‘Game of Thrones’ Season Eight, Episode One Recap: “Winterfell”

15 Min Read
Image courtesy of HBO
Image courtesy of HBO

Alright my Wildlings! The final season of Game of Thrones is FINALLY here! And while “the North remembers,” it has been a year and a half since the season 7 finale, and there is a LOT of catching up to do!

Most of the characters are finally reuniting with their loved ones (or in some cases, their nemeses). Because of this, our premiere recap will be structured around these reunions. And obviously, major spoilers ahead. Because that’s what I do. I drink, and I spoil things.

The episode begins with Daenerys and Jon (and her armies and dragons) marching into Winterfell. The northerners have gathered to watch the procession and look none too pleased about their King returning having supplicated to a Targaryen — especially when her dragons swoop in.

Jon and Bran

Jon and Bran reunite. Jon compliments Bran on being all grown up. Bran makes it weird. He also warns Daenerys that the Night King has taken her fallen dragon and used it to destroy the Wall. The Night King’s army is marching for Winterfell.

Jon and Sansa

Jon and Sansa embrace. He nervously introduces her to Daenerys, and hooooo boy is Sansa not thrilled to meet her. She is polite, but cold. Sansa is furious with Jon for bending the knee and does not trust Daenerys. Things are tense.

Image courtesy of HBO

The Lords of the North

And things only get more tense as the Lords of North gather. The latest Lord Umber (a young boy) asks for horses and wagons to help transport his men to Winterfell. They also agree to call for the remains of the Night’s Watch to join them at Winterfell, now that the Wall has fallen. Lyanna Mormont is PISSED that Jon bent the knee and gave up the crown they bestowed upon him. The other lords angrily agree with her. Jon tells them “I had a choice: to keep my crown or protect the North. I chose the North.”

Tyrion tries to defend Jon’s choice. He explains that they have brought the greatest armies (the Unsullied and the Dothraki) the world has ever seen AND two full grown dragons. He also tells them that Cersei has promised to send the Lannister army north as well, to help. This does not go over well, especially the Lannister army part. Sansa sharply counters by explaining that Winterfell is not prepared to feed two armies and two dragons and wonders if they will be able to survive the winter. She snarkily asks, “What do dragons even eat?” “Whatever they want,” Dany replies, giving Sansa the side eye.

Sansa and Tyrion

Tyrion approaches Sansa while she watches Gendry unload wagons of dragon glass. They haven’t seen each other since Joffrey’s wedding (all the way back in season four). “A miserable affair,” says Tyrion. “It had its moments,” replies Sansa. (Honestly, Sansa has replaced Tyrion as the quip deliverer du jour of the show. I love it.) It’s an uncomfortable conversation, considering that wedding ended with Joffrey’s death and Sansa fleeing the scene, leaving her then husband (Tyrion) behind to clean up the mess.

Despite this, you can see that Tyrion is impressed with Sansa’s survival and growth. Sansa, on the other hand, now sees Tyrion as a little disappointing, definitely not as intimidating as he once was. She thinks he’s a fool for believing Cersei will actually send her army. “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive,” she tells him before she walks away.

Image courtesy of HBO

Jon and Arya

Jon and Arya reunite under the Heart Tree. They hug fiercely. She shows him Needle. He asks if she’s ever used it. She responds vaguely, “Once or twice.” He, in turn, shows off Longclaw. He asks for her help with Sansa in getting her to cooperate with Dany. (“She thinks she’s smarter than everyone.” “She’s the smartest person I’ve ever met.”) Jon is amazed that Arya is defending Sansa, but Arya reminds him that she is defending their family and so is Sansa. She reminds him to remember that he is their family, too.

Image courtesy of HBO

King’s Landing

Qyburn informs Cersei that the White Walkers have broken through the Wall and are marching on the North. Cersei merely replies, “Good,” and walks away. Later, she meets with Euron and Captain Strickland, who has returned with the Iron Fleet and the Golden Army in tow. (Euron still has Yara tied up in the belly of his ship.) He is back and is dead set on bedding Cersei. They inform Cersei that they have brought 20,000 men (“a few died in transit”), 2,000 horses, and much to Cersei’s dismay, zero elephants. (They don’t survive long sea voyages very well.)

Strickland leaves, and Euron makes his play for Cersei. She rebuffs him, saying, “You want a whore, you buy one. You want a queen, you earn her.” However, in a move straight out of the relatable modern woman’s playbook, she decides to sleep with him anyway. Post-coital Cersei is still pissed about not having the elephants. Cersei seems to enjoy Euron’s arrogance but sends him away after he promises to “put a prince in her belly.” She protectively covers her unborn baby.


Bronn is having an orgy with three whores when he’s interrupted by Qyburn. Qyburn has come with a request from the queen and the promise of a large payment. Bronn reminds him that Cersei has paid him before (in the form of a castle and a wife) and then also has taken that payment back. Qyburn claims that was all Jamie’s doing, and this time Cersei will pay him upfront in advance. Cersei wants Bronn to travel north, and if somehow her brothers “survive their adventures,” she wants Bronn to kill them… with a crossbow. (“A little bit of poetic justice,” says Qyburn. “That f*cking family,” replies Bronn.)

