This entire episode takes place at Winterfell, and is almost entirely a setup for the next episode, which rumor has it also takes place entirely at Winterfell. The scenes are a bit scattered, and my notes follow suit.
We start with Daeny, Jon and Sansa sitting in judgment of Jaime in front of the Winterfell court. Jaime has arrived in Winterfell without a promised Lannister army. He has been one of the primary Stark antagonists throughout the show, and we are reminded that he was a strong Targaryen antagonist prior to that, when he earned the 'Kingslayer' moniker.
And yet Jaime is here to fulfill his pledge to fight against the dead, to forego the game of thrones in favor of the game of species survival. Tyrion speaks up for his brother, but Daeny doesn't want to hear it. Tyrion was certain that Cersei wasn't lying, but she was...so why should Daeny trust Tyrion's words of support for Jaime? Sansa piles on in agreement with Daeny's distrust, citing the things Jaime has done to her family. Jaime's defense is a measured one, arguing that he was merely defending and supporting his family, and that he'd do everything again. And then Bran stops him cold by reminding Jaime of his own words when he pushed Bran out the window in Season 1, Episode 1 – "The things we do for love". Is that a condemnation of Jaime or a confirmation that his argument makes sense?
It is Brienne of Tarth whose words tip the balance. She speaks to the honor Jaime displayed in defending her from rape. She speaks to the oath Jaime gave Catelyn Stark when she released him from his prison in the Riverlands, and how that oath sent Brienne to seek out Sansa and deliver her to Winterfell. She vouches for him. That is enough for Sansa, who trusts Brienne. It is enough for Jon, too, who needs warm bodies to fight cold ones. Daeny relents, and gives Jaime back his sword.
Daeny is still very angry, however, and she has words for Tyrion. Words like 'traitor' and 'fool'. Tyrion agrees with the latter, and Daeny threatens to remove his status as Hand. After she departs, Tyrion states to a trailing Varys and Jorah that one of them will likely be wearing the symbol of the Hand 'before it's all over'.
In the forge, the dragonglass weapon production continues. Arya stops by to ask Gendry about the progress of the weapon she designed, and which schematic she gave him last episode. Gendry condescends to Arya – his message is that he'll get to her weapon once he's done outfitting all the real fighters. It's clear that, however much he may understand her ferocity, he has no idea as to her training. He suggests she should be down in the crypt with the other women and children. He tries to shake her up by telling her that to confront these creatures is to confront death. An unimpressed Arya picks up a dragonglass knife and says 'I know Death', and she throws the knife left-handed into a post across the room. 'He's got many faces' – and throws another knife into the post right next to the first. 'I look forward to seeing this one' – and throws another knife right beside the other two. Gendry chuckles helplessly, very impressed. 'My weapon?' she asks, to which Gendry replies 'I'll get right on it'. Damn straight you will.
Jaime visits Bran in the Godswood. He apologizes for throwing Bran out the window, but Bran is dismissive of his apologies. He says that if Jaime hadn't thrown him out the window, Jaime would still be the person he was (and the reading here is – not a very good person) and Bran would still be Bran. Jaime wonders why Bran didn't tell the assembly about Jaime's actions that day, and Bran replies that Jaime wouldn't be much help in the fight if he were dead. When Jaime wants to know if Bran will tell on him 'afterwards', i.e. after the battle with the Night King, Bran replies 'How do you know there IS an afterwards?'.
Tyrion wanders the castle grounds amidst the war preparations, and encounters Jaime. Tyrion tries to persuade Jaime of Daeny's inherent leadership qualities, and bemoans his failure in trusting Cersei. Jaime does confirm his belief that Cersei is pregnant. Tyrion muses about his upcoming inevitable death, but Jaime has become distracted watching Brienne and wanders away. He sidles up to Brienne on the training grounds, observing Podrick's progress at arms. He praises Brienne, which she very much does not trust. She is used to his belittling her. It's quite off-putting to her to have him ask to serve under her leadership.
Jorah seeks out Daeny. He reminds her of all the mistakes he's made in her service, and how she has forgiven him. He then speaks in praise of Tyrion, telling her that Tyrion learns from his mistakes, and that he's the best mind to have at her service. It's hard for Jorah to admit to that, and it's clear that it has an impact on Daeny. He also makes one other suggestion...
