Obviously, there are going to spoilers not just for episode 8-03 but previous episodes also. And capslock. A lot of capslock.
Before I start, I need to just mention that I'm relatively new to the Thrones party. Paul and I marathoned it about four years ago when Sky Atlantic did one of their standard pre-new-season catch-ups, and TBH we actually ended up watching it a lot sooner than intended. We set up a series record for it on Sky and didn't realise it was recording three episodes a day until the remaining box space suddenly dropped, so had to watch it to free it up again. I think that was just before season 5 premiered, but I can't really remember now. Regardless, within about four episodes we were both completely hooked.
I already knew of various spoilers at that point thanks to Tumblr - "You know nothing, Jon Snow", Joffrey's death, Danaerys being the Dragon Queen, and the Red Wedding specifically spring to mind, though I didn't know full details about anything. This was also a prime example of me shipping a thing before I knew it was a thing, and the thing in this case was Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth, or Braime for short. I knew that they were popular and when I finally watched the show I think I pre-empted that I would ship them, and approached their scenes together with that endpoint in mind. I emphatically did not pre-empt quite how much, and honestly, if I hadn't already been aware of them I blatantly would have shipped them anyway. (I have since learned that GRRM intended Braime to be a Beauty and the Beast allegory; I was evidently doomed.)
My secondary ship, which I did not already know about in advance, is Sansa/Tyrion (Sanrion), and to a lesser degree I also ship Arya/Gendry (Gendrya), Dany/Jorah, Samwell/Gilly, and Grey Worm/Missandei (I don't think they have a portmanteau). Episode two also gave me some totally unprecedented Sansa/Theon (Theonsa) feels.
At this point I would have to list my favourite characters overall as Brienne, Jaime and Tyrion; I've loved Tyrion since the beginning and Jaime grew on me along with the Braime ship. His character arc has been one of the best and I will defend him to the death. I don't know how anyone can not love Brienne because honestly just look at her, so pure, so good, so done with your misogyny. I also have soft spots for Arya, Jorah Mormont, Sandor (the Hound) and Samwell, and I really liked both Margaery and Olenna Tyrell.
Special mentions also for Peter Baelish (Littlefinger), Cersei Lannister and Ramsey Bolton as well-rounded "villains" who are differently evil and/or batshit insane. I also loved Tywin Lannister but I think that was the Charles Dance effect.
I like both Jon and Danaerys as characters but I can take or leave Jonaerys as a pairing. I know they are popular in the fandom but I'm not the kind of shipper who can latch onto characters who have literally no interactions, and honestly their relationship felt like the worst kind of fanservice. (But to complain about fanservice after last week's episode would be hypocritical of me, quite frankly. :P)
Anyway, this post is mostly going to focus on individual characters so I can flail about them, in the context of which I will flail generally about the most recent episode. The final section will, of course, be about Jaime and Brienne because this ship has sucked me into a black hole, chewed me up and spat me out twelve times over in the space of a fortnight. So, just consider that a warning.
First, a Headcount
NGL, I spent the entire episode in a state of heightened terror because I was totally convinced they would break my heart and kill literally everyone I love. Such being said, here's a quick tally from what I can remember.
Confirmed alive: Podrick, Jon, Dany, Drogon, Samwell, Arya, Sandor, Bran, Tyrion, Sansa, Davos Seaworthy, Jaime and Brienne (thank fuck)
Confirmed dead: Jorah Mormont, Night King, Wight!Viserion, Lyanna Mormont (but she went out like a badass), Mellisandre, Beric Dondarion (I may have gotten his name wrong), Theon (sorry mate, the entire fandom called it) plus several thousand Dothraki, Unsullied, Wildlings, Free Folk, Northeners, etc.
Status unknown: Tormund, Gilly and Little Sam, Missandei, Varys, Grey Worm, Gendry, Rhaegal, Jon Snow's direwolf whose name I keep forgetting. (I'm mostly unsure about anyone who was in the crypt because that all went too fast to keep up with).
Honestly, I know a lot of people have complained about how dark the entire episode was (in terms of lighting rather than content!) but I actually loved that because it created so much more tension when you literally couldn't see what was going on, particularly combined with how fast everything was going. ISTG my heart stopped when both Brienne AND Jaime went under at separate times (twice, in Jaime's case, and in Brienne's case within the first 15 minutes of the episode FFS) and I honestly thought Tyrion was a goner. After the Night King and the wights were gone I was desperately searching every shot to make sure my faves were still intact!
