Game Of Thrones is not the same show it was when it started back in 2011.
That might sound like an obvious statement but as we approach the end of the series, I think it’s worth restating.
Over the last few years, Game Of Thrones has grown from popular but niche fantasy show into one of the largest juggernauts in all of pop culture. The show that was once known for its deliberate pacing and long two-handed dialogues between characters had become better recognized by its massive battles and insane production values.
Part of that is by necessity, once the show moved past George R.R. Martin’s novels it needed to refocus on paying off the stories that were so deliberately laid out. The other part seemed to come from the show’s desire to continually top itself and deliver the spectacle that the masses clearly wanted.
But this focus on moving the plot forward and delivering massive battles seemed to come at the cost of the small moments that made all of that spectacle worth something.
So as the army of the dead nears Winterfell and all of the characters we love face death incarnate, the show paused to allow those characters to reflect on the journey that brought them to this point.
But of all the satisfying moments in “A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms,” the second of six episodes in the final season of Game Of Thrones, one stands head and shoulders above the rest…
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) has long endured the snide comments and dismissal of everyone around her while simply trying to live honorable and with purpose. She spent years denying herself what she truly wanted, to become a knight. Thankfully, Ser Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldu) has the right to knight anyone he chooses and so, Brienne kneels and Jamie recites:
“In the name of the warrior, I charge you to be brave. In the name of the father, I charge you to be just. In the name of the mother, I charge you to defend the innocent. Arise, Brienne of Tarth, a knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
Then came this:
And if that was all this episode had given us, that would’ve been more than enough.
It’s moments like this one that make it all worth it, one that honors and celebrates the journey that these characters have been on.
Next week a bunch of characters we’ve grown to love are going to die as they come face to face with The Night King and his army. It’s going to be massive and bigger than anything the show has done to date but we go into that episode having spent two hours watching characters reunite and reflect on what brought them to this point and it was all worth it. As Alan Sepinwall so deftly put it in his post at Rolling Stone:
“For all that we love GoT‘s spectacle, those huge battle scenes mean nothing if we don’t care about the people living and dying through them, and writer Bryan Cogman seemed determined to remind us why we should still care about so many of the people huddled up in this castle to enjoy a drink before the war.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
This episode was great and I can’t wait for what comes next even though it’s going to be devastating. Many of these characters are going to meet their end next week and I don’t think I’m ready for it.
Man, it’s so good to have Game Of Thrones back.