[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Game of Thrones Season 8 Premiere, “Winterfell.”]
Game of Thrones wastes no time in getting things moving — or rather, flying — in the Season 8 premiere.
It’s an hour filled with reunions fans had been waiting, in some cases, seasons to see. Arya and Jon! Arya and Gendry! Sansa and Tyrion! And yet, despite all the happiness that comes with seeing family and friends again, it’s clear the danger has never been more imminent… and some aren’t taking too kindly to Jon’s decision to bend the knee.
The episode opens with Daenerys, Jon and the rest of their army marching toward Winterfell. “I warned you,” Jon tells Daenerys as they approach, earning nothing but frowns from the spectators, “Northerners don’t much trust outsiders.” The crowd scatters when they see Daenerys’ dragons, but Arya looks on in awe — and inside the walls of Winterfell, so does Sansa.
Once Jon gets inside, he’s happily reunited with Bran… who, still devoid of emotion, isn’t so visibly overjoyed to see him. Daenerys and Sansa have a frosty introduction, but Bran thaws things out by saying they don’t have time for “all of that,” because the dead are marching south.
Later the heads of houses meet, and Lyanna Mormont roasts Jon for all he’s worth. She’s none too pleased that he bent the knee to Daenerys. Jon reminds her that they needed allies or they would die, and he chose the North over keeping his crown. At that, Tyrion chimes in. “If anyone survives the wars to come, we’ll have Jon Snow to thank,” he says. Tyrion tells everyone they must fight together or die, but Sansa thinks they might die anyway, of starvation. “What do dragons eat, anyway?” she asks. “Whatever they want,” Daenerys responds.
Tyrion talks to Sansa. They reflect on their pasts — the last time they spoke was at Joffrey’s wedding — and discuss the future. Sansa has already guessed what we know: The Lannister army isn’t coming North, and Tyrion shouldn’t have believed Cersei. “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive,” she tells him. Ouch.
Jon and Arya share a sweet reunion, complete with a hug. He asks her if she’s ever used Needle, to which she responds, “once or twice.” (It’s been more than once or twice, Jon.) They also talk about Sansa, and Arya tells Jon she’s the smartest person she’s ever met — despite her dislike for Daenerys, which is a thorn in Jon’s side. It seems trouble might be brewing amongst the Starks over the Dragon Queen’s arrival.
In King’s Landing, Qyburn tells Cersei the dead have broken through the wall. “Good,” she says, smirking. In the distance, Euron and the Golden Company sail toward the harbor with Yara as his prisoner. He and Harry Strickland, the leader of the Golden Company, meet with Cersei in the throne room. She’s not happy to hear there are no elephants (a casualty of HBO’s budget, no doubt).
When Strickland is dismissed, Euron remains and tries to seduce Cersei. It doesn’t work… at first. “You want a whore, buy one,” Cersei tells him. “You want a queen, earn her.” She walks away but turns to look back at him, and he follows her. They end up sleeping together, but after, Cersei tells him she wants to be alone. After promising to get her pregnant, he leaves.
Meanwhile, Qyburn goes to see Bronn. He offers him gold, from Cersei, to kill Jaime and Tyrion with a crossbow — the same way Tyrion killed their father. Bronn takes the crossbow, but he doesn’t look too happy about it. During this time, Theon boards one of the ships, kills the men aboard and rescues Yara. They sail away, but Theon wants to go North and fight for the Starks while Yara wants to go retake their home. She allows him to do so, and they part with an embrace.
Daenerys and Jon talk, and Dany tells Jon she’s noticed Sansa doesn’t like her. Jon tries to put her mind at ease, but Dany’s determined to at least earn Sansa’s respect. They’re interrupted by a few Dothraki, who tell Dany her dragons have barely been eating. They go visit Drogon and Rhaegal, and she encourages Jon to ride Rhaegal. There are logistics to figure out — “What do I hold onto?” a bewildered Jon asks — but before long, they’re soaring through the skies together. When they dismount, they share a passionate kiss.
At Winterfell, Arya reunites with the Hound and Gendry. Predictably, there are no hugs between her and the Hound, but they at least seem to have a mutual respect. With Gendry, things go smoother. Arya has a weapon she needs him to make, and while they discuss the logistics and necessity of crafting it, they also tease each other.
Sansa and Jon argue about Dany, and Jon “abandoning his crown.” Sansa’s upset because House Glover won’t stand with them, but Jon insists that without Daenerys, they won’t stand a chance against the undead. Sansa’s skeptical, and irritated. “Did you bend the knee to save the North, or because you love her?” she asks.
The Revelation That Was Promised
Daenerys finds Sam in the library, where they get along well until she learns he’s a Tarly. He’s upset enough to learn Daenerys executed his father, but he barely maintains his composure when she tells him Dickon stood with his father and was killed, too. Distraught, he leaves the library and goes to talk to Bran. “It’s time to tell Jon the truth,” Bran tells him, so Sam visits his friend in the crypts.
Their meeting doesn’t go quite as well as it could’ve, given Jon’s allegiance to the woman who killed his family, and it leads to Sam’s revelation. “You’ve never been a bastard,” Sam tells him. “You are Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne.” Sam encourages him to rise up against Daenerys and claim his birthright, implying that while Jon abandoned his crown for his people, she wouldn’t do the same.
In the ruins of Last Hearth, Tormund and Beric meet Dolorous Edd. The Night King has butchered the Umber Boy and surrounded him with human limbs, forming a symbol. The group makes plans to head for Winterfell, though the army of the dead is now between them and safety. As they talk, the child reanimates and Beric sets fire to him with his sword, illuminating the symbol.
A New Arrival
As the episode ends, Jaime arrives in the North. He gets off his horse and looks around Winterfell, pausing when he sees Bran. Though Jaime seems spooked and perhaps ashamed at the sight of the youngest Stark — and he would, given their unpleasant history — Bran regards him with his usual, Three-Eyed-Raven peaceful stare.
- Is Cersei pregnant? I’d thought that plot thread would be addressed this episode, given the whole prophecy that says she would only have three children, and since she was drinking again… did she miscarry offscreen? What was the point of her purposely not drinking in the Season 7 finale if she’s going to be drinking now?
- Barely any Brienne this episode, which is a bummer. But it seems likely that she might have more to do next episode now that Jaime’s officially arrived.
- Kudos to John Bradley for his fantastic acting this episode. Given that I wasn’t a fan of Randall Tarly or Dickon, it would take a lot for me to feel anything about their deaths — but it broke my heart to see Sam’s heart broken. And he played Sam’s anger, and the anger leading to the reveal of Jon’s true parentage, perfectly.
- That scene with the reanimated Umber boy might be one of the scariest scenes I’ve seen from Thrones so far. Yep, that one will show up in my nightmares.
Game of Thrones, Final Season, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO