There are, once again, no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season (the final season!) and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, two resident Thrones experts/dragon enthusiasts, Josh Kurp and Ryan Harkness, will answer your eight most pressing questions.
1. Was Daenerys right to let Jaime join the battle against the dead?
Whether she was right or not, she had little choice in the matter. As much as she keeps claiming the Seven Kingdoms as her home and birthright, she’s a long way from home and surrounded by distrustful lords and temporary allies. She still seems offended by the lack of smallfolk with dragon banners coming out of the woodwork to support her, and hasn’t grasped how much damage the Mad King Aerys did to the family brand during his “burn them all” phase.
So what else could Daenerys do at that point? She laid out her issue with Jaime in the strongest terms possible, but the mood of the room quickly turned after Brienne stood for the Kingslayer and won over Sansa Stark, who continues to wear the real pants in Winterfell. Jon Snow sees everyone with a pulse as a potential ally, even after getting Ceasar’d by the last group of obvious enemies he kept around. Dany was stuck, unable to defend the Mad King (her pops) by insisting his killer be punished, lest she seem like the Mad King herself.
The consequences of all this are unclear, what with the army of the dead right outside Winterfell’s walls. But everyone else around Daenerys is clearly still playing the Game of Thrones, so why wouldn’t she? Will all this resentment make the Mother of Dragons a bit less willing to bring Drogon to the rescue when Brienne and Jaime’s left flank runs into trouble? At a certain point, you’d hope humanity would stop dividing everything up into house loyalties, but if that’s not going to happen you better start looking out for your own interests… or someone’s going to put a sword through your back. — Ryan Harkness
2. Why did Sam hand his sword over to Jorah?
During Sunday’s episode, we got to watch Samwell hand over the ancestral Tarly sword Heartsbane to Jorah Mormont. Now sometimes (even on Game of Thrones), a Valyrian steel sword is just a sword, and there is no more secret purpose to it storywise than to arm Jorah with a blade that would let him kill White Walkers during the imminent battle for Winterfell. But Heartsbane did travel an awfully long way — Horn Hill is even further south than Highgarden and Sam stole it from his father’s mantle back in season six, episode six.
As usual, there’s been a lot of speculation about the sword ever since the moment eagle-eyed viewers noticed Jorah wielding Heartsbane during a promo clip for season eight. Still missing from the show is Lightbringer, Azor Ahai’s mythical weapon used to defeat the darkness. Considering darkness is knocking at the front gate, now sure would be a good time for it to appear. But little is known of the blade, other than its propensity to burn hot like fire during battle and the grisly method used to forge it. As the legend goes, Azor Ahai tempered the blade by driving it through the heart of his great love, Nissa Nissa.
At this point, we all understand the magical powers royal blood and great sacrifice brings in Westeros, and it just so happens that Jorah has a beloved handy in Winterfell that would classify both as both: Daenerys Targaryen. Tying the whole thing together is the ancient blade’s conspicuous name, Heartsbane. But hey, maybe it’s just a damn sword that kills Others. — RH
3. Why did Davos seem so struck by that little girl?
Game of Thrones has seemingly forgotten that Davos has a wife, but he hasn’t forgotten another lady in his life: Shireen Baratheon, who was sacrificed to the Lord of Light (burned at the stake) by Melisandre. The Onion Knight took the news of her death hard, understandably so; she taught him how to read and that there’s a “g” in “night.” So, when he saw another young woman with greyscale-scarring on her face, he couldn’t help but think of his friend Shireen.
Same with Gilly. She’s no longer illiterate thanks to Stannis’ daughter, whose presence is still being felt despite her untimely demise: if Shireen hadn’t taught Gilly how to read, then Gilly would have never discovered that Rhaegar Targaryen (who she mispronounces as “Ragger”) had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled so he could secretly wed Lyanna Stark, leading to the revelation that Jon is a Targaryen and rightful heir to the Throne over Daenerys.
The moment of affection between Davos and Gilly is lovely.
And heartbreaking. — JK
4. What is the significance/origin of Podrick’s song?
Just when you thought your heartstrings were just pulled to the max with Jaime knighting Brienne, Podrick Payne of all people busts out a beautiful rendition of “Jenny’s Song” (performed by Florence + the Machine), a mysterious tune from the books that’s loaded with historic importance and potential future ramifications. The Jenny being referenced is Jenny of Oldstones, a commoner who captured the heart of Duncan Targaryen. Set to inherit the throne from his father Aegon V (so many Aegons!), Duncan gave up his birthright to marry her.
