Game of Thrones is back after a very long hiatus and has wasted no time in setting the board for the remaining characters, propelling us towards an exciting conclusion to the series.
Episode 1: Winterfell is the beginning of the end of eight years of gripping TV. Join us, your Westerosi correspondents Pete Marsh and Dan Miller, as we break down this chilly opener.
These recaps are dark and full of spoilers, so only continue reading if you’ve caught up on the latest episode of the show.
We won’t be spoiling anything from any production leaks that may or may not have found their way onto the internet. Some deep book lore may feature.
DAN: It feels good to be back after all this time. When Jon, Dany and the dragons came riding/flying into Winterfell and the music soared, it made me giddy. Sure, Sansa’s not too pleased with how things are going, but we did get the wonderful moment between Jon and Arya! The last time those two met was way back in season one, just before Jon went to the wall. Remember?
They’ve both grown and each has a ton of baggage now. Arya defends Sansa and has to remind Jon not to forget he’s part of their family *FORESHADOWING*
PETE: It sure did feel like we were back in season one, Dan! A foreign army rides into Winterfell (almost shot-for-shot the same). A Lady of Winterfell warning the Lord of Winterfell not to trust said army? Old friends reuniting in the crypts? All that was missing were some pretty dodgy wigs — thank goodness they gave up on them around season three.
We even got the Starks lined up in the grounds of Winterfell to meet their new ruler, but with a healthy dose of weird Bran this time. Hasn’t everyone had that *exact* reunion with a distant cousin at Christmas who grew two foot in the last year and is really into ska now? But just like Jon, you love ’em anyway.
Aside from HBO reminding us of season one, I watched the Arya reunions over and over and over and over again, Dan. You could have cut this episode down to just Arya catching up and umm… measuring swords… with all her old friends and I would have been happy.
The reunion with Jon seriously choked me up and she pulled a huge power move on Gendry.
And I reckon the only person the Hound fears/respects more than Brienne in these Seven Kingdoms is Ayra. Don’t let the swears deceive you, he’s proud as punch.
DAN: I think *everyone* (including us!) knew Jon would be saddling up on a dragon this season. But within the first 30 minutes??? Come on, tease it out a little! It really was as simple as this: Dany and Jon walk up to the dragons, Dany asks if Jon wants to ride one, he says, “Yeah alright then”, and they go off on a romantic flight.
PETE: She sure did show Jon the world. Shining, shimmering, splendid.
I think she opened his eyes. Took him wonder by wonder. Over, sideways and under on a magic car— errr… dragon ride.
(If the internet hasn’t given me this mash-up by the end of the day I’ll be very cross.)
(DAN: *Checks notes* Yes, yes it does exist. And it’s glorioussssss. Pump those speakers)
DAN: As fun as it was to watch Jon ride a dragon in a sheer panic and try not to fall off, I think my favourite part of the episode was Dany coming to thank Sam for saving Jorah’s life. It starts off all smiles and typical happy-to-be-there Sam, but then gets really dark when he learns that not only has his father been burnt to a crisp by the woman who is indebted to him, but his brother is gone too. Actor John Bradley (Sam) did a great job.
It was a real punch in the guts and I wonder what effect it’ll have on Sam and his loyalties going forward. Particularly since he…
PETE: …had the Maury Povich-esque job of delivering some serious truth about Jon’s true parents.
I really loved this scene, and I think it absolutely had to be Sam. Who else does Jon trust more than the friend who’s been with him since the very beginning?
That said, I don’t buy that Sam would be so upset with Daenerys over the death of his father and brother that he would hold it against her. Upset that they died? Sure, there are few kinder hearts in Westeros than Samwell Tarley.
But don’t forget that Sam was *forced* to join the Night’s Watch by his father, otherwise he would have an “unfortunate” hunting accident so his brother Dickon could be the rightful heir to House Tarly. Plus, he’s one of the few to have actually faced the White Walkers (SAM THE SLAYER) and spent a season getting frustrated at the Citadel about it. He knows what’s at stake here, and I think he’ll come round to Dany before too long.
DAN: If Jon wanted to, he could use the Tarly execution thing as an excuse to break off the relationship with Dany without having to reveal his true parentage to her. It’d be convenient, rather than announcing himself as her biggest rival for the throne. Dany might turn on him if she knew that. Plus, Jon might be a Targ, but he was raised a Stark — he probably doesn’t love the idea of incest, even if the Targaryens generally don’t mind.
