Game of Thrones: Recap of Season 8 Episode 1 – Winterfell
At long last, we are finally here. The start of the final season of Game of Thrones. I had begun my re-watch of the full series in early March and somehow, some way, managed to finish S7E7 early Sunday afternoon in anticipation of last night’s premiere.
As soon as the music began, we were treated to a fantastic new opening title sequence that featured new graphics and imagery. With the scope of the plot and the locations of the story continuing to decrease, we were treated with additional detail at Winterfell and King’s Landing, as well as a quick look at Last Hearth, which ominously showed the White Walkers’ path through it. In Winterfell, their was emphasis placed on the crypts below the surface, while in King’s Landing, we saw Qyburn’s scorpion and a decidedly-Lannister throne room.
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Like many other Game of Thrones’ season premieres, the Winterfell episode featured many call-backs and reunions, none of which were more pronounced than Jon and Dany parading through Winter’s Town en route to Winterfell. The young boy eagerly finding a place to watch the spectacle called back to Arya and Bran doing the same as King Robert and his band traveled to visit the Starks in the series opener. The northern common-folk are seen with concerned faces as they face Daenerys, who will continue to face struggles and backlash throughout the episode as she is in new territory.
Jon is able to reunite with two of his family members, first Bran (rather, unemotionally to say the least) and Arya, which we’ll get to in a bit. As the leaders of the north meet in Winterfell’s Great Hall to discuss next steps in preparation for the Night King’s army, Jon commissions young Ned Umber to return to Last Hearth to gather his remaining people and bring them south. As we find out later, that plan goes terribly wrong. Lyanna Mormont calls out the issue with Jon bending the knee, which continues to be a focal point throughout the episode. You can sense Jon’s frustration throughout as he truly does not care about kings or lords or kneeling; he only wants what is best for the North and that is defeating the undead army and ultimately, survival.
The Dany-Sansa confrontation actually feels believable, contrast to what we saw from Sansa and Arya last season where it just seemed forced. Sansa clearly does not trust an outsider, because frankly, she hasn’t had great luck with any strangers in the past. It will be interesting to see if this contention between the two continues through the final five episodes, or if they are able to set aside their differences for the common cause.
There were many reunions during this episode: Sansa-Tyrion, Jon-Arya, Arya-Gendry, Arya-Sandor, just to name a few. I think everyone’s favorite would be Jon seeing Arya at the godswood again, in what has truly been a wild path that each took to return to Winterfell. I believe that Arya reminding Jon about family will continue to be a focal point later in the season.
Turning South, we head to King’s Landing where Cersei meets Euron and Harry Strickland, leader of the Golden Company, a sellsword group from Essos that Cersei has commissioned to join her army. To the dismay of book readers, it’s clear that the Golden Company’s famous use of elephants just didn’t fit into this season’s CGI budget.
I thought that much of the King’s Landing plot was a bit lacking, compared to its Northern scenes’ counterpart. I think that is mainly due to much of the action involving Winterfell and not many people caring about Euron Greyjoy just yet, though he does finally get his wish to sleep with Cersei. The rescue of Yara by Theon seemed absolutely rushed, though we continue to see Theon’s redemption arc continue, as I’d expect he will join the fight in Winterfell at some point in Episode 2. In King’s Landing, we also see Qyburn pass along Cersei’s message to Bronn asking him to kill both Lannister brothers for a king’s ransom of gold. Does Bronn the sellsword “uphold” his sellsword duties or do his loyalties and friendships to Jaime and Tyrion ultimately prevail?
Turning back North, we find Davos, Tyrion and Varys discuss the future, particularly a marriage pact for Jon and Dany. I question why this wasn’t even brought up to the two yet, especially since there is a clear love interest that Tyrion (and perhaps others) already know about. A marriage would undoubtedly be a culmination of an alliance that the Northerners could get behind. As the three discuss, Jon and Dany embark on a flight on Drogon and Rhaegal. I was personally disappointed in this scene, as I thought Jon riding a dragon for the first time should have been more eye-opening, rather than what seemed to be a playful, flirty romance scene with Dany. I did enjoy the call-back to Ygritte asking Jon to stay in a cave for a thousand years, similar to what Dany said at the waterfall. Though still, I thought that him flying a dragon should have been more impressive to the Mother of Dragons.
