If this week’s quiet before the storm in Winterfell is the closest we’ll ever come to a Game of Thrones feel-good episode, then the high point came when squire Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) cut through the long night with a rendition of a folk song steeped deep in Westerosi mythology.
**SPOILER WARNING: This story contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 2.**
Warbling Episode 2’s gentle-yet-powerful version of “Jenny of Oldstones,” a TV-adapted song taken from the pages of George R.R. Martin’s novels, took a lot out of Portman, the actor reveals in HBO’s new behind-the-scenes look at the Season 8 Winterfell set.
“I was drinking a lot of herbal teas, and honey, and things like that, to make sure,” Portman jokes around the 17:45 mark in the clip below. “Because it was very high — I don’t usually sing it as high as that.”
Portman’s baleful a capella solo, says director David Nutter, nailed the episode’s overall emotional pitch, as the camera looks in slowly on major character after major character, with only hours — perhaps just minutes — of peace left before death (quite literally) arrives at their doorstep.
“I wanted to shoot it with continuous shots, [and] it was great, because he kept the rhythm for a long time,” says Nutter, with writer Bryan Cogman adding — while fighting back a tear or two — that the song helped put a signature on an episode he described as “a love letter to the characters.”
Florence and the Machine’s end-credits version of the same song definitely appears to reinforce that idea, and the internet wasted no time getting to work deciphering what the song itself could mean for the remaining six episodes. Though the book version of the song has been around since Martin’s 2000 novel A Storm of Swords, the show has caught up with the printed page, giving fans little more than Game of Thrones’ own past lore to go on in trying to guess at what it all might mean.
More than one writer floated the idea following Sunday’s episode that “Jenny of Oldstones,” with its lyrics recalling a woman who chose the love of a Targaryen prince over her kingdom, may foreshadow a heavily-teased coming conflict between Daenarys and Jon Snow — and at the worst possible time.
Now that Jon’s game-changing family secret is out in the open, and he’s positioned to stake his own competing claim to the Iron Throne, the song seems to beg the question: Will Jon choose Danaerys over his claim? Will Danaerys do the same for Jon? Or will their potential conflict lead to a battle of former lovers that’s even more epic and heartbreaking than a full-scale assault from the Army of the Dead?
No one knows, but at least we have Portman’s melodic pipes to thank for a sweet introduction to what could be Game of Thrones’ biggest series-ending plot beat. Raise another horn of herbal tea to the squire with the golden voice.