‘Game Of Thrones’ Ep. 1 ‘Winterfell’ Recap, The North Is Beautiful, But Not For Long, As The Night King Bears Down On The North

Nearly two years of waiting and it’s finally winter! The season starts with stunning twists.
We get an epic shot revealing Jon and Dany riding their horses, a badass-duo.
Ice and fire, side by side. The grubby commoners glare at Dany. Don’t worry, she won’t force you to bathe and/or commit incest. “I warned you, Northerners don’t trust outsiders,” Jon says.
Jon embraces his sister,  Sansa and immediately asks where’s Arya. “Lurking somewhere,” Sansa drolly replies, her eyes going to Dany who waits for attention nearby. Then we get the meeting we’ve been eagerly awaiting.
Dany says,  “Thank you for inviting us into your home. The North is as beautiful as your brother claimed, as are you.”
Sansa (after a pause, looking Dany up and down, with a hint of snark): “Winterfell is yours, your grace.”
Brandon immediately shuts them up and tells Dany that her dragon Viserion now belongs to the Night King, they have breached the wall and the Army of the Dead are coming.
Meanwhile, Sansa has called all the Northern Bannerman to Winterfell. There’s what seems like a cute moment when young Lord Umber is told to go back to his castle, Last Hearth, to bring his men. But there are very few throwaway scenes in this tightly plotted final season, and his character returns later for a key piece of the action.
Lyanna Mormont gives a speech blasting Jon Snow for giving up his King in the North title to bend the knee to Dany. “I’ll always be grateful for your faith,” Jon says (Lyanna is like, Sure…). “I had a choice. Keep my crown or protect the North. I choose the North.”
Then Tyrion steps up to speak because, okay, a Lannister serving Daenerys is the best person to sway the Northerners. “I know our people haven’t been friends in the past,” he says in a rather extreme understatement, then promises Cersei’s army will arrive soon. No one actually believes him.
Lady Sansa complains about having to feed Dany’s army and her dragons. You can just feel the Mother of Dragon’s temperature rise at this. How dare Sansa treat her children like a burden, after all she’s gone through to acquire them? “What do dragon’s eat, anyway?” Sansa asks, totally setting Dany up to fire back: “Whatever they want.” Dany doesn’t need dragons to throw down a burn. Jon is literally stuck between them, practically tugging at his collar.
Also, Jon Snow goes out to pray that his sister and girlfriend start getting along as Arya stealthily sneaks up behind him. Jon is rightly impressed she managed to keep Needle (“Have you ever used it?” he asks, which drew a big laugh from the premiere screening crowd). They have a moment together that isn’t particularly as warm as might be expected, with Jon having to assure her regarding Sansa, “I’m her family, too” and Arya warning “don’t forget that.”
In the South in King’s Landing Cersei gets some “terrible” news from her creepy mad scientist Qyburn: The Army of the Dead have broken through The Wall. “Good,” she says, because she’s simply that evil — literally everybody in Westeros can die.
Captain Guyliner Euron Greyjoy has made good on his promise to return with the Golden Company (a mercenary army for hire) plus horses for Cersei’s war against Dany. No elephants, however, much to Cersei’s disappointment (war elephants could be used to crash through an infantry line and panic horses — they would have been useful versus the Dothraki).
Very kinky  Euron wants to bed Cersei, for a couple of reasons. One is strategic — Euron wants the Iron Throne and becoming Cersei’s lover is a step in that direction, particularly if he gets her pregnant (obviously he doesn’t know her womb’s currently occupied with a pending fourth bundle of joy via Jaime). The second, as he states, is the guy wants to have sex with a queen.
Cersei resists, trying to keep Euron firmly in her “true friend to the crown”-zone. But Euron throws down a combination of arrogant charm, pleas, and vague threats. Cersei cannot afford to lose Euron’s support. He’s the last useful ally she’s got. She reluctantly agrees.
Later, Euron seems rather proud of himself and is one of those dudes who insist on knowing exactly how he ranks vs. each of her previous lovers (all two of them). Cersei doesn’t seem entirely displeased (“you’re not boring, I’ll give you that”) yet doesn’t exactly want Euron to stay with her either.
Bronn as usual spends time with prostitutes who are chatting away about Dany’s fearsome dragons, a memory that isn’t helping his performance. There’s one exchange about a wounded Lannister soldier in here that, again, sounds like a throwaway, but you be the judge whether it really is:
“That boy Eddie.” “The ginger?” “That’s him.” “Came back with his face burnt off.” “He’s got no eyelids now.” “How does he sleep with no eyelids?”
Qyburn enters and makes Bronn a lucrative offer from Cersei: If Jaime and/or Tyrion survives, she wants him to murder them with a crossbow. Not just any crossbow, but the same Tyrion used to kill their father Tywin on the loo. So while Jaime is going to Winterfell to try to save Cersei and their child, Cersei is plotting to kill him if he manages to succeed. “That f—king family,” rightly groans Bronn.
