Though he’s been gone for years, Ned Stark’s reputation and the effect of his choices can still be felt in the waning moments of this story. Through the seasons, the show’s characters and fans have mocked Ned for his honor equating it to stupidity and I have always felt that this was unfair. In a world that’s defined by self-preservation and betrayal, the few whose character has managed to remain unimpeachable should be praised above all others.
That’s not to say that these traits make these characters flawless; it makes their moves much easier to predict. It’s what got Ned’s head chopped off. It’s what lost his son, Robb, The War of the Five Kings. It got Jon Snow stabbed fifty-leven times by his own brothers of the Night’s Watch. Yet I still find that there’s something admirable about the desire to do what morality dictates is the right thing to do and to stick with that decision till the very end — especially in this world. Which brings us to the excellent Game of Thronesepisode, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.
The episode served as an opportunity to dive into deeper detail with respect to the reunions that were touched on in last week’s Winterfell episode, as well as to service new ones as Jaime Lannister made his rounds through the Stark ancestral home. Honor is something Jaime Lannister has seemingly shunned from the first episode as the pilot ended with him pushing a young boy out a tower window and paralyzing him. Yet it was his search for honor that caused him to make the journey north to a place where the majority wouldn’t have batted an eye if he’d been beheaded on the spot. He did all this in an effort to keep the promises he’d made to stand with humanity against the undead. We’re treated to a scene in Winterfell’s great hall where Jaime stood trial for his crimes against the North, yet it wasn’t Tyrion’s wit and cunning that saved him but the reputation and word of Brienne of Tarth who recounted the story of how Jaime lost his right hand defending her honor as well.
Brienne’s relationship with Jaime over the years has been a big catalyst in his redemption arc and has remained one of the purest pairings in the show. Jaime Lannister is still an ever-complicated man, who stood by his actions in the face of those who had suffered by them. Yet he renounced the remaining reason (Cersei) why he committed those actions in the search for something greater. His brief interaction with Bran Stark showed he’s learned remorse as he apologized for his actions in the pilot. He’s learned from time and injury alike and combined with Brienne’s influence, he has emerged a wiser and more compassionate person.
For as depressing as this episode should have been, as we watched different characters grapple with what death means to them, it provided us with one of the happiest moments in the show. Game of Thrones’s strength has always lied in the interactions and dialogues between its many characters. In the show’s history, there are few scenes better than seeing several (point-of-view in the books) characters drinking and chatting by a warm fire as the army of the dead approached. There’s pleasure to be derived from watching all these characters who have spent the last 7 seasons scattered across Westeros and Essos finally come together and to the showrunners’s credit, there is nothing about this that feels like fan-service. These conversations were earned by the groundwork done over the years and the interactions meaningful to all the characters involved. From Tyrion refusing to let Jaime continue to lie to himself about his involvement in Cersei’s atrocities to Arya and Sandor finding their common ground. Yet none had a bigger payoff than the moment the episode is titled after which occurs between Jaime and Brienne.
The moment by the fire depicts an idea the show has about ignoring tradition and doing what feels right. We saw it mostly when we were introduced to the foreigners, the wildlings and the people from Dorne. It wasfitting that Tormund Giantsbane was the one who uttered “f*** tradition” when told that Brienne could not be made a knight because she’s a woman and it was telling that it was a sentiment that was shared by the rest of the room. Maybe it was because of the impending doom that awaited them in the darkness or it was because they all knew of Brienne’s honorable character and that she, out of all the other characters on the show, (R.I.P. Barristan the Bold) had embodied the idealistic characteristics of a knight better than anyone else. The feeling of support in upending traditional values was ever present between those characters.
One of the main themes of the show has been women seizing power (as happened with our little wolf-girl in her own fashion later in the episode) and if Daenerys is really bringing in a new world order then why can’t Brienne be a knight? It was fitting considering what the characters have been through; that Brienne is the only one who ever referred to Jaime by his title, “Ser”, that he would be the one who anointed her as a knight of the seven kingdoms to applause from the rest of the room. It’s a moment that felt rewarding not just to those characters at its centerpiece but to everyone that was able to witness it including the viewers. Honor is a trait that shouldn’t be ridiculed in the world of Westeros. It should be revered. And I’m glad that Ser Brienne of Tarth has been able to serve as a reminder of that in one of the show’s best episodes.
Too bad everyone’s going to die next week and it won’t matter anyway.