiss.  As the song ends, we follow Dany into the crypts, where she finds Jon at the foot of a statue. She asks who the statue depicts, and Jon explains that it is Lyanna Stark, and reveals his secret: that Lyanna was his mother, and Dany’s brother Rhaegar his father.  Dany, horrified, points out that this makes him the last male Targaryen heir, and is clearly angry and threatened. Before they have too much time to argue, however, a horn sounds. Over the ramparts, we see the army of the dead marching on Winterfell.

What does it mean?

All in all, this was a simple but emotional episode, focusing on relationships in the tense lead-up to a battle.  However, some tensions are still brewing: Dany and Sansa are set up for a face-off over the fate of the North, and Jon, with the classic Stark trait of terrible timing, has revealed his heritage to Dany when he had no opportunity to reassure her afterward.  We also learn that Bran is definitely the Night King’s target.

Best Moment

The knighting of Brienne.  This touching impromptu ceremony, surrounded by a small group of supportive friends, is long-deserved for the show’s most steadfast and courageous fighter.  Plus, Tormund’s glowing smile as he applauds for her is sweet. I think I speak for all my colleagues here at Contemptor when I say that, in this house, we stan Ser Brienne of Tarth, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

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Daughter of a high school English teacher and an English professor, Evangeline is a survivor of Academia and an aspiring elegant person. She lives in St. Louis with her family and a lot of books.

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