In only 54 minutes, Game of Thrones’ eighth-season premiere absolutely sped through the checklist of everything you might have expected to be revealed in the opening stretch of Thrones’ final season. Starks reunite? Check. Jon rides a dragon? Check. Sam reveals to Jon that his true father was not Ned Stark, but rather Rhaegar Targaryen, thus making him by some accounts the true heir to the Iron Throne? Double-check.
This Sunday’s episode clocks in at four minutes longer than “Winterfell,” and judging by the trailer and production stills, we’re still rushing through plot points with the speed of Casey Jones. Let’s break down the evidence and examine the trouble ahead.
Let’s start with the trailer first. Warning: Things are going to get pretty dark, and I’m not talking about the child zombies.
As so many have before him, Jaime Lannister stands in the great hall of Winterfell. A lot of fans have referred to this as a “trial,” and it certainly looks slightly more formal than the previous scenes we’ve seen in this space. Check the sides: We’ve got Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, and Jorah on the left; Davos, Lyanna Mormont, Yohn Royce, Lady Karstark, and Brienne on the right — a handy division of Team Targaryen and Team Stark in this coalition. (I love that Lady Karstark got a promotion to bump Team Stark’s numbers up.) That balance is maintained at the front two: One Stark, one Targaryen, and one guy who’s half-and-half. Team Stark seems to be in favor of more lenient sentencing than their allies, and I wonder if this coalition will break down over criminal-justice reform.
Sansa has her poker face on.
Dany has her “burn him” face on.
TFW the woman whose father you were sworn to protect, and then murdered, is not happy to see you.
A little bit of side-eye from Team Targaryen. If you thought you were gonna get a season without Sansa coming into bitter conflict with another woman, you’ve got another thing coming.
Cut to the Winterfell forge. Gendry’s in the background, still looking like he’s auditioning for a lost installment of Shane Meadows’s This Is England.
Ser Jorah examines a sword. Could it be Longclaw, the ancient Valyrian-steel sword of the Mormonts? If so, why isn’t Jon carrying it?
Jon and Dany share a tender moment in the Winterfell crypts. Are they sharing a moment reflecting on the DNA they share?
Montage time! Arya shoots a bow, in yet another callback to the Game of Thrones pilot. Just like winter, it appears the big battle we’ve been waiting for is coming. (Incidentally, we’ve seen Jaime fighting in this battle in the season-eight trailer, so he’s probably not getting executed this week.)
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re getting a trebuchet. Varys is pumped.
Grey Worm and Missandei suck face before the battle. This is not the kind of thing you want to see if you’re rooting for Grey Worm’s survival.
In the Winterfell courtyard, Jon sees something he wishes he hadn’t.
It’s okay, it’s just Tormund, who managed to beat the Army of the Dead in the race back to Winterfell.
Back in the battle, Jorah mounts up with some more horses in the back. I’m not too sure of the efficacy of a cavalry charge against an army of ice zombies, but that’s why I’m not a general in a medieval fantasy epic, I guess.
We close on this spooky image of Tyrion on the battlements of Winterfell, awaiting the charge by the army of the dead. Shades of “Blackwater” in the sense of foreboding, but at least now all the good guys are on the same side.
Now let’s move onto the stills, shot as always by GOT set-photography extraordinaire Helen Sloan.
In a very evocative shot, Bran consults his best and only friend, the Winterfell heart tree.
Gilly’s back, and she’s finally getting in the braid game, too.
This is the closest we’ve seen to Sansa wearing traditional Northern armor, but I’m a little more interested in the contents of her soup bowl. If only George R.R. Martin was here, then we’d know all about what was inside.
Lyanna Mormont suits up for battle! I’m even more worried for her than I am for Grey Worm.
A good look at Little Sam, finally letting us determine exactly how much time has passed in this godforsaken series. The lad looks about 3 years old, which since he was born in early season three, confirms that the show’s been traveling along at a slightly slower pace than real life.
Daenerys unveils a darker twist on her signature outfit.
Two shots that seem to come from the same Winterfell strategy session. Team Targaryen does not seem a fan of whatever the Starks are suggesting.
Spilling his big secret did not make Samwell Tarly any less anxious.
Another shot from what looks like the same planning session. Quite a rueful smile from Mr. “Drink and Know Things” over here.
We’ll close on Davos, who appears to be stirring the pot — literally, this time. If this episode doesn’t give me an entire C-plot about the Winterfell stew, I’m going to be very disappointed.