Editors' note: Joanna Weiss is writing weekly recaps of the eighth and final season of HBO's "Game of Thrones." Click here to read her preview.To avoid spoilers, watch Season 8, episode 1 before reading this recap.
It turns out, it’s not so easy to just show up in a new town and declare yourself the Queen.
“Game of Thrones” is back with new opening credits — A hole in the Wall! The cold blue steps of the White Walkers heading south! — and a host of awkward reunions.
Awkward Reunion #1: Sansa Stark, Lady of Winterfell, reunites with her brother Jon Snow, who went off and pledged his loyalty to Daenerys Targaryen without asking anyone else’s opinion. Actually, the entire North is less than thrilled at this peaceful transfer of power. As Dany’s massive army winds its way through Winterfell, the looks on those pasty northern faces — as they stare at Dany, her Dothraki warriors and her dark-skinned companions from Essos — seem to collectively say, “Our country is full, so turn around.”
This is something Jon and Dany should have anticipated, really. Jon left the north a king and came back a subject — and it’s fair to say that Westeros is still suffering from Targaryen fatigue. It doesn’t help that Dany swoops in with all of the finesse of a coastal elite, parachuting into the heartland in designer clothes. (Her winter coat is to die for, but fashion in Winterfell remains a few seasons behind.)
And while “I have dragons and you don’t” has largely worked as a rationale for military takeover, Dany has yet to perfect the behind-the-scenes work of building coalitions and making deals. Thus, the cold shoulder from Sansa, who has struggled and survived without the help of dragons, and is underwhelmed by the entourage that she now has to house and feed.
Dany swoops in with all the finesse of a coastal elite, parachuting into the heartland in designer clothes.
Jon gives us a moment that has become his specialty: delivering a noble speech to a skeptical crowd. He insists that this all is for the future of humanity, White Walkers, blah blah blah, while ignoring the fact that the crowd is heavily armed and might at some point decide to kill him. Jon might not be Ned Stark’s biological son, but he shares his adopted father’s penchant for straight-shooting and honorable behavior. I’m guessing he’s doomed.
After all, if there’s one thing that’s long been clear about “Game of Thrones,” it’s that operating honestly — assuming that people will appreciate you for doing the right thing — is a recipe for disaster. Sansa learned that the hard way. That’s why she is shocked to learn, in Awkward Reunion #2, that Tyrion has suddenly decided to trust his sister, Cersei, on matters of statecraft. “I used to think you were the cleverest man I knew,” she tells him.
Sansa understands that, in Westeros and human nature overall, some things don’t change. In Winterfell, three old(ish) men — Varys, Davos and Tyrion — sit around plotting a youngsters’ marriage as way to bridge political divides. Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Cersei is as bitter as ever. She’s not handling her split with Jaime very well, judging from her ill-advised rebound relationship with Euron Greyjoy (that's Awkward Reunion #3) and her not-very-subtle plan to kill both of her brothers with a crossbow. “That [expletive] family!” says Bronn, who is charged with the unpleasant task.
But the best line of the night goes to Yara Greyjoy. After Awkward Reunion #4 (Yara head butts her brother, Theon, who’s come to rescue her), Yara gives Theon permission to continue his all-Westeros redemption tour and go fight alongside the Starks. “What is dead may never die,” she tells him, a reference to their hometown religion. “But kill the bastards anyway.”
Everybody seems a little bloodthirsty on “Game of Thrones” this week, with the possible exception of Bran, whose mystical all-knowingness gives him a different purpose. Bran has earned the title, Most Sullen Person in Westeros, and he believes the time has come for some serious fact-checking. He sends Samwell Tarley to tell Jon that he isn’t a Stark — information Jon probably wishes he had before he and Dany went on a dragon-flying excursion that sets a new bar for first dates on “The Bachelor.”
Yep, that was awkward. But not as awkward as Awkward Reunion #5, when a tall guy in a cloak disembarks from his horse and catches Bran’s eye from across the courtyard. (In addition to being the most sullen person in Westeros, Bran also has the creepiest stare.) The look on his blank face suggests he hasn’t forgotten what happened in the series premiere oh so many years ago.
Welcome back to Winterfell, Jaime Lannister.