I guess by now, if you are a GOT fan, you should have already watched season 8 episode 1, and if you are not, you will not even bother. Anyway, for the benefit of those rare fans who are still procrastinating and maybe waiting for the whole season to end first, SPOILERS ARE COMING!!!!
The episode mainly focused on the arrival of Daenerys at Winterfell, and the many reunions. There is no battle, but the tension is high, mainly due to the past conflicts between the houses whose members were gathering together in the same place. Therefore, it had a lot of emotions, and great room for the actors to show their different faces and sides that we hardly saw before.
Here we can see the quick change of facial expression of Arya Stark. From an eagerness and pure happiness of seeing his half brother Jon Snow, whom she had not met for many years, she sulked as he passed by her, looking straight and all business, not even noticing her in the crowd right beside him. Why are you so distant and cold, Jon Snow? The North is your home. Those people lining the road to see you are all your people. Why aren’t you at least looking at them, smiling or waving to them? You look like King Robert when they rode to Winterfell that day, the fateful day that started it all.
Well, maybe this is the reason for his tense and business like facial expression. Maybe he had anticipated this cold shoulder treatment and anger of the Northern Lords, and wanted to portray a strong leader who knew what he was doing. Really, if look can kill, Jon Snow would have died many times already. Look at Lyanna Mormont. She was really furious at his supposed betrayal. And Lord Royce was not happy at all.
Sansa is a political master by now, so she can hide her anger very well, but she also shows some hint of distrust, not in her words, but her face and the way she looked down at Dany when they first met each other. “Winterfell is yours” might be the words, but not the meaning of it. Inside, her brain might have been screaming “No, Dany, Winterfell is mine, and I will not give it to you easily like what Jon did”. Sure, there will be more tensions between these 2 women, especially after the White Walkers are dealt with and the game of thrones is on again.
And, as expected, they started clashing not so long after, when they had a big meeting with all the Northern Lords in the great hall of Winterfell. Sansa really did not trust Dany, she interrupted Dany and even rolled eyes when Dany spoke. But Dany was not so easily bullied either, and she showed Sansa she was the boss and that she came to help defend the North, in a position of power.
Anyway, I think it’s just that Jon Snow was just worried about Dany’s visit to the North, and simply did not see Arya. He was quickly warmed up when he went inside Winterfell, and saw his Stark family again. He was especially happy when he saw Bran for the first time since so many years. He felt very painful when he left for the world amidst Bran’s almost fatal incident, and could not say a proper goodbye to him as he was in a coma all the way back in the first season, so it’s understandable how happy and touching he felt when he saw Bran again. He almost burst into tears, and that made me feel very touched as well.
Unfortunately, in direct contradiction to his emotions, Bran replied in a very cool, maybe too too manner. He is really someone else, not the Bran of yesteryear, not the Bran who climbed the tower, not the Bran who entered the cave. As Meera rightly said, Bran died in that cave, and this new Bran is no longer that boy, or as he himself as, he is even not a man anymore. He seems to be oblivious to emotions, maybe he is now just a living walking Google search engine, with vast knowledge but no emotion, a supercomputer of sort, and that really makes me feel uncomfortable every time I see him.
Haha, another very telling facial expression by Sansa Stark. It’s like a amusing smirk, and she purposely kept the truth of Bran’s transformation from Jon in her messages, to give him the unpleasant surprise. She was shocked when she met Bran again last season, so she was determined to let Jon experience it himself. It’s like, “You know nothing, Jon Snow, there have been many changes since you left Winterfell, don’t be so naive, the game has changed totally”.
Another interesting reunion was that of Sansa and Tyrion. Legally, they are still married since there has been no annulment. However, it has never been consumed, so it’s hard to say if it’s really still on. Anyway, they seem to be on quite good terms, at least he has been nice to her during their time together, and even tried to protect her and anger Joffrey in the process. She surely remembered that, especially after she experienced the worst with Petyr and then Ramsay, so she should gave him credit for that. Although they traded some harsh words due to her running away and leaving him to face the death sentence during the purple wedding and he trusting Cersei to bring her army to Winterfell to help fight the dead, I still feel there is some hope between them, and there may be a chance they may get together again when things settle.
Here we are, the most anticipated reunion. Jon and Arya have been especially close. They grew up together, and they were the closest among the Stark children. They have not seen each other for so many years, since Jon left for the Wall, but they kept thinking of each other, and those thoughts gave them more mental strength to continue overcoming very tough situations. It’s Jon and Needle that kept Arya from turning into a faceless assassin and forgetting her name. So, when they finally met each other again, there was nothing but love and warmth for each other. They have grown and they have changed, but their bond is still stronger than ever, and I really felt so happy for them that I almost moved to tears. And their last conversation made me feel a bit alarmed. “The Stark is my family”. “Please don’t forget it”. We know who Jon really is, but I still believe he will remember that he is a Stark, that Ned has raised him up as his own, and that Winterfell is his home, and when it comes to difficult decision to be made, he will keep that in mind and make the right, honourable choice.
Another interesting reunion is that of Arya and the Hound. Arya and the Hound were not on very good terms when they were last together, and Arya even left the Hound to die a slow death. However, she has changed now, and so is the Hound, and more importantly they are on the same team now, so although there was still some bitterness between them, there is also a bond that they developed through the tough time together, and they know they need each other. That’s why they were not too harsh on each other.
