After nearly two years of waiting, the eighth and final season premiere of HBO’s hit fantasy series, Game Of Thrones, finally aired on Sunday night! And somehow, it was nothing like we were expecting, yet better than we ever could have dreamed. Season 8 is the shortest season Thrones has ever seen, but it has also been teased to be the most epic and emotional. Given the show’s track record for mercilessly killing our favourite characters, we assumed that every episode this season would be devastating. But the premiere was surprisingly lighthearted, all things considered! There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, so sit back, relax, and let’s recap!
The Season 8 premiere, titled Winterfell, starts with a truly epic surprise. The opening credits, which have remained the same over the course of the entire series, have changed! Rather than giving us an overview of all the castles and lands that are featured in the episode, we receive an in-depth tour. From the hearths of Winterfell to the Throne Room in King’s Landing, we see it all in stunning detail. There’s even a hint at where the White Walkers are, if you look closely enough!
After the beautiful opening credits end, we watch as a young boy hurries through the snowy woods. It’s dark and misty, at first we fear he’s running away from the Walkers. But in fact, he’s running towards the King’s Road, where all the people of the North have gathered to witness the return of Jon Snow, with the Dragon Queen and her army of Unsullied. When he can’t get past the countless people, who should step aside to let him through but Arya Stark! This allows him to run past and climb a nearby tree, getting a view of both the army and of Winterfell itself, where they’re marching towards. This is a beautiful throwback to the Season 1 premiere, reminding us of the more innocent times our characters have seen.
In the middle of the Unsullied, Daenerys and Jon ride side by side, and Arya beams as she sees her dearly loved brother for the first time in many years. But her face falls as he rides past, not even noticing her. The worry is clear in her eyes. She doesn’t trust this new Queen, and she isn’t alone. Daenerys and her people receive many wary looks, even glares, as they ride to Winterfell. Jon reminds her that Northerners don’t trust outsiders, royalty or not. Arya also gets a glimpse at the Hound, who she believed to be dead, and of Gendry, who she parted ways with many years ago. There are a lot of reunions coming.
Arya may not trust Daenerys yet, but she’s in awe of her dragons. Many of the Northerners duck and run for cover, but the dragons pay them no mind, flying right over Winterfell, where Sansa awaits the army. And even a blind man could see her cautious demeanor when they arrive. As Jon and Dany ride onto the grounds of Winterfell together, Sansa stares Dany down. Jon jumps off his horse and runs over to embrace Bran, who he hasn’t seen in years. A touching reunion for Jon, to be reunited with his brother. But as we all know, Bran isn’t who he once was. And it definitely throws Jon off.
He embraces Sansa next, who continues to focus her gaze on the Queen. Dany walks over as Jon introduces her, and she offers a smile and kind words.
“Thank you for inviting us into your home, Lady Stark. The North is as beautiful as your brother claimed, as are you.”-Daenerys Targaryen
Sansa looks her up and down before giving her a cool, “Winterfell is yours, Your Grace”. Dany seems taken aback, but Sansa is smart to be distant. She’s heard kind words from many different rulers, each of whom either tortured her or stabbed her in the back. Kind words aren’t always what they seem. She’s right to be hesitant.
After Bran, in true Three-Eyed Raven fashion, urges that they must despense with the niceties and prepare for the battle against the Night King, everyone pools into the hall to discuss plans for the winter to come. Sansa, Jon, Dany, and Tyrion all sit at the table by the hearth, while the banners gather round. Sansa calls on Lord Umber, who is no more than a child, and asks when his people will be expected to arrive, which prompts this accidentally hilarious answer.
“We need more horses and wagons, if it please, my Lady. And my Lord…and my Queen…sorry.”-Lord Umber
Sansa promises to give all they can spare, and tells him to hurry back to the Last Hearth. This location is important, and you’ll want to remember it for the end of the episode.
Jon orders the Maester to send ravens to the Night’s Watch, telling the men to meet them at Winterfell, as this will be where they make their stand against the army of the dead. But when the Maester calls Jon ‘Your Grace’, our favourite feisty Northerner Lyanna Mormont speaks up.
