I don't know about you, but my life has been meaningless without new Game of Thronesepisodes. I spent the last 20 months in a dark hole of nothingness, void of fantasy political machinations, new characters with names I cannot pronounce or spell, and dramatic and surprisingly rampant incest. But that all ended this week with the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones, which I was going to love even if it was just 90 minutes of Robin Arryn slobbering over his new prized doll.
But it wasn't! It was the best hour of television since the last episode of Game of Thrones, and bucked the trend of slow season starters. Or maybe it didn't. It's been so long since Game of Thrones has been on the air I don't recall what is happening or remember why I like the show in the first place. All I know is it is hecka expensive, and expensive things are always amazing. So let's get this going! Here's what happened in "Winterfell," the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones!
It didn't take long for Game of Thrones to bring out the most iconic visual of the series since Jaime Lannister's jacket in Season 5, Episode 2. There they were, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), riding into Winterfell together still smelling of sex and dragon urine.
But that's not the unforgettable image I was talking about. I'm talking about THIS.
DAAAAAAAAAAAANG! Game of Jackets just introduced the new winter line for dragon mothers and it is lit like a Tarly refusing to bend the knee. The show's wardrobe department is snickering, knowing that Dany cosplayers are already looking up legal ways to buy and skin baby white bunnies. The series could have ended right here with this shot of Dany's jacket and I would have teared up while muttering, "That was the perfect ending." But there were 59 minutes left!
If you had the first eunuch joke of the season coming in the VERY FIRST LINE OF DIALOGUE IN THE PREMIERE, then congratulations, you're just like everyone else who has seen this show. It's like the break between seasons was so long for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss that they couldn't wait to get back to making cracks about dudes who are Ken-smooth down there and shoved one into an unnecessary scene to open Season 8. Credit sequence changes, check. Sweet jackets, check. Tired eunuch jokes, check. We're not even three minutes into Season 8 and Game of Thrones Bingo is almost over.
But for realsies, Jon and Dany arriving together really drove home the episode's theme, which is no one likes the new girlfriend. Especially the Northerners, whose stubborn pride (for what, who knows, turnips?) gives them all the charm of mold. Dany is bringing in an army to save their lives and they couldn't even be bothered to give her an Edible Arrangement. The North is cold in more ways than one!
It wasn't just the garbage people of Winterfell and its surrounding suburbs who were already done with the Southerners' arrival. Members of Winterfell royalty were particularly icy, with Sansa (Sophie Turner) barely able to keep her disdain for her new queen hidden behind a smile that was as fake as the first time Dany rode a dragon.
But she had nothing on my girl Lyanna Mormont, who wears her emotions on her face.
I've said it before and I will say it again: Game of Thrones needs to end with Lyanna on the Iron Throne and Jon as her lackey husband. Nothing would make me happier. Lyanna's frustration with Jon giving up his title for a blonde smokeshow from the south permeated through the local town hall meeting, where the Northerners' concern started to make a lot more sense. Ever have a brother show up uninvited with all of his friends, and they eat all your Doritos and leave a mess behind? Basically, that's what Jon's doing with Dany and her army. A nice Northern family culturally clashes with a relative and his Southern family while they're up for a visit? This is almost the plot of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
Though the premiere didn't even have one single 60-minute battle sequence featuring hundreds of extras, it still had something fans love: Reunions galore! Jon's return to Winterfell meant several characters saw each for the first time in many seasons, some laying eyes on each other for the first time since the pilot. This is how I'd rank 'em:
5. Jon and Arya: Yeah, yeah, fan favorites, blah blah blah. They exchanged weird greetings ("You're a ninja?" "You're a zombie?") and then compared swords. Next.
4. Jon and Sansa: The great part of this reunion was that Sansa was zero-percent thrilled to see Jon, and could only stare Valyrian daggers at Dany the whole time. She barely even made eye contact with Jon.
3. Sansa and Tyrion: I'm as guilty as anyone in being a Sansa hater in the early seasons, but her slow transformation into sassy Stark is complete. When Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) said he hadn't seen her since Joffrey's wedding, which was a miserable affair, she fired off this zinger: "It had its moments." She's right, those lemon cakes looked delicious. When Tyrion said Cersei (Lena Headey) was bringing up the Lannister army, she mic dropped outta there by calling Tyrion a dum-dum for believing such nonsense. If you can get the last word with celebrity roaster Tyrion Lannister, you're in the big leagues.
