‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ reminds GoT fans why they love watching

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‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ reminds GoT fans why they love watching

Jaime Lannister returns to Winterfell.

Jaime Lannister returns to Winterfell.

HBO

Jaime Lannister returns to Winterfell.

HBO

HBO

Jaime Lannister returns to Winterfell.

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This week, “Game of Thrones” reminded fans exactly what made it one of the most successful shows in the world by taking characters they’ve spent a decade with and throwing them all under one roof—and the results were heartwarming, weighted and hilarious.

After last week’s table-setting episode, some viewers might have expected “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” to jump back into the action. The fact that “Game of Thrones” decided to take a one-episode detour though from killing altogether should serve as an omen though; when The Night King and his undead army arrive next week, it’s unlikely that everyone will make it out alive.

What the show-runners did intelligently this week was pace the episode quickly and quietly, giving just about everyone excellent moments to shine, that they avoided the television convention of getting plenty of quality-time to reinvest viewers with a character just before their head gets lopped-off (think for instance even of season one, when fans got to spend a whole episode locked in the Red Keep’s dungeons with Ned Stark before he met that fate).

It was exactly those varied and compelling character moments that let this episode shine. “Game of Thrones” has been keeping us with these characters and the actors that play them for a decade now, and it reminded viewers of that in more ways than one (Twitter is already making that clear). From the beginning of the episode, the show flaunted a dynamic it would repeat throughout the hour—take characters which the audience have gotten to see every facet, complication and flaw and throw them into an emotional cage-match with other characters that are equally as fleshed out.

Oftentimes, this ended positively with interactions that took full advantage of the history built into the show. Bran forgiving (if one could call it that) Jaime, Arya and The Hound commiserating on the ramparts before being interrupted by Beric Dondarrion and a sermon that almost got him thrown off, and especially Brienne of Tarth being knighted by someone she may actually consider a friend.

Brienne of Tarth being knighted (and giving the episode its title) is a reminder of what fans have loved about “Game of Thrones” since the first novel came out. The series’ penchant for bucking tradition, as Tormund roughly put it, allows it to utilize unconventional story structures and character arcs. Brienne’s character was designed by author George R.R. Martin from the beginning to be the ideal knight—chivalrous, honorable, skilled and dedicated to protecting those in her charge without expecting marriage or riches in return—in order to highlight to hypocrisy of the knight-errant archetype. Perhaps her knighting is the end of a long arc, but it’ll have plenty to dig into for years to come.

Another traditional genre convention bucked tonight came ominously in the interaction between Daenerys and Sansa. What started off as a seemingly successful attempt to mend relations and keep the northern alliance secure turned into a potentially disastrous crack when Sansa asked the question nobody wants to ask—what comes next?

Fantasy stories have often built towards the climactic final battle with the heroes’ triumph joyously capping off the tale. But “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” was only episode two of the season, and the audience has a long way to go. Cersei and her forces are amassing in the South and a fissure between the Starks and the Targaryens could make the fate of the Iron Throne an increasingly bloody affair.

This week’s episode was by-and-large a happy affair, and a reminder for fans exactly why they love seeing these characters interact. As Daenery’s advisors pointed out last week though upon seeing her and Jon happy together, “Nothing lasts.” Except, perhaps, the image of Tormund Giantsbane wintering with a giant’s widow.