This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 1.
First up, let’s talk about those shiny new credits! Even the astrolabe has changed. We now see it depicting scenes of the Wall coming down…
…The Red Wedding…
…And the brith of Dany’s dragons.
As for the map, it’s now in much more high def, and its journey begins at the Wall – with its giant chunk missing – and heads straight to Last Hearth, the holdfast of House Umber.
The credits then move on to Winterfell, and rather than panning over the top as usual, we get to go inside the castle. The sequence focuses on the godswood, the Great Hall, and the crypts.
We then see the new version of the Red Keep at King’s Landing, and get a peek inside to the scorpion weapon facing the dragon skulls (ominous!!!) before gliding into the throne room.
Onto the episode itself. It opens with a scene that parallels the moment in Season 1, Episode 1 when Robert Baratheon, Cersei Lannister and their entourage arrive at Winterfell (right down to using the same music). Only this time it’s Jon and Daenerys arriving looking REGAL AF.
Like the pilot, Arya is separate from her family, watching amongst the crowd.
She smiles as she sees a little boy excitedly climbing a tree to get a better view of the procession.
And as before, Arya looks rather concerned when she spots the Hound – only this time around it’s a whole lot more complicated.
Jon is the first to approach the Starks, just as Robert was.
He’s followed by his queen, who like Cersei gets a less-than-warm welcome from the Starks – and who is equally unimpressed.
Jon asks Sansa where Arya is, as Catelyn did in the pilot.
Speaking of reunions, we also get one between Arya and Jon which is VERY emotional, and also parallels Jon and his sibling’s farewell.
They even discuss Needle, which Jon gave to Arya before they both left Winterfell.
That’s not the only big reunion Arya has in this episode, though. She also reunites with Gendry AND the Hound.
By the way, this isn’t the first time all three of these characters have been together – Arya and Gendry were actually captured by the Brotherhood at the same time the Hound was back in Season 3.
Arya and the Hound have a conversation that references the last time they saw each other.
Remember, at the end of Season 4, the Hound fights Brienne over who will protect Arya. When the Hound loses, Arya leaves him to die – but not before stealing his money.
But back to Gendry! His and Arya’s conversation calls back to their past in the most wonderful way, riffing off the “my lady” joke Gendry made when he discovered Arya was a Stark.
The “my lady” thing is a theme that has run through Gendry and Arya’s relationship – significantly in their farewell scene in Season 3.
The whole class divide is reiterated by Gendry in a joking way after he clocks her Valyrian steel dagger, but Arya dismisses it (and it’s flirty as hell!).
Oh, and if you wanted a better look at the dragonglass weapon Arya asks Gendry to make, here it is:
Arya’s not the only Stark sister getting all the reunions, of course. We also see Sansa reunite with Tyrion.
Moving to King’s Landing for a moment, and Bronn’s scene with the sex workers has a few Easter eggs. First of all, they talk about the fate of “ginger Eddie” at the Battle of the Goldroad.
The scene also echoes the moment in Season 1, Episode 1 when Jaime interrupts Tyrion’s sexcapades at the behest of Cersei. This time, it’s Qyburn interrupting Bronn because Cersei wants something – she wants to him to kill Jaime and Tyrion. With the crossbow Tyrion used to kill Tywin.
Speaking of Cersei, the post-coital scene with Euron is hard to read. He touches her belly, claiming he’s going to put a prince on it, which suggests that she slept with him to cover up the fact that Jaime already impregnated her.
While Euron is occupied, Theon rescues Yara. He splits a guard’s head with an axe, just as Yara did when she attempted to rescue him back in Season 4.
Speaking of Theon, he looks the most Theon he has since Ramsay Bolton captured him. And he’s off to fight for the Starks at Winterfell.
Back in the North, Jon rides a dragon! Which is a hint at his Targaryen heritage.
And it’s not just any dragon, but RHAEGAL. You know, the dragon named after his father, Rhaegar Targaryen!
When they land, Dany is awed by a waterfall and expresses her desire to stay there with Jon, in a moment that echoes the cave scene (complete with waterfall!) with Ygritte.
Jon returns to Winterfell to discover Lord Glover is being fickle again and refusing to fight with the Starks – or, more specifically, the Targaryens.
It’s interesting that the big reveal about Jon Snow’s identity takes place in the crypts at Winterfell, echoing the moment Ned and Robert stood there in Season 1, Episode 1. Significantly, Jon is first seen standing with Ned’s statue looming over his shoulder…
But then, as Jon learns the truth, he moves closer to Lyanna’s statue.
Over to the scene at Last Hearth. Tormund and Beric, having survived the fall of the Wall, have made their way there, as have Edd and the remainders of the Night’s Watch from Castle Black. They discover the White Walkers have already been there – and left a message for them.
It calls back to the body part “art” they left in Season 1, Episode 1 – a scene which also included an attack from a wight child.
The spiral pattern has been seen repeatedly through the series in connection with the White Walkers…
And it also interestingly resembles the Targaryen sigil.
Finally, we have the scene with Bran and Jaime – who, it turns out, is the “old friend” Bran was waiting for.
Jaime arrives at Winterfell in a moment that parallels his first entrance at the beginning of Season 1 – which makes the difference between who he was then and who he is now all the more stark.
Jaime seems almost nostalgic to be back at Winterfell – until he sees Bran, and is immediately reminded of the horrible things he did “for love” the last time he was there.
All in all, it was a pretty epic set-up episode for the final season of Game of Thrones. I can’t wait to see what happens next.