It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! Unless you’ve been living in a cave or on top of a mountain with no Wi-Fi for the last few weeks, then you know I’m referring to the premiere episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. It has been nearly 20 months since season seven episode seven premiered. Twenty. Has there ever been a more anticipated episode of television? I don’t think so. Don’t believe me, just check Twitter. People all over the world were glued to their televisions on April 14, 2019 for season eight episode one. If HBO had had a technical glitch and had gone dark, there would have been rioting in the streets. We’ll put up with a lot, but don’t mess with our Game of Thrones.
“The Great War has come, the Wall has fallen and the Night King’s Army of the Dead marches towards Westeros. The end is here, but who will take the Iron Throne?” That is the “official” synopsis of tonight’s episode. (Which by the way, we only got because DirecTV released it five hours early. Some helpful early viewers posted the summary to IMDB. HBO has been so secretive that they haven’t even released episode titles.)
But before we get to all that, where have all of our favorite denizens of the Seven Kingdoms been languishing for these 20 months?
Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer, whose voice sounds like he should be doing previews for old Hammer horror movies) are on the Wall at East Watch when the Night King rode in on his undead dragon. The dragon was breathing undead blue ice/fire and destroying the wall.
When last seen, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) had finally quit his bonkers, murderous, power-mad sister/lover, who may or may not be preggers. (If anyone could have a hysterical pregnancy or attempt to will it into being, it would be Cersei.) Jaime was heading north to keep his pledge to help Jon and Daenerys fight the Army of the Dead. Cersei (Lena Headey) was still in King’s Landing awaiting the arrival of Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) and the mercenary Golden Company, along with her only friend, Qyburn (Anton Lesser.)
Speaking of Greyjoys, poor unfortunate Theon (Alfie Allen) was on his way to rescue his sister, Yara (Gemma Whelan), who hasn’t been seen since season seven episode four and it’s unclear where she is. Has Euron locked her away on the Iron Islands or is she on the boat with him heading to Essos?
Sam (John Bradley) has packed up Gilly (Hannah Murray), Baby Sam and a cart-load of stolen texts and high-tailed it away from the Citadel, heading for Winterfell.
Meanwhile, at Winterfell, the Stark sisters (Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams), and their brother The Three-Eyed Raven (Isaac Hempstead Wright), having dispensed true justice to Littlefinger, are holding on to the North and awaiting Jon’s return.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Viserys (Conleth Hill), Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), along with, I presume, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Gendry (Joe Dempsey), Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) are on a ship heading North to White Harbor to meet up with the Dothraki and Unsullied armies so that they can all march into Winterfell. And that ship? If it’s a-rockin’ don’t come a-knockin’. Jon and Dany have just consummated their new romance. We know he’s just had sex with his aunt, but Jon Snow? He knows nothing.
Now we’re caught up.
The music is starting! Holy crap, the title sequence has changed for the first time in eight seasons! That incredible, living, breathing mechanical intro has been redesigned and expanded for this, the final season! As if we didn’t already know something special was about to begin.
We open with a boy running through the snowy streets of Winterfell, climbing a tree to get a better look at the marching army as it approaches the castle. (An homage to the series’ first episode.) It’s an impressive sight. Jon and Daenerys riding side by side to Ramin Djawadi’s score, look like royalty. Arya is in the crowd. Her face lights up when she sees Jon. Then her smile fades. Is it the sight of the Targaryen queen or that he didn’t see her and recognize her?
The two remaining dragons make their entrance. Daenerys couldn’t be prouder. Arya is fascinated. Sansa looks concerned.
Jon arrives inside the castle gates and finds Bran. I have to say, for the first time, the interior of the Winterfell courtyard looks like it belongs to an actual castle and not some backwater barnyard. I credit Sansa. Jon’s first words to his thought long-dead brother? “You’re alive.” Bran’s response, “Almost.” Jon is rightly confused, but there’s no time to discuss as he must now introduce his new girlfriend – I mean queen – to his sister. The icy North just got icier.
At the first gathering of the Lords of the North, their response to the current political state-of-affairs is as Jon said it would be. They are not amused. Leave it to tough little Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) to state the truth of it.
Remember Sansa counting how much grain they had and how long it would last in season seven? When I saw the ginormous army, I thought, “How will they feed this ginormous army?” Sansa was thinking same.
