Just as with all Game of Thrones season openings, we got a load of characters being positioned on a chessboard in the season premiere of this eighth and final season. Long-awaited reunions finally came to fruition, and revelations were made. Read on for SYFY WIRE’s recap.
**SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 1. Obviously.**
This season begins with a new opening intro scene, starting at the now-defunct Wall, with snow covering a majority of the land. Winterfell holds strong against the coming evil, its internal machinations stronger and deeper than ever. King’s Landing’s walls also rise in defiance, with spiraling staircases and, most importantly, a lion hanging resolutely over the Iron Throne.
And then it begins.
Daenerys has arrived at Winterfell. Jon Snow rides alongside her, and with them come the Hound, Gendry Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister, and Varys. Among this group are questions about how the North could possibly ever trust this Southern queen, this Targaryen with the dragons.
“I warned you, Northerners don’t much trust outsiders,” Jon tells Dany just as the dragons arrive. It’s exhilarating and terrifying for the Northerners, knowing these creatures are on their side. But Sansa Stark will be taking no s**t this season, and, as we’ve seen in Season 8’s trailers thus far, she looks none too happy to surrender Winterfell to Daenerys.
Just as the Starks stood together at the beginning of Season 1 to greet the Lannisters, Sansa and Bran greet Dany and Jon. The reunions are here.
Jon greets Bran first, then Sansa, and immediately asks for Arya (more on that later). With Daenerys’ forces here, the Northern lords gather to talk about Winterfell’s forces, which are slowly returning to the castle. Lady Lyanna Mormont (bow down) demands to know why they should trust Daenerys, especially after the Northern lords had already pledged their loyalty to Jon Snow, specifically.
Tyrion, ever faithful and quick on his feet, jumps in to try and explain the importance of banding together against the White Walkers — the Lannisters’ army is (supposedly) on its way, and between the Northerners and Dany’s army, they might stand a chance. “Might” being the operative word.
As always, Sansa has the real questions, asking how they plan to feed that many people — “What do dragons eat, anyway?” — and, a bit later, also manages to be the first to point out that they probably can’t trust Cersei when Tyrion approaches Sansa, another reunion. The two smirk and quip at each other, and there’s a sense of cautious respect there. It’s understandable considering they are arguably the two smartest people remaining in this game. (They are, technically, still married, right?)
The best reunion, though, goes to Arya and Jon. We’ve been waiting for the closest Stark siblings to see each other again for what feels like an eternity, and in the moment they hugged, we saw a bit of the old Arya; she still has Needle (confessing to having used it “once or twice”) and still loves her brother. She’s still young despite all the things she’s seen. And, at its heart, this show is about family. The Starks continue to be the strongest, most resilient family in Westeros.
Meanwhile, Davos Seaworth, Tyrion, and Varys discuss how to integrate Daenerys’ army with the North. How do you get the North to trust you? Realistically, you band Jon and Daenerys together, get others to view this “handsome couple,” this “just woman” and “honorable man,” as a truly unified front.
Jon rides Rhaegal. It’s no biggie. Fans have just been questioning when — if at all — Jon would ever ride one of the dragons. That time is apparently at the very beginning of the season.
Another thing we’ve been waiting to see how it would play out? The big reveal that Jon isn’t a Stark bastard but a Targaryen king.
Sam Tarly learns that Daenerys killed his father and brother when they refused to bend the knee, leaving him as the heir apparent to the Tarly name. He also — this is really not a good episode for Sam — is elected by Bran to tell Jon his true parentage. And it comes out all at once.
“Your mother was Lyanna Stark. And your father, your real father, was Rhaegar Targaryen,” Sam tells Jon as they stand in Winterfell’s crypts. “You’re Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne.”
And what does Jon do? Say Daenerys is the true queen and look terrified while Sam questions whether Dany would ever have the heart to not kill someone. As Jon himself pointed out to Sansa, titles don’t matter at this point in the game; all that matters is who’s alive and who’s dead. But Daenerys is, as he says, going to be the queen. She’s the leader, not him. The rightful queen. Except she’s not.
This is a mess. Only the Seven know what Jon will do with this information next episode.
Oh. Most importantly: Arya reunited with the Hound and Gendry. It was satisfying.
Beric Dondarrion, Tormund Giantsbane, and the remaining members of the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings who miraculously survived the Wall tumbling down in the Season 7 finale are trying to make their way to Winterfell.
They come across the remains of the dead Umber boy, pinned to a wall by the Night King and surrounded by a pattern of severed limbs that make up a pinwheel, the very same symbol we’ve seen from the Walkers all along. He screams and tries to grab them. His screams of agony and anger as he burned will haunt me.
Cersei learns that the dead have come past the wall. Her response, “Good,” will haunt me for weeks to come. She looks out at the waters outside King’s Landing, where the Golden Company and the last (or so they think) of the Greyjoys are. Euron sleeps with Cersei because … why not? She smirks when he says he wants to put a prince in her (wow okay). The gods know when we’ll find out more about her latest kid with Jaime. No news on that yet.
In addition to all this, Bronn of the Blackwater has been charged by Cersei to kill Tyrion (kinda a conflict of interest), using a crossbow as the perfect revenge against him.
Finally, Theon Greyjoy shows up to free Yara Greyjoy from the Golden Company and Euron’s clutches. The complicated brother/sister duo seem to pretty much make up, since Theon seems a bit more level-headed and Yara finally holds the title of Queen of the Iron Islands. Daenerys, Yara points out, will need a place to retreat to if she can’t beat the dead. Where better than the Iron Islands? Yara gives Theon her permission to go help the Starks and Dany defend Winterfell and the North.
Everyone is on their way to Winterfell. Next week promises dueling houses and, potentially, the arrival of the Night King’s army.