Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Recap: Winterfell

It’s quite literally the biggest television event of the year, perhaps even the decade, and we are FINALLY ready to find out whether the fate of Westeros is to thrive beneath plumes of dragonfire or live the rest of its days frozen under the Night King’s watch.

It’s my duty under the Seven to bring you up to speed on all things Thrones, and it is not a duty I take lightly. The final season of Game of Thrones is here, and my watch has begun.

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Return To Winterfell

At long last, we’re back. The episode opens with a young boy running through the snowy grounds of Winterfell, pushing through the crowds to scope out the trudging Unsullied army as Jon and Dany march them in. That boy is all of us.

It seems strangely right that our first Stark sighting is Arya, smirking like a boss and standing ready with the townsfolk at Winterfell - she was never going to be found up on the walls with Sansa like a ‘lady’.

The scene has a whole host of players rolling in - Gendry, The Hound, Tyrion, Varys, Jon, Daenerys, Sansa, Arya, Bran and the two remaining dragons swooping on in.

It’s a call sheet almost as long as the book series.

But really, it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if the first words uttered all season weren’t a conversation between Varys and Tyrion about frozen balls - or a lack thereof.


An Abundance of Ruling Sprogs

If there’s one overriding theme that demonstrates just how many casualties the war has taken so far, it’s the abundance of young kids becoming the rulers of their respective houses.

At twelve years old I could barely be trusted to have a set of keys, much less rule our entire house and divvy up the family for war.

But I was also a little shit and we were never threatened with death and destruction, so fair’s fair.

We alight on a war council, led by Sansa who is definitely settling into her role as Lady of Winterfell (vote one, Sansa for queen). Ned Umber, a child who couldn’t be any more than twelve, is requesting horses to get the rest of the Umber House to Winterfell, before getting adorably flustered in the face of not one, but three rather imposing leaders.

Realistically, Jon, Dany and Sansa aren’t all that old themselves. But I think it’s pretty safe to say that none of them are as bad arse as little Lyanna Mormont, owner of the best dirty look that we’ve ever seen on this show and possessor of my entire heart.

And she calls Jon out like a champion. “We named you King in the North,” she says. There was always going to be a lot of fallout now that the northerners know he bent the knee to Daenerys last season, but it’s manifesting in a far more tangible way now, with many of the sworn houses turning their backs.

Cue two impassioned speeches from Broody Jon and Tyrion (who loves a good speech no matter the occasion), attempting to dissuade the concerns of the council about the impending arrival of a Lannister army (failing on both counts, good job boys).


Family First

It was the reunion we’d all been waiting for: Jon and Arya. The gang’s all together now, folks. As the person responsible for giving Arya her first blade, it could be argued that Jon really did set Arya on her murderous path.

Not that she’d say so, as they embrace under the Old Tree and compare swords. ‘Mine’s bigger than yours’ is a weird flex with your sister, but okay.

Jon is sullen as always, but it’s nice to actually see him smile at the sight of his sibling.

But if Jon was expecting Arya to side with him no matter what, he finds out how wrong he is when he confides his exasperation over Sansa supposedly getting too big for her presumably fabulous boots.

“Sansa thinks she’s smarter than everyone,” he says.

She is, FYI.

And in a wholesome moment of sisterhood and solidarity, Arya simply responds with, “She’s the smartest person I’ve ever met”. Take that, broody boy.


Euron Is Every Entitled Arse On Tinder Ever

We cross the continent to land in King’s Landing, as Qyburn approaches Cersei with the news that the wall has broken and that the dead are coming through. Not great news, hey? But apparently it’s all a-okay in Cersei Land.

Simply put, “Good”.

As the camera rises, a fleet lurks waiting on the sea. If I’m completely honest, I’d forgotten all about Euron Greyjoy. He’s an awful human but a largely forgettable character. He reminds me far too much of that guy on Tinder who pesters you for a root until the next big thing comes along and you forget about his existence.

Editor’s Note: it’s funny how all those guys also seem to be aspiring DJs - Tegan.

