Well, director David Nutter didn’t disappoint. The season 8 premiere has come and with episode 1, all the juiciness we’ve been waiting for for 20 months. Dany, Jon, Arya, Bran, Sansa… gangs all here.

Let’ the game begin.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW

The show opens with a revamped and fantastically intricate new opening to the series, complete with internal views of the map of Westeros and the omission of several houses from the rotating sphere. Clearly, the showrunners are pulling out all the stops for the final season.

After which, we open with a procession of Dothraki and Unsullied marching through Wintertown. It’ s a little bit of a parallel to season one as Robert Baratheon rides in with his court. Pan to each of the riders on horseback and we come to a rather regal view of the former KiTN and Daenerys riding side by side. It’s all very imperial in nature. At least from where the audience stands.

Where the northerners stand, however, something different entirely.

The director does an excellent job of communicating through heir facial expressions exactly where their mindsets are.  Save for Arya who is more elated at seeing her big brother for the first time. Otherwise, bottom line, they’re not feeling the new visitors. No surprise there since Northerners are very distrusting of outsiders. Words straight from the horse’s mouth, the horse being Jon snow of course.

It’s all too apparent when Dany reads their faces. She’s not happy at the less than warm welcome. They should love me. I saved their King! Her expressions are screaming. Well, good thing she’s got the dragons to confirm that someone still loves her. She smirks as they intimidate the northern population flying overhead. Not gonna lie, I didn’t get a good feeling seeing that. But hey, take the W’s however they come girl because I predict L’s will be abundant later. For everyone.

Enter Winterfell, literally, the first person Jon sees is Bran whom he embraces with gusto. Let me just say this now, reunions are a HOT point this episode.

The next person he embraces is Sansa, though sweet and welcoming to him, her icy cold glare is over 9000! towards Khaleesi. If the teaser didn’t already expose this to us it’s on 20/20 pyrex vision now. Sansa does NOT like Daenerys. Daenerys being the intelligent monarch that she is, notices it immediately. If the icy cold glare didn’t say it all, the blatant disregard for Dany’s attempt at cordiality and flattery confirms it.

“Winterfell is yours, your grace.” She barely whispers with a pinch of side eye. I mean let’s face it, even Helen Keller could hear that was code for “F*ck you lizard b*tch, I’m only doing this because I have to.”
Fast forward to the great hall, it’s full of indignant northerners flanked by Dany’s men. Jon is in the middle while Sansa sits to his right and Dany to his left. Can’t help but wonder if there’s some purposeful imagery here but things are too juicy to dwell on that. It’s politics and arguments galore. As predicted by the facial expressions on the frosty runway in, the Northmen are appalled and angered that Jon bent the knee. Now before we vilify them for giving KiTN are a hard time, it can be understood why they’d feel this way. This is the second man they’ve crowned king (the former being Robb), only to have him make a decision that compromises their long and out of reach dreams of becoming autonomous. Additionally the last time they heard of a Targaryen, he was roasting their warden of the north and his heir alive in the middle of the capital.

Sansa begins to argue the point that their rations of food and resources will dwindle quickly since they have more guests than they’d planned for. She was not expecting 5000 plus eunuchs, a score of Dothraki screamers and two fully grown fire breathing dragons. This clearly hits a nerve in Daenerys who decides courtesy is no longer on the table for her, she responds with “whatever they want” when Sansa inquires what do dragon’s eat.

Ohhhhhh the shade of it all.

And again, Jon is placed squarely in the middle of this catfight. Clever Dan and Dave. Very clever.

Now let me say this: if Daenerys is looking for a warm welcome, petulant comments like that are definitely not the way to go. You want to subjugate a people and demand loyalty from a people who never asked for you. They chose Jon as their king, not you. The complete disregard for the food problem (perhaps because she burned it all at the Reach?) displays that she’s not concerned with finding a solution, only staking her claim on the elusive 7th kingdom of the north. Call me mad but I had an eerie feeling they’re setting her up to be some sort of an antagonist this season.