“Your Grace? But you’re not, are you? You left Winterfell a King and came back a…I’m not sure what you are now. A Lord? Nothing at all?”-Lyanna Mormont
Jon looks to Sansa for help, but she simply looks at him. She’s wondering the exact same thing that everyone else is. Jon explains that while being named the King in the North was the greatest honor, he had to choose between keeping that title or gaining necessary allies for the battle ahead. He chose to save the North by giving up that title. A valid point, but no one entirely believes it. They all see how Jon looks at Daenerys. They all know that he’s in love with her, and that makes his point seem a little less valid.
To make things worse, Tyrion decides this is the opportune moment to tell the Northerners that the Lannister army is also on their way, to join their cause. While everyone knows they need the numbers, no one is happy about the Lannisters joining the army. Sansa speaks up at this point, asking how they suggest she feed the greatest army the world has ever seen. Between the Dothraki, the Unsullied, and the two dragons, their stores will never last out the winter. This prompts this little bit of sass between the Lady of Winterfell and the Mother of Dragons.
Sansa: “What do dragons eat, anyway?”
Daenerys: “Whatever they want.”
Tensions are definitely running high at Winterfell, and this is just the beginning. As Sansa looks over the courtyard, contemplating the war and winter to come, she is joined by none other than her former husband, Tyrion. This is perhaps the best reunion in the entire episode. It’s a mutual acknowledgement of each other’s strengths, almost like a cheeky battle of wits. There is, of course, a joke about Joffrey’s wedding and how it had its fun moments. But Sansa is not convinced that Cersei is coming, and makes it clear that she thinks Tyrion is naive to believe her word. She leaves him to think on that.
Meanwhile, another long-awaited reunion is taking place in the Godswood. Arya and Jon’s embrace, the look on their faces, the fact that Jon is almost in tears, it’s all enough to melt even the Night King’s heart. Jon is touched that Arya still carries Needle with her, and she’s in awe of Longclaw. Jon asks where she was earlier, that he could’ve used her help with Sansa. But he’s taken aback when Arya defends her, calling her the most intelligent person she’s ever met. Arya reminds him that she’s just trying to look out for her family, including Jon. He shouldn’t forget that he’s a Stark, too. It’s a gentle warning, a reminder that family comes before anything else, even his mesmerizing Queen.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Euron Greyjoy returns from across the Narrow Sea with The Golden Company, a group of sellswords that are 20,000 strong, and are now all under Cersei’s command. They also brought 2,000 horses, but no elephants, which Cersei is incredibly disappointed about. But still, she’s grateful to Euron for his loyalty and good work. He asks her once more for a night with her, to which she has the best response.
“You want a whore? Buy one. You want a Queen? Earn her.”Cersei Lannister
Euron insists that he’s earned her affection, bringing her justice and the greatest fleet the world has ever seen. Cersei walks away, but pauses at the last moment. She nods her head, and Euron follows her to her chambers. The question on everyone’s mind is: why? This seems so unlike Cersei. Perhaps after Jaime left her, she’s in need of a distraction? Perhaps she wants to ensure her last ally remains loyal? Maybe she wants to pass Jaime’s baby off as Euron’s? It’s hard to say with Cersei, but she never does anything thoughtlessly. She has a plan, even if we don’t know what it is. Afterwards, he seems more satisfied than she does, but she lets him leave with his life, which is more than most can say. He makes a snide remark about Jaime, and promises to put a Prince inside of her, but nothing is really learnt from this experience. What could Cersei’s plan be?
While Cersei and Euron enjoy each other’s company, two very important things happen. The first is involving none other than Bronn, who has saved both Tyrion and Jaime’s lives more times than we can count. But that time may be over. While he spends his time with three prostitutes (a scene that actually reveals the fate of Ed Sheeran’s character!), he is interrupted by Qyburn, who is there on Cersei’s behalf. The Queen is offering him more money than he can imagine, and the crossbow that Tyrion used to kill their father. In the event that Tyrion and/or Jaime survives the battle against the Night King, Cersei wants to ensure they never return. But will Bronn accept this offer? We’ve never known him to turn one down, but he’s never been offered something quite like this before. His answer will really prove what kind of man he is.