Whether it’s tormenting an imprisoned Yara on his flagship (by telling her in no uncertain terms that he’s going to “fuck the queen”), or just the look on his face when he looms at Cersei in the throne room, he’s a pig.

BUT he’s a pig who brought Cersei the Golden Company (sans elephants, which is apparently something Cersei was super hyped for) so he’s invited into her bedchambers.

Cersei, while I commend you for seeking someone outside the family for once, this is a definitive step down from Jaime.


Some Kind Of Sick Karma

Ah, dramatic irony. The show is laden with it, but never more so than in the scene where Bronn (ever the ladies man) is interrupted mid-orgy by Qyburn with a task direct from Cersei.

Not that he’s too perturbed because the ladies he had around definitely had a propensity for jibber jabbering. That swiftly changes however, upon hearing his charge.

In a truly sick turn of events, Cersei is asking him to murder BOTH of her treasonous brothers with the very crossbow that Tyrion used to kill their father all the way back in Season Four. Yeah, he was pooping at the time. Hopefully the bow has been sanitised since.


Not The Type To Cuddle

If there was ever any doubt about my Euron/Tinder Boy theory, it was solidified when immediately after having sex, he asked Cersei how he compared to previous men.

Confirmed, signed, sealed and delivered. It is canon.

And Cersei isn’t dumb to it - calling him the most arrogant man she’s ever met seems like a bit of an understatement, but she knows he’s going to prove useful so it’s let slide.

“I’m going to put a prince in your belly,” he says. Bit late for that one, pal. Tricking men into thinking Jaimie’s babies are there’s is Cersei’s modus operandi.


What Is Dead May Never Die

I love a good gnarly arrow to the face.

In a surprisingly easy rescue attempt, Theon and his crew are here to rescue Yara from the confines of Euron’s ship. So naturally, she greets him with a solid headbutt, as you do.

Back on the fleet, the discussion turns to taking back the Iron Islands. Yara is firm in her desire to reclaim their home, but Theon harbours the urge to return to Winterfell and fight alongside the Starks.

Yara, being the ever understanding ruler, bids him to go with a hug and the recital of their house creed. If I wasn’t so pro-Sansa, I’d be firmly siding with Yara.


“If You Want Their Loyalty, You Have To Earn It”

Back in Winterfell, it’s still cold and there are still a bunch of soldiers setting up tents. As Ser Davos, Tyrion and Lord Varys make their way through the grounds, the conversation turns to how the northerner’s reception was less friendly than they’d hoped.

Ser Davos, who is possibly one of the only blokes with his head on straight right now, suggests that the only way to get past the stubbornness of the northern folk is to pair a “just woman and an honourable man” together in marriage.

Looking down upon Daenerys and Jon in the courtyard, it doesn’t really look like they need much convincing. The pair walk together and exchange some serious eye-fucking glances before the Dothraki ride up and report how little the dragons have been feeding.


Westeros’ Scaliest Rollercoaster

THIS IS IT. This is the scene that has completely solidified my belief that Daenerys is not necessary to the endgame anymore. Jon Snow is a dragon rider and all is right in the world.

They approach together, and it looks like Jon is just happy to be there, let alone wrap his legs around one’s neck. But Daenerys is stubborn, so it’s happening.

Up he pops, and they’re off on a truly perilous ride reminiscent of the Hippogriff joyride in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. They alight near a waterfall which is somehow not totally frozen over, and we hear the exchange of the cheesiest come hither lines ever.

“It’s cold up here for a southern girl,” says Broody Jon. “So keep your queen warm,” purrs Daenerys, before having a big ol’ smooch.

Vom.


Is It Just The Bellows Or Is It Getting Hot In Here?

It’s really satisfying to know that Gendry is thriving in his trade. All that rowing definitely paid off, and he’s now crafting hectic dragonglass axes for the likes of the Hound. So really, it’s the perfect time for Arya to walk in and see how great he is.

