This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 1.
After a very long wait between seasons, the last ever Episode 1 of Game of Thrones is finally here. There were a lot of callbacks and Easter eggs in this episode, so let’s get right into it…
First up, let’s talk about those shiny new credits! Even the astrolabe has changed. We now see it depicting scenes of the Wall coming down…
…The Red Wedding…
…And the brith of Dany’s dragons.
The astrolabe previously depicted the Doom of Valyria, the Battle of the Trident, and Robert Baratheon being crowned king, btw.
As for the map, it’s now in much more high def, and its journey begins at the Wall – with its giant chunk missing – and heads straight to Last Hearth, the holdfast of House Umber.
You can see dark tiles depicted the journey of the army of the dead unfolding on the map. It foreshadows the episode itself, in which we see the White Walkers have already attacked Last Hearth. It’s likely we’ll see these dark tiles advance as the season goes on (eek)!
One other thing to note here: the mountain the Last Hearth sits on is a distinctive spiral shape, which connects with the spirals we’ve seen associated with the White Walkers at other times (including in this ep – more on that in a sec).
The credits then move on to Winterfell, and rather than panning over the top as usual, we get to go inside the castle. The sequence focuses on the godswood, the Great Hall, and the crypts.
These locations feature heavily in Episode 1, and no doubt will also have significance moving forward. The crypts are particularly interesting, considering this is where Jon learns the truth about his parentage – you can even see a little Lyanna Stark statue here. Fans have long theorised that something major will go down in the crypts at Winterfell.
We then see the new version of the Red Keep at King’s Landing, and get a peek inside to the scorpion weapon facing the dragon skulls (ominous!!!) before gliding into the throne room.
Onto the episode itself. It opens with a scene that parallels the moment in Season 1, Episode 1 when Robert Baratheon, Cersei Lannister and their entourage arrive at Winterfell (right down to using the same music). Only this time it’s Jon and Daenerys arriving looking REGAL AF.
And very much sending the “together” message Jon was aiming for – not that it made the Northerners trust Dany anyway.
Like the pilot, Arya is separate from her family, watching amongst the crowd.
She smiles as she sees a little boy excitedly climbing a tree to get a better view of the procession.
This echoes not only her own excitement and viewpoint, but also the way Bran climbed high to see the king’s arrival too.
And as before, Arya looks rather concerned when she spots the Hound – only this time around it’s a whole lot more complicated.
Jon is the first to approach the Starks, just as Robert was.
He’s followed by his queen, who like Cersei gets a less-than-warm welcome from the Starks – and who is equally unimpressed.
Jon asks Sansa where Arya is, as Catelyn did in the pilot.
Speaking of reunions, we also get one between Arya and Jon which is VERY emotional, and also parallels Jon and his sibling’s farewell.
They even discuss Needle, which Jon gave to Arya before they both left Winterfell.
It’s also interesting in this scene that Jon and Arya very briefly discuss the fact that he died – remember, Arya is one of the few people in Westeros who has actually seen someone revived by the Lord of the Light. She witnessed Thoros of Myr bring back Beric Dondarrion after the Hound killed him back in Season 3.
Side note: can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that ALL THE STARKS (that are living) ARE BACK IN WINTERFELL. My heart!
That’s not the only big reunion Arya has in this episode, though. She also reunites with Gendry AND the Hound.
Both of them were significant parts of her journey, each acting as her travel companions at different times. Gendry and Arya cared deeply about one another, while the Hound and Arya did too – albeit in a twisted, complicated way.
By the way, this isn’t the first time all three of these characters have been together – Arya and Gendry were actually captured by the Brotherhood at the same time the Hound was back in Season 3.
They witness the Hound kill Beric Dondarrion in his trial by combat, and, as I mentioned above, they also see Thoros resurrect Beric. It’s kind of cool to see them all together again, fighting for the same side this time – for Jon, himself brought back to life by the Lord of Light.
Arya and the Hound have a conversation that references the last time they saw each other.
Remember, at the end of Season 4, the Hound fights Brienne over who will protect Arya. When the Hound loses, Arya leaves him to die – but not before stealing his money.
As the Hound points out, it’s cold of Arya – but it also speaks to her complex feelings about him. At one point he was on her list, and she wanted to kill him. But after their travels together she clearly came to care about him in a weird way. Leaving him to die was perhaps less a cruel act and more to do with the fact that she didn’t want him dead anymore.
But back to Gendry! His and Arya’s conversation calls back to their past in the most wonderful way, riffing off the “my lady” joke Gendry made when he discovered Arya was a Stark.
It’s safe to say the “as you wish” is also a reference to The Princess Bride, which is like the peak of my interests colliding just quietly.
The “my lady” thing is a theme that has run through Gendry and Arya’s relationship – significantly in their farewell scene in Season 3.
Arya was upset when Gendry decided to join the Brotherhood, asking him to come to Winterfell with her and be her “family”. He refuses, citing the class differences between them and the fact he wouldn’t be her equal – he’d be calling her “my lady”.
The whole class divide is reiterated by Gendry in a joking way after he clocks her Valyrian steel dagger, but Arya dismisses it (and it’s flirty as hell!).
It’s quite a warm and lovely scene and surprisingly satisfying, after so much build up. It also seems to be setting up for more of a romance between Gendry and Arya (HERE’S HOPING).
Oh, and if you wanted a better look at the dragonglass weapon Arya asks Gendry to make, here it is:
It looks like it’s the weapon we’ve seen Arya wielding in the Season 8 trailers.
Arya’s not the only Stark sister getting all the reunions, of course. We also see Sansa reunite with Tyrion.
These two were once married (and maybe still are?) and as they discuss here, they last saw each other at Joffrey’s wedding – when Joffrey was murdered (Sansa makes a joke about it!) and Tyrion was accused of killing him. The fact that Sansa ran away from the scene made Tyrion look even more guilty, something which she apologises for here. The two of them seem to have affection for each other, but while Tyrion appears impressed to see her still alive, Sansa seems disappointed that Tyrion is a) working for Daenerys and b) making deals with Cersei. She suggests he mustn’t be as clever as she thought he was – and I’ve got to say, his actions over the past two seasons certainly prove her right. Here’s hoping Tyrion comes good by the end of the show.
Moving to King’s Landing for a moment, and Bronn’s scene with the sex workers has a few Easter eggs. First of all, they talk about the fate of “ginger Eddie” at the Battle of the Goldroad.
The scene also echoes the moment in Season 1, Episode 1 when Jaime interrupts Tyrion’s sexcapades at the behest of Cersei. This time, it’s Qyburn interrupting Bronn because Cersei wants something – she wants to him to kill Jaime and Tyrion. With the crossbow Tyrion used to kill Tywin.
Speaking of Cersei, the post-coital scene with Euron is hard to read. He touches her belly, claiming he’s going to put a prince on it, which suggests that she slept with him to cover up the fact that Jaime already impregnated her.
But! She’s holding a glass of wine in this scene (and it was her uncharacteristically refusing wine that tipped Tyrion off to her pregnancy in Season 7). Does that mean she’s not currently pregnant? The tears in her eyes at the end of this scene back up that idea – although they could also be over her loss of Jaime.
While Euron is occupied, Theon rescues Yara. He splits a guard’s head with an axe, just as Yara did when she attempted to rescue him back in Season 4.
Speaking of Theon, he looks the most Theon he has since Ramsay Bolton captured him. And he’s off to fight for the Starks at Winterfell.
It’s all coming full circle. Meanwhile, Yara is off to the Iron Islands, stating that Dany may need to retreat there to escape the dead, since they can’t swim. Could this be foreshadowing?
Side note: why don’t they just, like, build giant moats everywhere if water is such a challenge for the White Walkers and wights?
Back in the North, Jon rides a dragon! Which is a hint at his Targaryen heritage.
He’s the only person besides Dany to ride a dragon solo. Unless you count the Night King. Is he a person?
And it’s not just any dragon, but RHAEGAL. You know, the dragon named after his father, Rhaegar Targaryen!
When they land, Dany is awed by a waterfall and expresses her desire to stay there with Jon, in a moment that echoes the cave scene (complete with waterfall!) with Ygritte.
Jon returns to Winterfell to discover Lord Glover is being fickle again and refusing to fight with the Starks – or, more specifically, the Targaryens.
Jon quotes Lord Glover’s pledge to him from Season 6 directly, and Sansa throws it back at him, emphasising that Lord Glover pledged to serve the King in the North. Jon, meanwhile, talks about how titles don’t matter – which could indicate how he’ll deal with the news Sam breaks to him about his parentage.
It’s interesting that the big reveal about Jon Snow’s identity takes place in the crypts at Winterfell, echoing the moment Ned and Robert stood there in Season 1, Episode 1. Significantly, Jon is first seen standing with Ned’s statue looming over his shoulder…
(Well, if you can see with the terrible lighting, anyway.)
But then, as Jon learns the truth, he moves closer to Lyanna’s statue.
Over to the scene at Last Hearth. Tormund and Beric, having survived the fall of the Wall, have made their way there, as have Edd and the remainders of the Night’s Watch from Castle Black. They discover the White Walkers have already been there – and left a message for them.
It calls back to the body part “art” they left in Season 1, Episode 1 – a scene which also included an attack from a wight child.
(RIP Ned Umber.)
The spiral pattern has been seen repeatedly through the series in connection with the White Walkers…
And it also interestingly resembles the Targaryen sigil.
It’s unclear exactly what it means at this point, but hopefully we get answers before the season is over. In the meantime, you can read more about these patterns here.
Finally, we have the scene with Bran and Jaime – who, it turns out, is the “old friend” Bran was waiting for.
Jaime arrives at Winterfell in a moment that parallels his first entrance at the beginning of Season 1 – which makes the difference between who he was then and who he is now all the more stark.
Jaime seems almost nostalgic to be back at Winterfell – until he sees Bran, and is immediately reminded of the horrible things he did “for love” the last time he was there.
Fittingly, this scene comes right at the end of the episode – just as the Jaime/Bran scene was the last moment of Season 1, Episode 1.
All in all, it was a pretty epic set-up episode for the final season of Game of Thrones. I can’t wait to see what happens next.