...which seems to be that Daeny ought to clear the air with Sansa. Who ends up being another unlikely defender of Tyrion. Daeny points out that Tyrion never should have trusted Cersei, to which Sansa points out that Daeny shouldn't have, either.
Daeny swallows that, and tries again. She points out that she and Sansa have a lot in common, and yet they seem to be at odds. Sansa admits to being worried that, since Jon loves Daeny, he is subject to manipulation. Daeny's reply is a good one – she has been laser focused on winning the Iron Throne, and yet she is at Winterfell to fight Jon's war against the dead and possibly lose the ability to gain the Iron Throne – so who is manipulating whom? She (Daeny) confesses that she is there because she loves and trusts Jon. The bond being forged hits a sticking point, though, when Sansa wants to know what will happen to the North after they defeat the dead. Daeny removes her hand from Sansa's as she is likely about to tell Sansa that the North will bend the knee, when they are interrupted by the Maester, who informs them they have a visitor.
Theon is back. He informs Daeny and Sansa that Yara has sailed for the Iron Islands to take them back in Daeny's name. When Daeny asks why Theon didn't go with her, Theon turns to Sansa and says that he wants to fight for Winterfell. Sansa hugs Theon in answer.
Many vignettes follow:
Davos serves food to the common folk, and explains to them that they need to screw their courage to the sticking point and get ready to fight. He directs them to the forge to gather their weapons. He meets a fierce young lady who wants to fight, and Gilly helps him out by suggesting to the girl that she would be comforted to have her in the crypt defending Gilly and her baby boy.
Horns blare – riders are on the way into Winterfell. It is Dolorous Edd and the Night's Watch, much to Jon's relief and happiness. Their reunion is interrupted by a boisterous Tormund hugging Jon. Jon wants to know how Edd and Tormund and Beric joined forces, and they give him the news about the Umbers and the Last Hearth. 'Fighting for the Night King now' is the succinct status report. More bad news – Jon learns that the army of the dead will be there that night. Tormund wants to know if the big woman (Brienne) is still there.
The war council gathers. Jon lays out their plight – an enemy with far superior numbers who won't tire or stop. The conclusion is that they need to take out the Night King – since the Night King made all of the White Walkers and the undead, if he falls, all of them fall.
Jaime points out that the Night King will likely lead from the rear, then, and not put himself in danger. Bran chimes in and suggests that if he, Bran, were exposed, the Night King might risk himself in order to take out Bran. Bran says the Night King has tried before, with several others who were like Bran (3-eyed ravens). Why? Because Bran has access to the history of Westeros, and to eliminate him would eliminate much of the history of man. Bran wants to wait for the Night King in the Godswood, to lure him into the open. Theon volunteers to defend Bran with his men.
This approach is accepted, and Tyrion volunteers to be a signalman, but Daeny wants him in the crypt. She praises his mind and says that if they survive, she'll need his mind. It's an acknowledgment that she values him despite his past mistakes.
Jon wants the dragons to be near enough to Bran to defend him, without scaring off the Night King. When Bran is asked if dragonfire will take down the Night King, Bran admits that he doesn't know, because nobody has ever tried it.
Tormund makes sexy eyes at Brienne and says that they're all going to die, but at least they'll die together.
On that gloomy note, the council disperses.
Left alone with Bran, Tyrion asks Bran to relate his story of becoming who he is.
Grey Worm and Missandei are feeling out of place. He tells her that once they defeat their enemies and Daeny takes the throne, he will take her to her homeland, and they will grow old their together.
Ghost sighting! The dire wolf makes an appearance next to Jon while he's speaking to Sam and Edd. They reflect on their start in the Night Watch, with Pyp and Grenn. "Last man left, burn the rest of us" says Edd.