Tyrion and Sansa’s reunion doesn’t go well. I don’t know if he was thinking they’d reminisce about their pseudo-marriage, but Sansa is not the same “stupid girl with stupid dreams,” and she no longer thinks Tyrion is the cleverest man she knows. Sansa immediately saw through Cersei’s promise to send her armies north to help fight the Army of the Dead. Tyrion, after all he’d been through with his sister, still believed.
Jon is in the Godswood, brooding when Arya surprises him. Their reunion is tense at first and then dissolves into the warm embrace we’ve been waiting for when Arya leaps into his arms. (I teared up.) He sees that she still carries the sword he gave her, Needle, and asks if she’s ever used it. In typical Arya fashion, she evades and says, “Once or twice.”
Jon shows her his Valyrian steel sword and rather than show him her dagger made of the same steel, she is coy and asks, “Do you have any for me?” When Jon puts his hand on Arya’s shoulder and wants to know where Arya has been when he needed her “help” with Sansa, she looks askance at it. Jon says Sansa thinks she’s smarter than everyone and Arya replies soberly, “She’s the smartest person I know.” Jon is surprised at her defense of her older sister. “She’s protecting her family,” says Arya. Jon replies, “I’m her family, too.”
“Don’t forget that,” Arya says, and they embrace again. They are both genuinely happy to be in each other’s company, but I hope that Arya doesn’t forget it when she learns the truth about “Uncle Aegon.”
Back in King’s Landing, Qyburn informs Cersei that the Wall has fallen. Her response? “Good.”
The Golden Company have arrived.
Yara is indeed on Euron’s ship. She’s begging for death, and he’s taunting her. He mentions that the Golden Company are “mutes.” Euron leaves her tied to a post to go “f**k the Queen.”
In the throne room of the Red Keep, Euron confesses he’s already killed some of the Golden Company during the voyage. New guy, Harry Strickland (Marc Rissman), the leader of the Golden Company, does not look amused. Cersei is disappointed that there are no elephants.
Euron, still trying to worm his way into Cersei’s bed, pleads his case. Cersei relents.
Bronn (Jerome Flynn), who is in bed with three prostitutes who only want to talk about the dragons, is interrupted by Qyburn, who has an offer he (presumably) can’t refuse. He hands Bronn a crossbow and sends him off to kill both Jaime and Tyrion.
Cut to the “afterglow” in the queen’s chambers. She’s still on about the elephants. Euron wants her to tell him he’s a great lover. (insert eye-roll) She tells him she appreciates his arrogance then sends him away, but not before he declares he’s going to “put a prince” in Cersei’s belly. The enigmatic smile on this maniac tells me that she’s hatched another evil plan. My theory, she’ll claim her child is Euron’s instead of Jaime’s. *sigh* Please tell me we’ll never get that far with this crap.
Back on Euron’s ship, Theon arrives to save his sister. After a head-cracking reunion, Yara lets Theon go off to fight with the Starks of Winterfell. Yara intends to go back to the Iron Islands so that Daenerys will have somewhere “the dead can’t go” if she needs to retreat.
Back at Winterfell, Ser Davos is attempting to school Tyrion about Northern loyalty. They overlook Jon and Dany in the courtyard. Ser Davos suggests that perhaps the solution is for “a just woman and an honorable man” to rule the Seven Kingdoms together.
Dany is concerned that the dragons are barely eating. She and Jon go to see what’s wrong with them. “They don’t like the North.”
Jon Snow finally rode a dragon! It was magical, and I was reminded of Hiccup and Astrid in How to Train Your Dragon. I wanted it to be accompanied by John Powell’s score. (If you don’t get the reference, I don’t want to know you.)
Jon and Dany make-out next to a waterfall under the watchful gaze of a dragon.
Seven Hells, Dany and Jon are cute together! WTF is going to happen when they find out the truth?! (Tune in next week for another episode of As the Throne Turns.) Seriously, given everyone in the North’s reaction to a Targaryen queen, they are not going to like the news that Jon is Aegon. Things are going to get much, much uglier before they get better.
Arya and The Hound meet again in the smith’s forge of Winterfell. Oh yeah, they’re cool. Pffft. But then she spies Gendry! In truth, I don’t know what I expected. They were obviously happy to see each other, but I wanted hugging, like with Jon. I live in hope for this pairing.
Sansa and Jon argue some more about the whole King in the North business and how Jon has let everyone down, yadda yadda. If Sansa is so smart, why doesn’t she see the logic in what Jon is telling her? *wringing hands* Oh, it’s not going to be good when everyone finds out the truth!
