Now I know what you’re probably thinking. Game of Thrones just gave us one of the best, most feel good and rewarding episodes of the entire series, so surely, it’s about to dash those dreams next week with death and destruction. You’re probably not wrong. In fact, the entirety of this week’s episode felt like setting up a volleyball for a spike to the face. But let’s not focus on it for now. Let’s enjoy this week like our characters did. Dancing with the ghosts, you might say.
High in the halls of the kings who are gone
Jenny would dance with her ghosts.
The ones she had lost and the ones she had found.
And the ones who had loved her the most.
…And she never wanted to leave.
– Jenny’s Song
Podrick sings a song that looms large over this night before battle (is there anything Pod can’t do?). There’s a willingness by most of our characters to accept the inevitability of what waits in the morning, and they’re acting upon it as if they have one last chance. This is an extension of last week’s episode, where we saw many past mistakes and old wounds begin to be mended for the sake of a common goal. Except now, the goal is even more pressing and real. It even gets Dany and Sansa to sit down and try to make amends.
Don’t let this distract you, however, from the fact that we got one of the greatest moments in the show’s history this week. If you didn’t choke up a little during Brienne’s knighting scene then I’ll just go ahead and assume you’re in the Night King’s army. This isn’t a story that often rewards justice, honor, and resolute selflessness, and here we have exactly that. It most certainly completes Brienne’s arc, likely meaning she will fall in battle (sorry… sorry, yes I know but don’t think about it!) but it was such a rewarding conclusion. Give a quick “yay, Brienne!” before we move on. She deserves it.
The completion of Brienne’s arc represents the place where all our characters are right now. Long have they played the game of thrones, and long has each character been seen merely as pawns to be moved on the board. But when death knocks at the castle door, the game disappears, the “kings” are gone, and now each individual can be seen as a person. Real, living breathing people are fighting for life here. It’s a lamentable unifier, but it removes the masks of pretense nonetheless.
The parallel to the Christian walk is fairly straightforward. Calls for unity are all throughout scripture, from Paul’s letters to the Psalms of David and Jesus’ own words. The unifier is also the same as the one on this dark knight in Winterfell – death. Christ’s death fulfilled the law, freeing us to see one another not as sinners, not as ones fallen short, but as equals set free to live fully and honestly. The evening around the fire with Tyrion, Tormund, Brienne, Jamie, Davos and Podrick – parties at one time diametrically opposed to each other – is a small, but beautiful picture of that unity we have freedom to find in Christ.
I feel much like Jenny with her ghosts. I don’t want to leave this place of wine and wonder and merriment. I want this night with our crew to be endless, each one communing together in unity. But of course, that would certainly mean endless night (the bad kind) would reign over Westeros and we can’t have that. For now, though, we can be thankful for these moments of resolution. A lot of change is ahead and if the tension between Jon and Dany is any indicator, this peace we now have is likely to be broken for a time. But this week we saw a picture of what could be on the other side. A Westeros no longer bitterly divided by war and darkness and death, but one united in life lived fully and honestly.