Eight years ago, nearly to the day, we all sat down quite innocently on a Sunday night and unwittingly entered an almost decadelong, legally binding contract to watch Game of Thrones — a show more difficult to parse, gratuitously nude, gratuitously rape-y, gratuitously stabby, gratuitously incestuous, and gratuitously snowy than Christmas at Mar-a-Lago. I’ve watched the show since its premiere, recapped it for a season, own a Daenerys wig, and have bravely murdered dozens of people in the name of my family’s honor, so in my mind, Game of Thrones is sort of like the Wall: It’s been there forever, nobody really knows why it’s there but they don’t question it too much because it’s fine, it’s impossible to defeat, nobody will ever take it down, it is the only predictable constant …. oh wait.
At the beginning of season eight, the Wall is gone, having been breathed on a little too hard by the recently converted Ice Dragon. The Night King and his Army of the Dead are marching south, ready to turn everybody else into zombies so that everyone in Westeros can be dead together, and then what? They will all register to vote!!! Which is great news. So the only real concern here is that we all try really hard to remember what is even happening on this show. Let’s work together, shall we? Until it becomes slightly inconvenient and then we’ll turn on each other.
(Oh, and please do not be confused by the pictures of the baby interspersed throughout; it’s a time-honored tradition, wherein I use photos of my sister — stolen from a decades-old photo shoot gone very, very wrong — as reaction shots.)
The episode begins with a little Bran look-alike running around Winterfell, an audience stand-in reminding us that we, too, were once young.
Arya is the first of the main characters to be reintroduced in a dramatic, Power Rangers-y way that is much too smug and self-aware. Everybody looks like they are expecting to be GIFed. Every Stark kid has their own YouTube channel now. Arya’s is about how to fight acne while putting other people’s faces on your face. Sansa’s is about how to keep fine lines at bay while squinting at your brother, trying to convey to him that you want to have sex with him without being blatant about it (that would be gauche — not the incest part, just the expression of female desire). Daenerys’s focuses on how to keep your braid crown intact while you are boning your nephew. Jon Snow’s YouTube channel is about how to fake a wintry glow when you have died. Bran was banned from YouTube for violating its terms of service by promoting dangerous ideologies.
The first few lines of the season involve Tyrion and Varys making jokes about balls. Amanda Peet’s husband, PLEASE HEAR ME: We do not have time for a “Hey guys, sorry I haven’t posted in a few days, I had the most amazing spring break” montage or jokes about testicles. We only have six hours left!! And then we have to get right to the polls!!!
Unfortunately, this is a preview of how this entire episode is going to be. In the spirit of wasting absolutely everyone’s time, I’d like to pause to note that this is episode 68. We’ve watched 68 episodes of this show. Digest that. But then digest (sorry) this: That means the next episode is 69.
Dany and Jon have accidentally wandered onto the set from an episode of The Bachelor. This is their first one-on-one date, and Dany is trying to impress Jon with her Olivia Pope coat and Large Adult Dragon Sons. Jon is so sex-drunk he doesn’t even see his own sister in the crowd. Both of his sisters appear displeased by this turn of events — Arya because Jon ignored her, and Sansa because she wants to peg Jon.
Jon kisses Bran on the head and says, “Look at you! You’re a man!” Bran is like, “The construct of masculinity has no use for me now. When I was living in the mountains, eating only vegan rain and sleeping four minutes at a time while figuring out how to disrupt period-tracking apps, Elon Musk told me that a man is nothing more than an idea, and all ideas are worth questioning and then destroying.”
Everyone is making small talk despite the fact that the zombies are on their merry way. To Bran’s (very small) credit, he is the only person who agrees with me that we do not have time for all of this. Unfortunately, that’s the only nice thing I can say about Bran, who knows everything, including how to solve every problem being faced by his purported loved ones, but rather than do anything about it, he just sits there, acting like he is the first person ever to take acid at Burning Man. Bran sees all but does nothing except make other people feel bad for not seeing all — true neutral evil. Also, his haircut is unacceptable to me.
Lyanna Mormont, the only person on this show who is not blinded by inappropriate lust and therefore has any business making political decisions, is mad at Jon Snow for giving up his crown for the singular experience of having sex on a rocky boat with one’s aunt. Jon is like, “Listen, have you ever tried doing it on a waterbed? Imagine that, but more dangerous, because it’s your relative.” Lyanna is convinced. Sansa, however, is still mad. She’s like, “You couldn’t think of a SINGLE other relative …???” She and Dany snipe at one another about dragons’ diets from opposite sides of Jon Snow’s tiny cute head.
