By L. Janér
Sunday, 14th of April. For some of us, just another regular, glum Sunday night. But for most of us, specifically 17.4 million of us (a record number of viewers), it marked the much anticipated return of Game of Thrones, kicking off its eighth and final season. After an arduous two-year long wait, the beloved medieval saga finally returned to our screens, and as always, the fans had plenty to say about the new season.
I’m going to take you through a deep dive of Season 8 thus far, so stay with me.
Episode 1 - Winterfell
Dany and Jon finally arrive at Winterfell, but the North wasn’t too ecstatic about the Queen of Dragons and her, well, dragons. It was a fitting reaction for Northerners, who don’t exactly welcome foreigners with open arms. Jon is reunited with what is left of the Starks, namely Arya, Bran (who is now the Three-Eyed Raven) and Sansa, who showed particular animosity at the new Queen and doesn’t look like she’ll be bending the knee anytime soon.
Jon finally discovers the truth about who he actually is – Sam tells him how he’s a Targaryen, to Jon’s disbelief. Jon is obviously stunned as he learns Dany is actually his aunt, and, more shockingly, not the true heir to the Iron Throne.
Frustratingly, Jon spends the entire episode sticking up for Dany where he can and defending her profusely, even to his own family, who try and keep reminding him they have all named him King in the North.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Euron Greyjoy has returned with the Golden Company and its captain (named Harry, a name which fans have pointed out is weirdly normal), albeit without the elephants Cersei was strangely obsessed with. Euron, being the deplorable character he is, charms Cersei and convinces her to lay with him. At this point he is oblivious to Cersei’s pregnancy, and tells her he wants to “put a prince in [her] belly.”
Theon saves Yara, and the siblings part ways: Yara returns to the Iron Islands and Theon heads back to Winterfell. What is dead may never die, right?
More interestingly, Jaime arrives at Winterfell after having abandoned Cersei who refused to take any part in the war against the dead. At the gates, however, he is greeted with a ghost from his past: Bran is sitting menacingly at his wheelchair, staring Jaime down. This is a reunion we’ve looked forward to for 8 seasons, and it did not disappoint (the things we do for love, huh?).
Tormund, Beric Dondarrion and Edd also arrive at Winterfell, bearing the news that the Night King is coming, after seeing Lord Ned Umber’s corpse impaled on a wall forming the familiar spiral pattern.
Episode 2 – A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
How would you spend your last night in Winterfell?
Nothing much happens in this episode, besides Brienne finally getting knighted - a heart-warming and much-needed scene which made everyone’s eyes water a bit. All the main characters each deal with the fact of their imminent death in different ways, and it's rather entertaining to watch.
Podrick sings (it turns out he has an angelic voice, which, why wouldn’t he? It’s Podrick.), all our favourite characters sit together by the fire and drink wine to contemplate their seemingly inevitable doom, Arya and Gendry finally get together, the Hound drinks his worries away, and Sansa and Dany are still at odds (nothing new here).
Basically, it’s the long night before The Long Night.
The climax, perhaps, is Jon telling Dany the truth. Awkward. They're interrupted by the sinister ringing of the battle horn signalling the arrival of the dead.
Episode 3 – The Long Night
This episode was intense. It was also very dark, but mostly very intense. The main takeaway: Arya kills the Night King. The thing is, people were upset about the white walker’s storyline ending too abruptly, but there was no other way for this battle to finish – it was either the Wights, or all of our favourite characters at once. The white walkers had already caused a lot of trouble, and it was time for them to go, unless they were to actually destroy everything. And it had to be Arya – she’s trained as an assassin and her incredible skillset needed to come in handy at some point. Jon has been the hero quite a few times, and Arya jumping over the Night King, dropping the Valyrian steel dagger and stabbing him will endure as an iconic scene. This was an amazing episode, despite being dark, and the people being negative just need to sit down and learn to enjoy things.
Honestly, I was expecting worse, so I was relieved most of the characters survived.
Episode 4 - The Last of the Starks
Again, pretty uneventful, besides the confusing death of Rhaegal, which many fans deemed unnecessary and kind of nonsensical. I agree on this point – although Rhaegal had to go, he deserved a more noble death. Also, Missandei was captured, which was not as unexpected after her and Greyworm planned to escape and live in Naath. It’s not Game of Thrones if it lets any character have a happy ending, specially a peaceful retirement to idyllic beaches in Naath.
Actually, the most important thing in this episode is not Dany starting to feel jealous of the love people have for Jon as a leader (more on that later), it’s not the rivalry between Dany and Sansa starting to cement even further and it’s not Varys basically admitting he’s going to commit treason against Dany because he thinks Jon will make a better king.