Right after that was the union of Arya and Gendry. They were very close and they helped each other escape death a few times. Their bond was very strong, so strong that she was determined to kill Melisandre when the red priestess took Gendry away. She must have been very happy to meet Gendry again and to know that he was still alive. Although she tried to act cool, her loving smile gave away her true feeling towards him, and although he also acted cool and did not really show much emotion, it might just be his hardened shelf (he was a blacksmith, after all), his conversation really mimicked the last conversation they had, and showed that she had a special place in his heart, so special that he still remembered their conversation after so many years. I hope both of them will survive and be together in the end, which is also a fulfilment of Robert’s wish to join his house and Ned’s together, although they may not rule together in the end.
Another touching reunion is between Jon and Samwell. Sam was one of his few friends in the Watch, and his most trusted confidant. They had a long history together, but Jon had to send Sam away for his own safety, so it was understandably very happy for him to meet Sam again and to see that he was well. Jon really cared about him, and you can see the love and joy on his face when he saw his old friend again.
Another significant reunion is that of Theon and his sister Yara. It’s an emotional, and difficult one as well. First, it was emotional because the reason why they were separated was Theon’s abandoning his sister and jumping into the water to run away from his fearsome uncle. It was actually not a bad decision, since he got to live to fight another day, yet it would have haunted him all his life as that could be the last time he saw his sister. Fortunately it was not, and that difficult decision paved the way for him to redeem himself and led to the reunion with her. But it was also painful, as it was also a farewell, like a short lived fairy tale that ended prematurely, since they had to part way again so that Theon could complete his redemption arc and returned to Winterfell, his only true home, to fight alongside his true family. That explained the pain on his face, but he made the right decision, and his sister led him go. What is dead may never die. This time, he might die, but it would be a heroic death.
Finally, we had the fateful reunion between Jaime and Bran. The first time they met many years ago, the action Jaime did set all the events of the Game of Thrones in motion, and started the war of the five kings. It was also the first step in Bran’s personal journey of becoming the Three Eyed Raven. It would be interesting to see what they say to each other, and whether Bran would forgive Jaime. I think he would, now that he can look back to the past with a new perspective.
Done with the reunions, now let’s take a look at Cersei. Her Golden Company army had arrived at King’s Landing. Euron Greyjoy had proven himself more than once, and now he was demanding some favor in return. Cersei refused at first, but then, realizing she was walking on thin ice, and could lose the last powerful ally, she conceded. We can see the sadness and disgust on her face as she looked back at Euron, a look of total defeat. After all, even if she was the queen, she could still not do what she wanted.
Here we can see another close up look of Cersei. This time, I felt there seemed to be a tear in her eye. And with a glass of wine in her hand, she was definitely NOT pregnant. She did not drink when she met Tyrion, so her pregnancy might be a total lie, another trick she made to keep herself on the throne a bit longer. But then what did she have then? No family. No children. No lover to share the bed, and had to share it with the last person she would want to. She looked sad and vulnerable, and maybe she was asking herself if it was really worth it or not, and how much further could she go.
Ok, back to Dany again, this time with Jorah. That was the moment right after she realized her good intention to strike a conversation with Samwell and thank him for saving Jorah had ended in the worst way ever. She looked sad and troubled, and she might even have doubt if her decision was right at that time, and whether Tyrion was right in advising her against it, but the past is the past, it cannot be changed (well, unless you are a green seer, but better not alter it too much anyway), and her look at Jorah and his look at her meant only one thing: her quest to win the hearts of the Northerners are not gonna be easy.
Another defining moment in the episode is when Cersei hired Bronn to kill her brothers, with a crossbow nonetheless. It showed how cruel and morally degraded she had become. After all, kinslayer is one of the greatest sins, and hiring the man who had the best chance of finishing the job, not just a random nameless assassin, showed how determined she was to get rid of the last family she had. She might hate Tyrion so much, since she had long blamed him for killing her children, but what about Jaime? What did Jaime do that deserved that death sentence? He just wanted to honour his words and keep his promise, something you would expect from an annointed knight. And by choosing to engage Bronn, Cersei really wanted them dead, and she also had no more belief in the value of friendship and companionship, believing that everything could be bought with a large enough bag of gold.
This was the last scene of the episode, and it looked terrifying. It’s a warning from the Night King that the war would be starting soon. Many theories had circulated on the Internet about the meaning of that symbol, how it linked to the Night King, his past and even how to defeat him, and while I really enjoyed them, I don’t think it really was. We all love the show so much that we want to give it more meanings, but sometimes we should just sit back and relax and enjoy the impressive CGI effect and not think too much of what is hidden behind.
You may wonder why I did not even mention the scene when Sam told Jon about his parentage. Well, it’s because there is nothing to tell. We have known about it for quite some time, and the producers rushed through it so fast that there was barely any impression at all. Sam kind of blurted it out due to his anger with Dany, and Jon’s reaction was quite silly. And there was barely enough time for that significant moment to sink it, as the camera already moved away. It was really disappointing, especially for such a profound secret that once revealed might have changed the power balance totally.
Finally we have come to the end of this long post, and while these are beautiful shots, I don’t think they hold much meaning or foreshadowing. It was cheesy to the max, and having Jon ride a dragon before he even knew of his secret heritage is purely for fan service only. Dany might not think much when she asked Jon to ride a dragon all by himself, but as she had said before, a dragon is not a slave, and it takes time to bond and win the trust of a dragon before you even think about climbing on his back. It does not make sense, and it’s quite foolish thing to do. Jon must have known better too. He told Dany that Northerners are not easy to win over, but he underestimated a dragon so much. He had some doubts at first, but let his guard down when Dany nudged him and his manhood ego ever slightly (“What if he doesn’t like me?” “Well then I would have enjoyed your company Jon Snow.”) Really, are you so stupid? Gambling with your life when you know there are so many things to do. You know nothing, Jon Snow. Really, it does not make sense, it’s totally illogical.