2. Bran and Jon: Here's my controversial opinion: The lunatic formally known as Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was the sneaky MVP of the episode. Dude is buggin' and creepin', and making everything more enjoyable even if I understand absolutely nothing about his storyline. (Is he Bran? Is he a bird? Is warging like dropping tabs of acid?)
1. We'll get to this one later...
Down in King's Landing, one man's gargantuan and complicated efforts to get laid were coming to fruition. Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) of House Discount Joshua Jackson Impersonators got Cersei into bed, and all he had to do was ship 20,000 men and 2,000 horses via boat across the sea, and put the finishing touches on his courtship with a guilt trip on his potential queen to be. Ahhh, classic romance! It worked, and their post-coitus chatter was as insufferable as you'd expect, with Euron mostly concerned how he stacked up next to Cersei's past lovers, a question which makes sense for her, since for Cersei, sex is all relative. (Ha ha, good one, Tim.)
The pact signed by bodily fluids on the parchment of Cersei's skin secured the Lannister queen's new army, the fearsome Golden Company. They're mentioned in the books (and briefly spoken of in the show) as one of the most fearsome warrior groups in Westeros that no one can defeat, joining the rest of the show's most fearsome warriors that no one can defeat. I mean come on, we were told the Dothraki were unbeatable, then the Unsullied were invincible, then the White Walkers are unstoppable, and now the Golden Company are indomitable? When these four eventually do fight, it's going to be a long, well-fought tie.
Also, did you catch the name of the Golden Company's captain? Harry Strickland. I had to rewind 10 times to make sure I heard it right. In a world of Beric Dondarrions, Aegon Targaryens, Tormund Giantsbanes, and Qhorin Halfhands, this guy has the name of an accountant. He was clearly named during one of George R.R. Martin's writing blocks, when Martin lifted the name from a bus bench advertisement he saw. "Call Harry Strickland, CPA, for all your tax needs!" George: "Oh hell yeah, that name instills fear." This is just a normal guy with a normal life! Like, his house is probably just a normal house. There is no way I can take him seriously.
A brief check-in with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) saw the sellsword in the middle of nude figure drawing class, but some emails got crossed because three nude models showed up, and Bronn was the only one taking the class!
Artistry had to wait, because Qyburn (Anton Lesser), master of the dark arts and Ronnie James Dio superfan, came with an order from Cersei: If Tyrion and Jaime somehow survived their traitorous temporary alliance with the scoundrels in the north, Bronn was to kill them both. Nice try, Game of Thrones! Bronn would never do that, and don't try to convince us that he would. In fact, Qyburn handing that crossbow (the same crossbow Tyrion used to kill Tywin?) over to Bronn more likely means Bronn will stick Qyburn with a bolt by series' end. Remember, Tyrion promised to pay Bronn double what Cersei offered, plus, Tyrion, Jaime, and Bronn are totally buds. Bronn isn't turning on his pals.
On a boat, Ser Ronald MacDonald from House It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and a bunch of other briny Greyjoy goons got dead from some arrows shot by some other salty fellers led by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen).
People talk about Jaime's long road to redemption, but to me, Theon's got miles more to go. He betrayed the Starks, took over Winterfell, and had a couple innocent farm boys murdered because he couldn't find Bran and Rickon. So what if he got tortured by a psychopathic sausage shaker? Who hasn't in this show? Away with you, Theon! Anyway, he saved his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) and Yara headbutted him right in the shnozz. Deserved! Now Theon's going to fight with the men up north while Yara takes back the Iron Islands so Dany has a place to retreat to when the White Walkers take over Westeros. Sounds like a plan. Not a good plan, but by definition, a plan.
Back in Winterfell, it was dragon riding time for Jon -- (BINGO!) -- and it was as glorious and corny as you could imagine!
And in case you wondered how these two rode dragons with all those spines down their backs through all that turbulence:
Still better than flying Delta. Once on the ground, it was time for Dany and Jon to bring fire and ice together and, uhhh, make a bunch of water I guess? That metaphor doesn't really hold up. But let's just say they were ready to get it on and some people had their concerns.
