Greetings, and welcome! My name is Ben, and you have stumbled upon the ONLY Game of Thrones recap on the entire internet. Week to week I will be breaking down each episode of season 8, giving out highly prestigious awards, and wrapping everything up with a haiku.
Season 8, Episode 1: “Winterfell”
I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern with Game of Thrones’ premieres over the years, which is to say that, unfortunately, not a lot tends to happen in them.
As a fan, I can’t say it’s ever really bothered me that much, as after a long absence—it has been more than 18 months since the last episode aired—just seeing the characters again is usually enough for me. In the past, the first episodes have generally functioned as a way to remind viewers what’s going on in the 68 ongoing storylines. But as the number of storylines has shrunk dramatically by this point (or to put it another way, so many characters have been murdered) and we’re racing toward the climax, there is less justification for an episode to just hang out, sans a sense of urgency.
The writers seemed to understand this, as the first episode of season eight has a bit more going on than your average GoT premiere. That being said, it’s also filled with a lot of scenes that do little more than set the stage for the wars to come.
After a cleverly revamped title sequence (owing to both the, er, revised state of the Wall and the converging storylines, we spend a lot of time touring the interiors of Winterfell and King’s Landing), we begin with a nod to the pilot episode, the last time such a huge group of characters rode into Winterfell to discuss current affairs in the Seven Kingdoms (the little boy racing to get a glimpse of the soldiers—a la young Arya—was perhaps a bit on the nose, if nicely played). Of course the death of Jon Arryn (then) can’t compete with THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (now). There have been several major signs over the last few seasons that we are arriving at the end game, perhaps none as jarring as seeing dragons soaring over Winterfell.
As you can imagine, not everyone is getting along. Sansa (and many of the North lords) are surprised at how quickly Jon has allied himself with Daenerys (it doesn’t help that Jon is soon seen soaring over the castle on the back of one of her dragons; that sound you heard was years’ worth of fan theories suddenly crystalizing into fact).
Personally, I’m torn: on one hand, it’s pretty easy to jump to the conclusion that he was thinking with his heart more than his head. On the other, I don’t know how many times I can handle watching really intelligent characters fail to grasp that you can’t defeat the army of the dead without some buddies, preferably the fire-breathing kind. We’ve been over this.
Speaking of the Dragon Queen, her presence in this season is going to be very interesting. We have spent years watching her liberate slaves and triumph over injustice, but while Jon Snow seems willing to sacrifice his title for the good of the realm, she still seems hung up on who is kneeling and who is not, and on who likes her and who doesn’t. During the opening moments of the episode she can barely contain how much she enjoys that her dragons are scaring the crap out of the common folk. I’m glad that this tension is in play; another painfully altruistic main character (sorry Jon) might make things a bit boring.
Arya and Sansa are leery of Dany, and suspect Jon is not focused on protecting their family. I can only imagine how much that paranoia will increase when they find out that Jon is not actually part of their family.
The biggest takeaway from the Winterfell plotline is that Jon Snow finally knows something. Sam’s revelation that Jon is not a bastard, but actually Aegon Targaryan, son of Rhaegar Targaryan and Lyanna Stark, and the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, is definitely going to cause a bit of tension. It’s unclear yet what he will do with this information, but we certainly haven’t heard the last of it. The fact that Sam got to drop the bombshell only moments after finding out Daenerys burned his family alive only intensified the moment.
Speaking of family tension, Tyrion is apparently the only one in Westeros who still thinks Cersei is going to keep her word and ride north with her armies. Sansa properly blasts him for it: “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.” It’s an unfortunate reminder of just how irrelevant Tyrion has become to the major plotlines of the last few seasons.
Speaking of Cersei, things in King’s Landing have gotten a bit weird. I wouldn’t call what her and Euron have going on a romance, exactly, but it’s… something. Faster than you’d think it would take for ships to sail across an ocean and back, the Golden Company has arrived, 20,000 strong. Well, maybe 19,998 strong—Euron had to kill a few for cheating at dice on the boat ride over.
While King’s Landing used to be such a hub of activity and intrigue, it feels very empty now. I imagine Qyburn has a lot of down time to poke and prod dead people. Exciting stuff. One of the characters still there is Bronn, who has now seemingly been hired to kill both Jaime and Tyrion. This is going to end in heartbreak, one way or another.
As the episode ends, Jaime arrives in Winterfell and locks eyes with Bran, who seems to have been lurking in the background of every shot (is Jamie the “old friend” Bran was waiting to meet?). They no doubt have a lot to discuss. Perhaps Jaime can start with explaining the things he did for love.
“I was told the Golden Company had Elephants.” —Cersei. I WAS TOLD THE SAME THING! DAMN YOU HBO!
“You’ve completely ruined horses for me” —Jon Snow, after taking his first dragon ride
“You should consider yourself lucky, at least your balls won’t freeze off” —Tyrion, welcoming Varys to the North
—The “Cringeworthy Makeout Session of the Week” award goes to Jon and Dany’s heavy smooching after they finished their impromptu dragon ride. Apparently whoever wrote the dialogue for that scene learned everything they know about romance from Attack of the Clones. (The dragons didn’t seem to happy about it either.)
—The prestigious “Nightmare Fuel of the Week” award goes to the penultimate scene, in which a child nailed to a wall in the center of a bunch of human limbs arranged in a creepy spiral, comes back to life to screech terrifying and is then set on fire. Even typing that out is a bit horrific. It was nice to see Ol’ Tormund “Blue Eyes” Giantsbane again though.
—Jon Snow is a two-time winner of the coveted “Aww Shucks Reunion of the Week” award for his reunions with Arya and Bran. It’s weird to think that these characters haven’t been in the same place since very early in season 1.
And now, a haiku by Yara Greyjoy
Nice to be rescued
But this really does feel rushed
Like all my plotlines
What did you think of the premiere?