NICK: It’s been quite some time since we’ve had the pleasure of exchanging emails and discussing the depths that is Game of Thrones. The Long Night (of waiting) is over, Winter is actually here, and the beginning of the end has commenced.
The first episode was a rapid affair of reunions and revelations. Jon reunites with Bran and Arya after being separated by land and sea and 66 episodes. Sam and Jon are back together after a rough conversation in the crypts, and Bran and Jaime stare awkwardly at each other as the credits kick in. As great as these all were, we’re still missing one major reconnection: WHERE. IS. GHOST? All that money on a joyride dragon chase and they can’t give Ghost a second of screen time? Come on.
So with episode one in the books, what characters were you most happy to see back together, or meeting up for the first time?
KEITH: Oh, this one’s easy. The kid watching Dany’s (and Jon’s, too, I guess) army arrive at Winterfell who later found himself stuck to a wall by the White Walkers. Coolest moment of the premiere for me, hands down.
But in all seriousness, I’d have to say that the reunion that I enjoyed the most was Jon and Arya. Aside from the emotional moment where he noticed that she still has Needle and she downplays how many people she’s ended with the little toothpick, I think what really stuck out to me there was the fact that it didn’t appear to go quite how Jon thought it was going to. He looked to Arya for support in getting Sansa’s approval, and it fell flat. It was a really nice reminder that, although these two… siblings? Cousins? Not-so-distant relations? were incredibly close once upon a season one, so much has transpired that they barely know each other anymore.
You mentioned the conversation between Jon and Sam—were you surprised that they pulled the Aeg-drop (can we call it that now, please?) so early in the season?
NICK: Absolutely we’re going to call it the Aeg-drop. This is why you’re the smart one.
Yes, very surprised. I thought they would wait until the second episode, but time feels like it’s moving at a faster pace than last season. I’m on the fence about how the reveal was handled. Bran (who had been sitting in that courtyard all night) convinces Sam that he needs to tell Jon the truth. This after Sam learning the demise of his father and brother by the new queen Jon trotted into Winterfell. This is going to be a true test of Jon and Sam’s friendship, and you can see the cracks begin to form just the tiniest bit when Sam asks Jon if he would’ve done the same.
Given the fact this is only a six-episode season, I get why the showrunners wanted to get the truth out early on. It adds another dimension of drama, not just between Dany and Jon, but everyone else as well. How will Sansa and Arya react when they learn he’s not their bastard brother? Sansa is already giving Jon the cold shoulder for bending the knee. What about the bannermen of the North, specifically Lyanna Mormont? Speaking of the Lady of Bear Island, we did not get a Mormont meeting this episode, but it’s got to be coming up. They’re hanging out in the same castle, they’re bound to bump into each other at some point.
Prior to the season, we were told that there would be some added humor in the final season. There are some chuckles here and there, such as Bran ‘almost’ being a man and the dragons eyeing up Jon as he tries to keep Dany warm, but do you feel this helps the show’s cause or detracts from it given its previously consistent seriousness?
KEITH: I wasn’t a fan of the quippy writing. One of the show’s strengths over the years has been the writing, especially in the earlier seasons where they still had Martin’s writing to serve as an example for how the characters should speak. Now it feels like we’re in the Westeros alt-universe of the MCU. The show has always had moments of levity, but they never seemed as forced or sloppily written as they have recently.
I agree with your point that, since this final season is only six episodes long and time is of the essence, that the Aeg-drop made sense. I also agree that having Sam do it felt strange, but I do see Bran’s rationale—Sam has a much closer relationship with Jon than anyone else on the show. Couple that with the fact that Bran has apparently lost the capacity for empathy or tact and I get why that move was made.
Also, I lied about my favorite reunion. Seeing the Hound and Arya together again made my twisted heart sing. I loved seeing them pick up right where they left off, shooting barbs at one another to hide the fact that he loves her more than probably anybody else in the world.
Speaking of Arya, we also saw her and Gendry back together. How do you see Gendry’s role shaping up in the wars to come?
NICK: Possibly my favorite exchange of the episode:
The Hound: “You left me to die”
Arya: “First I robbed you”
Both: *non-smile smile*
Genuinely looking forward to the Hound, Arya, and Brienne all fighting together, but we’re not quite there yet.
As far as Gendry goes it’s difficult for me to see him as anything more than a soldier, excuse me, a fighter, for the living at this point. I know he’s Robert’s bastard son, but his disappearance for four seasons didn’t allow much in the way of character development and any fleshing out with five episodes left would feel like a disservice. His service will be valuable, no doubt. His years as a Fleabottom blacksmith apprentice is already paying dividends as they forge dragonglass weapons. He’s shown his ability with the hammer, so there’s bound to be a few wights to meet their smashing demise before it’s all said and done. If he survives, I think he and Arya end up together. Although in all likelihood, it might be the end of the Baratheon bloodline.
Can we talk about poor Ned? The young leader of House Umber just wanted some horses to help his people retreat to Winterfell, and instead ends up as horrific art decor. We see the spiral of limbs, a motif that’s been used various times throughout the show’s run to signify the Night King. The Undead Army is on the move and the first house in its path has fallen. Fortunately, Tormund, Berric, and Edd are going halfsies on the Uber fees to reach Winterfell before the cold front hits.
With episode two on deck, what do you hope to see?
KEITH: I think the most important thing that we get in episode two is Jaime’s reception in Winterfell. I will say that I absolutely adored the fact that the first Stark that he encounters upon arrival is Bran, although I doubt not-Bran is going to be holding any grudges at this point. Sansa, Arya, Jon, and Dany, however—they might not be so ready to accept the Kingslayer.
I’m also very much looking forward to a bit more progression. I know “Winterfell” was just the season opener, and maybe I’m holding it to a higher standard considering it’s been 20 months since we’ve had new Thrones and I finished rewatching the whole series two days before it aired, but it felt too same-ish to me. That is to say, it felt very much like any other season opener. We caught up with most of the characters, set up where they’ll be moving over the next several episodes, and little else happened. But this being the final season, I was expecting a little more. I don’t know, maybe I’m being too hard to please here.
How about you? What are you most excited for in episode two?
NICK: Like you, I’m interested in what happens with Jaime as he goes back to the scene that started this entire saga. But I’m also pumped for the war preparation that will be sure to continue. Maybe this is cheating, but given the runtime of the episodes and the fact that Master of Battle director Miguel Sapochnik handled episode 3, I’m strongly convinced that episode two continues more shots of the forge and armory, and hopefully Arya’s new dragonglass weapon.
My big curiosity is when Jon reveals his Targaryen news to Dany. Does he risk revealing he’s her nephew before the battle, or hold out and see if they even survive in the first place? How much would Dany’s feelings for him change, both emotionally and as an ally? He’s immediately a better claim to the throne, one she’s spent years and miles death to try to obtain.
Fortunately, we only have to wait a few days to see what happens next. Like a Gendry jog across the freezing North, Sunday night will be here soon.