Brienne, Arya, Sansa: Iron-willed women highlight this week's 'Game of Thrones'
The weapons have been made, the wine has been consumed and the pieces are in place.
The great battle of Winterfell is coming next week. But first, "Game of Thrones" delivered an emotional hour that some may deride as being overrun with fan service. Good thing we're all fans, I say.
The five best moments from Season 8, Episode 2, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms":
1. Ser Brienne of Tarth
The scene that gave the episode its name. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), a paragon of virtue in the lawless land of Westeros, finds herself in an unlikely fireside conclave, sitting between the man she loves, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and the man who lusts for her, Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju). A toast reveals that Brienne, the most skilled warrior at Winterfell, is not a knight -- tradition dictates that women can't be knighted in the Seven Kingdoms.
Tormund is incensed. Jaime is inspired, remembering that any knight has the power to bestow knighthood. Jaime asks the lady to kneel.
As she smiles amid tears, a refreshingly not-jealous Tormund begins to applaud. Her squire, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), beams with pride. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) heralds her new title.
It's a glorious moment for both character and actress -- and likely the completion of Brienne's arc. If you're picking a "Game of Thrones" deadpool ahead of next week's epic, supersized episode, Brienne's your new favorite.
Jaime's act feels, in some way, like a consummation of the unspoken bond between he and Brienne. Speaking of consummation ...
2. Arya's all grown up
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) takes control of the "you don't want to die a virgin, do you" trope, and takes control of her flirtatious relationship with blacksmith Gendry (Joe Dempsie). Arya's journey from rambunctious kid to faceless assassin has never allowed for romantic rest stops -- she's been too busy with all the murder and the, uh, baking. Gendry seems rather surprised (and perhaps overmatched, ha?) by the encounter.
Arya's not that little tomboy he met all those years ago. She's a woman warrior of Winterfell, a fierce product of her upbringing and her environment, and she's not going to spend the end of her life moping around with a miserable old expletive like The Hound (Rory McCann).
3. Sansa takes the lead
Arya could lead the Queensguard some day when her sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) sits atop the Iron Throne. Yes, that's my prediction as of this 69th episode, one in which the Lady of Winterfell looked into the eyes of the presumptuous dragon queen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), and all but rejected her olive branch: "What about the North? It was taken from us. We took it back. And we said we'd never bow to anyone else again. What about the North?"
Sansa is iron-willed but also capable of forgiveness and love, as evidenced when Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) returns to Winterfell and pledges fealty. Could she also have some tricks up her sleeve, tricks she learned from Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) before he felt the blade of justice? Sansa may be the kind of five-tool player that Westeros' championship team needs.
4. Jon's bad timing
Besides, Dany's path to the throne just got a lot harder, thanks to Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Jon decides that the best time to reveal his true parentage is about 30 seconds before the army of the dead shows up on their doorstep. I'm sure she'll totally step aside and let her nephew/boyfriend take her alleged birthright once the blood is spilled, right?
5. Concerning Hobbits
George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic never felt closer to J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic than it did this week, as Martin's characters prepared for their own version of Helm's Deep, the climactic battle from the second "Lord of the Rings" tome, "The Two Towers." The women and children of Winterfell will take refuge in the crypts, just as the people of Rohan retreated to the caves under the Middle-earth stronghold.
Podrick sings a wistful tune over a montage preceding next week's battle, recalling Pippin's song for Denethor as his son's army was obliterated by orcs in the movie version of "Return of the King." Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) presents his father's Valyrian blade to Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), bringing to mind Elrond's gift to Aragorn in the same film.
King Theoden's victory at Helm's Deep was sealed by the sudden appearance of Gandalf the White; could a Red Witch make a difference for Winterfell next week?
• Follow Widescreen columnist Sean Stangland on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.