In what was surely a fan-favorite scene, Arya reunites with the Hound who shows pride and approval in how his little sidekick grew up and survived. I also sense that we might be getting the re-kindling of a romance relationship between Gendry and Arya, which should continue to be interesting if the show does anything with his royal Baratheon roots.
In what was clearly the most cringe-worthy part of the episode, Daenerys thanks Samwell Tarly for him healing Jorah Mormont of greyscale, only to realize and tell Sam that she roasted not only his father but also his brother, Dickon (insert Bronn laugh). I thought John Braldey (Sam) stole the first episode as he reacted his Dany’s news masterfully. Despite his father never loving him, Sam still felt a deep loss from his, and Dickon’s deaths, at the hands of Daenerys. I think discovering this truth caused him to rush out to Bran in order to tell Jon as soon as possible about his true parentage. He finds Jon in the crypts, and surprises him with the news that Ned is not his true father, rather that he is the true heir to the Seven Kingdoms and the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. It’s clear that even at the end of this scene, Jon hasn’t discovered the magnitude of the revelation (that he should sit the Iron Throne, that he is in a romantic relationship with his aunt, and more).
The next scene goes north as we join Tormund and Beric at Last Hearth, the most northern castle closest to the Wall. As soon as they enter the castle, it is clear that the White Walkers and their wight army has already been here. They surprisingly meet up with Edd Tollett and some Night’s Watch men on their way south from Castle Black, but in the hall they discover a horrible sight, as Ned Umber’s dead, impaled body is hung up on the wall, centered around the familiar WW circular swirling pattern. He creepily reanimates and attempts to stab Tormund, only to be burned by Beric as his piercing, child’s scream echoes in the empty halls. The dead are marching south, and quickly.
The last scene of the episode features a hooded figure enter Winterfell, who can only be Jaime as he will bring some bad news from down south that Cersei lied and the Lannister army will not be marching north. And who is waiting for him but an “old friend” as Bran meets the man who crippled him so many years ago.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and thought it was a nice start to the final season. A bit clunky here and there, but, like many Game of Thrones episode, it was a solid set-up to what will undoubtedly be many action-packed episodes moving forward.
What I’m excited to see in next week’s episode:
– How does Jon continue to react to Sam’s news of him being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna? It wouldn’t surprise me if he keeps it to himself until the fighting is over. Or, perhaps he uses it as a catalyst to a marriage proposal to unite the Northern and Targaryen forces?
– Do Lyanna and Jorah Mormont share a scene as uncle and niece? How does she react to his return?
– Will we finally see a return of Ghost, Jon’s direwolf? It’s been several seasons since he’s gotten some screen-time and he is long overdue to make an appearance.
– How will Theon’s return to Winterfell develop? He has yet to see Bran, err the Three-Eyed Raven, since the taking of Winterfell in Season 2.
– What is Tyrion’s role moving forward? For the last season and a half, he has made countless errors in strategy and judgment (trying to take Westeros by peace through Casterly Rock and losing the Tyrell/Martell forces/navy, as well as inexplicably believing Cersei – if he truly did or if something else was in play). What is his next play? As we saw, Sansa clearly thinks she is the smart of the two now.
– Jaime arrives at Winterfell and he really only has one or two “friends” in the North, Tyrion and Brienne. Sansa hates him, he killed Dany’s father, everyone knows him as the Kingslayer. I suspect Bran (despite the fall from the tower) will actually come to Jaime’s defense but we shall see.
A graduate of Xavier University, Chris began his writing career as a Xavier Musketeers Athletic Communications Intern where he wrote previews and post-game recaps for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and other Olympic sports. He has worked in the sports industry in various capacities for over 5 years. Chris is a fan of the Xavier Musketeers, the Baltimore Ravens and the Baltimore Orioles. Other hobbies and passions includes Game of Thrones and, as an Eagle Scout, volunteering as a Boy Scout Troop Assistant Scoutmaster. Chris was born in Baltimore, raised in Baltimore County and currently resides in Canton.