Let’s recap “Game of Thrones,” which premieres its final season tonight. Let’s dive right into the events of Episode 68, “Winterfell.”
- Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Daenerys Taygerian (Emilia Clarke) arrive at Winterfell with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), the Unsullied, and their forces
- Arya (Maisie Williams) watches as The Hound (Rory McCann), and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) ride with them. The dragons fly past the masses. Sansa (Sophie Turner) watches from the battlements of Winterfell
- Jon is reunited with Brann (Isaac Hempstead Wright) for the first time, who seems focused on other things as he waits outside of Winterfell. He alerts Daenerys about the Night King’s turning of her dragon, which is met with disbelief
- Jon is called out for bending the knee by Lady Mormont (Bella Ramsey)
- Sansa and Tyrion reunite for the first time since Joffrey’s wedding and discuss Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Sansa questions Cersei’s promise to send her army North
- Jon and Arya reunite at the weirwood, seeing each other for the first time since Jon left for Castle Black
- In King’s Landing, Cersei greets the news that the dead have broken through the Wall with a single word. “Good.”
- Euron brings the warriors of the Golden Company to the King’s Landing, led by Captain Harry Strickland (Marc Rissmann). They bring thousands to join Cersei’s forces. Cersei goes to bed with Euron.
- Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is interrupted during intimate moments by Qyburn (Anton Lesser) with a proposition from Cersei. He is to kill Tyrion and Jaime
- Theon (Alfie Allen) rescues Yara and heads to Winterfell. Yara returns to the Iron Islands to secure them while Euron is in the South.
- Tyrion, Varys, and Davos (Liam Cunningham) discuss the possibility of Jon and Daenerys marrying
- Jon Snow becomes the second dragon rider by riding Rhaegal. Rhaegal is named after Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’ brother and Jon’s father
- Gendry begins tending to the dragonglass, making weapons for the soldiers to fight the oncoming battles. The Hound, Gendry, and Arya reunite. Gendry begins making Arya a special weapon
- Sansa questions Jon’s devotion to the North versus his love of Daenerys. The two struggle to get along
- Daenerys and Jorah approach Sam to thank him for performing the grayscale removal. However, Daenerys tells Sam about her execution of his father and brother, leaving Sam overcome with emotion
- Sam goes to Jon in the crypts of Winterfell and tells him his true name: Aegon Targaryen
- Tormund, Berrick and the remained of the Night’s Watch find the corpse of an Umber boy, splayed out and mutilated on a wall
- They realize they must reach Winterfell before the Night King
- Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) arrives in Winterfell, met by Brann
- An Umber boy (killed by the Night King)
This episode was about reunions and parallelism from start to finish. The opening shots mirrored the introduction of the Baratheons and Lannisters from “Winter Is Coming” (Season 1, Episode 1). Specifically, Arya played a role in both sequences, anonymously hiding in the crowd as a young boy runs past her. The years have aged her, and she is clearly not the naive girl we first met.
We also get to check in with a number of fun character beats. Bronn gets sent to the North to kill Tyrion and Jaime. For the first time, Bronn may not be able to fulfill his end of a financial transaction. However, if he does, it could be quite the moment. Theon finally steps up to the plate and frees Yara. It still does not feel like his slate is clean. It will still take quite the effort to make him earn his redemption.
Jon riding Rhaegal obviously fulfilled some fan service. The dramatic irony of the sequence sits heavy. By the end of the episode, the truth lifts the irony. Picking up some titles along the way, Jon discovers his true identity as Aegon Targaryen. What a moment and director David Nutter wastes no time in spinning his camera to show Lyanna’s statue over his shoulder.
Jon Snow now knows the truth about his parentage and some of those around him are making their feelings about Daenerys known. While Jon believes in Daenerys, others clearly do not. The North has always been cold to those from outside the North, and Jon’s bending of the knee did not sit well with them. The scars of Robert’s Rebellion and the Lannister’s killing of Ned have not gone away. With Sansa, Royce, and others questioning Jon’s devotion to the North, this could be a problem in the future. However, a common enemy can fix all wounds.
Beyond the North, Sam Tarley shows his distrust of Daenerys. Emotionally crippled after hearing about the deaths of his brother and father, he does not know if Daenerys is the right person to rule the Seven Kingdoms. It was a very strong sequence for Bradley, who has grown immensely as a performer over the course of the show.
On that note, it seems unlikely that this will be a big Emmy contender for the show. This one was mostly table setting, with a clear focus on the next few episodes to come. You could make an argument that Lena Headey stood out, but if this is her standout episode of the season, that will feel very disappointing. Outside of the visual effects, no one else gives a performance that warrants awards consideration.
Theories/Projections For Episode 2
With Jaime showing up at Winterfell primes us for what will likely be the main focus of the next episode. Expect real division among our key characters over his arrival. The Starks will not forget what Jaime did to Bran but ironically, Bran likely will not care. As the Three-Eyed Raven, he has mostly divorced himself from his old life. Whether this sparks something within Bran or certifies his newfound role, his reaction will certainly be integral. We know Daenerys will not be on board to receive him either (as seen in the tease for next week).
Surprisingly, Samwell Tarley might have prepped us the best for this sequence. He asked Jon if Daenerys would be willing to forgive for the realm. Up to this point, she has not. However, Sam expertly pointed out that Jon has. Will Jon divert from his family and Daenerys to add another soldier against the Army of the Dead?
Jaime will also have his supporters in Brienne and Tyrion. Both have proven loyal to him over the course of the series, so you can make the argument they’ll continue to do so. However, Jaime will also bring news of Cersei’s plans to make a move against the survivors of the war. His reveal will undermine Tyrion’s proclamation in front of the North this last episode. Maybe all news is not good news?
We also know the Night King will be arriving with his forces by the end of the episode. Gendry needs to keep up the pace while making the Dragonglass weapons. Otherwise, there won’t be enough time to outfit the Dothraki, Unsullied, and Northerners. Literally, every weapon will count, and if the battle ax he handed off to The Hound was any indication of his work, he’s quite good.
Theon made it known he will be heading for Winterfell. Will he be welcomed with open arms? That also seems doubtful. Everyone seeing Bran and Rickon means they know he did not actually kill them, so that might work in his favor. They’ve also seen him since that time as Reek. Despite this, he still sacked Winterfell. He won’t have Ramsay Boulton to hide behind. Expect some tensions to reignite when he arrives.
Finally, will Jon tell Daenerys of his newly discovered lineage? It represents a real threat to her, not just because of his claim. She touted herself as the Mother of Dragons but his riding of Rhaegal could undermine that. This rebirth, this time a symbolic one, could gain him an interesting amount of support and backlash. Also of note, the crypts of Winterfell look to play a huge role in this season. Jon’s already discovered the truth of his parentage, but there’s more to come. The fact they’ve been woven into the opening seems to support that. Will the magic in the crypts play into the endgame? I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I think it will for both good and evil (Wight Ned Stark would be quite the sight).
While the premiere was focused on reunions (even if many did not go as planned), the next episode will focus on divisions. Can the combined forces of Daenerys, Jon, and the various free swords that have assembled reconcile before the battle? Or will this plant the seeds of doubt that will lead to their defeat? It’s about to get ugly in Winterfell.