Last week, after Arya and Gendry reunited at Winterfell and started giving each other bedroom eyes, there was some resistance across social media to the concept that the little gal we’ve grown up with might actually want to lay it down and fuck the one dude she’s been sweet on for several seasons. Before we go on, I would just like to Sunday-school-knuckle-rap a STOP to that thinking right quick.
How could anyone be mad at Arya’s transformation from wee babe who couldn’t conform to retrograde, essentialist gender norms; to spry undercover Stark eking out survival in a hostile world; to apprentice in an odd land serving an even odder many-faced god; to stone-cold assassin with a touch of the socio, innit; to a young woman on the precipice of adulthood who really would like to get it in with her tween crush one time before she inevitably croaks at the hand of some ice motherfucker?
For all Game of Thrones’ dunderheaded, latter-series writing flaws, the fact that we’ve seen Arya come of age through unimaginable travails and come into her own sexuality over the course of a decade—a human decade as well as a TV one—is a remarkable and rare character arc that made “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” another somewhat piecemeal second episode of Season 8, utterly worth watching. In the show, Arya is about 18 now, and in real life Maisie Williams is 22, so I figure a decent amount of resistance to the concept of Doing It is a nice and comprehensive reflection of how young women’s sexuality is thought of as scary and taboo.
Besides, IT WAS TIME FOR ALL THE CLOSE-UPS OF GENDRY’S BICEPS TO PAY OFF. The major theme of this episode, aside from “what do you do on the last night before you die,” was women characters finally getting theirs, and secondarily: The unheralded eroticism of blacksmithing, finally come to pass. If I’m being honest, I barely remember anything else that happened in this episode, too blinded from director David Nutter’s knowing shots of Gendry in the dragonglass forgery with hot, sticky sweat all over his arms, flexing by the fire, and Arya walking in like “you think I’m still 12 bich? Lemme show you my knife-throwing skilles,” which of course got a masc mace-hammer sort like Gendry all giddy and shit. And nothing makes a killer hornier than a gift of a dragonglass bladed quarterstaff (or more bored than a couple of drunk old fucks like the Hound and Beric sitting around talking about their woo-woo fire god) so Arya’s finally like “YO GENDRY PUT UP OR SHUT UP, WE GONNA DIE.” Not before vetting his experience, that is—if he had not boned three women in King’s Landing, I get the feeling she would have been like, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and gone back to arrow practice. Her inquiries into his sex life were not jealousy—they were assurance that her first time wouldn’t be shittily delivered by a fumbling newb. I feel so proud of the young woman Arya has become!
The other big-time transformation—a coming of age that paralleled Arya’s—involved our True Queen Brienne of Tarth finally getting some satisfaction of her own. While I’ve imagined her as a commitment-phobe this whole time, a natural state of being after years of being treated like shit by men starting with her father, in fact what she truly wanted was acceptance and acknowledgement that she excelled enough in her career to hang with the dudes (and, of course, like any high-powered woman, she had to work twice as hard and be twice as good to prove her worth). During that exceedingly long sitting-by-the-fire scene in which we learn Podrick is a shoo-in for the next Pitch Perfect movie, it seemed as though Tormund’s full-court-press might clash with Jaime’s erudite coolguy, resulting in a brief beef for Brienne’s attentions. But they came together as one via banter, resulting in Jaime knighting Brienne (FUCKING FINALLY) right before she leads the left flank in battle against the dead, and hopefully does not fucking croak but it’s inevitable now. From now on, call me Ser Julianne, thank you and good night!
Of all the wise bon mots Sansa Stark has ever delivered, this is the finest: “Men do stupid things for women. They’re easily manipulated.” This is during the weirdly forced attempt at friendship between her and Daenerys, which sets us up for the end of the episode, when brooding-ass Jon finally tells Dany of his true parentage in the crypt. I guess we get a true sense of her priorities here, because rather than immediately dry-heaving on the sacred Stark ground at the thought that she’s been deep dicking her nephew, she’s just like “YOU’RE A MALE HEIR WITH A CLAIM TO THE THRONE?” It is absolutely nonsensical that Jon wasn’t immediately like “Nah, boo, I don’t care about that shit,” but I guess we need more plot fodder for later; also nonsensical, and in the spirit of this episode being about the development of the women characters, is the idea that a Man is more right to rule simply because of his gender; 3000 years of history should tell us definitively otherwise! Maybe breaking the wheel is simply just releasing society from its extremely backwards notions of gender, or the idea that gender is fixed at all. Let’s get it, Daenerys; queen up and let’s ride.
Some other shit happens; Theon returns; Sam gives a sword to Ser Jorah, who is definitely going to be filmed dropping it on the ground as he dies; if I ever hear another short joke about Jon Snow, I will shank someone with a shorn dragonglass chip; also, Ghost the direwolf is suddenly back, meaning Game of Thrones truly got all HBO’s paper in 2019. When Meryl Streep is only in Big Little Lies Season 2 for 13 total minutes because of budget constraints, think back to this.
Finally, Bran is still the stoniest motherfucker in the land. How dare you question his trendsetting.
Boners: Arya and Gendry for each other, finally consummated. Me for Gendry, always, because blacksmithing is the hottest job. Tormund/Jaime for Brienne, Brienne for power, GET YOURS, WOMAN! (Also do a threesome!) Greyworm and Missandei, but that was more romance before they both inevitably croak.
Deaths: Like, everyone, but that’s next episode. Good luck to us all, valor morghulis bich!
A previous version of this post accidentally misidentified The Hound as the Mountain, even though the Mountain definitely no longer drinks wine. Thanks to slowertobond for the correction, Jezebel regrets this error!