Game of Thrones S8E1 Recap: Jon’s Big Reveal, Everyone’s Reuniting, Cersei Wants the D

Folks, last night was the season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones‚ the single most-anticipated television event since the season 7 premiere of Game of Thrones—which was 638 days ago. That’s almost 2 fuckin’ years. We’ve waited 595 days since S7 concluded for this season to arrive, and while I’m sooooo stoked to see how this story wraps up for the show (I’m a book reader, too, they’re going to be different), I’m also a little sad that it’s finally ending.

I can’t believe I have to say this but…


Anyway, let’s get to the recap for S8E1, “Winterfell.” I’m not going to run through the entire episode frame-by-frame (and trust me, I totally could, this would just end up being 18,000 words and take me until Episode 2). Instead, I’ll point out the things that I thought mattered the most to the story—if you want to point something out, ask a question about the series or want to share a sick theory, shoot me a DM on Twitter @matt_hoff_ or email me

Also, on my podcast (I have absolutely zero shame folks), Live from the Middle Urinal, we talk Thrones, among other things, and we go live on Instagram after each episode to share our instant reactions and answer questions and shit. Do a peep and check them out. Anyway.

Main Theme of the Episode

So as I mentioned, the episode is titled “Winterfell,” which is super appropriate because about 80% of the episode takes place there. It’s also a callback to S1E1, “Winter is Coming,” which introduces us to the series by starting us (after the whole White Walker open) at the Stark family home. Winterfell is the home of the series’ root family, and also points to the main theme of the episode: Coming home.

The episode features, for the first time since S1E1, all the living Starks in one place. We get Jon (the king) arriving back with Daenerys Targaryen (the queen), mirroring the arrival of Robert Baratheon (the king) and Cersei Lannister (the queen) to the same location in the series opener. The Starks are lined up the same as they were, with Ayra noticably missing (she was “missing” to an extent in S1E1 as well, though she pops up in the introduction to the king and queen). The scene plays out almost identically to the original, with those who were children at the beginning of the story now grown into rulers and players in the great game.

This episode is loaded with symbolism to the earlier roots of the series, and in a way, it feels closer to an early episode (lots of sex, some violence, politicking) than one of the more action-packed episodes of S7 and S6. A reddit user, u/DukeoftheVines (see the thread here), was cool enough to aggregate all the parallels that other users pointed out between this episode and the pilot if you’re interested:

  • Arya being a kid watching the King coming vs her letting a kid get a good view of the Queen coming.
  • Both episodes ending with Bran and Jamie, except this time Jamie looks scared and Bran looks confident, the reverse of the pilot.
  • Both episodes have scenes with amputated limbs from the white walkers spread out in a gory way to send a message.
  • Both episodes have scenes in the Winterfell crypt except instead of visiting Lyanna Stark they are visiting Ned Stark.
  • In the pilot, Cersi and Catlyn Stark talk about their kids possibly getting married while looking at them from a distance, while in this episode Varys, Tyrion, and Davos talk about Dany and Jon getting married while looking at them from a distance
  • The kid from the beginning was climbing on trees to get a good view, similar to Bran climbing the castle to get a good view.
  • The reunion of Jon and Arya at the tree is similar to Ned and Cat at the tree
  • There was incest between visiting monarchs
  • The brothel scene with Bron is similar to Tyrion’s first scene
  • The current ruler of Winterfell saying “Winterfell is yours” to the arriving monarch
  • The line from Robert Baratheon in the pilot to Ned “I have a son, you have a daughter, we shall join our houses.”
  • Sansa is more than wary of Dany, much like Cat was of Cersei. She really seemed like her mother in that meet-and-greet
  • Ned’s farewell to Jon he says “the next time we see each other, We will talk about your mother. I promise.” Then S8E1 while Jon is staring at Ned’s tomb Sam tell him about his parents
  • First episode Jon is distraught over his identity crisis as a bastard. This episode Jon is distraught over his identity crisis as a king.
  • Cersei putting out to someone she’s not ‘loyal’ to
  • The last time Jon and Arya spoke in episode one, she was given her sword Needle and jumped up on Jon to hug his neck. In this episode, she jumps up to hug his neck, then shows him she still has Needle.
  • Sansa/Dany to Catelyn/Cersei—Dany complimenting the north and Sansa (“the north is as beautiful as your brother claimed, as are you” and Cersei calling the north “beautiful country” and saying to Sansa “you are a beauty.”
  • In S1E1 Jon snow gets a pet Direwolf (Stark), in SE8E1 Jon Snow gets a pet Dragon (Targaryen).
  • Episode 1: the surprising return of and the existence of dire wolves south of the Wall shocking the northerners. Now, we have the return of and arrival of dragons also shocking the seemingly implacable northerners.

The 3 Biggest Moments

1. The reunions. Kinda lumping all of these into one, since the last 2 episodes have focused a lot on the joining of characters who have either never met or are meeting again for the first time in a very long time. The biggest reunion in terms of the story is Jaime-Bran—which we only get a glimpse of before the episode ends. In the preview for Episode 2, we see that Jaime is going to have to answer for his previous actions at Winterfell (and also killing Dany’s dad, NBD), but I’m fairly certain he’ll get out of that all right. The big one for me personally is Ayra-Jon because good lord I mean how could you not be rooting for this? The last time these two saw each other was S1E1. Legitimately, they have like three on-screen interactions in that first hour of the series, and yet we can tell that these two have always held each other close as the outcasts of their family. I can’t wait for Jon to see her spar. Also, super cool to see Ayra get back together with Gendry and the Hound. Ayra kinda killed it this episode on the reunion front. I guess that’s what happens when you’re in Essos for like 4 seasons.

2. Euron getting with Cersei. Listen, in terms of the story, this is probably a lot bigger among the book readers than just show watchers. In the show, Cersei gets her Maggy the Frog (woods witch lady) prophecy saying that she’ll be upstaged by a younger queen and that her 3 kids were all gonna die (RIPIP), but it—oddly—leaves out the Valonqar bit. In the books, Maggy tells Cersei that “…when your tears have drowned you, the Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Valonqar means “little brother” in High Valyrian, which leads Cersei to think Tyrion, who she blindly hates, while many book readers took it to mean Jaime (they’re twins, she the elder). Now that Jaime has clearly sided with humanity over Cersei, I can’t imagine that finding out that she’s banging Euron wouldn’t be the last straw to break his heart. Especially if she manages to get pregnant (but like, for real this time), which seems to be her plan. And while I’m not sure what her motivations are, they can’t be good. As a big fan of Jaime as a literary and TV character, I’m rooting for this ending to his story—it’d be the perfect path to full redemption.

3. Jon learns his identity as Aegon Targaryen. So this one happened, to me, in 2 different ways. First, when he rides Rhaegal, aptly named for his father (and Dany’s oldest brother), Prince Rhaegar. Dragons are supposed to be, in the books at least, partial to those with the blood of Old Valyria. Or in Jon’s case, Targaryen blood. Ghost confirmed his place as a Stark. Rhaegal confirms his place as a Targaryen. Second, after some prodding from creepy ass Bran, Sam tells Jon who he really is in the Crypts of Winterfell, right in front of the statue of Eddard “Ned” Stark‚ the man Jon has known as his father his whole life. As expected, Jo—er, Aegon‚ is a little taken back, but it’s definitely given him a lot to think about. A number of people have told Jon how good he is at ruling, and he’s already been crowned once without any “claim” to the crown. I can’t imagine that after all of this, he’s not at least considering it. The big thing here though is that Jon has spent 7 seasons attempting to figure out who he is while always feeling like an outsider. Now, just an episode off of telling Theon he doesn’t have to choose between being a Stark and a Greyjoy, he now has to realize that he has to do the same. Not only is he actually a Stark, but he’s also a Targaryen. This is going to be a big driver for Jon going forward, and I can’t wait to see how (and importantly, when) they reveal this fact to the others.

The 3 Biggest Questions

1. Is Tyrion losing his touch? Sansa has kind of taken the place of Tyrion as the show’s best schemer. She hasn’t really shown a ton of strategic moxy outside of last season’s long-ish con with Ayra (which we have to assume was her plan), but in this episode, she’s so far ahead of everyone. Even Tyrion, at who she is shocked truly believes his sister is sending the Lannister army north to help. To be honest, Tyrion has fucked up a couple of times. Season 7 was basically a highlight reel of his failures as Hand of the Queen, and with Sansa showing her adeptness, I think he might need to heed her counsel a little bit. I don’t think he’s lost it completely, but we’re getting to crunch time, so we definitely need the great minds to be working properly here.

2. Will Dany be cool with Jon when she finds out? I have to think it’ll ultimately work out—but more so because of Jon. Dany is definitely not going to take this well at first. She’s spent her entire adult life with a single goal in mind: taking the Iron Throne. Now, her goal is in sight, and the one thing her entire foundation is built on—her legitimacy as the true heir to the throne—is now kinda moot. Jon is her nephew, only living son of the last prince of the Targaryen dynasty. He’s also her lover, which is what I think will save this relationship. As Varys, Tyrion, and Davos were pondering, these 2 are definitely going to get hitched. It makes the most sense from a strategy standpoint (they can rule together) and from a we-only-have-5-episodes-left standpoint (there’s not enough time for another power struggle here—or is there?). Either that or Jon just relinquishes the throne to her. I know Sam made a great point (“You gave up a crown for her, will she do the same?”) but ultimately, Jon does not want to rule. And while I think between the two, Dany is more likely to die, I still think in the meantime Jon will pretty much do whatever she wants to do with regard to the throne. As he tells Sansa, the houses don’t matter, crowns don’t matter, all that matters is life.

3. Where the fuck is Ghost? BRO. The last time we actually saw Ghost on camera was Season 6. Since then, we’ve seen Jon go to Dragonstone, beyond the Wall, and back to Winterfell without a glimpse of our boy Ghost. He’s the only living dire wolf in the fight (miss you, Nymeria), so it’d be cool to see him in action again. Maybe Jon is just trying to keep him safe? Apparently, the scenes are very difficult to film for the show makers, so I get why they don’t do them, but like, COME ON. This budget has to allow it. Here’s to hoping we get to see Ghost ripping some dead MFers apart in the Battle of Winterfell in E3.

I’m going to do this every week until the series concludes in May. If you want to ask a question about the series or want to share a sick theory, shoot me a DM on Twitter @matt_hoff_ or email me

Photo: HBO.


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