The reunion of Arya and the Hound is exactly as you’d hope. They both didn’t really expect the other to have survived, so there’s definitely an element of respect, and hearing the Hound call Arya a “cold little bitch” is high praise. That’s tantamount to “I missed you”.

As for Gendry and Arya, it was a very cute throwback to have him stumble over calling her milady again. But if their final exchange doesn’t hint towards them getting together, I’ll eat my laptop.

“I always knew you were just another rich girl,” is already a flirty statement from Gendry. Arya’s quickfire return of, “You don’t know any other rich girls,” though? Seals the deal.


Samwell Tarly Is A Blessed Soul Worthy Of Our Devotion

Ah, the most wholesome character. Sweet to the core, Sam is startled by Daenerys and Jorah as they enter his study. “You’re the man,” she says.

Couldn’t agree more.

She’s referring to Sam’s success in curing Jorah of his greyscale affliction, and offers him a boon in exchange. Sam being Sam, asks for a pardon for ‘borrowing’ some books from the Citadel and a sword from his father, Randall Tarly.

It’s at this point though, that Daenerys experiences her first “oh shit” moment of the series, recalling back to when she commanded her dragons to engulf the Tarly household in flames for refusing to bend the knee.

The news that both his father and his brother (who has since gone off to be a big gorilla man in Umbrella Academy) were fried is clearly devastating for our boy, and as he runs outside the urge to hug him is insurmountable.

He emerges outside only to see Bran, who tells him simply: “Now is the time”. You know, to tell your best mate that he’s been boning his aunty.


Cryptic, Some May Say

It may not be new to us, but I definitely expected to have Jon’s lineage be one of the bigger reveals later on in the season when the Jon/Dany relationship was more developed than just a few longing glances, a waterfall date and that iconic butt shot. The memes in its honour are numerous and glorious in nature.

But credit where credit is due, Sam is probably the most loyal human in the entire universe so he falls (literally) straight to Jon’s side in the crypt despite his own conflicted despair regarding his family.

And it’s time for the big unveiling. “I’m not talking about the King in the North, I”m talking about the King of the bloody Seven Kingdoms.”

You’re a Targaryen pal, and you’ve been going to town on your aunt.

The look of realisation is a nice departure from regular broody fare, but it doesn’t last long because Sam is definitely dropping more than just truth bombs - he’s asking the tough questions. “You gave up your crown to save the people,” he said. “Would she do the same?”


Sealed In Flames

It’s about time we had a gander at the wall, given that it’s collapse was the crux of last season’s drama. Really though, I just wanted to be sure that my favourite bearded ginger Wildling hasn’t been frozen into an evil Zooper Dooper just yet.

But all’s well, because Tormund is still trucking on alongside Beric Dondarrion, and they silently make their way through the gap in the wall to scope out the damage.

The scene is ripe for a jump scare, but it holds you in that suspense even when the group collides with another group of Night’s Watchmen (which provides one of the best lines of the show as Tormund is accused of being a White Walker - “I’ve always had blue eyes!” is a delightfully aggressive exclamation).

They join forces and trudge further, before stumbling upon a truly gruesome sight. Remember that little Umber boy from earlier in the episode? He’s dead, pinned to the wall with spirals of amputated limbs forming almost a grotesque version of a sigil.

In true Game of Thrones fashion, just when you’ve forgotten all about the tension, here comes the jump scare. The boy screams bloody murder and as they light him on fire, the sigil illuminates in an eerie warning. They’re here.


A Hood Is The Fantasy Equivalent Of A Baseball Cap & Sunglasses

To close out the episode, there was one more person we needed to see. A hooded figure rides into Winterfell, in possibly the most obvious medieval disguise possible.

Jaime Lannister is here, bearded, and very attractive in his new salt and pepper style if I may say so myself.

It’s the final reunion of the show, and the biggest signal that we’re back where it all began, to face the end.

The episode ends as Jaime and Bran lock eyes across the courtyard.


We'll be back next week with more recapping goodness, brooding stares, grotesque violence and Stark sister sass.

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