PETE: It was confirmed if you watched the trailers, but I’m very glad Tormund and his beautiful ginger beard and blue eyes (that have ALWAYS been blue thank you very much) survived the collapse of the Wall at Eastwatch (DAN: Thank God, my future king survived!). Acting Commander of the Night’s Watch Ed Tollett and on-his-last-dollar-at-Timezone Beric Dondarrion are also survivors too, and it looks like they’ll all make it to Winterfell before we get the showdown with the Army of the Dead.
DAN: Meanwhile, south in King’s Landing, there’s a lot going on too. Theon (and MY AXE) saved Yarra without much fuss and Cersei has welcomed 20,000 mercenaries from the Golden Company. She’s disappointed though that there weren’t any elephants…
PETE: HBO money might get you a fancy-pants new opening credits sequence Dan (did you see those tiles flip over to mark the march of the Night King at the start?! The detail flooooored me), but turns out HBO money doesn’t buy you CGI elephants.
DAN: This episode was quick to resolve a lot of cliffhangers from last season in record pace. Theon and Yarra? Done. The Wall was destroyed? Everyone knows. Jon’s parentage? Sorted. We’re only moments into the new season and word has already reached King’s Landing that the dead have broken through The Wall. Cersei doesn’t care, naturally. It seems her plan to wait it out and mop up what’s left of the northerners is in full effect.
Euron continues to be the most punchable person on the show since Joffrey. Cersei almost doesn’t put up with him but then relents and invites him to her chambers. She now conveniently has an excuse to say that Euron is the father of her unborn child.
PETE: Now I know I said I’m not buying into Sam hating Daenerys. But daaaammmmnnnn I am ALL IN on this Bronn storyline. Mostly because I believe he’ll actually kill Tyrion and Jaime for money, even if it’s Cersei who’s offering it. Ser Bronn on the Blackwater has always served the person with the most gold, and weirdly that might make him the most predictable man in Westeros.
But Bronn’s got history with both the Lannister brothers, so don’t forget a promise Tyrion gave him a long time ago. It was to that if Bronn was ever asked to turn against him, Tyrion would pay double what was on offer.
The fate of Jaime and Tyrion might come down to which Queen’s coffers are deeper — Cersei’s or Daenerys’s?
DAN: I think Tyrion’s words will stick with him and he’ll give Tyrion a chance to pay him double. Whether Tyrion can or not is another question. If Bronn doesn’t use his new crossbow on Tyrion can he at least use it on Euron? I’d like to see that character dispatched.
And finally, we end with one of the biggest “oh shit” moments we’ve had on the show when Jaime arrives in Winterfell and spots a crippled Bran staring at him. Bran has been sitting in that spot (presumably all night?) waiting for his “old friend”. We’re not sure what Bran is desperate to tell Jaime, but it must have some significance. Wide-eyed, Jaime is remembering that the last time he saw Bran, he pushed him from a tower window. It’s been a long time, and Jaime has changed a lot since then. Will the people of Winterfell be forgiving? Jaime travelled a long way just to get executed.
PETE: You know what’s not forgiving Dan? The trip from King’s Landing to Winterfell on a fresh head of blonde highlights. I know we gave up on those bad wigs in season three, but is it too much to ask that Jaime at least keeps some of that famous golden Lannister hair?
Ah, well. The things we do for love, right?
DAN: “You want a whore, buy one. You want a queen? Earn her.” – Cersei
PETE: “First, I robbed you.” – Arya, responding to the Hound accusing her of leaving him to die.
DAN: Dany’s cold nonchalant looks after telling Sam she turned his family into a BBQ.
PETE: Sansa saying she *used* to think Tyrion was the cleverest man alive. She’s not wrong. After a season of whiffs, Tyrion is long past due for a good plan.
This episode was rather light on the killing. We lost:
Lord Ned Umber (Night King used him as the centrepiece for his lovely wall artwork)
Remember Ed Sheeran’s cameo last season as a Lannister soldier called ‘Ed’? Well Ed has met with a gruesome fate.
During the scene with Bronn, one of his ladyfriends mentions one of the poor casualties of the Lannister battle with the dragon, specifically a “ginger”. “That boy Eddie,” she says. “[He] came back with his face burned right off. He’s got no eyelids now.”
RIP Ed Sheeran.