Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones’ Season 8 premiere.
Oh my sweet summer children, the hour finally is upon us: Game of Thrones‘ final season has begun.
And what a beginning, eh? The Season 8 premiere wastes very little time easing us back into life in Westeros, because who’s got time to spare when the undead are on the march? So we get an army’s arrival, some long-awaited Stark family reunions, a dizzying dragon ride and a delicious final moment nearly a decade in the making.
“But what about Jon?” you cry. “Does he find out who he truly is?” Oh yes, and it’s a moment that’s right up there with Ned’s beheading, the Red Wedding, “Tell Cersei” and other iconic moments from the series’ run.
Read on for the highlights of the episode.
HOUSE STARK: LET’S-GET-THIS-THING-GOING EDITION | A boy runs through a wintry wood. When he finally reaches his destination, he joins a crowd of people who are watching the Unsullied march to Winterfell. The boy climbs a tree to see better, which allows us to see that there are an insane amount of soldiers on their way in; four or five columns of them, stretching far into the distance.
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Daenerys and Jon ride among them, clad in fur. Arya stands in the crowd and smiles as her brother passes, but he doesn’t see her. The rest of Daenerys’ retinue are scattered among the soldiers: Missandei, Grey Worm, The Hound and Gendry ride horses, while Tyrion and Varys are carted via coach. Save Arya, every Northerner watching the procession seems very wary of the newcomers.
“I warned you: Northerners don’t much trust outsiders,” Jon tells Daenerys. Just then, Drogon and Rhaegal fly overhead, screeching and cavorting as Daenerys beams her proud mama smile and the commoners on the ground freak the heck out. Arya, however, looks up in happy wonderment. On the Winterfell parapet, her sister Sansa watches the beasts buzz the castle.
Bran is in the courtyard when Jon arrives, and Snow immediately goes to him, kissing his head and embracing him. It’s sweet. It’s also refreshing to see Jon emote this much. “Look at you! You’re a man!” Jon gushes. “Almost,” Bran says in that flat computer voice that makes the moment 100 percent weirder than it has to be.
Jon also hugs Sansa tightly, and Daenerys and Jorah respectfully hang back while the Stark kids get used to being in the same hemisphere again. Lyanna Mormont (aka MY queen) is there, too, watching as Jon brings Dany over and introduces her to his sister. Daenerys compliments Sansa. Sansa gives her the most side-eye she can possibly dish out while looking at khaleesi head-on, but she says that Winterfell is Daenerys’ to use. Then Bran puts an abrupt end to the pleasantries by announcing that the Night King has a dragon, and the dead are on their way.
HOUSE STARK: THE-BANNERMEN-REVOLT EDITION | Sansa, Jon and Daenerys gather the loyal to talk next steps. Some old business is taken care of — Sansa dispatches the insanely young head of House Umber to Last Hearth to rally his family, Jon sends a raven to The Wall to tell the Night’s Watch to make their stand from Winterfell — but the Stark bannermen are rather irked that Jon gave him his King in the North role in order to bend the knee to Daenerys.
Jon reminds them that they need allies, or they’ll die when the white walkers attack. And he points out that when it came to keeping his crown or protecting The North, “I chose The North.” Any ground he’s gained, though, falls away when Tyrion stands up and announces that the Lannister army is on its way to join their cause.
Sansa, who is far from throwing unconditional support behind Jon and his new lady, notes that she’s not sure how they’ll feed gazillions of troops and two mythical creatures. “What do dragons eat, anyway?” she asks. “Whatever they want,” Daenerys says, grinning.
Later, Tyrion approaches Sansa on the balcony and mentions that they last time that they spoke was at Joffrey’s wedding. “A miserable affair,” he says. “It had its moments,” she answers. I LIKE THIS SAUCY SANSA. He notes that most of the people who underestimated her are dead now, but she’s not swayed by the compliment. She mocks him for believing that Cersei will send her soldiers to fight for his side, then walks off, commenting, “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.” Ouch. (Side note: I was a little unclear on whether or not Sansa and Tyrion were still legally wed. Apparently, they’re not — in Season 5, Littlefinger tells Roose Bolton that because they never “consummated” the marriage, it didn’t count.)
In the godswood, Arya and Jon hug hard, and it makes me so happy. He’s all, “Sansa’s a pain, amirite?,” but she’s more of an ally to their sister than he expects. She says that the redhead is the smartest person she knows, and that she’s doing everything for her family. “I’m family, too,” he says a little sadly. “Don’t forget that,” she replies.
HOUSE LANNISTER: WHERE-ARE-THE-ELEPHANTS? EDITION | In King’s Landing, Qyburn approaches Cersei to tell her that the dead have broken through The Wall. “Good,” she says, smiling as she gazes at the horizon, where Euron’s fleet is returning with the Golden Company on board. What she doesn’t know — or, I’d guess, care about — is that Yara is still alive and being held captive on Euron’s own ship. Yara tells her uncle that he picked the “losing side” in the big battle to come, but he can’t be bothered to care. “Then I’ll sail the Iron Fleet somewhere else. But first, I’m going to f—k the queen.” Lovely.
Later, Euron faces Cersei as she sits on the Iron Throne and hears Golden Company head Captain Strickland report on what they’ve brought. There are thousands of men and a whole bunch of horses, but no elephants, much to Cersei’s disappointment. After he’s dismissed, Euron wants a private moment with the queen — in the bow-chicka-wow-wow sense — but she’s not inclined. “You want a whore? Buy one. You want a queen? Earn her,” she says, which is kickass… right up until the moment she apparently changes her mind, looks at him, and bids him follow.
