This week’s Game of Thrones wasn’t so much about conflict as it was about preparing for — and dreading — conflict. But this is Westeros, and there’s always a fight to be had.
James Whitbrook: Welcome back to Battle of Thrones, io9‘s weekly breakdown of an important moment of conflict in the latest episode Game of Thrones’ final season—whether it be a war of words or a clash of swords.
Last week, I joined Beth as we discussed the brewing divide between Daenerys and Sansa, but this week, I’m joined by io9 news editor Cheryl Eddy to talk “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” Hi Cheryl!
Cheryl Eddy: Hi! Two down, four to go!
James: God, it really feels weird when you put it like that! The show is still building up towards the literal biggest battle it can this season—the fight for Winterfell against the Night King’s armies—so this week was an episode that wasn’t really about a lot of conflict. But I wanted to dive a bit deeper into the one really interesting catalyst for conflict in this episode, the trial of Jaime Lannister.
Cheryl: We saw him arrive at the very end of “Winterfell,” so we knew this was coming. He (obviously) didn’t get the warmest welcome, but it could have been a lot worse, too. You could tell Dany kinda wanted to feed him to the dragons!
James: What I liked most about this reckoning—with Dany dragging him in front of the Starks and Tyrion and the gathered northerners to hash out Jaime’s history with the Targaryens—is that, in many ways, Dany is a stand-in for our expectations about this long-awaited encounter. She is out for blood from the get-go, and it’s all looking like this juicy drama. And so were we!
Cheryl: I think Jaime was most worried that Bran would reveal that huge secret! But we’re never going to get a moment like that, it’s now clear. Bran does things in his own Bran way now.
James: Oh, but he got that great jab in by repeating back Jaime’s words from the very first episode. The look on Jaime’s face after he said it was just incredible.
Cheryl: “Oh shiiiiiiit!”
James: But I think that also emphasises in so many ways just how much the way this scene plays out is a subversion of our expectations, ultimately—like Dany, we came prepared for drama. We expected Bran to drop the big bombshell. But the people in that room, Jaime included, have changed so much since the start of the show—since before the start of the show, in his case as the Kingslayer—that instead of getting that anticipated conflict, it’s defused for everyone almost immediately.
Cheryl: There’s a ton of tension in this episode, but instead of between the characters (for once), it’s mostly about how everyone’s feeling about what’s going to happen in a few short hours. Even the shared distrust of someone like Jaime, who has a lot to answer for even though he’s basically a good guy now, takes a back seat to the larger conflict.
James: Agreed — there’s a version of this scene where Dany gets what she wants without question, kills Jaime then and there, and then everyone’s at each other’s throats. But everyone (seemingly aside from her, even though she has to back down) realises that Jaime is there on his word, unlike his sister, and he’s there because it’s a fight beyond Houses squabbling over things that happened…god, nearly a decade ago in Ned’s case, and even longer with Aerys?
Cheryl: We didn’t get any King’s Landing this week (I wonder if we will next week, either?), which really kept the focus on that bigger fight. Back to Jaime though, that scene where he talks to Bran did not unfold how I expected, either.
James: There’s a lot of acceptance of people and things in this episode at large, or at least, putting conflicts aside to focus on that impending threat of the White Walkers. I loved that Bran was just like “maybe it’s for the best, actually” — not just practically speaking, that they need Jaime alive, but in that he recognises that moment between them was in the past and that they’ve both changed as people because of it.
And that the change is… good? Mostly good. Good-ish.
Cheryl: Good now, but getting there was hellish!
What did you make of Bran’s comment about “How do you know there IS an afterwards?” Is he dropping hints or just being Bran-cryptic?
James: I took it, in a small way, as an acceptance of Jaime, in that it’s almost the closest thing Bran can come to offering encouragement at this point? Even if it’s delivered in a hilariously unsettling manner.
I don’t think Bran can see specifically enough yet just how it’ll all go down, but there’s this tiny look on his face just before he says it that it’s almost like it’s cute that Jaime just accepts that they’ll make it out of the other side of the fight so casually. Sort of like Han Solo-ian “don’t get cocky, kid,” but delivered by a creepy supernatural mystic teen.
Cheryl: That’s true. That also makes me realise we’ve seen Bran view the past, like when he was “there” for Jon’s birth, Hodor’s childhood, etc., but has he ever really looked into the future? I guess he knew Jaime was coming, if that’s the “old friend” he meant…Bran’s powers are definitely creepy, supernatural, and mysterious though.
James: Oooh, that’s interesting to consider. I wanted to draw it back to the “trial” again to ask you a question—we’ve talked about Dany’s reaction there to Jaime. What did you think of Sansa’s?
Cheryl: Sansa and Dany have both had their families wrecked by this man. But Sansa also knows that Brienne wouldn’t stick up for someone who’s just a cold-blooded killer.
James: I thought it was fascinating—it felt, to call back to my discussion with Beth last week, like not a conflict between Jaime and Sansa, but a continuation of that lingering divide between Sansa and Dany. It’s very pointed, she starts off as if she’s actually backing up Dany’s argument — “Oh yeah he was a jerk to my family too!” — but then she shows the room and Daenerys in particular that she can put it aside and accept Brienne’s defence of who Jaime is now. Like, this very low-key nod to Daenerys of “look, I can be pragmatic about this, what about you?”
Cheryl: That’s very true. And—Targaryen history that happened before Dany was old enough to remember aside—Sansa’s relationship with the Lannisters is even more involved and personal. Both women know Tyrion pretty well, but only Sansa went through seeing her father die, living with the twin horrors of Joffrey and Cersei, etc. So her putting aside her hatred, fear, dislike, whatever shape it takes of Jaime is almost more magnanimous.
Also, there’s a good chance everyone in that room was listening more to Sansa anyway, since nobody in the North is really Team Dany at this point. Then Jon’s all, “Sure, yeah, let’s let him fight” (not the exact quote, ha!) which pretty much seals the deal.
James: That’s the thing about this entire “conflict” in this episode, I think. It’s small in the grand scheme of the episode, but most interestingly, it’s a conflict where Jaime is the catalyst for discussion between other characters rather than necessarily part of the conflict directly. He’s not actively going up against Dany, or Sansa, or Bran—he’s the focal point everyone around him in that trial scene can bounce off of each other with.
Cheryl: Definitely. Here’s hoping that next Sunday, everyone manages to work together when it really counts. Even though Game of Thrones characters sometimes have a hard time doing that…fighting the Night King seems like the one thing everyone can agree on. Except Cersei, of course.