Perhaps we got used to season 7’s constant spectacle, but Game Of Thrones season 8’s opening episode was slightly more subdued than we were expecting. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t packed with major moments.
If season 7 was almost exclusively propulsively story-driven, season 8 has immediately returned to the character-driven, slow-paced feel of season 1.
In fact, this really felt like it could be a season 1 episode. We don’t expect this pace to last long, but it was nice to have a breather before the battles to come.
Read more: ‘Game of Thrones’ S8 E1 recap
The most surprising element? Despite season 7’s epic closing moments – featuring a giant ice wall being decimated by a frozen zombie dragon, which allowed armies and armies of dead people to advance on Westeros – we didn’t see a single White Walker (we did see a wight though, and we’ll get to that).
But there were still MASSIVE moments though – some more subtle than others. One thing no-one seems to be talking about is the death of the ginger soldier named ‘Eddie,’ mentioned by one of Bronn’s prostitute mates. The one who had his face burned off, who lost his eyelids…
…We’re guessing Ed Sheeran probably isn’t coming back for another cameo this season, as that’s presumably an in-joke reference to his character.
As most people seemed to miss the gag, that wasn’t one of the big talking points of the episode. This lot were.
This was one of the moments you might have missed, but fans got a fairly huge resolution in this episode.
Theon rescuing Yara, then – even more significantly – her giving him permission to go and fight for the Starks, before hugging him, was the first big narrative closer of season 8.
It’s the completion of Theon’s arc, essentially the conclusion to his story. All that’s left for him to do is die at Winterfell defending Bran, and that’s the end of his journey. We’d expect him to die in episode 2, though he might last to episode 3.
Arya and Jon’s reunion
The episode had several callbacks to season 1, but this was the sweetest – director David Nutter even staged it like the last time we saw these two together, with Arya jumping into Jon’s arms just like she did when she was little. It was a moving moment, one that had some fans in tears.
It was a brilliantly written scene, that told us how far these two had come, and how connected they still are. For book and show fans alike, it was a joy.
It was one of several reunions in the episode. Tyrion and Sansa, Arya and the Hound, and many more came back together after long breaks. Perhaps the most significant, Bran and Jaime, happened at the very end of the episode.
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Bran said earlier he was ‘Waiting for an old friend,’ meaning Jaime. Bran hasn’t been the most witty dude in Westeros since becoming the Three-Eyed Raven, so this could be important – he may have meant it sincerely.
Bran sees all sorts of weird things, so perhaps he knows something about Jaime we don’t. Will Jaime die defending Bran? Is he the new Hodor, and will redeem himself for pushing Bran out of the window by becoming his carer? Time will tell, but we suspect Bran already has the answer.
Jon riding the dragon
Okay, so it wasn’t the best CGI we’ve ever seen on the series, and it was all a little bit Neverending Story in tone. But Rhaegal’s immediate acceptance of Jon as a passenger, followed by the side-eye the beast gives the former King Of The North when he was smooching his mum, both have huge implications for the final five episodes.
Again, it was a massively crowd-pleasing sequence – die-hard fans have waited a very long time to see Jon on the back of that beast.
But it also contained bad news for fans. As if Viserion being in the hands of the Night King wasn’t confirmation enough, this sequence was the final nail in the coffin for the fan theory that Tyrion is also a Targaryen, one of the ‘three heads of the dragon’ of the books, who would ride alongside Jon and Dany.
Drogon’s look to Jon during his make-out session with Dany had plenty of people talking. A significant number of fans felt that Drogon was grossed out because he knows that Jon and Dany are related.
While he definitely knows that Jon’s a Targaryen – he wouldn’t have let him ride on his back if he didn’t – he wouldn’t be disturbed by them coupling up. Targaryens have been marrying off with their family members for generations, so it would actually be weird if they didn’t have a bit of a kiss.
No, we think that mysterious look means Drogon doesn’t just know Jon’s a Targaryen, he knows how far up the power-chain he is, realising that these two are going to clash at some point. But whose side will Drogon be on? The answer may surprise us all.
This was the biggest sign that showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss realise they’ve only got six episodes left to wrap-up this story.
We weren’t expecting them to deliver this huge bombshell as early as they did, but we’re relieved it played out this way – a lesser show would have kept Jon in the dark for as long as possible, torturing the audience with narrative tension.
Instead, they’ve rewarded the fanbase with one of the greatest moments of the show so far. Any long term fan would have got massive goosebumps from this scene. Book readers and show watchers have finally seen Jon find out that he’s Aegon Targaryen, and the reveal will have massive repercussions.
Sam’s line, “You gave up your crown for your people, will she do the same?” points to the tension to come – you can bet the answer to this question will be ‘No, no way.’ And we think this could eventually lead to her death.
Interestingly, the showrunners had Daenerys tell Sam that she killed his family members; family members she roasted alive in one of her more questionable acts. In doing so, she was reminding the audience of one of her lowest moments.
It was her final scene in an episode where she had a generally arrogant tone throughout, with her withering reply to Sansa’s question about what dragons eat, ‘Whatever they want.’
She was also irresponsible. “We could stay a thousand years. No one would find us,” Daenerys said to Jon, after Jon’s dragon flight landed them at a picturesque location.
That’s an interesting callback to Jon’s last relationship, with Ygritte, who wanted to stay in their sex cave. Then, when she died in his arms, she said, ‘We should have stayed in that cave.’
We wonder if Dany and Jon will reflect on what would have happened if they’d stayed at that waterfall at some point in this series.
Dany also asked Jon to keep his queen warm, we can’t help but speculate that he’ll probably keep her warm in a different way – involving dragon fire – before the season 8 finale. It’s where the narrative seems to be going.
Of course, when the Night King, the White Walkers, and their army gets to Winterfell, all bets will be off.
They seem to be taking their time – stopping off to make an art installation from body parts (that felt like another season 1 callback, to the show’s very first scene).
That installation looked a lot like the house Targaryen sigil when it was set on fire, didn’t it? Is the Night King coming for Dany?
One thing’s certain. With the episode’s biggest jump-scare coming from that Umber boy opening his bright blue eyes, before screaming so loudly he probably woke up your family if you watched it live at 2am in the UK, the army of the dead is on the way, and they’ll be intense when they arrive. We can’t wait.