Darr: Game of Thrones enjoys a delightful last night on Earth in ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’

This is the best episode that Game of Thrones has had in seasons.

After its premiere’s tedious, repetitive stretch of reunions, Game of Thrones had every character exactly where it wanted them. I’m sure many other viewers also expected the show to burst forth into chaos as soon as its pieces had been arranged. Instead, the show smashed a huge pause button to give its castle-trapped cast one night of peace before all hell breaks loose. It’s hard to imagine a better move for the show to have taken.

“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” is the equivalent of a band dropping a greatest hits album of all new material. Remember the hilarious snarky humor that marked the misadventures of Arya and the Hound? Add another gem of a one-liner to its name. Remember the troubled but heartwarming comradery of Jaime and Tyrion Lannister? Here, have a five-star scene between the characters. There’s Samwell Tarly showing up his bullies again, there’s Sansa standing her ground against those who underestimate her, there’s even Podrick-frickin-Payne stealing the scene in a room full of heroes. It’s hard to imagine an episode that gives its fans more without resorting to flashy, distracting tactics.

As for the one element of the episode that will divide viewers, the move is an objectively refreshing one for Game of Thrones. The show has come repeatedly under fire for putting its female characters through sexual humiliation – there were even hints of that just last episode – but finally, we get a female heroine seizing sexual agency, with the (of age) actress reportedly guiding the scene on her own terms. Which young person wouldn’t be thinking of losing their virginity on the night of the apocalypse? It may be odd watching the younger sister of the show seize the reins, but it fits her character and finally does justice to the power that women otherwise carry throughout the show.

Next episode, we’re promised one of the most epic battle scenes on television. While Game of Thrones definitely knows its way around a battlefield, its heart beats strongest through its character’s dialogue. There’s nothing quite like finally seeing the a smile crack across the face of a warrior who’s been mired in sad determination for seasons, or listening to the half-comforting, half-mournful conversation of a thin Night’s Watch that has simultaneously failed and found its final mission. Let’s hope that this heart keeps beating strongly until the curtains finally close.