Tyrion and Sansa are reunited for the first time since their wedding 4,000 years ago. Unfortunately I forgot they were married but fortunately who cares. Sansa tells him he’s an idiot for trusting Cersei, but as the two are apparently the smartest characters (sure, why not), I’m sure they both agree that it makes no sense that nobody ever turns on a lamp on this show. Bran can see through time, but he can’t take a minute to demonstrate electricity? The Lord of Light can set a sword on fire and raise men from the dead, but he can’t offer up a few nice, long-burning candles? I am certain that, if nothing else, the technology exists for indoor torches. Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow is respecting the urgency of this moment in time by staring at a tree. Arya approaches and they reunite joyfully, then immediately begin talking shit about their siblings — truly the healthiest way to relate to your family members. These two have the only non-disturbing sibling dynamic on this show. However, if Arya so much as glances at Jon’s tush it will all be over. Operation Keep Arya and Jon Platonic begins now.
The two proceed to … compare their swords. Well. It was nice for a few seconds.
Back at King’s Landing, Cersei’s hair is still short, but Euron Greyjoy’s fleet has already sailed to Essos, picked up an army for hire, and sailed back to King’s Landing. I repeat: Cersei has not had time to grow out her “Shame” buzz cut, but every other character has reenacted the entire plot of The Odyssey multiple times over. It’s fine. I’m fine with it.
Yara and Euron have a nice little tête-à-tête, lesbian to lesbian. Then, suddenly, Euron is over at the Iron Throne, trying to fuck Cersei. He’s like, “Come ON,” and she’s like, “In this economy??” But then, she does fuck him. Afterwards, he asks her how good he was, promises he will shortly impregnate her despite this being their first time, and she drinks heavily while already secretly pregnant. I am loving this reboot of The L Word.
Bronn of the Blackwater is also trying to have sex, this time with three nameless sex workers. In true Game of Thrones tradition, they’re all naked while he has pants on. I feel like Amanda Peet’s husband put this scene in here just to get the “TV-MA: Sex and Nudity” warning up there for the pervs. We’re all just going through the motions at this point. Watching this show again is like seeing an old hot-mess college friend at a party after many years, and being like, “Wow, maybe they’ve gotten their act together,” and then it’s 3 a.m. and they’re Red Bull–vodka drunk, naked for no reason, screaming at a security guard. Anyway, Qyburn interrupts Bronn to ask him if he will kill his best friend Jaime Lannister with the same weapon Tyrion used to kill his dad on the toilet. Reread that sentence a few times and then let’s all have a talk about our choices.
Theon saves Yara from Euron’s ship after several gratuitous shots of people getting arrows shot into their eyes and axes buried into their faces. I love to see arrows in eyeballs, that’s why I watch Game of Thrones. Watching this show again is like seeing your ex at Whole Foods after many years, and being like, “Wow, maybe they’ve matured since our breakup and we can be friends now,” and then it’s 3 a.m. and they’re Red Bull–vodka drunk, naked for no reason, and screaming at a security guard. Yara asks Theon to help her get their little island ready in case Dany wants it, and he says yes, but his heart isn’t in it, because his heart is at the Starks’ house, where he once pretended to burn a bunch of little boys to death. Yara lets him go back to the Starks because she is ready to audition for the part of Bette Porter’s no-nonsense boss.
Back at Bachelor Mansion, Dany and Jon are on date number two. Dany is upset because Sansa doesn’t like her, but Jon reminds her that his family didn’t sign up for The Bachelor — he did. “They’re going to wonder if you’re here for the right reasons, at first,” he says. “They just love me and want the best for me.” Dany isn’t buying it, and Jon begins to worry his meddling sisters are going to ruin his one shot at love.
Neither Jon nor Dany can really act naturally or have a meaningful conversation in front of the cameras (partly for national security reasons), so Jon suggests they ditch the production crew and go meet Dany’s kids. It’s an uncomfortable dinner from the get-go; Dany’s kids don’t have much of an appetite, and they don’t trust Jon’s intentions. Jon suggests one of them step outside for a little sunset game of catch. Dany’s son throws the ball, hard. It hits Jon directly in the stomach. He smiles through the pain.
“Strong arm there, huh, kid?” he asks.
Dany’s son stares at him stonily.
“Maybe you’ll make it to the Major Leagues one of these days,” Jon says, his voice cracking slightly. “Goddamnit,” he whispers, punching his baseball mitt.
Dany pops her head out. “You boys better be getting along!” she says. She dries her hands on her apron.
