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Game of Thrones' final season episode 2 ending explained

With only four episodes left in the entire series, the second episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones had a lot of groundwork to lay down as the show comes to an end. And though the episode was all set-up and little action, it accomplished quite a lot in just under an hour. Overall, audiences got an in-depth glimpse at some of television's most beloved characters before next week's inevitable bloodbath at Winterfell, now that the army of the dead is right at the Northern stronghold's doorstep.

A slightly quieter hour before what's likely to be one of the biggest battles of the entire series, the second episode still had plenty of big moments and revelations, including several major characters returning to Winterfell, other characters achieving lifelong goals, and a few big firsts as everyone prepares to potentially lose their lives as the new day breaks. From Arya's big moment to Brienne's new title, let's talk about the second episode of Game of Thrones' final season, and what it all means.

Jaime stands trial

When Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) turns up at Winterfell to help in the fight against the incoming army of the dead, he doesn't exactly receive a warm welcome, and it's no wonder why. Not only is Jaime forced to face down Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), the boy he once tried to murder when Bran caught Jaime sleeping with his queen and sister, but he also has to come face to face with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), whose father he successfully murdered — despite being a member of Aerys' Kingsguard and swearing to protect him. Even though nobody but Bran and Jaime know about the murder attempt — a secret that Bran still keeps — Daenerys still wants to hold the man who killed her father accountable. Meanwhile, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is still angry at Jaime for turning on her own father, Ned Stark, during their shared time in King's Landing.

It seems all hope might be lost for Jaime, infamous for everything from killing his king to bedding his sister, even with his own brother, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) there to vouch for him. But in the end, his friend and ally, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) stands up for the Kingslayer, convincing Sansa to allow Jaime to stay safely in Winterfell. Jaime may still be guilty of plenty, but it looks like he'll live to fight another day. Chances are good that the mercy shown by both Sansa and Daenerys will have lasting effects on the conflicts to come as the series wraps up over the next few episodes. Now that the two leaders have found some common ground, it's possible they'll find a way to work together to unite the Seven Kingdoms. Then again…

Daenerys tries to win over her in-laws

When Daenerys arrived at Winterfell to meet her new lover Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) family, she was met with an appropriately icy Northern reception from his protective and guarded sister, Sansa. After realizing that Sansa needed to be convinced to accept her new queen, Daenerys sits down alone with the eldest Stark and Lady of Winterfell in the second episode, determined to win over the stoic survivor and explain what she hopes to accomplish during her time in Westeros.

The meeting seems to go well at first — Sansa even cracks a smile, and the two join hands as they talk about Jon. But it all eventually goes south when Sansa makes it clear that she doesn't want to relinquish the North's claim for independence once Daenerys takes the Iron Throne, leaving things just as tense as they were before their chat. Daenerys' intentions might be good, but it's unlikely that she'll ever fully impress anyone in the North, making it that much harder for her to unite Westeros under her rule. Daenerys may think she has Jon's loyalty, but given how the other lords of the North view Sansa, that may not end up being enough to keep hold on the region in the end.

A few important characters return

With a huge battle looming at Winterfell, it makes sense to bring most of the show's characters together before the impending fight. The second episode brought two major players back to the Northern castle – specifically, Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). Tormund, who survived the fall of the Wall and a harrowing experience at Last Hearth — where he and a few others discovered the zombified body of a young Ned Umber, surrounded by a disturbing pattern of severed limbs — brings news that the dead are on the move, and will likely be at Winterfell before the sun rises on a new day. That knowledge lets everyone know that the battle is closer than they ever imagined.

Meanwhile, Theon Greyjoy, once a ward of the Stark family who turned on Robb Stark to capture Winterfell for himself, has come full circle in his journey, returning to his former home to fight for the Starks. Theon has come a long way since audiences met him as a stuck-up, rude young man, and has withstood emotional and physical torture before turning over a new leaf, even saving Sansa's life more than once during her marriage to the terrifying Ramsay Bolton. Upon his return to Winterfell, he pledges his life and protection to both Sansa and the Stark family. And judging by Sansa's incredibly warm welcome, it's clear that Theon has finally ended up exactly where he belongs. 

Everyone prepares for battle

On the eve of one of the most frightening and difficult battles throughout the entire run of Game of Thrones, the characters prepare for the conflict to come during what might be their very last night alive, and everybody deals with it in completely different ways. While some men, like Tyrion and Tormund, drink heavily, others sing one last song, and some achieve goals they've worked towards for their entire lives. Brienne of Tarth, in particular, has a banner night when Jaime anoints her as the first female knight in all of the Seven Kingdoms, in one of the final season's most emotional moments to date.

Aside from Brienne's new title, audiences are given a quieter yet still incredibly tense episode in the buildup to one of the series' most ambitious battles yet, where the seemingly unbeatable army of the dead arrives to take Winterfell. Even though some fans might have been disappointed by the lack of action, the episode let viewers spend a thoughtful and often funny hour with some of their favorite characters, some of whom probably won't be around after the next episode's enormous battle.

Jon tells Daenerys

There's still plenty of secrets left to be revealed on Thrones, but one of the series' biggest bombshells — specifically, the one concerning Jon Snow's real heritage – was blown wide open during the eighth season premiere when Sam broke the news to his stunned friend, who had to grapple with the fact that he's the actual, rightful heir to the Iron Throne (not to mention that his new girlfriend is actually his aunt). After spending his life assuming that he was nothing more than Ned Stark's bastard son, Jon now has to consider the very real possibility that he could rule all of Westeros, since his parents, Lyanna Stark (Ned's sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys' brother) were rightfully married, making him a legitimate royal.

Obviously, this creates plenty of awkwardness between Jon and Daenerys, who only recently consummated their new relationship. But awkward family reunions aside, Jon breaking the news to Daenerys about his real name and potential title throws another wrench into the proceedings; Daenerys, whose single goal throughout the series has been to take the Iron Throne, now has another rival to contend with, with whom she has inconveniently fallen in love. Now that both characters know that the humble, supposedly low-born Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, Daenerys might turn on him entirely, setting up a huge conflict between two of the show's most important characters. 

In terms of moments that'll have lasting effects through the final episode of the series, keep this encounter in the Stark crypt fresh in your mind. The conflict between Jon and Daenerys may be on hold while they fight for the survival of the human race…but once the Night King melts into a puddle of goo, expect the full repercussions of this conversation to become much more clear in the light of day.

Arya takes control

Over the course of seven seasons, viewers have watched as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has grown from a small, feisty tomboy to a fearless, faceless warrior willing to mow down anything in her path. Now that she has finally returned home to Winterfell and joined her family, Arya is truly in her element. During the eighth season premiere, she reunites with Gendry (Joe Dempsie), her old friend working as a smith in Winterfell's forge, asking him to make her a new, custom weapon, a request which is as close to Arya will probably ever get to flirting.

On the night before the battle with the Night King, Arya makes a somewhat surprising decision, visiting Gendry to pick up her new spear and seducing him, so that she can know what it's like to be with a man before the day breaks and the battle begins. Besides serving as an incredible example of one of the show's most powerful female characters taking control of her sexuality and exercising her autonomy, it also calls back to something that King Robert Baratheon said in Thrones's very first episode about "joining houses" with Ned Stark between Ned's daughter and Robert's son. King Robert was referring to Joffrey and Sansa, but since Gendry is actually Robert's bastard son and Arya is also Ned's daughter, it seems as if the late king's prediction has come true after all this time.