After seven seasons of waiting, winter is finally here. Boy, was it worth the wait.
The season 8 premiere starts off with Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow leading her army into Winterfell, harkening back to the arrival of Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister in the season 1 premiere. This is the first of many parallels to the pilot episode in “Winter is Here”. An alternate title could be “Echoes, Unions, and Reunions” as the entire episode consists largely of characters reuniting, homages to the beginning of the show, and characters meeting that we never knew we’d always been waiting for.
Let’s start off with that redone title sequence. The wall being smashed was a perfect touch, and the restriction to only three landmarks in the title sequence helped the show start to reign in the final season enough for us to easily follow.
Jon Snow reunites uncomfortably with his people, no longer their king. Sorry guys, he gave up the crown for some Targaryan action (It’s okay though, she’s family). It’s interesting to see how this tension will play out over the season, since Jon has already been killed via mutiny once already.
Arya and Jon are back together again for the first time in years, a reunion I thought had already happened last season (Was she out of town when he was hanging out with Sansa?). Arya is surprisingly on Sansa’s side with regards to Jon abandoning the crown, calling Sansa “The smartest person I’ve ever met” (that’s going a little far, she is only like fourteen).
Sansa and Tyrion reunite for the first time since Joffrey’s wedding/murder. (Are they still technically married? Did anyone annul that? Where’s a maester when you need one?) She brings up a very good point in that he’s an idiot to trust his sister’s promise of a Lannister army. Of course, we know full well that Cersei has no intention of sending her army to help. She does, however, get Qyburn to offer Bronn a ton of money to murder one and/or both of her brothers in another infamously needless GOT sex scene.
Cersei and Euron’s reunion takes on an interesting shape, as we can’t quite tell whether she’s going to kill him or sleep with him. To be honest, I’m not sure she’s decided which she’s going to do. But she takes him into her bed anyway, although his comment about putting a prince in her stomach seems to bring a few tears to her eye. Cersei’s relationship with her children has always been the most complex part of her character, her one saving grace from being a completely wretched sociopath (but still totally fun).
Sam and Daenerys meeting is the scene I never knew I wanted. I didn’t even remember she’d burned his family until they realized it midway through the scene; I was just so excited because they seemed so excited. Too bad she couldn’t have just killed the dad, as it seemed like Sam actually liked his brother.
Apparently we’re not the only ones shipping Jon and Dany- add Varys, Davos Seaworth, and Tyrion to the list. Whereas we just think they’d make a cute couple, they think they’d make a cute couple and would be able to bring the North to the Targaryan side. Two dragons, one stone.
Even the dead get a parallel to season one with their bizarre human body art decorating the walls of Last Hearth. The jump scare of the little boy reanimating and screaming before being set on fire with a flaming sword was incredible. It’s honestly something I both saw coming and yet was completely surprised by, my favorite combination from Game of Thrones.
At some point in the episode, virtually everyone unintentionally makes eye contact with Bran, who seems to have been left out in the cold courtyard by himself. What is he doing out there? Has he been there this whole time? Will anyone bring him in? He does have a mission for Sam though- to tell Jon Snow his true lineage. Why Bran can’t do this himself, we’re not sure. Perhaps he’s too busy sitting by himself in the courtyard.
The reunion of Sam and Jon at the end is a bittersweet one, as Sam confesses to Jon that Daenerys basically murdered his whole family and also Jon is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Two unrelated anecdotes, but both information that seemed pertinent to convey. What Jon will do next is anyone’s guess, although the romantic dragon ride with Daenerys earlier in the episode is certainly starting to make a bit more sense (Why would she let him ride a dragon? What if he’d died? She’d be screwed!)
The final moment of the episode ties it all together so perfectly it’s easily the coolest moment of the episode, even if it isn’t the most consequential. Jaime arriving at Winterfell and locking eyes with Bran (sitting out in the cold, again) is a perfect throwback to him tossing Bran out of the window at the end of the pilot episode. Both characters have gone through such extreme and incredible journeys between then and now, and both have paid for the incident dearly. We can only imagine how awkward episode 2 is going to be when they realize they’re also wearing the same outfit.
The show kicked off its final season with quite an impressively subtle episode. It took its time, didn’t overdo it with the action scenes or the exposition, yet moved the plot at a pretty rapid pace to set up the conflict of the final season. One wonders what the show could have been like if it had always been so concise, but then again a bit of needless meandering is what makes the show most faithful to the books. All in all, it was a solid reintroduction to the show, and the rest of the season holds a ton of potential moving forward.