We’re back!!! Season 8 is finally here, and boy is the first episode a whole lot of “eh”. Running just shy of an hour, despite all the hype that this season would be movie length episodes throughout, I mostly left with the feeling that almost nothing of substance happened—something we’ve all grown quite used to at this point. While the show still had some anger inducing moments, including cattiness and callbacks, it was one of those funny bad episodes that ease the pain.
Oh yeah, also apparently this episode title is “Winterfell,” unbeknownst to anyone who watched the episode. God knows how spoiled we’d be if we knew that….
The episode callbacks start strong as Jon arrives with Dany and her forces, a scene mirroring the arrival of
the King’s party in Season One. I actually quite liked the beginning of the scene, however misplaced the rearrangement of the Baratheon theme felt. Arya is in the crowd and sees Jon. It’s a nice moment of acting from Maisie Williams, who is both elated and also nervous to see this person she loved so much, clearly trepidatious of what their reunion would be now that they are coming together, different people in a different world. It would have been a really nice follow through for all of the Stark reunions actually, dealing with who they are now versus who they were when they last saw one another, but unfortunately gets overlooked.
However, this nice moment is immediately bulldozed over with a Thrones classic eunuch joke, from Tyrion of course. Gotta love this comedy gold.
The people of the North look anxious about Dany’s arrival, something I don’t think the entrance of Drogon and Rhaegal ease up. Big scary dragons are not how you make friends, Dany. Jon tries to reassure her that they’ll come around.
Now for official reunion number one. I actually quite liked the Jon and Bran scene. Even if it was one-sided because Bran is a robot, Jon’s excitement to see him all grown up was pretty sweet. Kit Harrington is doing some really nice things this episode and I felt the history here. I do wish it could have been more involved. I just want someone deal with Bran being a tree-bot emotionally.
AAAAAANNNDD cue the cattiness. In the middle of a meeting with all of the North, including a lot of skeptical bannermen who wonder why the man their proclaimed King bent the knee without their consult, Sansa and Dany go at it, concluding with a “bitchy” look across Jon who seems to be just trying to ignore their teenage-level bickering tension. It’s right in front of everyone. It’s not professional on either one of their parts, and certainly doesn’t help the situation already brewing between the Northern lords (aka Lyanna Mormont) and Jon. If Sansa was just distrustful or worried about Dany, sure. Understandable. Even the points she makes in the episode make complete sense. However, the framing of it all is pure rom-com cattiness.
Not long after…the reunion we have all been waiting for: Tyrion and Sansa! I think this was one of my least favorite parts of the episode. It just continues their pattern of patting Tyrion on the back, and forcing Sansa too as well. I am glad she called him out on trusting Cersei, even if I don’t think they will ever give her credit for it. I just wish they’d let Sansa, and the audience, dislike this man for one instant. She has every reason to hate the Lannisters and Tyrion an extension of that, especially hearing they’ve allied. Alas, St. Tyrion must remain St. Tyrion.
The best moment of the episode for me was the Jon/Arya reunion. It was the first Stark reunion where it seemed like the two people were actually feeling things from both sides. While I wish it had some more emotional complexity, and it certainly tried to go there, I still liked it. It felt like a nice mirror to Season One without being too on the nose, and while these characters felt so different than who they were in the beginning, their coming together still seemed natural. The moment where Jon looks at Needle and asks Arya if she’s had to use it was a nice touch. I just wish it were a line that meant that that was something the show wanted to explore and say about Arya. The loss of her childhood can be most felt with Jon, which is so essential to Arya’s character, but the show neglected it. It was still by far the nicest moment of the episode, and emotionally the strongest.
She also stands up for Sansa! The polar opposite of scary Arya threatening to skin her sisters face off last season, and I am here for it. I wish those two had more scenes.
Euron arrives in King’s Landing with the Golden Company and they regretfully inform Cersei the budget did not make room for elephants after all the dragon riding needing to be CGI’d this season. She’s pretty pissed about it (who wouldn’t be after being promised elephants?) but decides to bone down on Euron anyway as a thanks. Why? Who can say. Euron is still as badly written as ever, but I guess without Jaime there’s a spot to fill there. I wish Lena Heady had more to do. She is too good to just be telling Euron Greyjoy how much he satisfied her sexually.
