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The Sideline Observer

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Game of Thrones 8.1: “Winterfell” Recap

Winter is here. The hype building up for the eighth and final season of HBO’s mega-hit Game of Thrones has been an event in it of itself. If you were on the Internet yesterday, you may have seen reactions like this. Said hype is doubly real this year since there are only six episodes. Every second matters.

That’s why we’re bringing you a recap. The premiere mostly set the table for the episodes to come, so we’ve decided to break it down into bite sized segments, with an emphasis on the most important moments. As such, they are presented, loosely, in order of relevance to the overall story. That’s the first half of the recap.

The second, and more speculative one, revolves around our predictions/fan analysis for upcoming episodes. We’re going to do our best to predict the notoriously unpredictable show. We probably have about as much of a shot at getting these right as the Living do of defeating the Dead. Like the Living, though, the least we can do is try!

Without further ado, Season Eight, Episode One: “Winterfell”

Jon learns his true lineage

In the crypts of Winterfell, in front of Ned’s statue, Jon finally discovers who his real parents are. Sam tells him the truth after explaining what he and the human computer learned: Jon is not Ned Stark’s bastard, but rather the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. He’s not Jon Snow, he’s Aegon Targaryen, and therefore the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

Obviously, this is a bombshell to Jon. Up until this point, his entire identity had been defined by being a bastard, knowing nothing, and trying to save the living. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but Jon seems much more put off by the idea of sitting on the Iron Throne than by the fact that he’s boning his aunt.

Even though we as the audience already knew this, it firmly changes the trajectory of the show. Jon finally knows that he is the rightful ruler. Who will he tell? Who should he tell? Does this make a marriage to Daenerys untenable? Does this make him even more in love with her, and extend his rigid sense of familial loyalty to House Targaryen as well as House Stark? Stranger things have happened on this show.

The Umber Boy

Towards the end of the episode we find ourselves following the motley crew of Tormund, Beric, and Lord Commander Edd as they explore the remains of Last Hearth, the seat of House Umber. Earlier in the episode, Lord Umber, a small boy, goes home to rally his people to head to Winterfell. We don’t see him again until we find him pinned to the wall, dead as can be, surrounded by disembodied limbs.

It’s a clear message from the Night King. As the gang slowly processes it, Lord Umber’s eyes flash icy blue and he awakens with an awful, awful screech. Beric quickly kills him with fire, but the psychological damage has been done. The fire makes the scene even more gruesome as the limbs go up in flames with the boy. The Night King is coming for everyone and everything. We can’t wait.

Also, there is an interpretation that can be made that the message on the wall resembles the Targaryen sigil, especially when lit. Could this symbolize that the Targaryens are linked to the Night King,  perhaps indicating an underlying evil? Or is that they are the only chance our heroes have at surviving?

It could also just be the same spiral symbol the Whites have used throughout the show, but with this show, one has to wonder.

Jon rides a couple of dragons

One of the most popular fan theories came true this episode. Daenerys convinces Jon to fly on the back of her other dragon, Rhaegal. The dragon can clearly sense that Jon is a Targaryen and they fly all around the North, until landing in a very secluded spot. That he rides Rhaegal is especially fitting as it’s named after his father (and Daenerys’s brother), Rhaegar. Daenerys proceeds to tell Jon that he better “keep his Queen warm” and the two get familiar while the dragons watch. To be fair to Jon, this is before he learns of the truth. Regardless, the bigger takeaway is that Jon now has a dragon and will be aboard it at some point in the upcoming Battle of Winterfell.

Bran is reunited with “an Old Friend”

At the end of the episode, a hooded Jaime Lannister arrives in Winterfell. As he looks around and remembers what it’s like up north, he realizes that someone is waiting for him. Bran, the boy the old, two-handed Jaime pushed out of a window to prevent publicizing Lannister incest back in the series premiere, is staring at the new, relatively redeemed Jaime from across the courtyard in his wheelchair. Next episode should be fun for the Kingslayer.