Sam runs into Dany and Ser Jorah. She’s grateful that Sam saved Ser Jorah’s life. She wants to reward him. Sam asks for a pardon and lists as one of his crimes the stealing of his family’s Valyrian steel sword. She is the one to tell him that both his father and brother have been executed.
Sweet baby Jeebus! No one at the Citadel told Sam about his father and brother?!?! Those rat bastards! His father was a mean-spirited son of a bitch, but he was still Sam’s father. Poor Sam, he’s devastated.
And then he runs into Bran the Creepy Raven, who sends him in to tell his best friend the worst best news ever.
Sam and Jon are momentarily delighted to be together again, but Sam is upset. He tells Jon about his father and brother and can see on Jon’s face that he didn’t know. We can see that it has knocked him back. Jon tries to justify Dany’s acts with his own. Sam isn’t having it. He tries to show Jon how his behavior in similar circumstances has been different.
“I wasn’t a king.”
“But you were. You’ve always been…I’m not talking about the King in the North, I’m talking about the King of the bloody Seven Kingdoms!”
So, there it is. Sam lays it all out for Jon. R + L = J. Aegon Targaryen, the true heir to the Iron Throne. Poor Jon. It all plays out on his face. The truth of who he is, the fact that he’s in love with his aunt. Gah!
“You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?” Sam wants to know. This, in my humble opinion, may be the biggest question of the season. Will she? I have my theories. I think not.
We knew Tormund and Beric survived the fall of the Wall thanks to the trailer, but it was still good to see them. They’re skulking around the remains of East Watch? Castle Black? I don’t know, but they’re obviously looking for other survivors. Hurray! Edd (Ben Crompton), the current Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, is still alive!
So it would seem that the Night King is a lot more sentient than we’ve taken him for. He not only tacked little Lord Umber (who had been tasked with gathering his people to take them to safety in Winterfell) to a wall, surrounded by other people’s limbs, but when the boy’s undead blue eyes flew open (I actually screamed), and Beric and Tormund set him on fire, the whole thing looked a lot like the Targaryen house sigil. Coincidence? I think not. (It’s confirmed the reunion of Tormund, Beric and the Night’s Watch took place at the Umber stronghold, Last Hearth.)
Jaime managed to make it to Winterfell. Guess who the first person he claps eyes on is? BRAN! Dun, dun dun. (While I’m sure it has put fear into Jaime’s heart, it does beg the question, why didn’t Bran tell anyone that Jaime pushed him out the window of that tower?) In any case, that’s a fade to black and a wrap on season eight episode one. (Jaime and Bran were also featured in the final scerne of season one episode one.)
While we still don’t know the title, the episode managed to get a handle on all the major players. There were callbacks to just about all the previous seven seasons, and the board has been reset for the Great War to come. Winter is freaking here. How are there only five more episodes?!?
There are still so many questions and so many characters left unaccounted for. I guess we’ll have to wait for next week to find out what Brienne thinks of Jaime’s arrival. And is it too much to hope for that we get a Tormund/Brienne love scene? How about a Brienne/Jaime love scene? Also, remember nothing means nothing in Game of Thrones. Where is Robin Aryn? (Do we care?) Where is Daario Naharis? (He’s pretty. We care. He was sent to Essos. Wasn’t he also once affiliated with the Golden Company? I know Jorah Mormont was. Have they a traitor in their midst or have the sell-swords already been persuaded to fight for Queen Daenerys, thus double-crossing Cersei?) What’s up with Nymeria? Arya didn’t find her direwolf in the woods after all those years for no reason. Is Benjen Stark finally dead this time? How did he survive beyond the Wall? We have not seen the last of the Red Witch. Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) told Varys, “I will return, dear Spider. One last time. I have to die in this strange country, just like you.”
Some memorable lines from season one episode eight:
Varys: “Respect is how the young keep us at a distance, so we don’t remind them of an unpleasant truth.”
Tyrion: “What’s that?”
Varys: “Nothing lasts.”
Sansa: “What do dragons eat, anyway?”
Daenerys: “Whatever they want.” (delivered with maximum side eye)
Jon: “You’ve completely ruined horses for me.”
Edd: “Stay back! He’s got blue eyes!”
Tormund: “I’ve always had blue eyes!”
More on Game of Thrones:
- Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 ‘Dragonstone’ Recap
- Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2 ‘Stormborn’ Recap
- Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3 ‘The Queen’s Justice’ Recap
- Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 4 ‘The Spoils of War’ Recap
- Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5 ‘Eastwatch’ Recap
- Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 ‘Beyond the Wall’ Recap
- Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ Recap