We also get some obligatory nudity and sex workers when Bronn’s four-way fun gets interrupted by Qyburn, who gives him a crossbow and sends him on a mission to hunt down the Lannister brothers that betrayed Cersei. Not sure why this couldn’t wait other than the fact that we needed to fill a boob quota.
In the shortest fight scene, Theon rescues Yara. She immediately punches him, but then extends a hand to help him up. That’s tough love for you. Yara decides to head back to the Iron Islands while Theon goes North to fight. That’s it. More time should have definitely been spent here. These two have quite a history and this seemed like a rushed, lack luster parting of ways. Also why is Yara running away to be Dany’s Plan B instead of fighting? Seems out of character.
Davos “proposes a proposal” between Dany and Jon…yes, that is a quote. And the two lovebirds ride dragons off on a little date. Oh yeah. Jon rides his first dragon. It was as nonchalant as that sentence sounded. It’s a moment that should be so impactful, but falls so flat. Dany just suggests it out of nowhere. There’s not even a mention of the idea that you need Targ blood to ride a dragon.
If that idea was introduced, it could have really helped strengthen the Jon parentage reveal that ended up feeling flimsy in way of evidence. I also think this scene would have worked so much better had Sam told Jon about his parentage beforehand. Clearly, it’s a lot to take in and something he doesn’t want to believe, so it could have been the perfect culmination of his struggle to deal with his identity, denial, and Ned’s lie. Not to mention what it would mean for his relationship with Dany. It would have added texture to an otherwise nothing scene.
However, we did get one of the worst and best moments in their little date when Drogon turns into full cock-block as Dany and Jon make-out. What am I watching.
Arya reunites with both Gendry and the Hound, but both were so rushed and most definitely didn’t need to be crammed in together. I almost forgot they happened. Wish there was more there. Arya’s companions mean a lot to her journey.
In the climax of the episode, Dany meets Sam and thanks him for saving Jorah. However, as they talk Dany learns his last name and in an awkward moment, admits that she executed his father and brother. I think this scene was pretty well acted, but absolutely hate what it means. Why is Sam so upset about his father? Mixed emotions, sure. Upset about Dickon? Of course. However, his father literally threatened to kill him if he didn’t join the Watch. He was an abusive piece of shit that the show already had an issue with framing as all too reasonable and likable in the last two seasons. It feels weirdly apologetic. I do give props to Dany though for being honest and standing by her decision, however bad she might feel.
*Note Benioff calls Dickon Sam’s “older brother” in the Inside the Episode? Pretty much throwing Sam’s entire reason for being at the Night’s Watch and all his trauma out the window. I’m sure it was a slip up, which might be worse than just a retcon.
Sam runs out in tears and finds Bran who says he’s waiting in the courtyard for an “old friend”, but it’s time for Sam to tell Jon the truth. Sam finds Jon in the crypts, a setting for this reveal that I actually quite like, despite it being almost too dark to see. A lot of meaning is held there, especially thematically for the Stark family. Sam tells Jon about Dany’s Tarly execution. Jon defends her, saying he has done the same to treasonous men, but Sam uses it to come clean about Jon’s identity. How those two tie together other than Sam possibly being angry with Dany and wanting to pit Jon against her, I don’t know. I also don’t know why this, and Jon’s bending the knee, are real issues when marriage is such a clear option.
The scene is well acted, but I think it would have made more sense in the beginning of the episode so we could see Jon coming to terms with it, especially before riding a dragon. It would have also helped kick-start this episode a little faster. This is the final season right?
The episode ends with Jaime’s arrival at Winterfell and Bran just sitting there, waiting. Are his siblings not concerned he sits outside all night long? If only Bran was no longer a robot. This interaction could mean something.
Next week we will get some prime Dany Aerys apology as it looks like Jaime will be forced to answer for…saving the people of Kings Landing? And hopefully a lot more ridiculous hilarity. It definitely makes the episodes easier to get through!
Can’t wait to go though this final season with you all! If this episode is indicative of the season, we’re in for quite the ride. `