Cersei, still the worst?

Yup. Didn’t seem to hate fucking Euron, put a hit on her two brothers’ lives, chose their joint best friend to do it, and purchased a mercenary army to prepare to fight the remains of humanity’s forces that are working toward life’s very salvation. While a Lannister always pays their debts, one has to wonder when the bill will come due for arguably Westeros’s coldest villain.

Speculation Zone

One sane prediction going forward:

Sam: Bran will keep Jaime’s secret. I don’t see him revealing to the Targaryens or Jon that Jaime pushed him out of the window years ago. Knowing Bran, he’ll have a deep conversation with Jaime and nothing more.

Nick: Theon will never return to the Iron Islands. He will die in the Battle of Winterfell, completing his redemption arc as he helps save those he once betrayed.

Will Bronn kill either Tyrion or Jaime?

Sam: Jaime, but later in the season.

Nick: No chance.

Which character was the star of Episode One?

Sam: Bran Stark. Yes, he’s fucking weird but Bran really has accelerated the pace of season 8. He forced Sam to confront Jon about his real parents and his visions will undoubtedly be useful come future episodes.

Nick: Samwell Tarly. Everyone’s favorite maester did a lot of heavy lifting, both personally and story wise. He gets a lot of shit online, but he’s as close to a rock as Jon’s got.

Who’s on the chopping block in Episode Two?

Sam: Euron Greyjoy. This might come as a surprise to some but, if he continues to push his luck with Cersei, he could end up as the Mountain’s latest victim.

Nick: If this were an earlier season, Jaime. Since it’s the final season and the episode before the biggest battle the show has seen, I’ll say all of House Glover. The Night King will steamroll them and serve as an example to the rest of the North.

What we’re most excited for in Episode Two:

Sam: Finding out what will happen to Jamie.

Nick: The Night King.

Is Littlefinger actually alive?

Sam: Lmao no.

Nick: Ehhhhh. I can see the logic, but I don’t think they have enough time to pull it off convincingly.

Who is “The Prince That Was Promised?”

Sam: Jon Snow.

Nick: Jon Snow.

Will Ghost return in Episode Two?

Sam: I hope.

Nick: Hell yea.

Does Jon tell Daenerys who he really is in Episode Two?

Sam: No, not until later in the season.

Nick: No, at least not without talking to Davos or Sansa first.

Should Jon tell Daenerys?

Sam: Not yet. With the Battle of Winterfell approaching, the living need to be united. Their first priority should be to beat the Dead.

Nick: In principle, yea. In practice, he should probably wait until after the Battle of Winterfell. Daenerys doesn’t exactly come from stable genetics. She could snap at anytime and become the Mad Queen. That’s the last thing the Realm needs right now.

One wild prediction going forward:

Sam: Samwell Tarly will turn the tide of the war. He already pieced together that Jon is a Targaryen so why couldn’t Samwell Tarly find the White’s biggest weakness? I see him discovering some monumental information from an ancient scripture that Dany and Jon can use to push back the White Walkers. He will kill a White or two and become the new Tarly lord after the war.

Nick: Sansa eventually sits on the Iron Throne. Jon or Daenerys will die before the series is done. When that happens, especially if it’s Daenerys (I could see Jon abdicating if he survives), the line of succession will be challenged. This episode emphasizes how smart and respected Sansa has become. She is unlikely to see any fighting and will probably survive as long as there is life. She is capable, and, at the moment, tied with Tyrion for third in command of the good guys. Don’t be surprised if the Living win and establish a new ruling order in the wake of catastrophic destruction. If that’s the case, either Sansa or Tyrion makes the most sense to lead. Their interaction in this episode gives Sansa the edge.

Keep an eye out for:

Sam: Varys.

Nick: Melisandre.

Iron Throne Power Rankings:

Sam

  1. Daenerys Targaryen
  2. The Night King
  3. Bran Stark

Nick

  1. The Night King
  2. Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen
  3. Sansa Stark

-Sam Shiffman and Nick Shiffman

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