It's funny to think that since Dany is the Mother of Dragons, Jon is technically the cousin of Drogon and Rhaegal. It's also funny to think that cats have grandparents.
I loved the scene between Dany, Sam (John Bradley), and Ser Jorah of House Friendzone (Iain Glen). After 40 minutes of "Hey, remember this show Game of Thrones?," this is when the episode really took off. It's great to see characters who have never met but realize they are intertwined through acts from past seasons as they shake hands for the first time. Sam saved Jorah's life, and for that, Dany was grateful. But Dany also flambéd Sam's father and brother when they refused to recognize her as queen, which doesn't quite make up for the fact that Dany will forgive Sam's overdue library books from the Citadel. Give it up for John Bradley, who managed to play sad, angry, and subservient all at the same time as Dany confessed to pushing Sam up a few rungs on the Tarly line of succession.
That bit of news propelled the reveal of the big secret that we've been waiting for, as Sam ambushed Jon in the crypts to tell him the truth. He's Aegon Targaryen, son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targeryen, and therefore the true heir to the Iron Throne.
It's hard to tell if Jon was freaked out by the thought of being named Big Man on Westeros or by the realization that he just spit in his aunt's mouth and took a ride on his winged cousin, but I'm guessing he hasn't quite put two and two together about the incest. He's Jon Slow, right? Honorable but not the sharpest piece of Valyrian steel in the wherever you store Valyrian steel. The next time Dany flutters her eyelashes at Jon is going to be sweet, guys.
But hey, no beating around the bush in Season 8! That's the difference between this, the final season of Game of Thrones, and previous seasons of Game of Thrones. In Season 2, a revelation like this would be sat on for an entire season, but here? BAM! Right away! That's a good sign that you won't be able to take a breath this season, and that there will be no trips to the Bank of Braavos to take out a loan.
Up in Last Hearth, which is apparently ANOTHER location in Game of Thrones that we're supposed to know (it's where House Umber calls home, apparently, and where the young kiddo who was asking Sansa for horses and carts to get his men back to Winterfell was off to), it was a gathering of three of my favorite characters: Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) (he's alive!), Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) (he's alive!), and Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) (he's alive!). They're all alive! Hooray! It's also where one of the episode's funniest lines was delivered, when Edd thought Tormund was a wight and said, "Yikes! He's got blue eyes!" And Tormund said, "I've always had blue eyes!" And everyone laughed. But are you telling me in this show -- which is absolutely littered with white people -- Edd is using blue eyes as a measure for who is and isn't a wight? You're going to have a lot of false alarms, Edd.
Shortly after, they found the young Lord Umber pinned to a wall against a backdrop of a spiral made out of human legs and arms. He kind of looked like a toy from Sid's house in Toy Story. Questionable interior decorating choice, but I've got a "Live, Love, Laugh" sign in my kitchen, so who am I to judge? Anyway, Lord Umber, now a wight, opened his eyes and Beric skewered him with Mr. Scorchy (not the real name of the sword) and the whole fleshy art installation went up in flames. Yes, I'm currently working on a theory that the Night King is actually a misunderstood avant-garde performance artist.
Here's a controversial opinion: I love it when Game of Thrones kills kids! Yes, that's messed up, but those deaths mean a lot more than Brian Karstark or Kyle Sand getting killed in random battles. The kids that Theon killed, Shireen Baratheon, Myrcella, and Tommen Baratheon-Lannister, the Craster kid who got wighted out... those are heavy murders that increase the weight of the story, which is needed when the show desensitizes us to death every other episode. These White Walkers don't mess around, and now they're south of the Last Hearth? GULP.
Finally, coming back to the final Winterfell reunion that was my favorite of the episode.
That Bran is such a crack up!
All in all, a wonderful opening episode of Game of Thrones that knew it had no time to waste. Let's do this again next week!
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO, but you knew that already.
More Photo Recaps:
Episode 2: Arya Gets It on Despite Having Zero Game
Episode 3: People Could Have Died Better, To Be Honest
Episode 4: Drunk With Power and Just Plain Drunk
Episode 5: Give Drogon a Spin-Off Already
Episode 6: Is This Really How We're Picking Kings Now?