While this is all taking place, Theon and the Ironborn sneak onto Euron’s ship, killing every man in their path. Theon has changed since we last saw him. He’s fiercer, less afraid. He’s killing just as many men as the others, if not more, all to rescue his sister. When he finds Yara in Euron’s cabin and unties her, she headbutts him, and then helps him up. Such is the Ironborn way.
As they sail off, Yara decides they should take the Iron Islands back while Euron is distracted. Daenerys may be in the North, but she’ll need a place to retreat if things go sour, a place where the dead can’t reach her. Theon promises he’ll obey whatever she commands, but Yara can tell he wants to go North. So, she lets him. She knows he still has to make amends with the Starks, and he’d rather die fighting alongside them than live the rest of his life with regret. It may be tense at first, but we are so excited to see him fight for the Starks once again and complete his redemption arc.
Back at Winterfell, the Karstarks arrive, lending more men and women to the army. Tyrion, Varys, and Ser Davos discuss what might happen if they all survive the Night King. Nobody seems to be thinking of what will happen to the Seven Kingdoms in that instance. No one but Ser Davos, who suggests that a proposal between Jon and Daenerys could save Westeros.
“On the off chance that we survive the Night King, what if the Seven Kingdoms, for once in their whole shit history, were ruled by a just woman, and an honorable man?”-Ser Davos
Varys seems doubtful that Daenerys would be open to it, or that it would even be a wise decision, but Tyrion seems hopeful. Optimistic, even. And no one can deny how happy they look together. They have become the ultimate power couple in Westeros, and they do look gorgeous together. If both were to somehow survive, could they rule side by side?
Neither of them are thinking of it at the moment. Daenerys is concerned with two things. One, the fact that Sansa doesn’t like her, which she can make her peace with, as long as she respects her as her Queen. And secondly, her dragons aren’t eating nearly as much as they should be. She and Jon pay Drogon and Rhaegal a visit, and Jon seems to be slowly getting more comfortable around them. Though when Dany climbs atop Drogon and suggests that Jon climb Rhaegal, he looks like he might puke. She urges him once again.
Jon: “What if he doesn’t want me to?”
Daenerys: “Then I’ve enjoyed your company, Jon Snow.”
The flirtation between these two is not so subtle anymore. It also goes to show just how much Daenerys has grown to trust Jon. She is the only person alive (the Night King isn’t really alive, after all), who can ride a dragon. She does not take this likely, so the fact that she actually encourages Jon to ride Rhaegal proves just how close they’ve grown.
Jon is extremely hesitant, as anyone would be. But we know he has nothing to fear. He is a Targaryen, though he hasn’t yet realized it. And Rhaegal is completely at ease with him! In no time, Jon sits atop him, still looking like he might puke. And seconds later, Rhaegal takes off.
We have been waiting years to find out who the next dragon rider will be. We have waited years to watch Jon Snow join Daenerys and not only fight, but fly by her side. We certainly didn’t expect to see it so early in the final season, but we must say, it’s everything we hoped it would be. Not only is it epic, it’s also surprisingly lighthearted! Daenerys is unarguably the more graceful rider, as Jon almost falls off more times than we can count! But he manages to hold on for dear life, and before you know it, the two have landed at a gorgeous waterfall, secluded from all men, where they can forget their many worries.
The two are falling fast and hard for each other, and that’s obvious not only in the way they look at each other, but in their words, as well. They talk about staying there, by that little waterfall, for a thousand years. Where they could grow old together.
Every iconic couple, whether from a TV, film, or book series, has a memorable phrase, or snippet of conversation, that they grow to be known for. We witnessed Jon and Dany’s at this moment, by this secluded waterfall. It’s flirtatious, sensual, and passionate, exactly as they are.
Jon: “It’s cold up here for a Southern girl.”
Daenerys: “So keep your Queen warm.”
