CAUTION: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 8X02 OF GAME OF THRONES.
People tend think I’m bananas when I go on and on about how wonderful Brienne of Tarth is. I just can’t help it. I stan Brienne so much. Don’t even get me started on how much I ship her with Jaime Lannister. We’ll be here for four hours, minimum.
After watching episode 2 of the final season of Game of Thrones, I think many more of my friends started to pick up on the why of my love for Westeros’ warrior woman. Brienne hasn’t gotten a Disney Princess-style makeover, but my girl got a whole other kind of glow up this season. What is particularly interesting about 8×02 is that the glow up Brienne receives calls back to a scene she and Podrick share in 5×03. If you need to refresh your memory, check out the scene here.
Shy and Mocked to Respected and Affirmed
Brienne has transformed from a shy young woman who was teased and mocked mercilessly for her appearance and skills to someone who is respected and even affirmed for exactly who she is and isn’t asked to changed. If we look only at show canon, we have Brienne’s storytime with Podrick in season 5 for an example of the kind of ridicule Brienne has faced her entire life.
“When I was a girl, my father held a ball. I’m his only living child so he wanted to make a good match for me. He invited dozens of young lords to Tarth. I didn’t want to go, but he dragged me to the ballroom. And it was wonderful. None of the boys noticed how mulish and tall I was. They shoved each other and threatened to duel when they thought it was their turn to dance. Whispered in my ear how they wanted to marry me and take me back to their castles. My father smiled at me and I smiled at him. I’ve never been so happy.
Until I saw a few of the boys snickering. And then they all started to laugh, they couldn’t keep the game going any longer. They were toying with me. ‘Brienne the Beauty’ they called me, great joke. And I realized I was the ugliest girl alive, a great, lumbering beast. I tried to run away, but Renly Baratheon took me in his arms. ‘Don’t let them see your tears,’ he told me. They’re nasty little shits and nasty little shits aren’t worth crying over.’ He danced with me and none of the other boys could say a word. Renly was the King’s brother after all. …He saved me from being a joke, from that day until his last day.”
Even after Renly’s affirmation, Brienne still faced ridicule and disrespect for her appearance and for her abilities as a fighter because of her sex. What I admire most about Brienne in this is that while she is still shy and has some measure of self-doubt, she persists in doing what she believes is honorable and right and is sure enough in her abilities to do that. Because of her perseverance, Brienne accomplishes her oaths, rescuing and protecting Catelyn Stark’s daughters. It is her perseverance and her commitment to keeping her word that sparks the admiration many feel for Brienne.
There is no one else in that room that could have stood in Jaime’s stead and defended him in that manner and have everyone in the room take her at her word. This is simply because Brienne’s word means something. It takes an incredible amount of integrity to command that kind of respect. People have learned that while Brienne is not a conventional woman by Westerosi standards, she is a person that is worthy of their respect, regardless of what she looks like or that she can swing a sword as good or better than any man in the room. That is the kind of respect she has always deserved and has finally received.
“I don’t want anyone following me. I’m not a leader,” to “I’m commanding the left flank.”
Brienne told Podrick in the aforementioned scene, “I don’t want anyone following me. I’m not a leader.” Brienne has grown into a leadership role, whether she expected to do so or not. Not only has she come to be respected for her integrity, Brienne’s integrity has inspired others to follow her literally into battle. Jaime Lannister in particular is following his true queen into battle. I was especially moved by his words to her in the training yard.
“I came to Winterfell because…I’m not the fighter I used to be. But I would be honored to serve under your command if you’ll have me.”
Brienne is so shocked in this scene that she can only nod and then because she has no idea how to follow that statement, deflects and says, “I better get back.”
Gwendoline Christie played the scene to perfection going from confidence to shock with the subtlest of cues. While Brienne spoke with confidence in the beginning of that scene, she never expected the man that she loves and respects also believes in her enough to want to follow her into battle.
This scene is the perfect example of the real kind of glow up Brienne has received this season–a glow up in confidence.
“I can’t knight you,” to Becoming a Knight
The scene that punched everyone in the feels this week is Brienne’s knighting ceremony. It was unexpected. It was heartwarming. I wept. I still weep after watching the episode 6 times. I will probably continue to weep over it for the rest of my life.
Again in a call back to the 5×03 scene, Brienne has told Podrick that since she isn’t a knight, so she can’t knight him, but she can train him. Brienne does that, teaching him to fight, but Podrick also is inspired by her persistence and courage.
I think one of the non-verbal cues that I love in this scene is Brienne’s denial about wanting to be a knight. Just as she was denied all her romantic dreams and fairy tales as a young girl because of her appearance, knighthood has been denied her because of her sex. In order to guard her feelings, she deflects, but Podrick knows and gives her a little nod, encouraging her to kneel.
The knighting scene is overflowing with depth. First, the person in the room that Brienne respects and cares for the most is Jaime. They have the most history and she knows his deepest secret. She knows how bad he’s been, but also knows the true honor he bears and his presence has proven that he is not the man he was. They trust each other more than anyone. Because of this deeply layered relationship, Jaime knows that this is something Brienne has always wanted, but also recognizes that she deserves it more than anyone in the world. Jaime bestowing the title is the culmination of everything he has done to equip Brienne to functionally act as a knight. Now he has made it a reality.
Second, Brienne is being knighted in a room full of accomplished men. None of these men deny or begrudge Brienne anything. They know how hard she’s worked towards and succeeded at her goals. She’s fulfilled her oaths and could best every single one of them in a fight. Brienne’s reputation speaks for itself. There is no denying her the title simply because of her sex. The cheers, applause, and ovations she receives when Jaime knights her are the culmination of the purest scene in the entire series. It’s a thing of beauty.
Finally, the look she and Jaime share as she rises absolutely makes my heart melt. I mean, really. LOOK AT THEM.
They are so in love. Oh my heart.
The real deal though is that smile. We’ve seen Brienne grin, we’ve seen her smirk, and maybe give a little half smile, but this. This is a whole other level of happiness. Gwen’s ability to conjure up real tears for the scene is just the icing on the cake.
Brienne has finally fulfilled one of her biggest dreams. Perhaps the one she expected least of all to fulfill. And the fact that Jaime Lannister did it is one of the most romantic things he could have possibly done for her.
Let me be clear though, Brienne’s arc is NOT complete. Only the knighthood portion of it is. Jaime and Brienne have parallel arcs, but they also share in the true fairy tale of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. George R. R. Martin wrote the two as an inverted Beauty and the Beast story, one between an ugly, beastly woman and a beautiful man. To add another layer of depth, when Brienne and Jaime first meet, they despise each other, viewing the other as the Beast of the tale. But as they grow closer and get to know each other, they begin to see the best parts of each other, and view the other as the Beauty. While they both have recognized this internally, there is yet to be a love confession and culmination of that love.
This fairy tale story makes Brienne the true Disney Princess of Westeros. She’s about to gain her Prince, but she’s no damsel in distress. She and her Prince are equal in every way, and they’re about to face evil together side by side. Their courage and their love will see them through.
I’ll be sitting here, clutching my replica of Oathkeeper, just waiting for them to make this a reality.
And besides, it’s about time we had an alto for a Disney Princess.
Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.