After 20 grueling months of drip-fed teases, fan speculation and crazy theories, Game of Thrones has finally returned for its final season. While it was great to see all of our (remaining) favorites grace our TV screens again, one can’t help but feel like this episode was a bit anticlimactic.
To be fair, there is still a lot to cover in these remaining 5 episodes, so if sitting through an hour of deep, integral set up at the start frees up the other episodes for more actual action, then I guess we can live with that. That being said, there were a few times during this episode that hearkened back to season 7’s “convenient storytelling” tropes (more on those in a moment though). For a series that has made a name for itself when it comes to location jumping, focusing on two areas, King’s Landing and Winterfell, was refreshing. Not to mention the long-awaited reunions we finally get to see throughout the entirety of the episode made this viewing a solid pay off for any fan of the series.
Before we go any further though, obviously there will be spoilers in this article. If you’ve not watched the latest episode, or any episodes really, now is your chance to turn back and read our “The Story So Far” post. You’ve been warned.
Now that that’s out of the way. Jon Snow rode on Rhaegal! Aside from the bittersweet fact that Jon rode a dragon that was named after his actual father, Jon Snow rode a fucking dragon! This moment was easily the most important from season 8’s first episode. How Danny didn’t put two and two together from just seeing Rhaegal instantly take to Jon is beyond me, other than the fact it’s one of those convenient story moments, but clearly, Jon has Targaryen blood coursing through his veins. Obviously, we’ve known this for a while now, but I’m sure Danny will be taken aback when she inevitably learns the truth.
Speaking of which, the fact that Jon’s first thought, when he learns the news himself, being “treason” kind of caught me off guard, and I know I can’t be the only one feeling that way. You’re a dragon bro, be a dragon! Granted, I get it. Jon has always had power and authoritative positions thrust on him, he’s never really wanted to rule though. Clearly bumping ugly’s with your cousin should be a concern, but we’ve learned from this show it isn’t the weirdest thing to happen in Westeros, but it’s a great way to ensure a blood-line. This will clearly be a point of contention for the two love birds though. We’ve seen Danny fly off the handle a few times before actually thinking things through. Could learning of Jon’s more-rightful-claim to the throne drive a wedge between them, or make their bond even stronger? After all, Targaryen’s have a long tradition of marrying within the family to keep the bloodlines pure.
The majority of the episode circles around Jon and Danny’s new relationship and the ripples it’s causing among their closest friends and family. Clearly, Sansa is disappointed in Jon for taking the King of the North title, only to toss it aside for some Targaryen (not the first time a Stark man has done this). The conflict here though just feels like conflict injected into a situation for the sake of there being conflict and drama. An odd decision at this present moment considering an army of the living dead is literally almost on their doorstep. We’ve seen a lot of this in recent seasons though. Last season it was tension between Sansa and Arya, AND Sansa and Jon. I’m all for building up tension in a series, but it doesn’t really seem relevant in this instance when it feels like the Night King could show up at literally any second.
Again though, getting the foundation work out of the way now, frees up more time later for fighting, action, and watching our favorite characters get killed off one by one.
The other big moment here takes place at the other end of Westeros, in King’s Landing, where Cersei is the proud new leader of 20,000 mercenaries. Yes, I’m referring to the Golden Company, but sadly, their commander, Harry Strickland, left his elephants back in Esos. The look of disappointment when Cersei doesn’t get to see an elephant though? Priceless. The Golden Company will undoubtedly play a major role in the upcoming episodes though, to what extent is yet to be seen. Aside from her new army, we spend the rest of our time with Cersei watching her, yet again, use her body to make alliances because she doesn’t really have anything else to trade.
