5 years in the past, Game of Thrones aired its final nice episode. Here’s why it nonetheless holds up

Brienne of Tarth looks up in episode 2 of Game of Thrones season 8.

Many followers would possible agree that Game of Thrones went out not with a bang, however a profound whimper. After dominating popular culture for practically 10 years, the hit HBO sequence concluded with a trio of episodes that have been universally reviled by each followers and critics alike. The present’s lackluster, ham-fisted finale led to its reputation seemingly vanishing into skinny air. In the 5 years because it aired, time hasn’t been form to Game of Thrones season 8.

To this present day, many individuals nonetheless talk about the sequence’ last season with a mixture of bitterness and disbelief, and people followers received’t discover any disagreement concerning the high quality of Game of Thrones‘ last few chapters here. As disappointing as its eighth season remains, though, April 21 marked the five-year anniversary of its noteworthy second episode, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. The fan-favorite installment ranks not only as its season’s greatest chapter, but additionally as the last great episode that Game of Thrones ever produced.

Five years later, it hasn’t misplaced an oz. of its energy. As a matter of reality, the episode is each an astonishing reminder of what made Game of Thrones such a particular TV sequence within the first place and a helpful key to fixing the place the episodes that adopted it went fallacious.

The calm earlier than The Long Night

Jaime Lannister stands in Winterfell's grand hall in episode 2 of Game of Thrones season 8.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a variety of issues. It’s a prologue to the central, apocalyptic battle of the present’s subsequent episode, The Long Night, and a methodically paced follow-up to Game of Thrones‘ season 8 premiere, Winterfell, which spends much of its runtime paying off series-long threads and laying the groundwork for what’s to come back. It’s additionally a uncommon factor within the historical past of Game of Thrones: a hangout episode.

Set within the hours main as much as what its characters rightly imagine might be the tip of the world, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms provides its heroes, in addition to these watching at dwelling, the possibility to say goodbye. The episode, penned by longtime Game of Thrones author Bryan Cogman, is full of moments each sudden and long-awaited — from Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) apologizing to Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) for pushing him out a window within the present’s very first episode to The Hound (Rory McCann) reuniting with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). Even one transient shot of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) sharing a meal with Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) carries huge weight, thanks partly to all that the 2 characters have beforehand been by way of collectively and in addition to the wealthy, lived-in performances given by Turner and Allen.

It provides the highlight to one of many present’s greatest storylines

Jamie knights Brienne in episode 2 of Game of Thrones season 8.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms crucially doesn’t rush by way of these or another interactions, irrespective of how huge or small they could appear. It’s an episode that treasures attending to spend as a lot time with its characters as it may well and permits its viewers to savor the moments of reconciliation, redemption, and connection that fill it. Nowhere is that clearer than when Jaime decides to offer his longtime, unstated love curiosity, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), the knightly title she’s wished all her life. Director David Nutter superbly emphasizes each one of many scene’s dramatic beats, whether or not or not it’s Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) silently giving Brienne permission to really need the sort of recognition she’s lengthy deserved or Jaime’s hand nervously discovering a agency maintain of his sword simply earlier than he raises it onto Brienne’s shoulders.

It’s as cathartic as any nice Game of Thrones scene, and never simply because it’s the uncommon occasion by which issues go proper for one in every of its heroes. Beginning in its third season, the HBO sequence spent years constructing towards the second when Jaime and Brienne’s mutual respect and love might be really acknowledged. In A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, not solely do each characters do this for one another, however Jaime’s resolution to knight Brienne marks the climax of his redemption arc and pays off all of the occasions she’d already confirmed herself as arguably the present’s most honorable character. It’s a second that feels hard-won and earned, and it rewards viewers for investing a lot time and emotion into Jaime and Brienne’s tales.

It prioritizes character over plot

The Hound sits with Arya in episode 2 of Game of Thrones season 8.

For most of its eight-season run, Game of Thrones skillfully balanced its characters’ private tales with its overarching plot. What makes A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms fascinating in that regard is that it doesn’t actually have a lot of a plot. Almost all the pieces that occurs in it’s immediately arrange by the episode that instantly precedes it, and it actively prioritizes its characters and their feelings over no matter narrative calls for viewers would possibly go in anticipating it to meet. As a outcome, it proves that what actually made Game of Thrones nice was how its characters and their tales at all times appeared to naturally collide and bounce off one another. With its single-location setting and nearly meandering tempo, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms constantly places its characters first, and that’s what makes it so enduringly particular.

Unfortunately, the identical can’t be stated of the episodes that comply with it, which strive unsuccessfully to pack a number of seasons’ value of twists and character growth into a surprisingly small window of time. In its second half, Game of Thrones season 8 places its plot first and, consequently, loses the sense of natural spontaneity that made the present really feel so alive and unpredictable for thus lengthy. That stated, the HBO sequence’ last-minute errors don’t reduce the ability of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms‘ best moments. On the contrary, the episode’s highs solely make Thrones‘ subsequent lows all of the extra irritating.

Game of Thrones | Season 8 Episode 2 | ”A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” Trailer

Even now, 5 years later, they drive one to ask: How might the sequence get a lot so proper solely to get all the pieces fallacious just a few weeks later? We might by no means know the true reply to that query, however not less than we’ll at all times have A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

All eight seasons of Game of Thrones can be found to stream now on Max.

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