Jaime and Tyrion sit in front of a fire, also reflecting on their past. Others wander in – Davos, Brienne and Pod, Tormund. Tormund...well, it's hard to describe. He pours half a drink down his mouth, and the other half down his front, while telling stories about suckling at a giant's teat for 3 months, measuring dicks with Jaime, and trying to convince Brienne to have end-of-the-world sex. Tyrion lists the battle honors each person has, and when he gets to Brienne, he drunkenly and mistakenly refers to her as Ser Brienne. When he corrects himself, Tormund wants to know why she's not a 'Ser'. He says that if he were a king, he would knight her ten times over. Jaime comments that you don't need to be a king – just a knight. He has Brienne kneel, draws his sword, and taps her on each shoulder as he says "In the name of the Warrior, I charge you to be brave. In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just. In the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the innocent. Arise, Brienne of Tarth – a knight of the Seven Kingdoms." Applause ensues. Brienne is visibly, unselfconsciously happy for maybe the first time in her adult life. Tyrion wants a song, and one by one he is refused, until Podrick sings Jenny's Song.
High in the halls of the kings who are gone
Jenny would dance with her ghosts
The ones she had lost and the ones she had found
And the ones who had loved her the most
The ones who'd been gone for so very long
She couldn't remember their names
They spun her around on the damp old stones
Spun away all her sorrow and pain
And she never wanted to leave
The song being sung twice (once by Pod and once over the end credits) could just be a nod to the books (what one of my favorite authors might call a 'gracenote') or it might be a significant clue to what's going on. Or anything in between.
****A note about Jenny's song - DO NOT READ if you don't want speculation, book spoilers or other musings not covered in the show****
The books have introduced a number of prophets. Maggie the Frog is noted for her prophesies surrounding Cersei. There is another, known as the Ghost of High Heart, whose prophesies are more varied as to subject. This prophet is believed to be a witch and former companion of Jenny of Oldstones. Jenny was a commoner who won the heart of Duncan Targaryen, who was the heir to the Iron Throne. Duncan abdicated the throne in order to marry Jenny, and the witch foretold that the Prince Who Was Promised would descend from the line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen, who were niece and nephew to Duncan. Aerys was Daeny's father...and also Rhaegar's father, who was father to Jon (Aegon). Is it possible that the song, then, was a nod to Jon being the Prince Who Was Promised? Or is it a red herring?
When folks have visited the Ghost of High Heart, she likes to hear Jenny's song as payment for her visions. She is possibly the companion of Jenny herself, although I'm not sure if this has ever been truly confirmed.
****END of Musings****
Arya finds Sandor atop the wall. She shares a drink with him while wondering why he's been joining the good guys. He replies that he fought for her. They are interrupted by Beric, and Arya takes that cue to depart. She goes to find Gendry, who has made that weapon for her. She tests the balance and finds it to her liking, and she quizzes Gendry about his history while whirling the blade around. He admits that Melisandre cast a spell using his blood, and that she told him he was Robert Baratheon's bastard son. He denies having sex with her, but does admit to having experience with women. Arya uses the end-of-the-world sex ploy way better than Tormund did.
Sam comes upon Jorah speaking with his cousin, the Lady Mormont. He is asking her to go to the crypt, but clearly he has no idea whom he's speaking to. She sets him straight, and departs with a wish for Jorah to find good fortune. Once she's gone, Sam presents the Tarly blade Heartsbane to Jorah. He credits Jorah's father, Jeor Mormont, with teaching Sam how to be a man and do what's right. And giving Jorah the Valyrian steel blade is the right thing. Jorah says he'll wield the sword in his father's memory, to guard the realms of men. Sam says he'll see him when it's through.
At long last, Jon and Daeny have their talk. They are in the crypts, and Daeny asks about the statue before which Jon stands. "Lyanna Stark", Jon replies. Daeny comments that everyone has told her of the goodness of her brother Rhaegar, and yet he raped Lyanna. Jon then confesses all. Rhaegar didn't rape Lyanna – he loved her and married her. They had a child, after Rhaegar died on Robert's hammer at the Trident. That child, born to a dying mother, was given to Ned Stark, Lyanna's brother, to raise as his own bastard, so that Robert Baratheon would not know that a Targaryen was in their midst.
"My name...my real name... is Aegon Targaryen". Daeny is in disbelief, and points out that if it were true, he'd have a claim to the Iron Throne as the last male Targaryen heir. The tension is thick, but they are interrupted by horns blowing. The army of the Night King has arrived. The question of the Iron Throne can wait.
Scenes From Next Week
- The fight is on
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