WARNING: GOT SPOILERS AHEAD
As the eve of the great battle loomed, Game of Thrones fans were gifted a beautifully haunting hymnal of ‘Jenny of Oldstones’, sung by Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) in the final season’s second episode “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”. The credits rolled and the song composed by Ramin Djawadi was re-sungby Florence Welch and can be found accompanied by a moving video collaging emotional moments from the past 10 years.
The song when sung by Podrick is stripped bare, his unexpected vocal clarity echoing off the walls of the fire lit room. However, Florence’s voice transforms the roundabout folk song into a Celtic ballad, admitting that “Celtic music has always been in my blood, so I felt like I could do something with it”.
As the episode uses the song to give us one last look at all our best-loved characters before they walk out into no man’s land, the repetitive lyrics “never wanted to leave” show us intimate last moments, like a goodbye kiss between Missandei and Grey Worm. However, the crescendo created by the repetition of “Never wanted to leave” in Florence’s rendition is emotionally amplified as it plays over several scenes for the show’s 8 seasons. We see the familiar crypt of Winterfell as “the halls of the kings who are gone”, and a younger sword clad Arya metaphorically “dancing with her ghosts”. As we see the heart-wrenching scene of Ned’s death as the “ones lost”, contrasted by Bran as the “ones found”, we’re reminded just how far the narrative has come from the days when incest and attempted murder was as shocking as it got – child’s play compared to kool aid undead dragons if you ask me.
The melancholic passion in Welch’s vocals as she sings “the ones who had loved her the most” prepares us for a gut punch as the video shows the tear-jerking farewell between Jon and Ygritte. Whilst Martin’s lyrics are manipulated to call out Jorah Mormont for being gone “for so very long”, they are also reworked from a place of nostalgia to a place of malice as it’s shown as not being Jenny who “can’t remember” the name of lost loved ones, but Arya who doesn’t know the names of those dead by her hand.
The more hard done by Stark women Sansa and Catelyn are the image of “Sorrow and pain”, whilst the most literal parallel drawn is the unforgettable image of the wall as it “did crumble and fall” in the season 7 finale.
The song is hauntingly eerie but also full of nostalgia, longing and sorrow – not unlike the sentiments of Game of Thrones fans coming to terms with the show’s looming end. Florence’s vocals on the released version emphasise the folkish lilt the song seems it was intended to be sung with; however, removing the dramatic piano instrumental accompaniment to isolate Podrick’s lower tone and slower paced rendition suited the mood of the scene perfectly. The last few episodes of the show will be coming out this month but it’s believed Florence was the last featured artists to appear on the soundtrack, a reminder that although we never wanted the seven kingdoms to leave us, their watch is almost up.