If you haven’t seen the episode yet and don’t want to know what happens, leave now.
Guys, we’ve made it. Approximately 25 years after season seven wrapped up, the biggest show in the world has finally — FINALLY — returned to break our hearts all over again for season eight.
Before the premiere even kicked off, we were given the first surprise: the opening credits have changed. We’d been expecting a few tweaks for the final run of episodes, but the whole animated map has undergone a major revamp.
Anyway, let’s dive in.
Just like a very young Arya did in the pilot when King Robert Baratheon arrived at Winterfell, we see her line up to take in all the new arrivals at Winterfell as Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, the Unsullied, the Dothraki and their other pals including Tyrion Lannister, Lord Varys, Gendry and Jorah Mormont make their way through the gates.
In another homage to the very first episode, a young boy runs through the legs of adults, trying to get a better view — just like a young Bran Stark.
The people of the North aren’t super keen on strangers and they’re suddenly facing a whole horde of them. Oh, and two giant dragons.
So they’re pretty shook.
Listen to our Game of Thrones podcast. Warning spoiler alerts.
One person who’s really not stoked to see her (former) half-brother Jon and his new lover is Sansa Stark, who’s taken over ruling Winterfell in his absence. While she did that, he gave up his crown to Daenerys, effectively making her everyone’s new boss and Sansa’s especially salty about it.
This whole episode is about reunions, and one of the first comes in the form of Bran Stark and his older brother, Jon.
“Look at you, you’re a man now!” Jon tells his younger brother affectionately.
“Almost,” he replies blankly.
Cool, so Bran’s still super weird.
He welcomes the new arrivals to Winterfell by telling them the Night King’s claimed Dany’s dead dragon, the Wall has fallen, and the Dead Army are on their way.
Look, it’s always cold in Winterfell but things are positively arctic among its power players at their first assembly with the Northern bannerman.
Sansa does that thing everyone’s mum did when you came home with friends after school, and passively-aggressively points out she didn’t prepare enough food to cover the unexpected guests.
Jon defends his decision to bring Dany into the fold, and Tyrion’s got his back (yup, a Lannister’s opinion should help here), but sassy young Lyanna Mormont isn’t having it and throws back a sick burn.
“You left Winterfell a king and came back a — I’m not sure what you are. A lord? Nothing at all?” she asks Jon, who mumbles back that it’s “not important”.
Anyway, Tyrion tells them they all need to unite or perish and things are smoothed over for now, kind of like our government was after that last leadership spill.
The next reunion is between Sansa and her former husband Tyrion, who she bailed on right after Joffrey died at the Purple Wedding.
Talk quickly turns to Tyrion and Cersei’s agreement to call a truce and join forces to defeat the Night King, and Sansa showcases her uncanny ability to smell BS.
“Cersei told you her army was coming North … and you believed her? I used to think you were the cleverest man alive,” she tells him with disdain.
The other reunion happening up at Winterfell is between Jon and Arya.
During their adorable sibling catch-up, Jon casually asks his little sister if she’s been out murderin’ with that sword he gave her, Needle.
“Once or twice,” Arya replies, which is kind of like Jon saying he’s made “one or two” stupid decisions in recent times.
Down south, Queen Cersei’s aide Qyburn rushes over to her to deliver a shocking update.
“Your Grace, I’m afraid I bring terrible news. The dead have broken through The Wall,” he tells her breathlessly.
He’s of course referring to the Night King and his icy dragon breaking through the only stronghold protecting everyone from the Dead Army, and Cersei responds like any normal person would, with terror and alarm and — oh, wait.
“Good,” she smiles.
Meanwhile, Euron Greyjoy is back with the Golden Company mercenaries that he promised Cersei — and he’s ready to collect his payment in the form of sexy time.
Cersei tells him he needs to “earn” her love and wait until the war’s over, and then threatens to have him executed for his arrogance.
But in an ironic twist, she’s turned herself on with all this talk of death and murder so changes her mind and they have sex instead.
It’s the ultimate evil collusion, but at least they’re not related.
(Bar’s been set pretty low, folks).
ONBOARD A GOLDEN COMPANY SHIP
Tied up on one of the Golden Company ships docked at King’s Landing is Euron’s niece Yara — who was captured after being abandoned by her brother Theon last season. It’s great that she’s still alive, but life’s pretty crap as your psychotic uncle’s prisoner.
Thankfully, Theon turns up to save the day, killing Yara’s guards and untying her.
As thanks, she gives him a powerful headbutt so now I guess they’re square on that whole bit last season where Theon ditched her to save his own butt.
Yara wants to go back to the Iron Islands to snatch them back while Euron’s busy romancing Cersei, but Theon’s keen to head to Winterfell and join his pals in their fight to save the world.
Yara tells him “you do you, bro” and they share a hug before parting ways.
IN A BROTHEL SOMEWHERE
Bronn was totally left in the lurch when his buddy Jaime Lannister split from Cersei and headed up North last season, but he’s kept busy.
Just as he’s really settling in to a saucy naked situation with three women, Cersei’s creepy sidekick Qyburn turns up to make it a heavily unsexy foursome.
