Beyond The Wall

How Podrick’s Song Connects to an Important 'Game of Thrones' Prophecy

game of thrones
Podrick Payne has some pipes. | HBO
Podrick Payne has some pipes. | HBO
This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8 through the first two episodes. Visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers, explainers, and the best episodes of all time.

From the triumphant opening theme that opens to the show to the many songs that have played over the closing credits, music has always been an essential part of the Game of Thrones experience. It makes sense that in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," an episode that found many of the characters killing time, having sex, chilling with Ghost, and drinking away their sorrows before facing near certain doom, would feature a song. But few could have predicted that quiet, unassuming Podrick Payne -- Pod! -- would be the character to belt it out , and that it'd be quite so moving.

With the White Walkers approaching and battle plans in motion, the second half of the episode featured many fan favorites gathering in front of a roaring fireplace for some sentimental reminiscing, good natured teasing, and swapping of tales. Everyone did their part: Tyrion poured giant cups of red wine; Tormund told a truly wild story about how he got so big; and, in perhaps the episode's best scene, Jaime Lannister knighted Brienne of Tarth as the rest of the fighters looked on and cheered. Just when things seemed like they were winding down, Tyrion, always the guy who wants to keep the party going, put out a request for a song. "One of you must know one," he demanded.

pod game of thrones
HBO

It turns out Podrick knew one. More specifically, he knew “Jenny’s Song," a song plucked from the pages of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books and one that connects to some of the biggest storylines on the show. The "Jenny" of the title is thought to be Jenny of Oldstones, who had an affair with the Mad King's brother Prince Duncan Targaryen and caused him to give up the throne for her.

What does that have to do with where we are now? As this helpful primer on Vanity Fair points out, the song is actually "tied to Rhaegar and Lyanna’s love, to Jon and Dany’s origin, to the Azor Ahai prophecy." (If you need a refresher on the Azor Ahai prophecy, we've got you covered.) In the book, the only line from "Jenny's Song" featured in the text is this one: "High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts.”

Of course, the version that we got from Pod went on quite a bit longer, featuring original lyrics and music by the show's composer Ramin Djawadi, and it allowed actor Daniel Portman -- yes, that really is him singing -- to really show off his vocal skills. "The ones who’d been gone for so very long/She couldn’t remember their names," he sings. "They spun her around on the damp cold stone/Spun away all her sorrow and pain/And she never wanted to leave/Never wanted to leave." The last line repeats as we see a montage of Sam and Gilly, Theon and Sansa, Grey Worm and Missandei, and a handful of other characters who might not survive the coming battle.

While a version of the track by Florence + the Machine played over the end credits -- fans will remember the band has contributed music to the show in the past -- the Pod version was actually performed by Portman, who has a beautiful singing voice. "They just put it in the script and they didn’t really tell me," Portman told Esquire in a new interview. "I was terrified to be singing in front of all these people with this camera in my face. And something like a billion people have seen the first episode. So thinking about that many people seeing me singing was terrifying."

Clearly, the show's creative braintrust had faith in his ability to nail the song, which provides an emotional anchor to the end of the episode and leads into a final confrontation in the crypts between Jon Snow and Daenerys. "Daniel's got a really lovely voice and we knew we wanted a song in this episode," said co-showrunner David Benioff in the behind the scenes feature after the episode. "We've had a song in several seasons and we haven't had an original in a while, so this felt like the place for it and Daniel felt like the singer."

He certainly was the right man for the job. As Portman himself notes in the Esquire interview, the scene has echoes of Pippin singing in the Lord of the Rings before the battle of Minas Tirith. (The elegiac, bittersweet tone of the episode recalled Tolkien's work in more than a few ways.) As the show heads towards what will surely be an intense and gruesome series of massive battle sequences, there will likely be less time for the type of small character beats and haunting songs that filled last night's episode. Let's appreciate them before they're gone.

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.