Last night’s Game of Thrones gave us a gift, the most deliberately sweet, pure thing the show has done in ages. Brienne of Tarth, whose fondest wish for years has been to be a real knight, has always been hampered by her gender. She’s been more honorable, more sincere, and more hardworking than almost anyone on this show, and yet until Sunday’s “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” her dedication to serving Westeros has never been officially recognized. In a glorious performance by Gwendoline Christie, Brienne knelt in front of Jaime Lannister as he dubbed her Ser Brienne of Tarth, and somehow, her thrilled companions did not weep rivers of tears along with those of us viewing at home.
It’s worth examining each beautiful moment of this scene because Christie just crushes it, and because the men around her are so suffused with joy that you could almost forget that they’re all about to perish in a battle with merciless ice zombies.
We begin with how the idea is introduced, as Tyrion recounts everyone’s glorious battles. He starts by saying he thinks they might actually live, which — sure, Tyrion. Cute. But when he gets to Brienne’s accomplishments, he slips and calls her ser.
Tormund is dismayed and confused, and also still trying to get into Brienne’s pants. (Tormund, my bud, I do not think this is gonna happen for you, but your game’s been mostly respectful so far, so I cannot be mad at the effort.)
Brienne then delivers a lie that is as obvious as it is heartbreaking.
Podrick is not buying anything Brienne is trying to sell right now.
Jaime, still trying to redeem himself for all his former cruelties, realizes that as a knight himself, he can knight Brienne without the presence of a king. This does seem like the very least he could do for her at this point after all they’ve been through, and after she spoke up for him in front of Daenerys and Sansa. And while it does seem like the value of being a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is somewhat diminished as the Seven Kingdoms are about to be overrun by White Walkers, I guess we can still give him credit for realizing how important this would be to Brienne.
Brienne can hardly believe it. And look at Podrick’s face! He is so happy for her! I’m going to cry again for a very brief moment, please excuse me.
Brienne has to pull herself together because unlike me, she is not going to acquit herself like a blubbering mess in this powerful personal moment. The cinematography here is really lovely; the slow zoom in on Brienne is subtle enough that it doesn’t hit you over the head, but still communicates the important visual message that we’re moving from this large group scene into something much more personal for her.
Look at Christie’s expression here. She is suffused with awareness of this responsibility, and although she’s going to feel joy in a moment, at this precise instant she is grave and introspective and overcome.
Then everyone cheers for her! They’re so happy! They get to celebrate something before the brutal inescapability of their fates once again impresses itself upon them!
At last, when it’s over, Brienne lets herself feel joyful about this, lets herself see this moment as more than a responsibility she’s longed for. It is an accomplishment, an acceptance by the people she views as her peers, and an achievement she will cherish forever. Gwendoline Christie’s smile is one warm gust of spring air in the middle of winter.
If she dies in next week’s episode I will be furious.