Why Jaime Knighting Brienne on 'Game of Thrones' Was So Satisfying
The best part of watching Game of Thrones isn't seeing the dragons breathe fire all over their enemies, or even the grueling battle episodes the show has gotten so good at finessing. The most rewarding aspect of the show is watching the interpersonal relationships between all of the most dynamic characters grow and change over the seasons. In Season 8, we have families aligned for the first time who were sworn enemies in Season 1, and characters who have vowed to kill each other prepared to fight together against a common foe. No relationship is as fascinating and complex as the one between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth -- which it was fitting that last night's episode was titled just for her.
HBO has been hiding the episode titles until after each episode airs to curb speculation and spoilers (which is why last night’s was just called "Episode 69" at first). The real title, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," is a sly reference to George R.R. Martin's "Tales of Dunk and Egg" series of novellas -- The Hedge Knight (1998), The Sworn Sword (2003), and The Mystery Knight (2010) -- which were published together in a single edition called A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. The books follow the adventures and misadventures of "Dunk," the future Ser Duncan the Tall, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and one of the most famous knights ever (and one of Martin's favorite characters), and his squire "Egg," or Aegon V Targaryen, nearly a century before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire.
But it's not just a one-and-done reference. In A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in Martin's series, Brienne has her shield painted with Dunk's coat of arms, copied from a shield in her father's armory. This turned out to be a handy little Easter egg when Martin confirmed during a fan appearance in 2016 that Brienne is in fact a descendant of Ser Duncan (and probably got all of his tall genes). The parallels between Brienne and her squire Pod and Dunk and his squire Egg were all there, and after Sunday's episode, Brienne is even closer to her long-lost relative than ever.
While drinking away their sorrows and fears on the eve of battle, a motley crew consisting of Tyrion, Jaime, Brienne, Pod, Tormund, and Davos Seaworth assembled in the great hall to get krunk before they all probably die in the morning. During their conversation, Tormund is scandalized to learn that Brienne isn't actually Ser Brienne -- because women can't be knighted. Because tradition. "Any knight can make another knight," Jaime says in a moment of inspiration, yanks out his sword, and tells Brienne to kneel.
If you've been following the show at all (which at this point I very much hope you have, or god help you understand anything that's been going on for the past hour) you know that Brienne and Jaime have one of the most fraught relationships in the Seven Kingdoms. And I don't mean a romantic relationship, though there are plenty of fans who desperately ship them. Jaime and Brienne have a comradeship that grew after months of insults and suspicion, leading to one memorable confession scene in the steamy baths of Harrenhal and another where one gifted the other a Valyrian steel sword. Brienne started off only calling Jaime "Kingslayer," a derogatory nickname he despises above all else -- which refers to him murdering the Mad King in his throne room while Jaime, a knight of the Kingsguard, was sworn to protect his ruler. But, when Jaime gave her her new sword a season later, she named it "Oathkeeper" -- basically the opposite of what Jaime's cruel nickname means.
So, to see Jaime stand up and offer Brienne the one thing she's always wanted, which caused her father and everyone she knew on her home island of Tarth to shame and shun her, is more rewarding than any long-awaited smooch or sex scene or unlikely alliance between two warring houses. "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" is a classic eve-of-battle episode, where everyone is finally giving each other what they want. Why wait? They might not see tomorrow.
Earlier in the episode, Brienne vouched for Jaime's redeemed character in front of the entire Stark family (who he almost singlehandedly wrecked), saying that without Jaime outfitting her with her sword and her swanky suit of armor, she wouldn't have been able to save Sansa's life. In return for that, and pretty much carving in stone the fact that Jaime's one of the good guys now, he gave Brienne a gift that every other person in her life had chosen to deny her. This is what Game of Thrones, in its best moments, is all about: two people, with nothing and everything in common, choosing to understand and accept each other better than anyone else ever had, for a moment beating back the terror and darkness of the rest of the world.