I will be the first to say that I could care less about Euron fucking Greyjoy though. His constant theatrics and Jack-Sparrow-wannabe demeanor get old quick, and honestly, it’s probably the only time I’ve felt bad for Cersei because you know that mouth doesn’t stop talking even when they’re grinding up on each other. The entire Greyjoy story arc has felt rushed for a couple of seasons now. Theon’s daring rescue of Yara this episode really makes you wonder why Euron even kidnapped her at all. Seriously. Theon goes “we’re going to save Yara!” They sneak onto Euron’s ship, without alerting the rest of the fleet, ghost the entire crew, and Theon stumbles in to save Yara. Next thing you know they’re sailing towards Winterfell. Just like that, that entire plot point from season 6 is done, and looking back on it feels like it was just thrown in there for filler.
Aside from all that, the only other noteworthy thing that happened during the King’s Landing scenes was Bronn being tasked with executing Jamie and Tyrion. Other than needing a reason to have Bronn show up for the battle of Winterfell, I honestly don’t see him going through with it. It’s a huge hassle for just a bit more gold, and those three have intimate relationships with each other. I don’t see Bronn offing them just because Cersei teased him with a few more coins, but it could also be a convenient story mechanic to tie up some loose ends quickly.
The remainder of the episode centers around character reunions though, and it’s here that we get some major, long term commitment fan services. From Arya and Jon to Sansa and Tyrion, to Arya and the Hound, to Jon and Bran, to Arya and Gendry. Arya reunites with a lot of people ok?! Jon meets up with Bran the same way they left each other way back in season 1 episode 2, with a passionate forehead kiss. So that was a nice moment.
Arya’s fated reunion with Jon however, was true fan service done right. After seasons, and years, of watching these two fight for survival, seeing them finally embrace one another felt worth the wait. Watching Jon realize she is no longer the little scrapper he once knew, but a grown woman who has seen some shit was a much-needed pay off many of us have been dying to see. Clearly, she’s had to use Needle more than “once or twice”.
Another great fan service moment was when Arya finally sees the dragons. From her season 1 throwbacks of being fascinated by the beasts to her obsessing over their skulls under the Red Keep, Arya has always wanted to see a dragon. While everyone in Winterfell runs for their huts, Arya is mesmerized by these creatures, like us viewers, so seeing that smile grow on her face as one flies over her, was just perfect.
Arya’s meeting with Gendry was, yes fan service, interesting as well. While seeing the two kindred spirits come into each other’s lives again was full of sentiment, what’s more important is the weapon Arya asked Gendry to craft her. We get a brief glimpse of it, and from what we can tell, it looks to be some type of spear weapon, which could then be broken into two separate pieces. Clearly, if anyone is capable of wielding such a weapon it’s Arya, but who is the intended target(s)? One clue is that on the blueprint, there is the word “Dragonglass” pointing to one end of the weapon. Surely a versatile weapon will come in handy when facing the army of the dead, but knowing Arya, there must be more to it than that. Some recent fan theories suggest it will be the Game of Thrones equivalent to a rifle. Thankfully we won’t have to wait too long to find out, considering Gendry only has 5 more episodes to get it made and have ready for Arya to use!
Last on our reunion tour is Tyrion and Sansa’s fateful encounter. These two characters haven’t seen each other since Joffrey’s Name Day/Assassination, and since then, both have survived a LOT. Also, don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure the two are still considered married as well. All of that being said, Sansa is the only one who sees through Cersei’s rouse. Seeing her call Tyrion out on this by channeling the late Olena Tyrell was a nice cinema-quality moment. “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.” That has to sting a bit, but she’s not wrong. How, after everything Cersei has done, Sansa Stark is the only one to call Cersei on her bullshit is beyond me, but at least there is still someone stuck in reality here.
Thankfully, Jamie shows up at the end of the episode to warn Jon and Danny of Cersei’s treachery, so I’m sure there will be a Sansa “I told you so” coming in episode 2. Though he just waltz’s right through the front gate of Winterfell, he immediately sees Bran Stark staring at him, boring into his soul, and bringing up all of the wrongs he has done in his sister’s name. Undoubtedly, Jamie will have to answer for his sins before we can really get to the battle of Winterfell, but at least everyone is already in the North for when the Night King decides to show up.