Then to the North,  at the castle, the background is filled with busy workers preparing for what’s to come, a constant reminder of the arrival of the Night King on the way.
Advisors Tyrion, Varys, and Ser Davos are on the ramparts. Davos thinks Jon and Dany should marry and unite the Starks and Targaryens. After all, Jon and Dany are perfect for each other and there’s no reason at all that this wouldn’t be a great idea. The trio also contemplates their usefulness in the face of the young lovers’ passions and get all existential.
“[They] keep us at a distance, so we don’t remind them of an unpleasant truth,” Varys intones. “Nothing lasts.” Varys is the only character who can out-brood Jon Snow.
Meanwhile, Dany is concerned about Sansa’s obvious disrespect. “Your sister doesn’t like me,” she tells Jon. “She doesn’t know you,”   “I am her queen,” Dany says. “If she can’t respect me…” To quote Bran: We don’t have time for this, Dany.
Jon and Dany go out to check on her dragons after hearing they’re not eating enough. They don’t like the North either. This news ends up having nothing to do with anything that actually happens next because it’s just an excuse to give us what we want: Jon riding Rhaegal, the dragon named after his father.
Dany tells Jon to mount up, and he’s understandably anxious. “What if he doesn’t want me to?” he asks. I love that Jon wants to get clear dragon consent.
“Then I’ve enjoyed your company, Jon Snow,” Dany cooly replies in an utterly perfect Queen Daenerys line.got-s8-winterfell-5
Jon gets on and what happens next is a wonderful sequence as Jon gets his bearings amid a wild ride.
“You’ve completely ruined horses for me,” Jon says afterward as they stop for a break. They notice a dark cave nearby. “We could stay 1,000 years,” Dany notes wistfully. “No one would find us.” Her statement is rather reminiscent of another conversation Jon had, years ago, while inside a different cave, with another girl…
Later, inside the castle of Winterfell, Sansa is furious that House Glover is going to sit out the war and gives Jon grief for abandoning his King in the North title. “I’m telling you it doesn’t matter who holds what title,” Jon insists. “Without her we don’t stand a chance … She’ll be a good queen. She’s not her father.”
Sansa shoots back: “Did you bend the knee to save the North? Or because you love her?”
They’re interrupted before Jon can reply, but I bet he’s thinking: Would saying ‘Both’ be wrong?
Elsewhere, Dany’s seeks out the lovely Samwell Tarley in order to thank him for curing Ser Jorah’s greyscale. Privately thinks Dany: This Winterfell meeting, at least, should go swimmingly!
Sam awkwardly notes he could use a pardon for borrowing a few books from the Citadel. He doesn’t mention that one of those books proves she’s not the rightful heir to the Iron Throne and that she’s sleeping with her nephew.
Then Sam casually drops his family name, surprising Dany, who then has to admit that she burned his father to death for not bending the knee after the Loot Train battle. She can’t even tell poor Sam she’s sorry, because being queen means standing by your decisions.
Sam takes this pretty well — why, he never liked his jerk father much anyway.
At this point Dany just wants a trap door to pop open under her so she can get the hell out of this room: Yeah, you see, about that… your brother…I killed as well.
Hey Sam: Is there anybody else you care about that you want to mention to Dany right now? Your sister perhaps? Go for three out of three?
This is now hugely awkward for everybody and Sam can barely contain himself and asks to be excused to put them all out of their collective misery.
And at the Last Hearth, Lord Umber moppet who popped up in the Great Hall at the beginning? Here Tormun — having survived The Wall collapse — is with Dolorous Edd and Beric Dondarrion at Last Hearth. This is a location just south of Castle Black (and far north of Winterfell).
They discover little Lord Umber chopped into one of those spirals the White Walkers love to leave behind.
Finally, Sam goes to have a talk with Jon in — where else? — the Stark family crypt, where his secret mother Lyanna is entombed nearby and his secret father is decidedly not.
Jon is thrilled to see his good buddy, just as Dany was happy to greet Sam earlier. Nobody is making anything easy on Sam. He gives Jon the big news: “You’re the true heir to the Seven Kingdoms and the Iron Throne.”
Finally, a hooded figure comes through the castle gates and dismounts. Here’s Jaime Lannister, looking pleased to have arrived undetected and spots — A young man in a wheelchair.

The eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones” will premiere Sunday, April 14 at 9/8c on HBO. Follow “Game of Thrones AfterWord” for all breaking news on Facebook.    Watch the video here!


Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  Helen Sloan/HBO
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