SPOILER ALERT for Season 8 Episode 1 of Game of Thrones.
After over a year of waiting, we can finally say it: Game of Thrones is back. The hit HBO series returned for its eighth and final season tonight, bringing plenty of long-awaited reunions, serious dragon #content, satisfying revelations, and ample set-up for the battles and conflicts to come in the five (!) episodes ahead. Without further ado, here are the highlights of GoT Season 8 Episode 1.
Jon, Daenerys, & Co. arrive at Winterfell.
The scene opens with a young boy running on the grounds of Winterfell to watch Jon and Daenerys’s arrival. He climbs a tree to get a better view, mirroring Bran Stark’s climbing in the pilot, when King Robert Baratheon and his family visit the Starks.
Daenerys and Jon’s very large posse includes the Unsullied Army, the Dothraki, Tyrion Lannister, Lord Varys, Missandei, Grey Worm, Ser Jorah Mormont, Gendry, the Hound, and the two remaining Targaryen dragons, Drogon and Rhaegal. They also come bearing hoards of dragonglass, which they mined at Dragonstone.
Arya isn’t waiting at the court of Winterfell to see her guests; she’s with the townspeople outside of the castle. Her face lights up when she sees Jon (for the first time since Season 1!), but she tenses up when she sees the Hound, and smiles again when she sees Gendry.
Daenerys’s dragons fly in, scaring the townspeople, but Arya and Sansa both look intrigued.
Sansa meets Daenerys and there’s serious tension.
Jon is greeted by Sansa, Bran, and a few Stark affiliates (including Lady Lyanna Mormont) at the Winterfell courtyard. Jon is emotional when he sees Bran; it’s their first time together since Season 1. “You’re a man now,” he says. “Almost,” Bran replies. Whatever that means.
As we saw in earlier trailers, Sansa meets Daenerys but she’s cold to her. She gives her major side eye but says, “Winterfell is yours, your grace.” Bran says he knows that the Wall has fallen and the White Walkers have walked through. Jon is confused by his first taste of Bran’s greensight. Sansa says she called the Stark bannermen when she heard about the Wall falling.
No one in the North seems to like Daenerys.
Jon, Sansa, Dany, and Tyrion address a room full of Northern lords and citizens, including the young Lord Umber and Lady Lyanna Mormont. Jon even orders the Night’s Watch to come down to Winterfell, since there’s no reason for them to protect the Wall anymore.
Lyanna Mormont is the only Stark ally who has the guts to stand up to Jon. She’s disappointed that he bent the knee to an outside monarch, and her fellow Northerners agree. Jon explains they had to team up to fight the Army of the Dead. No one is happy that the Lannister armies are marching North to help them, either. Sansa worries about how to feed all of their new guests.
Tyrion and Sansa also have a reunion moment in the Winterfell courtyard and briefly discuss how they both survived Cersei. The last time they saw each other was at Joffrey’s wedding, before she fled King’s Landing. Sansa is skeptical about Cersei sending her armies North to fight for Tyrion.
Arya and Jon reunite, so grab some tissues.
You probably saw this moment in a promo, but it’s even more emotional in full. Jon is at a weirwood tree on the Winterfell grounds, and Arya sneaks up behind him. After exchanging a few words, they rush to embrace each other, and they’re both visibly emotional. Jon looks close to tears. He notices that Arya still has Needle. “Have you ever used it?” he asks. (Cue: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”)
Arya defends Sansa for being wary of Daenerys for the sake of defending their family. “I’m your family too,” Jon says. Arya replies, “Don’t forget that.”
Cersei is short-changed by the Golden Company.
Cersei’s response when she finds out the White Walkers have broken through the Wall: “Good.” She receives the Golden Company, an elite force of mercenaries from Essos, courtesy of her new ally and suitor, Eureon Greyjoy. Despite the size of the fleet (20,000 men and 2,000 horses), there are no elephants as promised, and Cersei is not happy.
We also find out Yara is still alive, kept prisoner on Euron Greyjoy’s ship.
Cersei and Eureon Greyjoy sleep together.
Euron is really thirsty for Cersei and asks to “speak in private,” but she says they’ll have to wait until after the war. “You want a whore? Buy one,” she says. “You want a Queen? Earn her.” Mic drop.
She could’ve left him hanging there, but she ultimately changes her mind. After their hookup, Euron asks Cersei how he compares to Robert Baratheon and her own brother, Jaime Lannister. “You might be the most arrogant man I’ve ever met,” Cersei tells him. “I like that.” On his way out he adds that he wants to get her pregnant with a prince. She sips on her wine. Is she actually still expecting?