It’s Jaime and Brienne FINALLY happening. This is a long-awaited moment – fans have been rooting for the couple ever since Jaime lost his hand and Brienne fell in love with him (or what was left of him). Jaime’s character development was making us all so proud; Brienne was kind of a catalyst for his redemption arc as they both continuously looked out for each other in whatever scenario. He even knighted her! This episode, however, to everyone’s dismay, managed to completely shatter our hearts at the end, when Jaime somehow had the audacity to get on his horse to return to King’s Landing and save his sister. “I’m a hateful man”, he proclaims. I think we were all screaming at the TV at this point, cursing at the Lannister filth leaving a crying, heartbroken Brienne behind. Honestly, she deserves better and the writers have been unforgivingly cruel to her.
Now, back to Daenerys. The facts are: she’s in the North. She’s a sliver haired Targaryen from the South. Jon Snow is a Stark. Jon Snow grew up in the North, so Jon Snow knows everyone in the North. Naturally, one could assume that the people in Winterfell will support him, not the foreigner with dragons that are barbecuing their livestock. So, really, Dany doesn’t really have an argument when she snaps at Jon saying no one loves her. Of course no one loves her, they don’t know her. She literally just got there. Jon has repeatedly told her he does not want the throne, and she is “his queen” (cue eye roll). Therefore, Varys is actually right in saying he’s “worried for her state of mind”. She has the Mad King’s blood, after all – jealousy and a thirst for power are not a good mix, especially for a Targaryen.
Tyrion and Varys advise her against burning King’s Landing, wishing to save the millions of lives that will be lost if Daenerys takes her revenge, but to no avail: the queen choses not to listen to her advisors.
In the end, they march to King’s Landing. It’s a tense encounter, but the only thing that happens is the Mountain viciously beheading Missandei. This finally ignites the spark in Dany that was faint and weak all throughout the series, which all but explodes in the next episode.
Episode 5 – The Bells
Back in Dragonstone, we see Varys writing a letter concerning “the true heir to the Iron Throne”. It remains unclear to whom he ended up sending it to, if he even did, or if there were more copies. Tyrion tells Dany about Varys’s treason, and with a simple “dracarys”, he’s ash.
Tyrion frees Jaime, who was captured by Danaerys’s army, telling him to get Cersei and flee King’s Landing, assuring him she will die. Jaime sets off to save her on his own.
Now for the climax we’ve all been waiting for: they return to King’s Landing intending to put the city under siege and take the throne. Drogon destroys the scorpions (the giant crossbows) rather easily – rendering the city defenseless against dragons – and completely scorches the Iron Fleet as well as a good portion of the Golden Company. Dany’s army breaches the gate, with Jon and Greyworm leading the vanguard. They face the Golden Company, who eventually drop their swords and surrender. The bell rings, signalling surrender, and us viewers finally let out the breath we had been holding. However, something on Dany’s anxious facial expression tells us it’s not quite over.
Then, Drogon burns King’s Landing and all its people to ash. Cersei watches, defeated, from the tower in the Red Keep.
While the city goes up in smoke, Arya and the Hound get to the Red Keep, which is crumbling apart. The Hound convinces her to run, to let go of her thirst for revenge, letting his paternal instinct over her take over and melt all our hearts. He sets off to find his brother and we all finally get what we wanted: Cleganebowl. It did not disappoint and it was executed to perfection. In the end, the Hound throws himself into the flames, taking his brother with him, a symbolic and absolutely phenomenal death. Qyburn's nonchalant death is also a great bonus.
Jaime faces off Euron on a beach underneath the Keep, and kills Euron but gets fatally wounded. He manages to find Cersei, and both die crushed by stones. This scene made me very angry personally – not only because it ruined Jaime’s character arc, but because Cersei did not deserve to die a quick death in the arms of the man she loves. However morbid this may sound, she had to be killed.
Despite the Golden Company having surrendered, amidst the chaos and the flames, Greyworm lashes out and attacks them. This unchains bitter fighting, despite Jon trying to hold back his soldiers. He ends up entangled in battle and later takes a moment to contemplate the sheer destruction around him, which hints at some relationship problems with Dany later on.
Arya tries to find her way out of King’s Landing, missing death by inches multiple times, giving us all several mini heart attacks. She eventually makes it out on a white horse who just happened to be there, and many fans are theorising it might have been Bran warging.
Now, the big thing this episode was Dany becoming the Mad Queen. People are criticising it, saying it ruined her character and was unexpected and whatnot. The writers have been hinting at this for ages, you just had to pay attention to see it. As an Instagram user puts it,
“These people saying Daenerys’ “mad” turn makes no sense clearly are choosing to overlook the many times before she wanted to (and in some cases did) slaughter everyone but was only ever really kept in check because she chose to listen to those who advised her otherwise. With Jorah and Missandei dead, Jon revealing his true parentage, and Tyrion & Varys discussing Jon without her she feels like she’s lost all connection to those who made her better and now has no reason to temper her wrath.”
Let’s just hope Episode 6 ends this legendary series properly.