Please note: there are FULL spoilers for the entire first episode of season 8, as well as all preceding episodes. I won’t list the cast of the main characters, only the bit players or interesting additions.
Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow arrive at Winterfell, the ancestral home of the Starks, alongside Tyrion Lannister, Jorah Mormont and Varys, as well as Gendry and The Hound, with Grey Worm and Missandei leading the Unsullied and Dothraki armies. Jon lets Dany know that Northerners don’t much trust outsiders, before Daenerys’ two remaining dragons, Drogon and Rhaegal soar overhead. The royal couple (sort of?) are greeted by the surviving Starks, Sansa, Arya and Bran, but there is little time for a warm reception, as Bran soon reveals that the Night King has broken through the wall, atop an undead Viserion.
Inside Winterfell’s main hall, the Northern Lords are greeted by Daenerys, Sansa and Jon, with some confusion over who is in control, and some disdain towards Jon for abandoning his position as King in the North. Sansa sends the young Ned Umber to evacuate his lands, and return all able bodied soldiers to Winterfell to fight in the oncoming war. Sansa has doubts, however, that there is enough food for the armies gathered, not to mention the Unsullied, a Dothraki horde and two fully grown dragons.
In the courtyard, Genry is ensuring the delivery of dragonglass, a confirmed method of dispatching the undead. Tyrion and Sansa come face to face again, so to speak, for the first time since Joffrey’s fatal wedding, and Tyrion makes the observation that most who underestimate Sansa end up dead. Jon and Arya reunite in the Weirwood, and Arya sheepishly lets Jon know that she had had to use Needle, the sword he gave her, once or twice.
Atop the walls of King’s Landing, Cersei is met by Qyburn, who lets the mad Queen know that the dead have broken through the Wall. Cercei is unfazed. Nearing arrival to King’s Landing, Euron Greyjoy meets with a captured Yara, letting her know that he is not going to kill her because he enjoys the company, but he also has plans for Cersei. In the throne room, Cersei meets with Euron and Harry Strickland (Marc Rissmann), the leader of the Golden Company, who has the unfortunate news of letting Cersei know that there are no war elephants. Euron and Cersei soon head to bed together.
Bronn is enjoying himself at the brothel, though his trio of lady friends are more interested in war stories. He is soon interrupted by Qyburn, with a message from Cersei: if Jamie and Tyrion survive the impending war, Bronn is to assassinate them. To carry this out, he is given Joffrey’s old crossbow. Having spent a bed together, Euron arrogantly proclaims his intent to put a baby in Cersei’s belly, not knowing Jamie has already done the deed. While Euron is preoccupied, Theon rescues Yara, and they intend to reclaim the Iron Islands.
Back at Winterfell, Varys and Ser Davos express their doubts to Tyrion about Daenerys’ ability to lead, and how the North will receive her as leader, while Jon and Daenerys take a dragon ride together. Meanwhile, Gendry has forged a dragonglass axe for The Hound, before each are reunited with Arya. Sansa and Jon discuss how the Northern Houses will feel with Daenerys as their Queen, while Daenerys goes to see Samwell Tarly in Winterfell’s library.
Daenerys is grateful for Sam’s help in curing Jorah Mormon of his greyscale, but is forced to reveal her burning of Sam’s father and brother. Sam passes Bran in the courtyard, where Bran is apparently waiting for an old friend. In the crypts beneath Winterfell, Sam reveals Jon’s true family lineage to Jon, that he is actually Aegon Targaryen, the true heir to the Iron Throne.
Elsewhere, Beric Dondarrion and Tormund stalk the empty halls of Last Hearth, the seat of House Umber, coming across Edd and a handful of Night’s Watch, having evacuated and abandoned Castle Black. They find the young Umber lord impaled to the wall, with a grim mural surrounding him, and as he reanimated to attack Tormund, Beric sets the wight on fire.
Arriving alone in the Winterfell courtyard, Jamie Lannister locks eyes with Bran Stark.
+ thank the Old Gods and the New that there was a recap before the episode. That new opening CGI map is pretty sweet too (it also lends credence to a theory I have brewing from this episode – the undead horde will be able to cross the sea to the Iron Islands, and beyond, by freezing the water under their feet)
+ did Sam go and tell Jon that Jon was in fact Aegon in secret, in the crypts, because Sam was angry at what Daenerys did to Sam’s father and brother? Perhaps there is some subterfuge to come, which may not bode well if Jon has to choose a side. It also seemed like Bran was egging Sam on, which may mean Bran is trying to drive a wedge between the Queen and her boy toy
+ that look Jamie gave Bran was just perfect
– maybe I just missed it, but was there any interaction between Jorah and Lyanna Mormont at Winterfell?
– Harry Strickland may be the least Game of Thrones-y name on this entire show.
– Jon, put your hand in the fire. JON, PUT YOUR HAND IN THE FIRE. If you burn, Sam’s lying
> I guess Tyrion and Sansa are technically still married? Though I suppose Sansa probably had enough power to annul her own wedding, if she so chose (and she was married to Ramsay, too)
> If the CGI opening changes with each episodes, you’ll be able to tell where the dead have been or not, based n the ice trail they will leave. It was all around House Umber in this episode’s opening
Final thoughts: In terms of action, this was an empty episode, but it was very clearly more of a set up for future happenings. In terms of the various reunions and awkward moments (Sam’s family and Jamie seeing Bran, in particular), this was great. That final scare in the Umber House was pretty cool (and from the opening, you can see the dead were there form the beginning), and I have a feeling there might be some more horror on the way.