With its most recent episode, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," Game of Thrones finally set the stage for the biggest battle we've ever seen on the show, and it did this through a relatively violence-free outing full of funny, bittersweet, and often heartwarming character moments. On the eve of the Battle of Winterfell, costar Kristofer Hivju is breaking down how his character, Tormund Giantsbane, is feeling about everything.
Tormund, the Wildling commander who once fought the Night's Watch with everything he had before befriending Jon Snow and becoming an ally to the King in the North, has been through a lot recently. For a little while there, it was quite possible we'd never see him again, as he may have died when the Night King brought down the Wall at the end of Season 7. He made it out, though, and worked his way south until reuniting with Jon at Winterfell, where he and his Brotherhood Without Banners pal Beric Dondarrion are now preparing for an all-out fight.
Before that fight, though, Tormund found himself in a room with his crush, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), and her own crush from days past, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). It's more complicated than that, of course, but during the evening Tormund began to sense something with Jaime, which Hivju explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
"After Tormund comes to the castle, I think he's been watching [Brienne] as much as he can," he said. "He's picked up that this new guy, this 'King Killer,' he's competition. It's all about Tormund trying to push him down in order to push me up. But it doesn't work. It doesn't work! [Laughs.]... But it was hilarious. I had a lot of fun with it. We laughed a lot."
Tormund, of course, chose this moment to tell the story of how he got the name "Giantsbane," and how a giant nursed him like a baby, which gave him his tremendous strength. What he thought would be an epic and impressive tale ended up just weirding out everyone in the room. But despite his apparent failure with Brienne, he still found a way to be delighted when Jaime stood up and made her a knight.
"On behalf of Tormund, I chose to feel that the acknowledgment she gets is much, much more important than the rivalry," he said. "When he sees her smile for the first time and he sees how much this means to her? He really loves this woman... I really think he was very touched. You see him smiling like a baby. I think he's just so happy."
Hivju added, "Everybody cried on every single take. That's the beauty of the show. You have this arc of eight seasons. This woman has tried to find respect and a place in the world, and suddenly, she accomplishes her greatest dream... It was brilliantly played by Gwen. It was a very touching day."
Tormund's affection for Brienne has become one of the most meme-able things about Game of Thrones in recent years, and one of its most fruitful sources of comedy in the past two seasons in particular. There is something more to it than flirtation, though. Tormund is in many ways in awe of Brienne, because he's never seen anyone else like her, and his decision not to make her big moment about him and what he wants is proof of that.
Game of Thrones returns with the biggest battle of its run on Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO.