Published On: Mon, Apr 15th, 2019

Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere is all about the reunions

Spoiler alert: This story contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.

Reunited and it feels so good.

Game of Thrones returned Sunday night for its eighth and final season, and it was all about the reunions, not just between various characters but between fans and the show they’ve been waiting 20 months to see again.

Was it worth the wait? Yes, although anyone who expected the series to restart with the same intensity with which it left off — when the last thing we saw was a zombie dragon melting the Wall — would have been disappointed.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are playing the long game, putting the various pieces in position for the sure to be epic battle ahead.

In an hour-long episode that whizzed by, they brought us up to speed on all the major characters (and some not so major ones), gave us a couple of twists and one major reveal that I didn’t expect to come so soon.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) now knows that he is the rightful heir to the iron throne, which means his relationship with Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and all the Stark kin whom he assumed were his half-siblings just got a whole lot more complicated. And it was already complicated enough as Jon returned to Winterfell with Dany and her armies of Unsullied and Dothraki.

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) wasn’t a fan of Jon going to Dragonstone to meet Daenerys in the first place and is even angrier in the premiere that he has given up his title of King in the North to pledge allegiance to Dany.

“Did you bend the knee to save the North? Or because you love her?” Sansa asks Jon, demonstrating yet again what a shrewd, powerful woman she’s grown into.

Sansa and Daenerys got all the best lines in the opener and their rivalry was fun to watch. Take the scene in which Jon and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) try to convince a hall full of grumbling Northmen (and women) that they have to band with their former enemies to fight the Army of the Dead. Sansa complains about having to feed the additional armies as well as Dany’s dragons, sniping, “What do dragons eat anyway?”

Dany snipes back: “Whatever they want.”

Sure, there’s a massive army of corpses on the way, but there’s always time for a little humour. So we had scenes like Jon awkwardly riding a dragon for the first time, hanging on for dear life. Jon: “What if he doesn’t want me to?” Dany: “Then I’ve enjoyed your company, Jon Snow.”

Generally speaking, the female characters got the better of every scene they were in. For instance:

  • Sansa meets former husband Tyrion for the first time since King Joffrey’s ill-fated wedding in Season 4 and when Tyrion insists his sister Cersei is sending an army to Winterfell, Sansa scoffs, “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.”
  • Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) shuts down Jon’s griping about Sansa by pointedly telling him, “She’s the smartest person I ever met.” And when she meets the Hound for the first time since she left him to die in Season 4, she responds to his comment that she’s a “cold little bitch” with nothing but a slightly raised but very effective eyebrow. Plus she flirts with her old friend, the blacksmith Gendry, whom she asks to make her a special weapon for reasons unknown.
  • On being rescued (finally!) by brother Theon from their evil uncle Euron, Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) defers her gratitude to head-butt Theon for having left her in Euron’s captivity in the first place. Then she gives him her blessing to go to Winterfell to fight with the Starks. “What is dead may never die, but kill the bastards anyway,” she says.

We also caught up with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), one of the show’s most powerful women along with Dany and Sansa. She has certainly not softened, ordering sellsword Bronn to kill both of her brothers, Tyrion and Jaime, with the very same crossbow that Tyrion used to kill their father. She’s wanted Tyrion dead forever, so no shock there, but I was surprised she would order the death of Jaime, who is also her lover and father of her unborn child.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) figured in one of the episode’s most gripping moments. Having arrived alone at Winterfell to fight the Army of the Dead, as he had promised, Jaime spies Bran Stark across the courtyard. His eyes widen with shock and horror as he recognizes Bran as the boy he pushed out a tower window to his presumed death back in Season 1.

Whether Jaime will live long enough to battle the White Walkers is an open question since Daenerys seems to want his head for having killed her father, Aerys Targaryen, a.k.a. the Mad King.

A bigger question is when the can of worms of Jon Snow’s parentage will get opened and how Daenerys and Sansa, in particular, will react when it does.

Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) broke the news to his old friend Jon that he is the son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’s brother, and Lyanna Stark, sister of Ned Stark, the man Jon believed to be his illegitimate father. And this makes Jon rightful heir to the iron throne, not Dany.

Ironically, Sam delivered this news right after learning that Dany had killed his own father and brother for refusing to bend the knee to her. So Sansa is not the only one questioning Dany’s fitness to lead. “You gave her your crown to save your people; would she do the same?” Sam asks Jon.

And then there was one character who was notably absent from the episode: the Night King and his army of zombies. Although unseen, however, his presence was felt.

Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion, having escaped death when the Wall came down, team up with Night’s Watchman Dolorous Edd and find the body of Lord Umber, the young boy we saw in Winterfell at the beginning of the episode.

He’s been staked to a wall surrounded by a pinwheel formation of severed limbs. It’s a message from the Night King, Beric declares. Then, in a gruesome scene, young Umber comes back to life with a dagger in his hand. Beric sets him on fire with his flaming sword and he dies again, writhing and screaming.

It was a reminder of the war that’s yet to come.

The good news? We only have to wait another week for the next episode.

Debra Yeo is a deputy entertainment editor and a contributor to the Star’s Entertainment section. She is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @realityeo

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Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere is all about the reunions