Cersei orders Bronn to kill her brothers, Jaime and Tyrion.
Qyburn, mad scientist and now Hand of the Queen, interrupts Bronn mid-foursome with shocking instructions from Cersei: If Jaime and Tyrion survive the war up North, kill them. Qyburn offers him a crossbow for the job. Bronn has served as a right-hand to both Lannister brothers; will he go through with his mission?
Theon saves Yara.
While Eureon is off hooking up with Cersei, Theon Greyjoy sneaks onto one of his ships to save his sister. They steal some ships in the dead of night and sail away. Yara, who is loyal to Daenerys, wants to hang south with her fleet in case the Army of the Dead make it down that far, but Theon wants to go North to fight. Yara lets him go.
Jon Snow, AKA Aegon Targaryen, finally rides a dragon.
Dany tells Jon she knows Sansa doesn’t like her, then Dothraki men approach her to announce her dragons are barely eating—they don’t like the North. Daenerys and Jon go to them, and she tells him to hop on one of the dragons for a ride. Jon rides Rhaegal, albeit clumsily, which is significant because it’s named after Dany’s brother and Jon’s birth father, Rhaegar Targaryen. They fly over Winterfell (Davos, Tyrion, Varys, and other townspeople watch Jon in amazement) and the snowy landscape before stopping. “You’ve completely ruined horses for me,” Jon jokes. Dany gestures to the waterfall nearby and says they could just hide away and stay there for a thousand years (a line reminiscent of Ygritte’s “I don’t ever want to leave this cave, Jon Snow”). They kiss, and her dragons get comically get protective.
Davos, Tyrion, and Varys discuss how the Northern people are loyal to Jon, not Daenerys. How can they get them to trust her? Davos suggested a literal proposal—a union between Jon and Daenerys so that they can rule together. But Varys warns, “Nothing lasts.”
Arya reunites with Gendry and the Hound.
Gendry forges dragonglass into weapons and gives the Hound an axe. Arya arrives, and at first the Hound is not happy—understandable considering she left him to die when they were last together in Season 4.
Her interaction with Gendry, however, is a lot warmer, if not flirtatious. (“You look good,” he says. “You too,” she answers.) She shows him her weapons and asks him to make her a spear with dragonglass. He playfully calls her m’lady. “Don’t call me that,” she says. “As you wish, m’lady,” he replies, referencing one of their memorable exchanges.
Sansa knows Jon is in love with Daenerys.
Sansa is still upset about Jon’s allegiance to Dany, especially after she learns that House Glover rescinded its offer to come to the Starks’ aid. Sansa questions Jon: “Did you bend the knee to save the North, or because you love her?”
Sam finds out Daenerys executed his father and brother, so grab your tissues again.
Jorah brings Dany to Sam to thank him for curing his greyscale. When asking what she can do in return, Daenerys learns Sam is from House Tarly, and she hesitantly reveals that she executed both his father, Randyll, and brother, Dickon, for not bending the knee to her. Sam basically breaks down crying and leaves. Bran tells him it’s time to tell Jon about his parents.
Sam tells Jon who his real parents are and that he’s heir to the Iron Throne. Jon is conflicted.
Sam finds Jon at Ned Stark’s grave in the crypts of Winterfell. This is their first time meeting since Sam left for the Citadel with Gilly and her son. He reveals that Dany killed his father and brother. Jon justifies her actions, but Sam reminds him that even he pardoned people, like Wildlings, when they refused to bend the knee, making him a more fit ruler. Then Sam breaks the news: Jon’s real mother is Lyanna Stark, his real father is Rhaegar Targaryen, his real name is Aegon Targaryen, and he’s the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.
Jon first questions why his “father” Ned Stark, a man of honor, would lie to him all his life; Sam assures him he promised Lyanna to keep her son safe.
Jon still isn’t sure about becoming King of the Seven Kingdoms. He insists Daenerys deserves the throne and it would be treason to take it from her. Sam responds, “You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?”
Not once does Jon bring up the fact that Daenerys is his aunt. Guess it doesn’t bother him?
The White Walkers leave an eerie message.
Tormund and Beric Dondarrion are both still very much alive, ad along with Edd and members of the Night’s Watch, search through Last Hearth, a castle that belongs to the Umbers, a Northern family loyal to the Starks. Objects are strewn across the courtyard and the halls, as if a battle just took place there. In one room, they find young Lord Umber dead and pinned to the wall surrounded by severed arms nailed in the shape of a spiral. It’s a message from the Night King. Surprise! The boy is reanimated as a wight, but the crew burns him before he can do any damage.