GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8 EPISODE 2 REVIEW

It has always been difficult to properly unpack the representation of women in trò chơi of Thrones.

On the one hand, the show seems to revel in gratuitously nude female bodies, và lingers far too long on their suffering through rape and other violence. For seven seasons, women were emotionally và physically tortured, subjugated khổng lồ the roles patriarchy deemed acceptable. David Benioff, D.B. Weiss và co. Never condoned such behavior, but they never really sought lớn interrogate it very much, all while delivering maximum titillation. (They did, however, completely fail lớn realize that Jaime raped Cersei.)

On the other hand, the show has imbued its female leads with extraordinary power and agency. For seven seasons, many women rose above what men had deemed acceptable for them. They asserted their right to lớn humanity. Sometimes, men aided in that journey. More often than not, these women took it for themselves. Those men had no choice but khổng lồ listen.

Pause for a moment to lớn consider that three or four of the most powerful people in Westeros are all women. One conquered half a continent và plans to conquer another, all while riding a dragon. One now rules the North. One sits on the Iron Throne, & will keep sitting there, if she has anything khổng lồ say about it. One is arguably the most lethal person on the continent.

If Sunday’s episode demonstrated anything, it is that women now hotline the shots. That runs up and down the hierarchy. Sansa’s, Daenerys’s, Cersei’s (in absentia), & Arya’s abilities are a given, but they are not the only ones. Gilly appears ready to lead the women protected in the crypts of Winterfell when the battle begins, reassuring one such serf as she passes Davos in the courtyard. Lyanna Mormont rejects Jorah’s pleas to retreat to lớn safety, instead leading her men into battle. A young farm girl wishes khổng lồ fight alongside the others when the battle begins. Maybe the sappiest moment in game of Thrones‘s entire run results in Jaime knighting Brienne–the first female knight in modern Westerosi history–to the applause of the great men of the realm.

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Brienne was once the insulted brute of a girl, condescended to và disdained despite her obvious power. Jaime was once “the golden knight,” as Tyrion put it. Jaime is now but another soldier, Brienne a battalion commander. Jaime is now the one who will serve Brienne. It is a small thing that means everything, especially after he gives her the one last thing he can–a knighthood.

Power comes in many forms, & not always through physical strength. You saw it poking around the corner in practically every scene. Men themselves looked small next to women, as Jorah did when arguing with his young cousin. Tyrion was ripped to lớn shreds by Daenerys after his latest failure as her Hand. Brienne couldn’t help but gaze quizzically, even patronizingly, as Tormund peacocked his way in front of Jaime. In another time và place, Tormund’s boasting & strutting would inspire awe; now, in front of soon-to-be-Ser Brienne, he just looks goofy.

Arya is the one khổng lồ take us all by surprise. She has always believed power khổng lồ be in strength. That has surely been the source of hers up to lớn now. She doesn’t need strength when she gives the Hound and Beric a dressing down on the battlements. A simple roll of the eyes will do. Then, she delivers the line that summarizes the new world order: “I’m not spending my final hours with you two miserable old shits.” Indeed, Arya. The future is female.

I have often thought that Sophie Turner lapped Maisie Williams in GoT‘s later seasons, as they both came of age. Turner possesses a fearsome interiority that is quieter than the performances of Lena Headey or Emilia Clarke, but is no less subtle or nuanced. Williams was simply breathtaking in Sunday’s episode. Every look, every movement, every turn of phrase was sharp & playful, yet muscular and direct. You see her carry the weight of Arya’s brutal life in her shoulders, & yet is light and ebullient as she walks through the castle.

Williams has somehow reconciled the masculine rejection of traditional femininity that Arya has always represented with an emotional richness that allows for her identity as a woman lớn become much more complex. This is encapsulated in her seduction of Gendry. She is not only a warrior, but a sexual being with desires all her own. Nothing about her sex scene starts with Gendry. She flirts. She initiates. She takes control. She wants him–not because somebody tells her she does, or that she needs to. There may not even be any fluttery notions of true love attached to lớn it. She just wants him, on her terms. I can’t think of a healthier sexual relationship in the show’s 68 episodes to lớn date. Williams bridges the gap between the masculine & the feminine, & owns every last piece of it. Hers is a masterful performance.

If Arya is discovering a new side of herself, Daenerys is left confronting what she has always been. Clarke’s classic look is one of steely reserve. It inspires awe và fear. Daenerys never flinches when she is convinced of the truth of her position. Men quake before her.

You can see Daenerys’s real struggle with the art of diplomacy when she sits with Sansa. Putting on a friendly face & listening to someone with different ideas is not exactly her strong suit. Clarke makes those conflicting impulses dart across her face, as Daenerys forces herself to lớn smile and hold back the totalitarian decrees (up to a point). She almost gets Sansa khổng lồ back down & accept her as ruler with a gentle, even humorous plea about Jon.

Sansa hits her with the hardest truth that game of Thrones can offer, one that Daenerys can’t comprehend, if she were honest with herself. “What happens afterwards,” Sansa asks. “We defeat the dead, we destroy Cersei; what happens then?” Clarke allows for us lớn see that Daenerys is hiding doubt beneath her certainty of “ back the Iron Throne.” After all, the last time she attempted to lớn rule, Slavers bay descended into chaos. When Sansa asks point-blank about the future of the North, Daenerys’s mask of fury returns. But just underneath, her lack of diplomacy may give her pause. Sansa won’t back down; will Daenerys?

Daenerys has known fear. She has known doubt. But that was a long time ago. Those moments never called her very identity into question. When Jon tells her the truth about who he is, she darts from heartbreak to lớn fear, on to denial, and finally, defiance. Clarke gives us all of these emotions with hardly a word spoken. It is the last & most devastating blow khổng lồ her power. Both Jon and Sansa may now be enemies. Nobody can speculate what comes next after the battle is over. That is all thanks to the thousand shades of gray with which Clarke paints Daenerys.

Sunday’s episode often felt lượt thích it was spinning its wheels, waiting for the battle khổng lồ finally arrive. Bryan Cogman’s dialogue lays it on fairly thick, not always sure of when to pull back. Whereas “Winterfell” was a hauntingly silent reunion heavy with the weight of history và loss, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” felt very much lượt thích a standard “final season” episode of television–get the gang together, and let them all tell each other how they really feel.

When it was at its best, though, it demonstrated the incontrovertible fact that women now hold the reigns of power. Who runs the world?

REUNION CHECKLIST

Jaime và Bran: “What about afterwards?” “How vị you know there is an afterwards?” LOL.

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Sansa & Theon: That soup sharing scene was a bit too lovey-dovey for my taste. But when in Rome, ‘ship a eunuch & the most powerful person north of the Twins, I guess.Jon & Edd: (“Now there’s just us three.” A sweet little smeary-lensed callback khổng lồ the days when the two of them và Sam would all stand on the đứng đầu of the Wall.

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Jorah & Lyanna Mormont: OK, not technically a reunion, but damn, lay into him, girl!Tormund và Brienne: Brienne’s glad he’s there…to fight for them! I hope Jaime doesn’t get the wrong idea.Arya & Beric: “Was he on your list?” “For a little while.” Lucky Beric.

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