Anyway, another reunion between Tyrion and Sansa, the pleasantries are brief before she makes a point of telling him he’s not as clever as she thought, thinking Cersei would ever actually send reinforcements. Echoing the very thoughts, the audience had since season 7 ended.
Next we have the thing reunion we’ve been waiting for. The reunion of a lifetime. JON AND ARYA REUNITE and I seriously had all the feels. After some banter over their weapons, the subject of family comes up and Jon reveals that he isn’t as comfortable with Sansa’s icy welcome. Arya does something out of character and DEFENDS Sansa. She says Sansa is simply trying to protect the family. Jon reminds her that he’s her family too. Hmmmm… Foreshadowing much?

Over at King’s landing, we enter Cersei who now welcomes the Golden Company a band of mercenaries for hire to her gates. Yara is still a captive but we’ll get to that later. Cersei is quite disappointed that Euron and the crew have not brought her Elephants. It’s quite obvious Miss Lannister was looking to flex on her enemies with a few overgrown animals of her own. There’s something a little defeated in Cersei. Maybe it’s the hormones? In any case, she is really without true and trustworthy allies save for Qyburn. Euron being the scumbag that he is sees this and takes advantage Jedi-mind-tricking Cersei into agreeing to (reluctant, on her part) intimacy.

Bronn’s still a man without honor, a man for hire who’ll do almost anything for that castle and bride he’s owed. Hey, can’t knock the man’s hustle. Something tells me this will be important later. Especially since he’s gifted a crossbow courtesy of the pettiest queen in the 7 kingdoms.

Pan over to the Bay of Blackwater, Reek I mean, Theon has a redeeming moment and come’s to Yara’s rescue like a boss. Bravery most, if not all of us ever thought we’d see from him after being battered and broken by Ramsay for 3 seasons.

After an uncomfortable chat in the courtyard about first impressions, Dany reiterates the inconvenient truth Sansa isn’t her fan. I repeat, I’ve got five on it that there will be blood because of this. Dany all but confirms the point when she isn’t able to finish her sentence, commenting that Sansa may meet an unsavory fate if “she can’t respect her…”

A veiled threat. Bottom line. The smell of Aerys is strong here. What’s disturbing is Jon’s lack of correction when it comes to the things she says in his home. When you love someone, sometimes that love comes in the form of correction. You’d think he would let her know that to gain the love of the people you must earn it but there’s a very strong sense of entitlement in Dany this episode. Call me cray but again, I have a potent feeling that this is being showcased on purpose.

Anyway, clearly exhausted with the bowing and scraping and overall shadiness they’ve been unwelcomely-welcomed with, Jon and Dany decide to go on a joyride.
Now I don’t know if either of them asked themselves at all how or why Jon is able to get on with her dragons so well when literally no one else has but who has time for questions now? Not when there’s kissing and reptilian roller-coaster rides for the taking!

Jon mounts Rhaegal because plot points, and at first, he’s uncomfortable but gets the hang of it. They soar over Winterfell where Davos, Tyrion and Varys witness Jon being ungraceful on his new reptilian buddy. With the master of whispers and our wine addict friend in the mix, there will be gossip.

They land, do some flirting, echoes of Ygritte’s words to Jon in the cave resonate and there’s a slightly awkward scene where the dragon’s watch mommy and Jon make out.

Weird flex but ok.

It’s back at the smith’s shop and who else would we run into but Gendry the hammer. DARE I SAY IT: ANOTHER REUNION. Arya shows up, shares some witty banter with the hound before addressing Gendry who calls our vengeful assassin what he always promised, ‘M’lady’. Ahhhh all the feels!!

After the episode of how to train your dragon, it’s back to business. Jon meets Sansa in her study and they have a tense encounter. She outright admits that she cannot believe he bent the knee. After everything. Like WTF bro?? Jon, true to form, defends Dany saying she’ll be a good queen to all of them. That she’s not her father.

AGAIN FORESHADOWING. They’re not even trying to hide it.

Finally, she asks what we’re all thinking, did Jon bend the knee because he was really trying to look out for the attic? Or was he thinking with what lies between his drawers? Before we get an answer to probably the most important question of the whole episode, it cuts to another scene. Again, nothing in Game of Thrones at least up to this point is done arbitrarily. Us not getting an answer leaves Jon’s actions and intent, ambiguous. Let that sink in folks.
Next, we enter Winterfell’s library where our favorite nerd is chillin’. He meets Daenerys who then after a series of inquiries and compliments pieces together that sam is a Tarley. She is then forced to admit that she killed his dad and brother. Face it, we knew last season that that as probably going to come back to bite her. It’s heartbreaking to see his reaction. Though his dad was a real bastard to him, his brother, was not. Sam excuses himself in tears, meets Bran who then drops the ultimatum ‘tell Jon who is friggin parents are and tell him NOW.’