Of course, the moment is ruined when, while kissing, Jon catches Drogon glaring at the two of them. Hard to focus when a dragon’s staring you down!
Back at Winterfell, Gendry is forging new weapons made of dragonglass, also known as Obsidian, one of the few things that can kill a White Walker. And he’s just finished making a massive axe for none other than the Hound himself. As Gendry hands it to him, Arya appears behind the two of them.
This is a very tense reunion, at least between Arya and the Hound. She left him to die, something he hasn’t forgotten. And she’s only too ready to remind him that she robbed him as well. But it seems he bears her no ill will, joking that she’s still alive because she’s such a “cold bitch”. No heartfelt speeches or long embraces for these two, but certainly a level of respect.
As for Arya and Gendry, the two pick up where they left off, with him jokingly calling her “m’lady”. And since he’s gotten better at forging weapons, she asks him to make her something special. It seems to be a combination of a dagger and spear! We’re not sure what she’s up to, but she definitely has something planned.
Back in the Lady of Winterfell’s quarters, things are still incredibly tense between Sansa and Jon. Jon didn’t think of the consequences of giving up his crown, and as a result, they lost the support of House Glover, losing numbers they desperately could have used. But Jon still doesn’t understand why Sansa and the other Lords are angry. He’s quick to passionately defend Daenerys, yelling at Sansa about how they need her and her army.
Sansa doesn’t respond. She simply waits for him to calm down, to realize that he’s asking her to trust a stranger. So he backs down, and instead asks her to trust him. He promises that she won’t be like her father, the Mad King. Sansa relaxes, smiles, and jokes that she’s much prettier than her father, allowing Jon to chuckle and let down his guard before she asks the real question. The important question.
“Did you bend the knee to save the North, or because you love her?”-Sansa Stark
Before we can hear an answer, or perhaps before he fails to give one, we cut back to Daenerys and Jorah, who decide to pay Sam a visit. Dany wants to thank the man who saved her must trusted adviser and loyal friend, after all. Sam is as sweet and as innocent as ever, and when Daenerys asks what she can do to repay him, he responds with the most Samwell Tarly answer imaginable.
Sam: “If it’s not too much trouble, I could use a pardon.”
Daenerys: “For what crime?”
Sam: “I borrowed a few books from the Citadel.”
This adorably lighthearted interaction was everything we hoped it could be, until Sam mentioned taking the Valyrian steel sword from his father, Randyll Tarly. We’ve never seen Dany’s face fall so fast. If you recall, the Mother of Dragons had both Sam’s father and brother burned alive last season, when they refused to bend the knee.
Sam is visibly upset but manages to keep it together when he hears about the murder of his father. But when Daenerys tells him that his brother died with him…this is the most heartbreaking scene of Season 8 yet. With tears in his eyes, his lips quiver, he trembles as he thanks Daenerys for telling him, and asks if he can go. She lets him, and looks at Ser Jorah with deep regret. She realizes the weight and consequences of her rash actions on the battlefield that day. Perhaps she should have listened to Tyrion after all.
Sam rushes into the courtyard, where Bran is waiting for him. He tells Sam that he must tell Jon the truth of his parentage, that the time has come. And Sam must be the one to do it, as Jon trusts him more than anyone else. Bran knows everything that happens, and we have no doubt he knows what Sam just learned. It’s this knowledge, this raw emotion and pain that gives Sam the strength to tell Jon the truth.
He follows him down to the crypts, where Jon is lighting a candle for his father. Well, follow is perhaps not the right word. Sam literally falls down the stairs, and as soon as Jon sees him, he helps him up and hugs him, crying. He hasn’t seen Sam since the end of the fifth season, before he was stabbed to death. He didn’t even know Sam was in Winterfell. And the relief on his face is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking. He’s about to receive news he never wished to hear.
Jon can tell Sam’s upset, and the first thing he asks is if Gilly and little Sam are alright. But when Sam tells him that Daenerys executed his father and brother, Jon’s face turns dark. He had no idea, and no doubt he didn’t think his Queen, the woman he loves, had it in her. So Sam asks him outright if Jon would have done what she did.
