Every week for the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, three Atlantic staffers will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners were made available to critics in advance this year, we’ll be posting our thoughts in installments.
David Sims: Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones was all about the human stakes of the conflict ahead, and the unlikely alliances and friendships that had been forged over the past seven seasons. “Winterfell” existed to build up serious dramatic tension ahead of the climactic clash with the Night King and his army of the dead. This week’s episode, titled “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” and written by series mainstay Bryan Cogman, served the exact same purpose. Set on the eve before battle, it saw almost all the show’s friendly characters gather at Winterfell to hash out old grievances, pursue long-simmering romances, and generally cast a wistful glance back at all the crazy circumstances that brought them together.
I’m not opposed to such a notion—Thrones has always been as much about the interpersonal dynamics as it is about the big-budget fights. I’d gently suggest, though, that perhaps audiences didn’t need most of last week’s dire episode, which suffered from molasses-slow pacing and an excess of interest in the Jon-Daenerys relationship (one of the least compelling bonds in the series, which exists only for plot purposes). Smoosh that episode together with this one, and you could distill from them a good hour of fan service. But with one-third of the season now spent, I can’t deny I’m eager for everyone to get to the fireworks factory already.