Yara and Theon

Theon and his crew rescue Yara from Euron’s ship while he’s busy getting down with Cersei. She thanks him with a head butt. Back on Theon’s ship, they plan to retake the Iron Islands while Euron has the entire Iron Fleet at King’s Landing. Yara wants to make the Iron Islands an emergency retreat for Jon and Dany in case they lose at Winterfell. (“They need somewhere the dead can’t go.”) Theon decides to join the Starks and fight at Winterfell. Yara sends him on his way with the motto of the Greyjoys: “What is dead may never die. But kill the bastards anyway.”

Davos, Varys, and Tyrion

Davos welcomes the Karstarks to Winterfell. After, he takes Varys and Tyrion on a walk through the grounds. Davos reminds them that the North is loyal to Jon Snow, NOT Daenerys. The northerners and the Free Folk don’t know her or trust her. If she wants their loyalty, she has to earn it. While watching Jon and Dany flirt below, Davos proposes ensuring that Jon and Dany rule together if they actually survive the Night King. The three old men then sigh about being old.

Image courtesy of HBO

Jon and Daenerys

Daenerys can tell Sansa doesn’t like her (because DUH) but that Sansa doesn’t have to be her friend as long as she understands that Daenerys is her queen. Two Dothraki riders approach and give her some distressing news: her dragons are barely eating (“only” 18 goats and 11 sheep), so they go to find them. It turns out that dragons do not like the North or the cold. Dany climbs aboard one dragon and encourages Jon to ride the other. He is very unsure, but he eventually gets the hang of it. They have themselves the Game of Thrones equivalent of the magic carpet ride scene from Aladdin. They land near a frozen waterfall and begin to embrace, when Jon catches the dragons avidly watching. (Like your dog watching during sex, but so much worse.)

Gendry, The Hound, and Arya

Back in Gendry’s forge, Gendry is making The Hound an axe made of dragon glass, when Arya drops in. He reminds her of how she left him to die (“…but first I robbed you”). Despite this, it’s clear he is fond of her and glad she’s still alive. Arya compliments Gendry’s improved smithing. He says she’s gotten better too. They awkwardly flirt and tease each other. He teases her about her title and she shows him the drawings for a new weapon she wants him to make her using valyrian steel. When he tells her, “I knew you were just another rich girl,” she replies, “You don’t know any other rich girls.”

Jon and Sansa Part Two

Sansa is reading a message when Jon enters. House Glover has refused to join them. She tells him that she is still furious that he didn’t tell her when he decided to bend the knee to Daenerys. Jon is convinced that they can’t beat the army of the dead without her. He tries to convince Sansa that she will be a good queen because, “She’s not her father.” “No, she’s much prettier,” Sansa replies. She then asks Jon the big question: “Did you bend the knee to save the North or because you love her?”

Samwell, Daenerys, and Jorah

Jorah and Dany go to visit Samwell. She thanks him for saving Jorah from the greyscale. Unfortunately, she also informs him that she executed his father and brother, because they refused to bend the knee to her. He is devastated (even though his dad suuuuucked) but, also because he’s Sam, he remains very polite. Poor Sam. He runs into Bran on his way out. Bran tells him that it is time that they told Jon the truth about his parentage (and that Daenerys is his aunt) and that he is the true heir to the throne.

Image courtesy of HBO

Samwell and Jon

Sam finds Jon in the crypts next to Ned Stark’s statue. They embrace. Sam asks Jon if he knew that Dany had executed his father and brother for refusing to pledge allegiance to her. She did not, it turns out. Sam asks if Jon would have made the same choice. Jon says that he has executed men who have disobeyed him before, but Sam also reminds him that he did not execute thousands of Wildlings when they refused to bend the knee to him. Sam then tells him that he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne: that Rhaegar was his father, and Lyanna Stark was his mother. His real name is Aegon Targaryen. Jon is in disbelief at first; how could Ned Stark lie to him for his entire life? Sam assures him that he did it to protect him, that Robert Baratheon would have killed Jon if he knew the truth. Sam asks Jon the other important question: “You gave up your crown to save your people, would she do the same?”

Tormund and Beric

Tormund Giantsbane, Beric, and crew have come to House Umber. It is dark and full of corpses. The army of the dead has passed through and slaughtered everyone, leaving the little Lord’s corpse pinned to a wall at the center of a spiral of severed limbs. Lord Umber’s corpse wakes up with blue eyes and makes to strike Tormund, but Beric stabs him with his flaming sword. The whole gruesome display goes up in flames. They make hasty plans to try and beat the Night King to Winterfell.

Bran and Jamie

Back at Winterfell, one reunion has yet to happen. Jamie Lannister has arrived, and Bran is waiting to greet him. They make eye contact as the scene cuts to black. Aaaaaawkward!

Reunions have been made. Important truths have finally been told. The Night King is coming (oh lawd, he comin!). The final season of Game of Thrones is going to be as wild as a dragon ride!

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9pm on HBO

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By Britt
Britt is a Los Angeles based writer, burlesque performer, and life long nerd. A former drama kid turned playwright and classic ambivert, (shout out fellow ambiverts! There are dozens of us! Dozens!) her love of books, snacks, and cats makes her a Ravenclaw with Hufflepuff leanings. She is a voracious reader, writer, and unapologetic binge-watcher. Her lifelong obsessions include Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Arrested Development, Neil Gaiman, and Frank Herbert's Dune series. Her current obsessions include: Sherlock, Black Mirror, The Great British Baking Show, RuPaul's Drag Race, and Counterpart. She will also gladly talk people's ears off about graphic novels if they let her, which they usually don't. Find Britt on Twitter @MsGeorgiaOQueef
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