When Game of Thrones last graced our screens in August of 2017, it offered enough major plot progressions to tide us over until the final season. Everyone learned that the White Walkers are real! Dany and Jon boned down! Sansa and Arya killed Littlefinger! Jaime finally ditched Cersei! Bran and Sam bonded over the secret of Jon’s real parents! And oh yeah — ZOMBIE DRAGON MELTED THE DANG WALL! For one breathless episode, it felt like we were finally getting somewhere.
And then we just had to wait over a year and a half for the show to come back and pay it all off. Which brings me to last night, and a season premiere that felt both sedate and deeply satisfying. Other than one picturesque, disturbing death of a minor character, all the action was of the interpersonal variety. It may seem frustrating that a sixth of the season — a sixth of the last remaining episodes! — was spent on what basically amounted to an hour of long-awaited reunions, but I’m happy we got some emotional pay-off before the real battles begin.
Dany and Jon returned to Winterfell with an entire army in tow. And it turns out, the North really does remember. Specifically, it remembers that it crowned Jon as the King in the North, and it’s none too pleased to welcome him home again after he gave up that crown and bent the knee to Daenerys. Sure, we all know he did it because they need allies to fight the White Walkers — he did it for you, North! — but they’re not the sort of people to trust anyone, let alone a Targaryen, easily. Even if they did unwittingly crown a Targaryen in the first place. BUT ANYWAY. Sansa is more concerned with figuring out how to feed all these troops than with giving Dany a warm reception, which is fair. She’s the Lady of Winterfell, and it’s her doorstep the army is camped on. What this episode highlights is just how far Sansa has come as a leader — she’s shrewd, she’s practical, and more importantly, she’s right. About basically everything. Her reunion with her estranged hubby Tyrion boils down to her correctly assessing the unlikelihood that Cersei is actually going to send any help to the North, proving she’s more on the ball than he is at this point (which even Arya recognizes when she tells Jon that Sansa is the smartest person she’s ever met).
But if Sansa comes off looking like a true leader, Dany comes off looking… less than. It’s clear she expects respect from the North since she’s their Queen now, but she hasn’t earned it yet, and that chafes her pride. Luckily she’s found the perfect way to cheer herself up — taking Jon out on a little dragon-riding excursion! She may be a terrible instructor, but I think the North will definitely remember seeing their former King and their new Queen soaring through the skies. Sure, it’s a rather extreme way of getting some alone time, but the payoff is more than worth it. Turns out the dragons are quite the voyeurs! Jon’s gonna have to get used to making out in front of an audience, because Dany’s kids aren’t the type he can just send to their rooms.
Of course, Jon may be having second thoughts about his romance, now that Sam has filled him in on the fact that he’s actually Aegon freakin’ Targaryen. Jon was predictably stunned, but he seemed more concerned about Ned lying to him than the fact that he’s dating his aunt. Sam points out that Ned’s honor is intact — that he only lied in order to keep the promise he made to his sister, to protect her baby no matter what. And then he really drives home Jon’s own right to rule — not just by blood, but by his nature. “You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?” Though to be fair, Sam’s a little salty about Dany executing his father and brother by dragon’s breath, so he might be grinding his own axe at the mo.
Speaking of axes, Gendry’s back, and he’s forging a dragonglass axe for The Hound! Then Arya shows up to flirt with him the only way she knows how — by asking for a weapon. Aww, killer’s gotta kill.
Meanwhile, Euron returns to Cersei after fetching her the Golden Company to act as her surrogate army. And while she’s a bit miffed they didn’t bring their elephants (who wouldn’t be, amirite?), she still rewards Euron with some sexy time. And look, I know Euron is the absolute worst, but for some reason, I was really enjoying his arrogance this episode. Or maybe I just enjoyed the fact that Cersei sort of deserves the worst. But while he’s busy uselessly trying to impregnate the Queen, Theon sneaks onboard his ship and frees his sister. Yara decides to take back the Iron Islands while Euron is distracted, figuring it’ll make a safe fallback position for Dany should the Walkers get out of hand, while Theon decides to head to Winterfell and rejoin the Starks. So we can be certain we’ve still got a few more interesting reunions ahead of us…
And as for the White Walkers? Well, we don’t really see them in this episode — though we do see their handiwork. When Tormund, Beric, and Dolorous Edd meet at Last Hearth after the fall of the Wall, they find poor young Ned Umber pinned to the wall in a spiral of limbs. It’s a rather showy sign, proving the Night King and his undead army have passed the northernmost castle, but I appreciated the artistic flair. And then Ned wakes up as a wight and Beric has to burn him with his sword.
But my favorite burn of the night came from Bran Stark, who spent most of the episode hanging out in the courtyard under a pile of animal pelts and “waiting for an old friend”… Jaime Lannister! Of all the things Jaime did for Cersei, trying to kill Bran remains one of the worst. Which makes this reunion all the more powerful, now that Jaime has finally turned on his sister for good. The episode ends with Jaime coming face to face with the boy he pitched from a tower, and though technically Bran didn’t actually say anything yet, he didn’t need to — just seeing him sitting there waiting was the sickest burn of all.
LINE OF THE NIGHT:
I’m torn. I will always love me some Onion Knight realness, so I’m partial to Davos’s unique way of looking to the future. “A proposal is what I’m proposing,” he tells Varys and Tyrion, in regards to Dany and Jon. “On the off chance that we survive the Night King, what if the Seven Kingdoms, for once in their whole shit history, were ruled by a just a woman and an honorable man?”
But I’m gonna give it to Tormund, who gets mistaken for a wight and nearly skewered at Last Hearth. “Stay back, he’s got blue eyes!” Edd yells, to which Tormund growls, “I’ve ALWAYS had blue eyes!”
Header Image Source: HBO