Guest post by Hayden Mears. Mild spoilers ahead.
As legions of wights approach Winterfell, all our heroes can do is sit, sip, and sex the night away before hell reigns in the North’s last stronghold. “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is somber and largely uneventful, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Many fans expected more from the first third of a six-episode, series-capping season, some of them even becoming irate over social media. The thing is, the episode manages to ratchet up the tension in ways that aren’t immediately felt or noticed. But that tension, that thickness is present, and it becomes more apparent and more stifling as the episode progresses. Even more impressively, it manages to teach us more about our favorite characters even as the White Walkers are preparing to kill off a solid number of them.
Director David Nutter, working from a script by Bryan Cogman, makes ample time for nearly every major character to say a final word or steal a fleeting moment together before absolute destruction rips them all apart. Against stacked odds and climbing expectations, both Nutter and Cogman prove themselves masters of their craft by delivering an hour of television that, despite its quiet, easily ranks as one of the show’s finest episodes to date. From Tormund recounting the story behind the “Giantsbane” part of his name or Arya throwing knives past an impressed Gendry, the episode packs an unexpected wallop. It’s here, on the brink of death, that these characters feel more real and more human than they ever have before.
This is Cogman’s last writing credit on the show, and he absolutely makes the most of his final hour in Westeros. It’s a “farewell” and a “thank you,” a poignant swan song for a storyteller who has been involved with the show for nearly its entire run.
Nutter directed this season’s upcoming fourth episode before handing the reins to “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards” helmer Miguel Sapochnik. That episode (currently untitled) will undoubtedly be one hell of a send-off for Nutter.
With “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Game of Thrones steels itself (and its viewers) for the horror and heartbreak that will define how the surviving players move forward. It’s an hour of necessary character work that will make the Battle of Winterfell a tough watch. The episode’s final moments promise plenty of chaos and carnage next time, but for now, enjoy the quiet. Cherish the clarity. Next week, the world comes crashing down on these people.
A writer is not ready.
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