Right, now for character stuff, in no particular order except how it pops into my brain.
I was really hoping for some kind of payoff between Sandor and Arya after their journey north, and OH MY GOD did they deliver. I loved him shutting down into a frozen stupor after getting triggered by all the fire, and the fact that he only snapped out of it when Arya was in danger.
I await the upcoming stand off between Sandor and his brother with baited breath. Even if Sandor dies taking out Ser Gregor (preferably with FIRE), that would be the ending he deserves.
Podrick's journey from clumsy squire to would-be knight has been epic, but in particular I loved that final framing shot of him standing with Jaime and Brienne, the greatest fighters (and KNIGHTS OMG) in Westeros. Brienne must be SO PROUD of him, and I hope Tyrion is as well.
I'm honestly surprised that Samwell was fighting; I know he wanted to but I really thought he would be holed up with the women and children and other non-fighters in the crypt. I'm not sure he will come out of it fully intact, though - after it was over he was just lying on a pile of bodies and laughing hysterically. I hope they haven't broken him because they really need both Samwell and Bran to work out what the Night King has been about.
Sansa and Tyrion
Sansa didn't really have much to do in this episode (other than DESTROY MY HEART in her interactions with Tyrion) but I loved her little exchange with Arya when she was given the dagger. I may be misremembering but I'm sure "Stick 'em with the pointy end" was the advice Jon gave to Arya when he had Needle made for her (I am way overdue a full rewatch so now it's finishing I will get the DVD's).
I suspect the reason that Sansa didn't have much to do this time is because they're building up to some proper political badassery in the remaining episodes. I have a pet theory that Sansa may end up on the Iron Throne, or at least as Queen in the North which is of course her birthright now that we know Jon is not Ned Stark's bastard, and Robb is dead. Regardless, I love that she is now a totally ruthless politician because it's no less than she deserves after everything.
Honestly, though - that moment with Tyrion when they were hiding behind the tomb was one of my favourite moments. At first I thought it was Sansa who was going to charge into the room with the knife, and that entire silent exchange between them was just GUH. I actually thought she was going to kiss him (I think my heart would have exploded), so when he lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles with that LOOK on his face I almost lost it completely. Then when he marched off I screamed "NO!!!!" at the television because I was absolutely convinced it was game over.
(Paul later asked if I wanted to re-watch the last 20 minutes of the episode and I was like "NO. I CANNOT COPE WITH ALL THAT AGAIN.")
Theooooonnnnn. I know we all called it straight off the bat ("I'll protect Bran." Yep, you're dead, mate.) but Theon's journey to that point has been so great. From being a ward of Winterfell to taking it from the Starks, getting tortured by Ramsey beyond breaking point, escaping with Sansa, saving Yara after wimping out the first time, to finally fighting for Winterfell and going up against the frigging Night King single-handedly even though he knew what would happen. I can't think of a more fitting end to his story.
I say again: Theoooooonnnnnnnnn.
Oh my lord, I do not even know where to begin.
It was awesome seeing Arya-the-Assassin at work. I know we've seen it before but her fancy footwork with her double-ended spear was a joy to behold.
The scene in the library was like something out of The Last of Us (the jumpscare reminded me of those QTE's where if you don't press the right button in time you die) and was so well done. Then the aftermath with Sandor and Beric-if-that-is-his-name (and his sacrifice!) which was almost impossible to follow but heart-stoppingly brilliant.
And of course I can't let this go without mentioning Arya's crowning moment of assassinating the shit out of the Night King. YASS QUEEN. She just literally came out of nowhere. When he'd caught her around the throat I screamed "NO!!!" for the second time in half an hour, and then she fucking brought it and both Paul and I leapt off the sofa and screamed/cheered (and terrified poor Leo who was on my lap). That was one HELL of a twist.
Thank goodness we don't have any direct neighbours!
