After almost two long years of waiting, Game of Thrones Season 8 has finally premiered on HBO. Our review of the premiere episode is here, but we have plenty more GoT goodness beyond that. For more theorizing, check out why the crossbow Qyburn gave Bronn matters, what weapon Arya asked Gendry to make for her, and 17 other Easter eggs, references, and callbacks to earlier episodes you might have missed. And for a deep dive into each episode of Season 8, check out GameSpot of Thrones with Westeros superfans Lucy, Ryan, Tamoor, and Dave each week as we count down the final six episodes of Game of Thrones.
The first episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 was load-bearing, and a bit rushed. How could it be any other way? We are racing towards a conclusion, and now, there are only five episodes left until we reach it.
It's why the episode's opening half was heavy on reunions. The main characters, many of whom have been separated for several seasons or more, took a few expository scenes to re-establish their relationships with one another: Arya and the Hound, Arya and Jon, Tyrion and Sansa, Samwell and Jon. And at the very end of the episode, we saw Jaime and Bran lay eyes on each other from across the courtyard. He knows. He knows that he knows. And he knows that he knows that he knows!
Here are some initial theories we have, based on Season 8, Episode 1. Winter is here, it's marching on Winterfell, and we cannot wait to see what happens next.
Could this be a romantic couple in the making?
In Season 1, Robert Baratheon commented to Ned Stark that a marriage between Joffrey and Sansa could join their houses. Seven seasons later, that could finally come true if Gendry (Robert's bastard child) and Arya Stark fall in love.
They meet, for the first time since Season 3, in one of the hottest places in Winterfell: a forge where Gendry is hammering out dragonglass weapons for the upcoming battle. And they exchange oddly flirtatious dialogue when Arya asks if he can build a weapon for her.
The weapon, from the brief glimpse we get of it, looks plenty badas--like two pointy detachable ends of a larger staff.
Bran spends a good portion of his day sitting in the courtyard, freaking passersby out with his Three-Eyed Raven staring. And when Samwell asks what he's doing there around the midpoint of the episode, Bran replies simply: "I'm waiting for an old friend."
The payoff to this is at the very end, when Jaime Lannister arrives at Winterfell and locks eyes with Bran, whom he pushed out the window in the pilot episode eight years ago, thus triggering the events of Season 1. Jaime has thrown his lot in with the Targaryens and the Starks, two families who have more reason to detest him than most. He must be questioning the prudence of his decision; thankfully, Tyrion will be there to stick up for him in the upcoming episode.
One interesting point that came up on Reddit is that the Lannister family's hair has gotten darker over the course of the series, leading some to speculate that it symbolizes loyalty to their house. The blonde hair has always been a marker of Lannister blood (it was our first hint that Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella were not Robert's children, but Jaime's), and at the beginning of the series, both Jaime and Tyrion had noticeably blonde hair.
Now, only Cersei has blonde hair, though it's also sort of reddish (blonde, mixed with blood?). It's an interesting detail.
Many predicted that Jon would ride a dragon this season, and he did so for the first time in "Winterfell." And since only Targaryens can ride dragons, this is one of several foreshadowing references to Jon's true parentage. Also, the dragon he rides is Rhaegal, named after his true father, Rhaegar Targaryen.
Sansa chides Tyrion during their brief meeting for trusting that his sister, Cersei, will honor the truce and send her armies North. It seems out of character for such a clever man.
Which begs the question: What if Tyrion is hiding something, or knows something we don't? Consider: We never see the actual truce they agreed upon; we are only told about it in retrospect from Tyrion and Cersei's point-of-view. Perhaps Tyrion is exactly as clever as Sansa once gave him credit for.
This is an elaboration on the prior theory: What if Tyrion is trying to preserve the Lannister bloodline by doing a backend deal with Cersei?
We've been led to believe that Daenerys can no longer produce an heir. Which begs the question: What happens if she becomes Queen and dies? Who would be her successor to the Iron Throne? Perhaps Daenerys could adopt Cersei's unborn child, and claim her as her own. Maybe this is why Tyrion is so certain that Cersei will send her military to the North; this is the tradeoff for her help, so that no matter what happens, a Lannister will once again sit on the Iron Throne.
Of course, Cersei goes back on her word. So Tyrion is still the fool regardless. But it's interesting to imagine what Cersei must have offered to gain her brother's trust, and vice versa. You can read more about this theory here.
The pilot episode of Season 1 and the first episode of Season 8 share visual parallels. They both feature Kings and Queens headed to Winterfell for political reasons. They both feature grand entrances and meetings in the Winterfell courtyard. In the first episode, Arya climbs up high to get a better look at the procession; in this new episode, Arya moves aside so a child can climb a tree and get a better look at the procession. The pilot ends with Jamie pushing Bran out the window; this new episode ends with Jaime and Bran seeing each other for the first time since that incident.
It'll be interesting to see if future episodes follow this pattern, either by mirroring the first season's beats or by deliberately running opposite to them. Maybe this is a "do-over," and this time, good can triumph over bad.
The most harrowing moment of "Winterfell" is when little Ned Umber, pinned to a wall along with the severed limbs of his men, reanimates as a Wight before dying by fire. The fire catches on to the severed limbs and forms a circular, spiral-shaped symbol. We've seen this symbol at other moments in the show. It's usually associated with the White Walkers, who leave it in places where they've been, and they were also part of the cave paintings by the Children of the Forest, who created the White Walkers.
Some fans have pointed out that the symbol is very similar-looking to the Targaryen seal, leading some to question of the Night King is either Targaryen or shares a common ancestor with the Targaryens; the use of fire in the Umber tableau underlines this connection. The Night King is also able to ride the undead Viserion, even though the common belief is that only Targaryens can ride dragons. Perhaps Daenerys is not the only person coming home to Westeros, to lay claim to a birthright.
And lastly, here's a theory that's the stuff of nightmares.
At the end of the new episode, Samwell tells Jon that he is the true king of Westeros, not Daenerys. It's difficult to imagine that she would take this news well. And if she loses her grip on the Iron Throne, what if she goes for a different type of power? What if she allows herself to be sacrificed by the Night King, and becomes the Night Queen?
It would allow her to reunite with Viserion (and perhaps his dragon brothers, if they also meet a bad end). It would coincide with a lot of the visions and prophecies in Season 2 (check out the Reddit thread for a more granular analysis). It would also explain this quote by Emilia Clarke in an interview with Vanity Fair, about her last scene as Daenerys: "It f****d me up. Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someones mouth of what Daenerys is&"
We know the Night King is after a specific person. Some people thought that person would be Jon. Other people thought it would be Bran. Perhaps it's been Dany, his future queen, this entire time.