Spoilers ahead - You've been warned.
Sunday night's episode of Game of Thrones warmed the hearts that next week's episode is preparing to run through with ice spears. But, more than calm-before-the-storm exposition, the episode was a parade of emotional pay-offs, some of which have been years in the making.
'A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms' continued to tee up the hopes I listed after the opening episode, most of which I still believe WILL happen. All that remains is to see how tight-fisted the show runners are with emotional satisfaction and general human decency. Or maybe I'll be surprised, or sad, or pleased beyond my wildest imaginings—who knows!
What I do know is this is the definitive list of the tenderest moments of Episode 2: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, ranked from 'a single tear' to 'gasping sobs.'
12 – Arya and Gendry making small talk & Arya and Gendry making babies
I know the show aged Arya up, and I know Maisie Williams is a 22-year-old adult (adult-ish) but this scene still wasn't for me. I'd call it the least tender of the tender moments. Sure, it still retained a thin veneer of tenderness, but everyone else was going to deep emotional places and Arya was just making sure she got some before the dead arrive.
Look, I get it. I see how it humanizes the very dehumanized Arya, and the whole thing was practically chaste for HBO, but it was still uncomfortable. Girl's a child... And I'm still harboring misgivings about the Many-Faced death god she seemingly serves. I have BAD FEELINGS about Arya's future.
11 – Jorah defends Tyrion’s failures to Danaerys
The cynic in me is wary of Jorah’s motives here, because he’s a top candidate for Queen’s Hand, but since I’m hoping all things for the final season, I’m going to say Jorah is just being a swell guy here. Vain self-interest and career maneuvering lose their lustre when the apocalypse is lining up outside your gates, and I think Jorah gets it. Almost dying of greyscale probably helps—nearly dying almost always helps temper stupidity.
Sure, Jorah admits Tyrion makes mistakes; he’s just a man as much as he’s a clever half-man. But the real quality of Tyrion Lannister, according to Jorah, is that he “owns […] and learns from [his failures].”
10 – The Hound, an Arya, and a one-eyed resurrectee walk onto a parapet…
You know two people are chill with each other when they can just sit on a parapet and share a drink long after one left the other for dead under a tree. Like the Hound though, I miss chatty Arya. A simple, “nice to see you” or “it’s pretty sweet you’re still alive” would’ve tenderized the moment but it was fitting for this oddest of couples.
Also, you know you’re getting to be friends when you can share the good news about the Lord of flaming swords, get shut down, and still just chill on a parapet together.
9 – Podrick, Tormund, Ser Davos, Brienne and the Lannister brothers sit around a fire and contemplate death
They sing a song. This is classic I’ll probably be dead tomorrow stuff. I especially liked the subtleties of Tyrion choosing relationships over his more reckless hedonism of earlier seasons. He calls for one more drink, not to forget but to extend the moment, and calls for a song they can all share.
Also, Tormund Giantbane is really Tormund creepy Giantsbaby, but he carries it with confidence and panache.
8 – Theon pledges his sword to Sansa and Winterfell Now we’re cooking!
Off the top of my head, I’d say Theon Greyjoy has the second most interesting redemption arc in the series. He’s a secondary character with a rollercoaster story, going from jerk, to traitor, to murderer, to object of deep pity, finally to broken man desperate for the strength to be brave and do right.
The guy is a collection of utter failures and honest, if often misguided, efforts. He deserves a win, and think he’ll get one next week.
7 – Jaime Lannister seeks forgiveness for his Season 1 sin
Full-circle moment here. Jaime started the series as an incestuous dirtbag with Prince Charming hair and went through the ringer. He was defeated, maimed, and thereby humbled. Along the way he realizes he’s more than his missing sword hand, and the honour he once thought got people killed, he’s not willing to die for.
So it’s not a huge surprise he regrets pushing a kid out a window and paralyzing him. That’s textbook personal growth.
6 – Samwell gives Jorah Mormont the sword of House Tarly
I have a soft spot in my heart for Sams who like to eat and are almost always scared (and therefore always ready to be brave)!
Sam and Jorah already have some history from Oldtown, where Sam risked his life to peel off Jorah’s deadly skin disease. The show reminds us over and over that Sam’s strength, much like Tyrion, is in his mind, not his might. But it’s also in his heart. Sam offers Jorah the Valyrian steel great sword of House Tarly, the heirloom of the father and brother Sam lost of Dany’s dragons.
Why? Because of the love he has for Jorah’s father, the late Lord Commander Mormot. “He taught me how to be a man,” says Sam.
A man indeed! Sam gave Jorah a second chance after greyscale and now he’s offering him a fighting chance of doing something with that life.
5 – Ser Davos and the fiery Soup Girl
The soup scene gave off strong Helm’s Deep vibes, and it warms my heart to see the show leaning on The Lord of the Rings, here, at the edge of the end of all things in Westeros.
The little girl, an obvious victim of fire, gets her soup from Ser Davos (onion soup, perhaps?) and requests a weapon and a spot on the frontline. “I want to fight,” she says, and her eyes confirm it. When death comes all the living are fit to fight but still, not all will fight alike. Ser Davos, whose magnanimity here isn’t feigned or forced, thanks the girl for her heart and offers her an opportunity to be brave.
The most vulnerable will wait out the battle in the crypts and they will need a defender, Davos tells her. Soup in hand, she declares: “I will defend the crypts, then.” Did I mention that she reminds Ser Davos of the late Princess Shirene? I’m not crying, you’re crying.
4 – Theon volunteers to guard Bran in the godswood
My man Theon. His pledge to Sansa, to defend the Starks and Winterfell, wasn’t empty.
Bran volunteers to lure the Night King close, and Theon volunteers to protect the bait. He’s wronged the Starks and he’s prepared to make up for failures. He’s prepared to defend the home and the family that was there for him, the whole time. Theon is going to die, and his redemption arc will be complete!
3 – Brienne, and then Sansa, vouch for Jaime Lannister
Trustworthiness begets trust.
Jaime brings news of Cersei’s betrayal and is quickly defended by Tyrion’s logic, which Danaerys immediately suspects. If one Lannister killed her father, and another recently lied to her face, maybe her Hand is worthy of doubt.
But Brienne stands up for Jaime, recalling how he stood for her and lost his hand for her honour. And Sansa, for her part, lends her support to Brienne. She trusts Brienne completely, so Brienne’s total endorsement of Jaime becomes Sansa’s own, and Danaerys is too wise to ignore that kind of hard-won trust.
I love it when people stand up to make declarations.
2 – Jaime, formerly the greatest swordsman in the realm, asks to serve under Brienne's command
I mean, what else is there to say. Jaime spots her from the battlements and goes down to talk shop on the soon-to-be battlefield. He learns she has command of the left flank and asks to fight behind her. He will fight next to her, I’m sure, but he is very precise: “I would be honoured to serve under your command.”
Jaime’s respect of Brienne is not begrudging, and it is beautiful.
1 – Jaime knights Brienne, making her Ser Brienne of Tarth
The pattern is now clear. Jaime and Brienne are fabulous, and their love is so much more than romance.
Brienne is the closest Westeros has to a true knight even without the title, and Ser Jaime was the picture of a false knight before he met Brienne. His offer, his insistence, to knight Brienne on the eve of the battle with the dead speaks as much to his regard for Brienne as it does to his own longing to reclaim his honour and idealism.
This is the tenderest moment of the episode, and one of most beautiful of the series, because it's a picture of what a dark, broken world could be.