So if you’re Daenerys, that’s probably sounding like a pretty romantic move for a certain lover to make right about now. But it goes deeper than that. Duncan and Jenny died at Summerhall when Aegon attempted to bring dragons back with magic. Instead, the castle burned to the ground, killing off a decent portion of the Targaryen family tree. One person who survived was Princess Rhaella, who gave birth to Rhaegar Targaryen during the incident. Rhaegar would later woo Lyanna Stark at the Tournament of Harrenhal by singing her a song so sad it made her weep: “Jenny’s Song.” It’s a different kind of R + L = J. — RH
5. Is Brienne really the first female knight?
Indeed. In one of the sweetest moments of the episode (series?), Jaime bestows the honor of knighthood upon Brienne, making her Ser Brienne of Tarth. There is no formal ban against women becoming a knight of the Seven Kingdoms; it’s just not something that’s “culturally acceptable.” Remember, this is basically medieval times we’re talking about — it’s not Wokesteros (sorry). Women are still largely considered second-class citizens who belong in the crypts looking after the kids, and it’s rare to find a female warrior in the history books. Not impossible, though! Look no further than Lyanna Mormont.
“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.” Brienne has been brave and just all along. Now it’s official. — JK
6. Are the crypts really “the safest place in Winterfell”?
We lost count of the number of times people were told that the crypts are the safest place in Winterfell (the word “crypt” pops up nine times in the script — the Cryptkeeper is thrilled to be joined by so many boils and ghouls). And on one hand, sure, it makes sense. It’s far away from the action, with only a single entrance to worry about. It’s little known and well hidden enough that the Ironborn never thought to check it back when Bran and Rickon hid down there during the last sack of the castle. But it’s also the place where the Starks bury their dead, and you’re dealing with an enemy that can use that to its advantage.
Every time someone said the crypts were safe, I had visions of all the freshly murdered Starks shambling up from their tombs. Ned Stark’s corpse was boiled down to bones, so at least he’s probably safe. But did Robb Stark’s body make it back up to Winterfell? His wife Talisa, with a dead baby in her belly? Rickon is definitely among the tombs, and maybe even a number of trusted family servants who died at the hands of the Greyjoys. The key takeaway: even if there’s only one dead body down there, that’s clearly enough dead bodies to kickstart a sudden undead outbreak no different than the ones we’ve seen in classic zombie apocalypse shows and movies. At that point, the crypts will definitely not be the safest place in Winterfell. — RH
7. So, ice dragon?
For an episode that took place entirely within the walls of Winterfell, a lot happened this episode: Arya and Gendry got it on, Brienne became a knight, Jaime didn’t lose his head, Daenerys and Sansa continued to shoot daggers with their eyes (Dany also learned the incestuous truth about her and Jon), and Bran volunteered as tribute. That was a crucial scene for reasons we already got in to, but it was also a waste. You know what words were never spoken while the living were plotting a defense against the dead? ICE DRAGON.
Look, maybe it’s just me (it’s not), but it seems like Viserion destroying the Wall probably should have come up. This would be more forgivable if Tormund, who saw firsthand what Daenerys’ winged-baby is capable of, wasn’t in attendance during the Winterfell meeting of the minds, but nope, he was right there, not speaking up for the first time… ever? He must have been distracted by Brienne.
Oh well, I’m sure everything will be fine. It’s only a zombie dragon with the ability to “breathe cold, a chill so terrible that it can freeze a man solid in half a heartbeat,” writes George R.R. Martin. What could “possibli” go wrong? — JK
8. Who’s most likely to die in next week’s episode?
Next week is the long-awaited Battle of Winterfell episode, the one that’s been called the most “sustained action sequence ever made for television or film” and left the cast “miserable.” Some more miserable than others: if Thrones wants to trim the callsheet heading into the second half of season eight, the living vs. the dead is the time to do it. The big two, Daenerys and Jon, are probably safe, and I’d be surprised if Sansa, Arya, or Bran kicked the bucket. Same with Brienne, who just got her moment of glory, and Tyrion. His brother, though, might not be so lucky. Jaime’s goal — tell everyone that Cersei is full of it — has been accomplished, and he’s been fully redeemed following his knighting of Brienne.
But the question isn’t to name everyone who will die next episode (too long) — it’s who’s MOST likely to die. Grey Worm is a tempting choice, considering he’s already talking about taking a beach vacation with Missandei, but I’m going with Theon Greyjoy. He returned to Winterfell to fight (and fall) for Sansa, making his arc nearly complete. The only thing left for the former-Reek, who once betrayed his surrogate family the Starks (eventually leading to the rise of Ramsay Bolton), to do is sacrifice his life to protect the North. He’s in a good position for that, too, protecting Bran, who’s being used as bait, when the Night King comes knocking. There’s a lot of discussion over how to stop the leader of the White Walkers, but there’s no debate on killing a living, breathing human. Just ask the two farm boys Theon murdered (I haven’t forgiven him). — JK
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