Awkward encounters. That is what comes to mind as I recall what we all witnessed in Game of Thrones premiere episode for its final season Sunday night. In fact, I will go on record and recommend it as the episode’s title since the show decided not to release an episode title before the episode started (The show’s official title is actually “Winterfell,” which was released after the episode).
That’s what happens when every still living character (with the exception of a handful in King’s Landing) converges on Winterfell, where skeptical northmen and northwomen scowl at the appearance of some foreign queen with a savior complex marching through their streets like she owns the place.
Some characters were once married only to leave each other when a king ended up dead. One character literally left anther for dead (and robbed him before she did). There were characters who traveled in secret as peasants when they were younger, but are now old enough to be attracted to each other (looking at you Gendry and Arya!!!). One particular character even ordered another’s family burned to death.
Yes, a giant army of the dead is marching south with a flying ice dragon leading the way. But how can the living stand up to that threat with all those elephants (and no, not the ones Cersei weirdly hoped to see) lurking in the room?
Before characters can fight together, they had to, at the very least, acknowledge everything that’s happened before moving forward. And based on the the preview for next weeks episode, things will be moving forward very quickly.
Now, normally, I break the story down by location or character. But that doesn’t make sense now that we are down to two basic locations. So I will mostly be recapping the episode in the order as it happened. Also, there will be lots of background info in the “Of Note” section this week.
“I Warned You: Northerners Don’t Much Trust Outsiders”
A procession of sights the people of the North have never seen: Unsullied, Dothraki, a Targaryen. But don’t expect the North to be impressed (Well, except when they see dragons. Everyone is impressed by the dragons).
Jon told Dany it would be difficult winning over the North, and that was evident from the glares of the Winterfell welcoming party and the discontent inside the city’s halls.
Llyana Mormont (who appears to have grown about 3 feet from the time we first saw here) expresses her displeasure with Jon for bending the knee to Daenarys. And Tyrion tried to comfort everyone with the promise of Lannister troops (because everyone in the North loves the name Lannister).
Also of note is the appearance of Ned Umber, the boy Jon Snow sends home to rally his banners in the Umber seat of Last Hearth. He might as well have been wearing a red shirt (am I right Star Trek fans?)
“You Want a Whore, Buy One. You Want a Queen, Earn Her.”
In the season 7 finale, Cersei told Jamie she had sent Euron to ferry the 20,000 strong Golden Company, a famous sellsword company from the free cities on the other side of the Narrow Sea (more on them in the notes).
They fight for Cersei now, and Euron wants what he defines as a proper thank you for his troubles. And though she is reluctant at first, Euron convinces her.
But while Euron is fornicating with the queen, Theon is boarding Euron’s ship and rescuing Yara.
Yara smacks him with a headbutt as a greeting for all the horrible crap he’s put her through (and I think we can all agree that was well deserved). Then she helps her brother up and thanks him for coming to her aide.
As the three Greyjoy ships led by Theon set off, Yara recommends taking back the Iron Islands, a very smart suggestion for two reasons:
- The Iron Islands are vulnerable with Euron not guarding them.
- They could be a safe haven should the army of the living near the wall need a place to retreat (those undead can’t handle water after all).
But Theon wants to fight with the Starks, and Yara gives him permission to go while she reclaims the Iron Islands.
“You’ve Completely Ruined Horses For Me.”
Now for the “We need a reminder that Jon loves Dany before everything goes to poo” portion of the episode.
And that portion uncoincidentally is introduced by Davos proposing to Tyrion that Jon and Dany get married. Davos makes a great point here of the need for the Mother of Dragons having to earn the respect of people in the North. She walks around like she’s entitled to the lands here, but she hasn’t been here while the North has endured constant hardship over the previous seven seasons.
As their advisers discuss how to manage their relationship, Jon and Dany wonder off to check on the dragons who aren’t eating enough (well that sounds like a not so minor problem).
But instead of ensuring the starved monsters who will eat “whatever they want” when they are hungry have proper sustenance, the mother of dragons decides to take Drogon for a spin. And Rhaegal takes a liking to Jon, so Jon hopes on and rides a dragon for the first time.
The two share a kiss by a beautiful waterfall as Dany’s children look on, making the whole thing awkward. I mean, I know many marry people with children and must deal with the transition of entering into the lives of their step children. But imagine if, when those children throw a fit, they could consume you with fire?
“Did You Bend the Knee Because You Love Her, or Did you Bend the Knee to Save the North?”
What comes next is a series of reunions that just had to take place before everyone can move on to fighting zombies and sellsword companies.
Gendry is leading to charge of turning all that dragon glass into weapons. He makes a warhammer for the Hound, who of course has some issues with Gendry’s methods. In swoops Arya with some clever dialogue for the man she robbed and left for dead at the end of Season 4.
Then, Gendry reminds us that Arya is no longer the little girl pretending to be a boy that he traveled with all the way back in seasons 2 and 3. “You look (insert long drawn out pause as Gendry comes to grips with what he thinks of Arya now) good,” Gendry tells Arya as she gives him a design for a new weapon. A few flirtatious glances and comments follow and now everyone wonders if we should start preparing for the Arendry. Or should their couple name be Gendrya?
Jon and Sansa are not exactly a reunion from seasons long ago (they last talked in season 7), but they do have an important conversation as the tension Dany has brought between the two continues.
