Ever since season 1 of Game of Thrones, it’s been promised that, as the adage goes, winter is coming. And with the fall of the Wall at the close of last season, the final major obstacle to the change of the seasons—and the invasion of the Army of the Dead—came down, too. In the eighth and final season, we pick up at Winterfell, where there’s a lot of heartwarming sibling stuff going on: Jon Snow finally joins the recently reunited trio of Arya, Sansa, and Bran; he’s accompanied by Daenerys and her dragons, promising a succession drama to come. Jaime Lannister arrives at Winterfell, as do Tyrion Lannister and Varys. Meanwhile, down at King’s Landing, there’s no earthly reason for someone to be as gleeful about the impending arrival of an army of bloodthirsty zombie creatures as Cersei Lannister appears to be, which has to mean she’s scheming. There was a lot of exposition this week (as well as some truly cringey dialogue; Game of Thrones as soap opera), which means there’s got to be some bloodshed to come. (Ned Umber, sadly, is the first to go.)
As evidenced in the episode's final, chilling moments, it's not going to take long for the aforementioned army to reach Winterfell, and for the next six weeks, the Targaryens, Lannisters, Starks, and Greyjoys will spar among each other and also fight the undead, which sounds like a tough balancing act. “This is about the living and the dead,” Jaime Lannister exhorts, as seen in the recap of earlier seasons at the episode’s outset. They have a common enemy: the Night King, and also each other. Throughout it all, we’ll be here, keeping score of who’s winning and who’s losing. (Remember, the stakes are high.) Here’s where everyone stands in the first days of the new season.
The lady of Winterfell, officially and deservedly: Jon Snow introduces her as such to Daenerys in the first moments of the episode. Still wearing some cute emo accessories, too. “Many underestimated you. Most of them are dead now,” Tyrion tells her. (Remember when they were married?) Later on, out of Sansa’s earshot, Arya says, “She’s the smartest person I’ve ever met.” It takes a lot for your younger sister to concede that, you know. And how does Sansa repay her? Describing her, to her (not really anymore) brother, as “lurking.”
Jon Snow received a mixed lot this week. On the one hand, he was reunited with his siblings; on the other hand, they’re only medium-excited to see him. He does incest again with his aunt, Daenerys Targaryen, but he also gets to ride her dragons. (Not a euphemism, we promise.) And, finally, he learns his birthright—“protector of the realm, all of it”—thanks to a vindictive Samwell Tarly. But this all might take him a minute to get his head around. (At first resistant to claiming his title—real men don’t need titles, right?—he seems to warm to the idea within minutes, as he is wont to do every time someone nominates him for a better gig.) Still, this can really only be a win for him.
Interrupted mid-coitus, but it sounds like he is, in fact, going to get his due. Only, it’s a lot of gold and not a literal castle and a wife, and there’s a catch. It involves a crossbow and killing the Kingslayer.
Swiftly liberated after her capture last season.
Apparently, even Three-Eyed Ravens have vendettas (sorry, Jon, he’s not a “man,” he’s a raven). This boy sat outside for two days just to lay eyes on the guy who put him in a wheelchair in the first place, which is the kind of commitment we’re going to need this winter. Also, he's kind of always there. Those Starks, always lurking.
Alive. Ditto Beric, and a few others who survived the fall of the Wall. That can only be a victory.
The captain of the Golden Company has, perhaps, the most non-Game of Thrones name in all the Seven Kingdoms.
Has gotten better at forging weapons out of dragon glass—Arya Stark even said so. (She’s been quite generous with the compliments this week.) He’s even secured the Hound’s approval, due to a new dragon glass axe he crafted for him.
Ned Umber and Lyanna Mormont, the Lord of Last Hearth and Lady of Bear Island have, what, 12 years between them? Long live the youths in charge—don’t forget about Alys Karstark. (Although, actually, given Ned’s ultimate fate, this might not be such a victory.)
Let everyone have the confidence that Euron Greyjoy has that he’s going to get laid and get Cersei Lannister pregnant; let fewer among us talk about women the way Euron Greyjoy talks about Cersei Lannister. Someone this vile is probably going to be sticking around for a while, isn’t he? (See also: Ramsay Bolton; Joffrey Baratheon.)
Daenerys Targaryen’s white fur coat has made an appearance, but no amount of luxe fur is going to insulate her against a harsh truth: Her claim to the throne might be under fire. It was not wise to make an enemy of Samwell Tarly (see below).
He just wanted a pardon for a couple of instances of petty theft; instead, he learned Daenerys had his dad and brother incinerated. At least he gets to tell Jon he’s banging his aunt.
Winterfell’s foremost lurker and, apparently, not-very-good-flirt has been reunited with a few old pals—Gendry Baratheon (who’s going to make her a complicated-looking spear thing, per Arya’s request); Jon Snow—and one not-pal: The Hound, who she robbed and left to die. (He didn’t die.)
He frees his sister and takes down a couple of his uncle’s lackeys in the process, and he gets a clock in the head for his troubles. Now, he’s heading north—if only he knew the family drama that awaits.
It looks hard to walk in that armor.
Oh, right, he used to be married to Sansa. And, she says, she “used to think” he was “the cleverest man alive.” (Now, she’s the smartest; see above.) How the mighty have fallen.
Her iron shoulder pads—where does one acquire?—were certainly a minor victory this week, at least sartorially speaking, and she has an army of mercenaries now at her disposal, but at quite a cost: a quick romp with Euron Greyjoy. Also, the Golden Company showed up without elephants, and Cersei Lannister was promised elephants, goddammit. Additional important intel: She’s hatched a plan to dispose of her brothers with a really aggressive looking crossbow (at least, according to her maester). We stan a lady with a sense of humor, but this isn’t yet sufficient to really qualify as a victory.
Jaime is looking a bit piqued. After arriving at Winterfell, he’s greeted by quite a sight: the boy he pushed out a window some eight seasons ago, now a fully grown raven. Also, there’s a hit out on him. Season 8 is not off to a great start for the Kingslayer.
Not big fans of the north, it seems—the dragons are not eating. In a scene borrowed straight out of Harry Potter, Jon Snow rides one of them on a wild jaunt across the north—which makes Jon Snow the Boy Who Lived (apt, actually) and the dragon… the Firebolt? Sorry if that’s taking that simile one step too far.
We don’t want to spoil this too much, but … that was unfortunate.