He tells Bronn that the Queen is willing to offer him a huge reward if he assassinates her brothers, Jaime and Tyrion — assuming they even survive their battle against the Night King.
Oh, and she wants him to use that crossbow Tyrion used to kill their dad Tywin while he was on the loo because *theatre*.
Bronn’s response about sums it all up: “That f**king family.”
BACK AT WINTERFELL
Up North, it’s been a couple of days and Dany’s still not winning the popular vote with the people, but Jon doesn’t notice because he’s too busy making eyes at her.
She flirts by pointing out that his sister Sansa doesn’t like her, before making some vague threat about being her Queen and demanding respect.
Dany, there is literally an army of dead killers headed your way — can we put the power play on ice?
Jon and Dany then recreate A Whole New World from Aladdin on the dragons, and he really seems to enjoy it.
When the Disney tribute is over, Dany half-jokes about bailing on the war altogether and creating their own Love Cave 2.0 up in the mountains, and it’s not the worst idea we’ve heard.
But Jon’s all like, “LOL sweetie, it’s cold up here,” so they make out instead.
Worth noting at this point — and it really can’t be overstated — they are nephew and aunty, by blood.
ARYA, THE HOUND AND GENDRY
The Hound spots Arya inside the forge at Winterfell and fondly calls her a “cold little bitch” for leaving him for dead in season four, which is actually kind of a compliment coming from him.
After that heartwarming moment, Arya spots Gendry and they share a low-key flirt before she asks him to make her a custom weapon — some kind of arrow spear made out of dragonglass.
Here’s a closer look:
SANSA VS JON
Sansa blames Jon for some of their loyal North pals bailing on their alliance, and Jon cracks it because he’s fought the Dead Army twice and insists they need Dany to survive.
They put their frustrations out on the table and right as it seems they’ve reached an understanding, Sansa drops a zinger.
“Did you bend the knee to save the North? Or because you love her?”
SAM MEETS DANY
Dany finds Samwell Tarly to thank him for saving her on-off right-hand man Jorah Mormont from the dreaded greyscale.
It’s all quite pleasant until Sam brings up his dad, Randyll Tarly, and Dany admits she burned him alive because he wouldn’t bend the knee.
Sam is shaken up but accepts it gracefully, because after all he’s still got his brother, right?
Ah, yup. Sorry. That’s right. Dany killed him too.
As if that wasn’t crap enough, Sam goes off to cry in peace and runs into Bran, who might be useful against the Night King but is just such a creepy bore.
Bran tells him now’s the time to go all Maury Povich and uncover Jon’s true parentage.
Sam’s looking for a little “me time” after finding out his whole family’s dead and asks Bran to do him a solid and let Jon know, but Bran’s all “nope”.
THE TARGARYEN BOMBSHELL
Jon sees Sam and is about to settle in for a catch-up, but is instead basically told that his entire life is a lie.
“Your mother was Lyanna Stark and your father — your real father — was Rhaegar Targaryen. You’ve never been a bastard. You are Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne. I’m sorry, I know it’s a lot to take in,” Sam says.
There’s a lot to unpack here — namely the fact that he’s a close blood relative of his new lover — but Jon responds in the most Jon way imaginable and gets salty about “honour” and “trust”.
“My father was the most honourable man I ever met. Are you saying he lied to me my whole life?” he asks Sam, gobsmacked.
Although, as Sam pointed out, if Ned Stark hadn’t hid Jon’s true identity, then King Robert Baratheon would have killed him — so we might give him a free pass here.
Jon is shocked.
“You gave up your crown to save our people. Would Daenerys do the same?” Sam asks him.
TORMUND AND BERIC ARE ALIVE
Thankfully, Tormund and Beric Dondarrion have somehow managed to escape The Wall being pulverised by the zombie dragon in last season’s finale, and have made it to Last Hearth.
It’s not exactly a lighthearted return to civilisation though, with the survivors finding the remains of Ned Umber, the young head of the Umber House who Jon sent home to collect wagons at the beginning of the episode.
That mission clearly went awry, as he is now dead and pinned to a wall, surrounded by a gruesome pattern of severed limbs, courtesy of the artistic talents of the White Walkers.
(Fun fact: they did the same thing in the show’s pilot episode back in 2011, although that time it featured a young girl).
The team work out the message — the Night King and his army are now between them and Winterfell, and while they try and figure out how to send a warning to Jon, the boy comes back to life as a wight so they stab him with a fiery sword.
… AND WINTERFELL AGAIN
Meanwhile, Jaime’s finally arrived at Winterfell.
His welcome committee is comprised of only Bran, which is unfortunate because Bran seems to remember that time Jaime shoved him out a window in a murder attempt in the show’s very first episode.
As far as reunions go, this was probably the most awkward.
The second episode of Game of Thrones will air next Monday on Foxtel at 11am and 8:30pm. Keep an eye out for news.com.au’s recap and podcast analysing the episode.
In the meantime you can subscribe to our podcast, Winter is Here, on iTunes.