And at long last, we have arrived. The final season has premiered, Winter Has Come, and to be frank, the opening episode was… pretty standard fair for the first episode of a season of ‘Game of Thrones.’ I can already hear the naysayers complaining about there being “not much action” and “nothing happened,” which frankly, after 7 seasons, people should have figured out that the first episode is the workhorse episode, where they have to re-set up all the pieces and prepare the audience for the mayhem ahead. Still, being a shortened final season and all, I had at least thought there would be some sense of urgency, at least in the north where the White Walkers are now marching toward Winterfell (supposedly), but everything felt a bit more relaxed than I had thought it would.
Most of the episode, especially the beginning, seemed to be a bit of an homage to the pilot of ‘Game of Thrones,’ where King Robert Baratheon and his Queen Cersei came to Winterfell with a large delegation, and we later learned Robert wanted to ask Ned to be the Hand of the King. This time around, Queen Daenerys has come to Winterfell with Jon Snow in tow (the former King of the North, a title which his kinsman and allies are none-too-pleased that he gave us so easily), complete with a massive army ready to repel the army of the undead, whether or not the North is happy to have her.
We get to see all the living Starks reunited once more, from Bran and Jon, to Jon and Arya, a particularly touching scene since the two of them had been so close in the early episodes of Season 1 and have not seen each other for basically the entire series since then. It was fascinating to see how much everyone has grown up, how the dynamics have changed, from Arya and Sansa having their own sisterly bond and respect now (which Jon did not anticipate), to the odd frenemy relationship between Sansa and Tyrion (the formerly married couple), even to Jon and Bran, who we know has secrets to tell his brother, but decides not to tell him just yet, as Bran is busy waiting in the courtyard for “an old friend.”
Sansa and Arya waste no time letting Dani know she is not all that welcome in Winterfell, and telling Jon they are not all that happy he bent the knee, though Sansa eventually admits that she will trust her brother for now. As for Jon, he and Dani get even closer under the watchful eyes of everyone present, with the triumvirate of Davos, Tyrion and Varys even plotting to get the two engaged to further cement the alliance with the North, none quite suspecting their familial ties yet (or if they do, not really caring).
Much to the delight of fans, Jon even gets to go for his first dragon ride in the episode, taking flight on his own steed with Daenerys over the lands of the North, before stopping near some waterfalls where they proceed to make-out (and most likely more) under the watchful gaze of the dragons, which is a bit weird considering they see Daenerys as their mother.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei continues to plot and plan only for herself, especially since Euron has returned with the Golden Army from Braavos, which she clearly plans to use to win the war despite the promise she made to help everyone against the White Walkers. And while she is busy sleeping with Euron (a decision which still baffles me), out at sea Theon makes a daring rescue and saves his sister Yara from the Iron Fleet, proving that he is not entirely the coward that we thought that he was. Yara then reclaims her title as the new true ruler of the Iron Islands and takes commands of the ships Theon came with to rescue her and sets sail back for home, to prepare to be a retreat for Dani and Jon’s army should they need to flee from the Army of the Dead.
Theon, though, wants to join his family at Winterfell and fight, and Yara recognizes that and lets him go, and it is clear this is probably the last time these characters will see each other as Theon is unlikely to survive if things go bad at Winterfell.
Back at King’s Landing, Cersei also makes plans to deal with both Jamie and Tyrion, both of whom she sees as traitors now. She sends Qyburn to hire Bronn (who is currently at a brothel with 3 ladies attending to him) to assassinate her brothers should they survive the war with the White Walkers, even paying him in advance, something Jamie and Tyrion both failed to do. Bronn seems a bit torn about the assignment, but Qyburn reminds him that Tyrion and Jamie both failed to follow through on their promises to him, and says if he takes the job Cersei is paying upfront, and in the end, Bronn is still a sellsword, and a businessman, so it is very likely he will not be turning down this job. And though we do not know exactly what Cersei plans to do with Euron’s Iron Fleet and the Golden Army (minus the elephants which could not make the journey, but Cersei is very sad not to have), we know it will not be good for the defenders of Winterfell.
Luckily, Sansa is already calling that Cersei’s promise of sending a Lannister army to help is nonsense, and tells as much to Jon and anyone else who is listening because she knows Cersei well and is potentially the best at reading how others are playing the Game of Thrones. She even calls out Jon and asks him whether he gave up his throne because it was best for the North or because he loved Daenerys, a question which clearly is unnerving for Jon.
And it is but the beginning of disquieting things to ponder for our hero, as later, while visiting his father down in the crypt, Jon is joined by Samwell Tarly, who himself just spoke to Dani and learned that she executed his father and brother and is very upset about the situation. Still, Sam knows his duty and has been urged by Bran to tell Jon the truth about his lineage, so he proceeds to inform his friend about his royal birthright, which Jon does not seem all that happy to hear about. Especially not when Sam ends his explanation with the question asking whether Dani would make the same decision as Jon, to give up the throne in order to save her people. And Sam has a point, for all of her accomplishments, Dani has always thought she had the rightful claim to the throne, and seemed to relish her power. Would she willingly give it all up if she found out another had a truer claim, and the people were more willing to follow Jon than her?
Lastly, we catch up with Tormund and Beric, both of whom survived the collapse of the wall, and are now examining the darkened ruins of a castle, while we are all waiting for the first appearance of the White Walkers in Season 8. They finally come across the body of the young Lord Umber, attached to the wall with dismembered arms strewn around him in the same strange pattern that we saw the White Walkers create around a victim in the pilot episode (another homage to the pilot), and we realize this was the Umber home, the closest castle to the wall, and the Walkers have already swept through here. The young Umber wakes up, now a Wight, and attacks, and they set the boy ablaze.
As Dolorus Edd and some Night Watchmen join their party, they all realize the Army of the White Walkers is now between them and Winterfell. The Night Watchmen realize there is no longer a point in watching the Wall, and they all head out to join the fight, leaving the Wight and the flames to burn out behind them.
In the episode’s final moments, we see a hooded man enter Winterfell, and once he reveals himself, we understand it is Jamie Lannister, back for the first time since Season 1 when he pushed young Bran Stark out of a window, clearly still ashamed and wondering what kind of a greeting he was going to get when he showed his face there. At that moment, we realize exactly who the “old friend” is that Bran has been waiting for, as Bran reveals himself to Jamie, and the show cuts to black just as the two characters see each other for the first time in 7 seasons.
GAME OF THEORIES:
- Could Tyrion and Cersei have worked out some sort of deal/plan together, and that is why Tyrion is so quiet these days? Because he is not entirely happy about what he agreed to?
- Do the dragons already sense the family blood in Jon Snow? Or do they let him ride because they can feel that Dani loves him?
- How close are the White Walkers to Winterfell? I feel like with a dragon they should already be besieging most of the North, and yet from the ride Dani and Jon went on, things still seem relatively calm up North.
- Could Bronn really kill the Lannister brothers? Or will he choose not to, thus showing his character arc for the series?
If nothing else, this has been a fascinating episode just to see all the reunions and meetings of characters separated by so much distance over the course of the series. To see everyone congregated in one place was amazing, and even the new opening credits hinted at that fact by only focusing on Winterfell and King’s Landing, the only two locations for the episode, which is why they had time to actually go INSIDE the buildings for the first time, when before we only saw the outsides of the structures in the opening titles. For a set-up episode, they got a lot out of the way right here at the beginning, and I cannot help but feel things are going to pick up VERY fast from here on, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the next 5 weeks. ‘Game of Thrones’ is back, one last time.
Make sure to check back here every week for our recap, and as always, feel free to share your thoughts and theories on what is to come in the comments below!