This morning I've caught up on Tumblr posts since Sunday (after actively avoiding it yesterday) and was reminded that actually, the show has been foreshadowing this for some time. I'd completely forgotten about Arya meeting Mellisandre years before, and saw a gifset this morning where she predicted that Arya would "close forever" a pair of brown, blue and green eyes. Brown I'm guessing was Walder Frey or Littlefinger, blue was the Night King, so green MUST be Cersei. And I want Arya to kill Cersei ALMOST as much as I want Jaime to do it. In fact I'd even go for them doing it in tandem at this point.
(My colleague suggested Arya should kill Cersei whilst wearing Jaime's face, but for that to happen Jaime would have to die. IF YOU TOUCH A SINGLE HAIR ON JAIME LANNISTER'S HEAD I WILL END YOU.)
Jon and Dany
One thing became increasingly apparent in this episode, which is that Jon and Danaerys are really. terrible. strategists. Why would you send your cavalry off into the darkness rather than just incinerating everything first to thin out the enemy? Why not just light the pallisade on fire to begin with? Why not just build a moat and keep it warm using Winterfell's underground furnaces so it doesn't freeze over, then pick off the wights from the battlements? (Although I guess there is also every likelihood that the wights would do with water exactly as they did when faced with a wall of fire, i.e. just build a fucking bridge out of themselves.)
See, what they actually needed was Jaime Lannister, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, helping them strategise, rather than putting him on trial as soon as he arrived and leaving him to his own devices essentially as a commoner. I mean, I'm not complaining AT ALL that he got to fight next to Brienne (not even under her like he promised which I'll get to later) but he has so many skills which they just did not utilise, and it's cost them thousands of lives whilst giving Cersei exactly what she wanted - to decimate their army before they move south.
Anyway, back to Jon and Dany. The dragon fight with Viserion was pretty awesome, and I will never fail to be impressed by the fire-breathing. Viserion kicking the absolute shit out of Winterfell was amazeballs, and thank goodness the Night King didn't manage to take down Drogon in the first place is all I can say.
The "Dracaris!" moment was great, but even as soon as Dany uttered the command I knew full well it would be useless, because if the Night King could be destroyed by fire surely someone would have managed it already. His smug face as he emerged unscathed was chilling.
Then that bit later when Jon was clumsily attempting to sneak up on him (really, Jon??) and the OH SHIT moment when the Night King did the thing and started raising the dead. The realisation on Jon's face as he just started running. Then they started playing fucking cliffhanger music and I thought we wouldn't even get to see who had survived, the fuckers.
Actually, this did raise a question for me at the time as to why Jon (a) didn't warn anyone that the army of the dead was literally an endless stream once they'd started losing their own men and (b) thought that leaving unarmed vulnerable people in the crypt was a good idea. He literally saw the Night King raise the dead himself. And even if Jon had forgotten or just, IDK, thought it was irrelevant for some reason, surely Bran would also have raised the alarm?
This is also something that I think Tyrion might have questioned had Dany not lost faith in his wisdom after the failed effort at Highgarden. And like... if you're going to bring Lannisters into the situation despite them still being Lannisters, just bloody well suck it up and use the skills they have instead of punishing them for their father's name and their sister's stupid god complex.
The final thing to mention is Jorah's death - I couldn't think of enough to say to warrant a section for Jorah on his own - and Dany's reaction. (Also Drogon forming a protective circle around them, OH MY HEART.) It was obvious Jorah was out of the picture from the point he retreated with the remaining Dothraki with his face all battered, but it still took me by surprise. He didn't even get to express his love for Dany, but it was so obvious that was what he wanted to say. Honestly, I think her reaction says a lot for the journey they've taken together, from her being sold to Khal Drogo, becoming the Mother of Dragons, freeing slaves and rallying troops, rising to become the Dragon Queen and take back her rightful place on the throne (or not, as it may well transpire). Jorah fought Greyscale to get back to Dany and support her. He's been her one true companion throughout.
I have never particularly enjoyed the thread of Everyone Is In Love With Danaerys, but I make an exception for Jorah because it came from a place of protection first and foremost. (Tyrion is just Tyrion FFS, he falls in love with every woman who shows him an ounce of kindness; Jon is just a lovesick idiot with no experience of women other than Ygritte and, y'know: fanservice.)
I don't think I have much more to say on these two except that I do wonder where the show will take the relationship now that it's been revealed that Jon is her nephew. The Targaryens are clearly not above incest but Jon was raised as a Stark, not a Targaryen, so I'm not sure if he'd be on board with that.