Jon clears his throat, looks at her son. “Listen, I’m not sure your kids are …”
Dany cuts him off with a dark look.
Wordlessly, Jon throws the ball back at Dany’s son. Her son catches it effortlessly, then tosses it into the air, and with a thwack of his bat, it disappears over the neighbor’s fence. He spits on the ground, stares Jon directly in the face, and walks inside. Jon throws up. Chris Harrison walks into the frame. “This is the most great episode of The Bachelor ever,” he says. “I’ve never seen anything so good or so cool.” Miranda Lambert shows up and begins singing an acoustic cover of “Creep.” Inspired, Jon and Dany make out.
Arya is reunited with two men from her past: Gendry and the Hound. The Hound calls her a “cold little bitch,” and she and Gendry bond over a phallic instrument. Arya flirts by mentioning that she is rich. Oh no. I am sorry to report that there is a Fuck Plot on the horizon, this time between Arya and Gendry. We don’t have time for this, but this is what’s happening, and I’m sorry.
A (sexually) tense scene between Sansa and Jon. The two fight about crowns while really fighting about the fact that Sansa wants to watch Jon Snow do barre exercises naked (how his butt is so good). “Did you bend the knee to save the North, or because you love her?” asks Sansa, who has not caught up on this season of The Bachelor yet, or else she would know that Jon and Dany’s relationship is fledgling and fragile and could easily be thrown off course by a bad People article. Jon gulps. His abs are still sore from taking that baseball to the gut (and barre).
Meanwhile, Dany waltzes unannounced into the bedroom (?) of Jon’s best friend, Samwell Tarly. Jon didn’t approve of this meeting, but Dany asked the Bachelor producers if she could do her own sort of little spinoff scene while Jon was arguing with his hot sister. Being terrified of her, they obliged. Unfortunately, things go downhill when Dany accidentally reveals that she murdered Samwell’s entire family. Sam is like, “How … interesting. Can you excuse me for a moment?” Chris Harrison walks slowly into the frame from the back of the room and grins. “This is … the most … good … episode … I’ve ever seen. Stay tuned for more. I love you all.”
Sam, bereft, runs into Bran, who is now on day 400 of his fast and writing a little blog about it. “Hi Sam,” says Bran. “I’m just waiting for an old friend, blogging. Also, I now speak exclusively in colors.”
Sam is like, “Sir, this is a Walgreens. I’m kidding, it’s Winterfell. I’m so sad. Dany just told me she murdered my family. Help, I know you see stuff …”
“Please, stop talking to me in words,” says Bran. “Also, go tell Jon he is fucking his aunt. This is your job, for some reason. Thanks.”
Poor Sam heads on down to the crypt to tell Jon he is fucking his aunt. “Jon …” says Sam. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this. But you are in fact fucking your aunt.”
“Wait, so, you’re saying my dad is a liar?” says Jon.
“No, I’m saying you’re fucking your … aunt,” says Sam.
“I have to be the KING??” says Jon.
“Yes, but also, you are fucking your literal aunt,” says Sam.
“Wow, this sucks that my dad lied and I have to be the king,” says Jon. He makes a frowny face.
Sam explodes into one-thousand pieces. Jon looks behind him. “That good?” he asks.
Chris Harrison walks out of one of the graves and slaps Jon on the back, four times, hard. “Really good, man,” says Chris Harrison. “Really good.”
Somewhere closer to the Wall (RIP), Tormund Giantsbane & Co. are walking around, looking for zombies and White Walkers. Seems like a good strategy: Just look for them and see what happens. They don’t find any, but they do find the boy from the first scene — TiniestJon Umber — impaled on a wall, surrounded by a carefully arranged spiral of decapitated limbs. I, for one, am shocked. Never did I think I would see a small child pinned to a brick wall, surrounded by bloody arms, on this show. You really got me, Amanda Peet’s husband. I will be thinking about this for decades.
The men do some talking about this situation — again, good war stuff happening here — while behind them, the boy opens his blue eyes and reveals that he IS a zombie, actually. You’d think they’d be happy about this, considering they were looking for zombies. But no, they just burn him to (second) death.
Jaime Lannister shows up in Winterfell with a bad dye job, and encounters Bran immediately, which means he is in for an earful about the effects of the keto diet on transcendental yoga. But back to the little boy Umber. Because he is all of us. At the beginning of the episode, he was youthful, excited, watching the events unfold with anticipation, ready for something fun to happen, ready to learn something about himself and his friends, the Starks of YouTube. At the end of the episode, he was set on fire.