Jon: “I’ve executed men who disobeyed me.”
Sam: “You’ve also spared men. Thousands of Wildlings when they refused to kneel.”
Jon: “I wasn’t a King.”
Sam: “But you were. You’ve always been.”
Jon: “I gave up my crown, Sam. I bent the knee, I’m not King in the North anymore.”
Sam: “I’m not talking about the King in the North, I’m talking about the King of the bloody Seven Kingdoms!”
Here it comes. The moment we’ve been waiting for. Sam tells Jon everything. How he’s never been a bastard. He’s never been Ned Stark’s son, not by blood. He’s the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, and rightful heir to the Iron Throne. The rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms.
It’s a lot of information to process in less than 60 seconds. To find out your father is not your father, that your name isn’t even Jon, but Aegon! All he can focus on, all he can ask Sam with all the anger you can imagine is why Ned, why his father, the most honorable man he ever knew, would lie. How could he lie to him his entire life? Sam tells him the truth, that he did it to protect him. Robert would’ve had Jon killed at birth if he knew the truth. Ned kept his promise to Lyanna, protected her son and the rightful King.
You can see it, physically, how the news hits him. He stumbles back from the weight of it, and all he can manage to say is that Daenerys is his Queen. So, Sam asks him the one thing Jon wishes he hadn’t.
“You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?”-Samwell Tarly
It’s a fair question. But the real question is who would be the better ruler? Jon is honorable, like Ned was. And honorable men don’t tend to survive long. But he’s more merciful than Daenerys. Then again, this episode has served as a valuable lesson to the Mother of Dragons. Perhaps it has taught her mercy. Of course, this is all for naught if the army of the dead slaughters them both. Only time will tell for certain, who the better ruler will be.
While Jon is left to process this new information, we are taken to Last Hearth, where, if you’ll remember, Lord Umber resides and is preparing to gather his people to take them to Winterfell. At least, that was the plan. But Last Hearth is deserted. The freshly fallen snow is covered with blood, but no bodies. That can’t mean anything good.
But it isn’t all bleak! Finally, we have confirmation of who survived the destruction of the Wall! Tormund and Beric are travelling together with other survivors, and while sneaking through Last Hearth, they run into another party of survivors, led by none other than former Acting Lord Commander, Edd. And even here, in this very tense spot, humor can be found.
Edd: “Stay back, he’s got blue eyes!”
Tormund: “I’ve always had blue eyes!”
After a very brief breather, they head down to Last Hearth’s great hall, where they discover Lord Umber pinned to the wall, surrounded by the severed limbs of dead men, creating a swirling pattern around the dead boy. It’s a symbol we’ve seen before, and even Beric recognizes it as a message from the Night King. We saw these swirling symbols in the first episode of Season 1, and many times since. Some have pointed out that it looks incredibly similar to the Targaryen sigil. Whether the two are related is, as of yet, unconfirmed.
The survivors discuss a plan. The army of the dead stands between them and Winterfell, but if they ride hard, they might make it. If the Night King doesn’t find them, that is. And just as they say this, Lord Umber opens his eyes and begins screeching at the top of his lungs. He’s one of them now, and if we were to guess, he’s alerting the Night King of their presence. Beric quickly lights his sword and sets the boy and limbs on fire. But it doesn’t stop him from screaming.
Back at Winterfell, a hooded figure rides onto the grounds. Who would feel the need to disguise himself? If you guessed Jaime Lannister, you’d be right. He looks more rugged than ever before, and more tired than you can imagine. But something is about to wake him up. For the first person he locks eyes with is none other than Bran Stark, the child he pushed from a window all those years ago.
This was an eventful Season premiere to say the least, filled with its fair share of humor and heartbreak. And things are not looking good for Jaime! But the Night King is on his way, so they’ll have to put Jaime’s fate on hold, and let him fight. At least, that’s what we’re hoping!
For more on Game Of Thrones, including theories and recaps, visit our official Game Of Thrones page.
The Final Season Of Game Of Thrones Streams Sunday Nights At 9 On HBO.