Though heavy set, he sure moves fast because the next scene we see is him in the Crypts embracing Jon. Jon sees his friend distressed and asks what the matter is. Now it all starts to hit the fan folks. Sam drops multiple bombs, the first being that Dany Jon’s new lady love is the reason he’s lost two members of his family.

Surprisingly, Jon was not aware. For newfound lovers, they don’t actually share all the details of their lives together. Still, even with this information, Jon remains steadfast in his loyalty to her. Gotta love a Stark. There’s no switching up when they have a plan. It’s clear the writers chose to have Sam learn this information prior to what happens next…

Yes, there’s more.
R+L=J becomes canon kids. Sam drops the bomb we’ve all known for 20 months. Lets Jon know that Dany isn’t the one who has the right or even deserves the Iron throne but it’s actually JON who does. Being the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar. Aegon Targaryen, 6th of his name. That Jon deserves the crown more. He’s less ruthless than she. I mean… where’s the lie?

I’m sure every heart was beating like a hummingbird’s when we heard the truth told. Jon, of course, does NOT take the news well. From what I could read on his face, he feels confused, betrayed (by Ned who he thinks lied to him all his life), shocked and a plethora of other emotions I can’t list because it would take too long lol. Not to mention, the reality that he’s been banging his aunt for the past few months, Yup. Wonder if the citadel has any free counseling sessions for newly realized unintended incestuous kings? That’s gotta be a thing, right? Sidebar, Kudos’ to Kit Harington and his drama school for coaching him in the art of angsty expressions. Never let us down.

Further north we get a more welcome reveal, Tormund Giantsbane didn’t die in the great wall melt of 2017. He lives! Ayeeeee!!! Of course, the show kind of gave that away in its own trailer for Season 8, but if you weren’t aware, now you are. Tormund is at the Last Hearth (home to House Umber, a family of the north pledged to House Stark) with Beric “Just Pause While I Pull Out My Fire Stick” Dondarrion. They find the last remaining members of the Night’s Watch, including Eddison Tollett (kudos to this man for holding on to life since season one, real MVP), who reveal that the Night King has was here and left his business card.

What’s that? A child glued to the wall surrounded by crop circle limb pieces? Perhaps a post-it note would’ve sufficed? Unfortunately, we saw this coming the minute Sansa sent him to gather his comrades and return to Winterfell. Yes, the wall boy is Ned Umber, but instead of being able to accomplish what was requested of him, he got turned into a wight (that was a nice jump scare) and pinned up in the world’s most pitiful Catherine wheel. They light him on fire (because no point in being sentimental when you’re part of the undead squad now) and get some much-needed warmth before carrying on.

I’ll say this, we got a fair amount of lightheartedness with the how to train your dragons and hugs, but this is the Game of Thrones so gore and graphic depictions on death were only a few scenes away. Lest we forget, the spiral pattern on the wall is one we’ve seen since season 1, and it definitely holds significance.

One more thing…

In the closing moments of the show, a hooded and mysterious rider arrives at Winterfell (wouldn’t it be sweet if this how the Night King rocked up to kill everyone). But it’s not the Night King. It’s — reveal — Jaime Lannister!
Of course, there’s Bran, watching him like a creeper across the courtyard. But then again, he probably knew Jaime was coming. He did say he was ‘waiting for a friend’ after all. Don’t you know? He’s the three-eyed raven. Big deal. HUGE deal. This will probably the most awkward reunion ever let me just say that now. Take it all in, because if the preview of next week suggests anything, it’s that shit will hit the fan pretty soon.

All in all this episode was decent. A little slow, but a definite ‘set-up-for-what’s-to come’. Places have been set for who will eat what during the coming season, even if that includes death or madness… man we’ll just have to see. Hope you all enjoyed! Until next week, can’t wait for the ACTION.

Be sure to take a peek at what’s in store next week, below.

GOT: Season 8 Episode 1 Review
8.5POSITIVE
Reunions9.6
Plot Devices9.1
Reveals9.6
Pacing7.6
Character Development7.4