Sansa believes Jon’s decision to give up his crown hurts their chances of holding the North, while Jon says all the titles don’t matter with the threat that is approaching.
But no conversation could end up turning events as much as Dany meeting Sam for the first time.
“You Gave up Your Crown to Protect Your People. Would She Do the Same?”
Initially, Daenarys wants to meet the man who saved Jorah’s live and thank him for it. And the usual pleasantries are given with Sam jokingly asking for a pardon once Dany takes the throne for documents he stole from the Citadel and the sword he stole from his father.
And Dany learns who Sam’s father is: Randall Tarly, the man she burned alive for his unwillingness to bend the knee to her.
She tells Sam she had his father killed. It’s a tough blow, but Sam never cared for his father and justifies it pretty quickly. Then, he finds out Dany ordered his brother killed as well.
Sam needs some time to grief. But there’s no time to grief when a cripple who sees everything that happens is waiting in the courtyard of Winterfell.
Bran tells Sam it’s time to tell Jon who he really is. And Sam, though reluctant at first, seems impassioned when he pleas with Jon down in the Crypts of Winterfell to claim the throne for himself.
Sam informs Jon who he really is: Aegon Targaryen, 6th of his name, his mother was Llyana Stark, and his father was Rhaegar Targaryen.
Jon’s first reaction is disbelief that Ned Stark, the man he thought was his father, lied to him. But then Sam leaves Jon thinking if he wouldn’t be a better ruler than the woman who burns all men alive who don’t follow her.
“His Army’s Between Us and Winterfell.”
Tormund, Beric, and the men who were guarding East Watch when the ice dragon opened a hole in the Wall have moved a little farther south and arrived in Last Hearth (the place Jon sent that poor Umber boy). And as expected, no one is left living at Last Hearth.
Well, at least not anyone who normally lives there. Tormund and crew run into the remaining members of the Night’s Watch led by Dolores Edd. And the only report they have is the death of the Umber boy who was left as a message spiked up on the Wall.
But unlike before the Night King crossed the Wall, the Umber boy can wake up after he dies. And he does, blue eyes lighting up the room and piercing screams straight out of a horror movie as we all feared Tormund would be a goner.
If only there was a guy who could light a sword with fire to remedy this situation. And that’s what Beric does as he strikes the boy with his blazing sword.
Everyone in the room knows they must race to Winterfell before the Night King arrives to prepare the living for battle.
“I’m Waiting for Someone.”
But not until we have one last awkward encounter: Jamie Lannister has arrived in Winterfell, a place where everyone there has something to call him to account for. And the first person to greet him is Bran in the wheelchair Jamie put him in all the way back in Season 1.
-A really impressive redone intro opened the episode. Notable other than the likely only appearance of “Last Hearth” was the time spent inside the remaining two locations of the show.
-The producers in the “Behind the Episode” feature after the show made note of the parallels between the season 1 premiere and tonight. It was in season 1 that little girl Arya was doing everything she could to see the royal procession approaching Winterfell. Tonight, Arya stepped aside to let another child do the same thing.
-Speaking of Arya, a very touching reunion with Jon. While the two characters have been in, now, a combined two scenes together, the show has made clear the special relationship the two shared as outcasts in the Stark family before the events in the show.
-Another reunion featured Tyrion and Sansa. The formally married couple first must address how awkward it was for Tyrion to be left without his wife while facing charges of Joffrey’s death. Then, Sansa smirks wondering how the usually clever Tyrion could genuinely believe Cersei is sending troops.
-A new character this season is Captain Harry Strickland. He makes a brief appearance tonight giving account to the number of troops and horses he’s brought as captain of the Golden Company.
-The Golden Company is a sellsword company from across the Narrow Sea. They are considered the most successful of crews, having never broken a contract. They were found by Aegor Rivers, a bastard with Targaryen blood who went by the name “Bittersteel.”
-Cersei was able to secure their services thanks to a loan from the Iron Bank. The Lannisters had significant debts owed to the Iron Bank, but the taking of the Tyrells home of Highgarden (and all the gold that was there) allowed Cersei to pay the debt in full. The Iron Bank was so impressed that they pledged her their full support.
-A quick breakdown of Stark bannerman:
- The Karstarks, led by Alys Karstark, arrived in Winterfell with troops.
- The Glovers, who did not help Jon in his battle with Ramsey at the end of Season six, are also refusing to help now.
- The Umbers are either dead or a part of the undead army.
-Qyburn presented an offer to Bronn: Cersei has lots of gold for him if he will kill Jamie and Tyrion. So Bronn must choose between gold (his primary motivator for all the show so far) or the bond he’s built with Tyrion and Jamie. And the weapon he will use: a crossbow, the weapon Tyrion used to kill Tywin back in Season 4.
-“What exactly do dragons eat?” Dany’s respone: “Whatever they want.” Maybe not the best thing to say to people whose trust you’re trying to earn.
-“I was told the Golden Company had elephants.” What exactly is Cersei’s obsession with elephants?”
-I propose a spin off series when GOT ends: Bran and Sam getting into hilarious hijinks when Bran learns awkward secrets about residents of Westeros, then convinces Sam to go and tell them.
A fantastic start to what should be a fast paced, emotional final season. And could the battle with the Night King really be two episodes away? See you next week.