Okay, this next bit will be long.
Jaime and Brienne
I don't know where to start with these two. At this point I just want to flail incoherently and smoosh them together until they finally admit their feelings.
Okay, let's actually go back to the finale of season 7 and it's final shot, which was Jaime leaving Kings Landing to ride North. This was such a great pay-off considering that the writers threw all of his character development out of the window for the entire season until Brienne turned up at the Dragonpit and kicked it back into him in five seconds flat. The final shot of episode 1 of season 8 was, appropriately enough, Jaime latterly arriving at Winterfell, in plain clothing and none of his Lannister trappings. This in itself is enough to make me believe that he has no intention of going back there unless it's to fight against Cersei.
In episode 2 we were given more Braime interactions than we had any right to expect, and so much of what was written into the episode came close to so many of the between-season fanfics I've read (not to mention some of what happened in the battle) that I firmly believe the writers also read them and borrowed some of the ideas. For starters, Jaime's trial and Brienne stepping up to defend him, which was already more than I ever hoped for. Jaime then as much as quoted her words to him at Kings Landing ("Fuck loyalty") in his own defence, and made sure she knew that's what he was doing.
Later on, Jaime abandons a conversation with Tyrion just to go and stare/gaze at Brienne on the training field, and they have that gloriously snarky conversation about the fact that he isn't insulting her and, no, of course she doesn't want him to. It was hilarious but also rammed full of meaning: Brienne's comment, "We've never had a conversation last this long without you insulting me", is her "Who are you and what have you done with Jaime?" moment, mirroring his earlier reaction when she tells him to Fuck Loyalty. Then Jaime's hesitation after "I came to Winterfell because..." where we're just supposed to fill in the gaps whilst he's making hearteyes all over the place, before he loses his nerve and offers to fight under her command instead - one-handed and nowhere near as good as he used to be but willing to fight for the living, for Winterfell and the North, nonetheless.
Of course, Brienne completely understands why that's so important to him; he lost his hand defending her honour, probably fell in love with her a little bit when she killed those dudes in the woods and beat him to within an inch of his life in a duel (though she'd be the last to realise that), she's the only person who knows the full story behind why he's the Kingslayer, and she brings out the best of him whenever they're in each other's orbit. He gifted her the armour and the sword she will be using to lead the left flank of the Northern army; their swords are twin blades forged from Ned Stark's sword. It's exactly where he's supposed to be - in fact, it's below where he's supposed to be, and even at this point he can't see his own merits in comparison to Brienne.
And right when we thought THAT was all we were getting, they gave us a legit canon knighting scene which was blantantly a metaphor for how much they love each other. The actor who plays Jaime, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, has since commented that the knighting was "an act of love". I read this really great post on Tumblr recently where apparently, during one particular take, he got so into the knighting scene that he kind of transcended reality for a moment and had no idea what he'd done afterwards. NCW is the captain, first mate and entire crew of the Braime ship, incidentally; he ships them harder than the rest of us put together. He's apparently said in interview that he's happy with where his character ends up in season 8, and that gives me a bit of hope that we won't have our collective hearts trampled on.
I also need to mention Tormund, I guess. I appreciate that there are Briemund shippers out there, and whilst I can kind of understand why, it also indicates that they have no concept of where Jaime has come from, where he's going, and where he needs to end up to be worthy of Brienne. It also ignores everything about Brienne's journey as a failed princess (I know she's not royal but I couldn't think of a better word), who chose a different path to the one her father wanted for her, who nonetheless has the heart of a romantic girl desperate to be loved by someone who will love every part of her. It reduces Brienne to an object of desire through Tormund's interactions with her, as if nobody except a half-mad Wildling could ever find Brienne attractive, and half the reason that Braime is SO GOOD is because it's so much deeper than that. (As I said: it's a Beauty and the Beast allegory.) I appreciated Briemund for the comic relief and the fact that Brienne was clearly not interested, but the love triangle was unnecessary once Jaime finally reappeared.