We don’t see them unleashing his kracken, so to speak, but in the aftermath Euron is even more insufferably cocky than usual, and Cersei seems to dig it. “So, how do I compare to the fat king?” he asks, “and the Kingslayer?” WOW. Eventually, she tells him to leave her alone, but before he goes, he palms her abdomen. “I’m going to put a prince in your belly,” he promises. Um, spot’s taken, dude. After he leaves, she tears up a little as she drinks her wine.
Meanwhile, while he’s away from his ship, someone singlehandedly takes out every defense, including the man guarding Yara’s door. And then we see that it’s Theon! Yay! (Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy to see him.) He frees her. She head-butts him. Then she helps him up. By the way, there’s no dialogue in this scene, and it’s great.Later, Yara says that she wants to take back the Iron Islands so that Daenerys can use them as a retreat if things go badly in the war. Theon says he’ll do whatever his sister commands, but she realizes how much he wants to be at Winterfell, so she gives him her blessing to go. “What is dead may never die,” she says, invoking their family’s motto, “but kill the bastards, anyway.” (Side note: This moment of sibling support is sweet, but I’m going to ruin it for you the way my brain, in a swift and detailed flash, just ruined it for me: Remember when they were riding on the horse the first time Theon went back to the Iron Islands? You’re welcome. I’m sorry.)
HOUSE STARK: HOLD-ONTO-YER-BUTTS EDITION | While Davos, Tyrion and Varys discuss how Daenerys and Jon should marry and rule together, provided they survive the war, Dany and Jon visit the dragons, who aren’t eating. Turns out, they don’t like the cold. (I don’t suppose they make Canada Goose parkas in XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXL?) She mounts Drogon and tells Jon to get on Rhaegal — his hesitancy and awkwardness is hilarious, but he eventually makes it on — then they take an aerial tour of the lands near Winterfell. When Jon’s steed skims by the castle, Tyrion, Varys and Davos are astonished to see him riding.
At one point during the flight, Rhaegal nosedives into a canyon. I’m assuming that Jon peed himself in fear and it instantly froze, somehow affixing him to the dragon’s back, because how else could he stay on? When they land near some pretty waterfalls and start to make out, the dragons watch, and it unsettles Jon. Ha!
Back at Winterfell, Arya and Gendry flirt in the foundry, where he’s making weapons out of all of the dragonglass Jon & Co. mined at Dragonstone. The Hound makes a brief appearance to give Arya a backhanded compliment, then stalks off. And when Jon comes back, Sansa lights into him about abandoning his crown. “Did you bend the knee to save The North, or because you love her?” she asks, and Jon doesn’t have an answer.
THE MEN OF (WHAT’S LEFT OF) THE WALL | Tormund, Beric Dondarrion and a few other men walk around one of the castles at what remains of The Wall. As they silently tread through the wreckage, they hear footsteps and prepare to attack. As the unseen others approach, Beric lights his sword on fire and GAME ON and oh wait, it’s just Dolorous Edd and some other survivors of the attack! “Stay back, he’s got blue eyes!” Edd shouts. “I’ve always had blue eyes!” Tormund yells back. (Ha!)
But that’s where the comedy ends: Lord Umber, the young boy Sansa sent from Winterfell at the start of the episode, is impaled on a wall with a very grotesque — though nicely spaced, I must say — spiral of human limbs stuck up around him. And if we have any doubt that the white walkers have been here, the boy’s eyes pop open and are icy blue. He screams in an otherworldly and highly disturbing way, and continues to do so after Beric lights him on fire with the sword. If you haven’t discerned this yet, allow me to make it super clear: This whole exchange is quite scary.
HOUSE TARLY: WELL-WHAT’S-LEFT-OF-IT EDITION | Sam is poring over some books (naturally) when Daenerys and Jorah find him: She wants to thank the man who saved her knight from greyscale. Sam asks for a pardon for stealing books from the Citadel and the sword from his dad — that’s when khaleesi realizes that his father was Randall Tarly. Daenerys gently, for her, tells him she flambéed him and his brother when they wouldn’t pledge her their fealty.
Poor Sam is trying not to cry but losing the battle, so he asks to be excused. And when he runs into Bran in the courtyard, Bran announces “It’s time to tell Jon the truth” and decides that Sam has to do it. GOOD GOD, GIVE THE GUY A MOMENT, BRAN. Once he’s pulled himself together a bit, Sam finds his friend and former Night’s Watch commander in the crypts. Jon apparently hadn’t realized that Sam was on site, and he gives him a huge hug. His embraces are potent in this hour, no?
Sam tells Jon that Dany killed his (terrible, mean and unappreciative… but still) father and brother, and realizes that Jon didn’t know. “Would you have done it?” he asks, noting that Jon has sometimes offered mercy in such cases. Jon dodges the question, saying that he wasn’t a king. “But you were,” Sam says. “You always have been.” BUCKLE UP, EVERYONE. When Jon continues to protest, Sam shuts him down: “I’m not talking about the King of the North. I’m talking about King of the bloody Seven Kingdoms!”
He goes on to lay out Jon’s parentage, ending with “You’re Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne.” The idea enrages Jon. “My father was the most honorable man I ever met. You’re saying he lied to me my entire life?” Sam points out that Ned protected him from Robert’s anti-Targaryen wrath. “Daenerys is our queen,” Jon says, resolute. “She shouldn’t be,” Sam quickly replies. After all, he adds, “You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?”
HOUSE LANNISTER: OH-POOP EDITION | Aboveground, a hooded rider and his horse arrive at Winterfell. When he dismounts and we finally see his face, it’s Jaime, as you might’ve guessed. The Kingslayer looks around… and sees Bran staring at him from a short distance. It takes a beat, but then Jaime realizes exactly who’s looking at him, and the horror that plays out across Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s face is perfection.
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