Anyway, back to the knighting scene. I just loved how the entire scene was shot and framed, that despite the fact they had a small audience it felt like they were the only people in the room. Jaime is so SERIOUS about it all even when Brienne thinks it's a joke (that little reassuring nod from Podrick was so cute). It's like he starts out only suggesting it to get one up on Tormund, and then it actually happens and the full gravity of it sets in for both of them. I loved the awkward way he readjusts his grip on the sword - in his left hand, let's not ever forget - to be absolutely sure to do it properly. He means every. single. word. that comes out of his mouth; not just bestowing the commands upon Brienne but believing that she already possesses those traits. Then she gives him that tiny smile and the hearteyes increase by four-thousand percent, and then everyone starts applauding and they remember that other people exist. And then Brienne just starts grinning like she's won the lottery because Jaime's given her everything she's ever wanted. (Now try and tell me their interactions are platonic, I DARE YOU.)
Okay, so after that, I spent the next week absolutely dreading the next episode. There's no way we'd get a scene that good without something frigging awful happening afterwards, and I was absolutely convinced that either or both of them would be dead by the end of the third episode. Then I read a few other people's thoughts and remembered that actually, neither of their arcs is finished. Brienne is now a knight, yes, but her story is in no way finished; Jaime has not yet found complete redemption.
Nonetheless, each and every scene where Brienne and Jaime were fighting had me on the edge of my seat in terror, constantly checking they were still alive.
When Brienne went down within minutes I actually started to panic a bit, but thank goodness, Jaime went to save her. That bit where she just burst forth with a war cry was amazing (and echoed several fanfics I've read, I might add). Then she returned the favour for Jaime a few minutes later. Then they were just literally fighting side by side in perfect choreographed unison, and it was everything I ever wanted.
Oh, and I absolutely loved the bit where everyone was retreating and both Brienne and Jaime immediately lapsed into full on general-mode and took command from opposite sides of the gate. Jaime started out asking to serve under Brienne and ended up by her side. MY HEART CANNOT TAKE IT.
And, thank everything, they have both survived the episode. Just Jaime, Brienne and Podrick standing side by side like a beautiful adopted family. I have this whole mess of thoughts about the fact that Brienne is on Jaime's right, like she's literally his right hand (wo)man, but I'm too tired to articulate them so I might try and turn them into fic words instead. But we are in no way out of the woods yet because the battle for the Iron Throne is still to come, and Cersei Lannister is a toxic magnet to which Jaime is drawn every single time. Whenever he's with Cersei, all the good drains out of him. I want so badly for him to prove he's better than that; I want him to be the one to kill her, preferably in front of Brienne just to drive the point home. Cersei has already threatened his life AND sent Bronn after him with a crossbow (and I can absolutely not predict how that will go; Bronn is the canon Braime shipper to a degree but he's also a sellsword who sides with the highest bidder; but then Jaime still owes him a castle and a wife; I HONESTLY DO NOT KNOW HOW THIS IS GOING DOWN.)
If Jaime goes south (and he will, because they need his expertise) then I am terrified he will offer himself up as bait and just outright get himself killed. Or Brienne will die trying to defend him. Or maybe Bronn will put that crossbow to good use and fire it straight through Cersei's lack of a heart. Or Daenarys will just fucking set everything on fire and be done with it.
Yep, still absolutely bricking it. But with any luck there will be a brief reprieve before the next big drama and we will see some of the emotional aftermath of the battle for Winterfell; they need time to rebuild, restock and regroup; to assess the extent of the damage and count their blessings. They can't just leave us all hanging on a promise... can they?
Part of me just desperately wants to know what will happen to put me out of my misery, but the build-up and the not-knowing is the best/worst part. Last night's episode was epic TV and I am so glad I got to experience it first hand, spoiler-free, not knowing the outcome. It was an absolute powerhouse of an episode, 90 minutes of sheer terror (with only one jumpscare!), and I have no idea how they're going to top it. After it had finished I was literally shaking, emotionally drained and buzzing with energy. It's been a very, very long time since any kind of entertainment entity left me in such a state; the only thing I can think to compare it to is the season 4 finale of Farscape ("Bad Timing"), or the final night of the UK tour of Sunset in Manchester. The fact that it's taken me nearly 24 hours to fully process it says everything.
Okay, I think that's about everything I was going to say. Anything else I could add about Braime would be incoherent flail at this point.
Three more episodes to go. BRING IT ON.