Tales from Westeros: The Final Logs of Grand Master Zed; Season 7 Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf” and Season 8 Episode 1, “Winterfell”
A somber hello to you, my Thrones fans, its everyone’s favorite keeper of knowledge, Grand Master Zed back to guide you through the emotional waters of our final season together. I am just now catching up to reviewing, so check out my season 7 episode 6 review as well. As we can see from just this first episode of season 8 alone, there is a lot to be done over the next few episodes. There were reunions, rescues bad news, and revelations in the first episode of season 8, but in the interest of extending our season together; and because I have been locked up in the Evil Geeks Citadel’s library for too long and forgot to impart such a tale on you, we are gonna start by taking a brief look back at the major moments of the last episode of last season: The Dragon and the Wolf.
Okay so for brevity’s sake, we will discuss what’s most important, as the end of this episode’s main point tells us: we are running out of time.
So the Dothraki and the Unsullied rode up and had a show of force at King’s Landing, showing off both the stony discipline of Grey Worm’s troops, and the wild and unpredictable nature of the horseriding warriors, at least enough to make Bronn and Jaime a little worried before their meeting at the Dragonpit. This meeting is to discuss a truce and maybe even ask for Cersei’s aid in fighting the army of the dead.
Jon and co. roll into Blackwater Bay with their zombie in a box to show to Cersei so that she takes them seriously, and Jon remarks how more people live in King’s Landing than the entire North. They make land and begin to march toward the meeting place.
Tyrion has a reunion with both Bronn and Podrick along the way, and Brienne and the Hound bond over what an adorable little murderess Arya is after Big B tells him that she’s alive. It’s cute, like a pair of still tense by amicably divorced parents.
So the big meeting gets kicked off and Dany arrives 15 minutes late with Starbucks and a dragon. Things start off pretty tense but after the Hound and Gregor have a tense face to face hopefully setting up Cleaganebowl aka the Clegane Cage Match aka Who Let the Dogs Out; he goes downstairs do get our skeletal friend in the box. After he lets it out, everyone’s mood changes. You can see Cersei actually pretty shook. The main point remains the same for all involved: We’re fucked.
Jon explains that the wights can be killed by a few conventional means, ex. Fire, dragon glass, etc. but Euron seems to be having none of it and decides he’s peacing out to the Iron Islands because the dead can’t swim.
Cersei is initially on board and is willing to accept the truth but immediately hops off board when Jon won’t bend the knee to her, because he’s already bent the knee to Dany. This doesn’t make Cersei happy and she takes her crew and leaves, leading to multiple characters roasting Jon for his heavy handed diplomacy. Faced with a lack of options, Tyrion agrees to meet Cersei for a last ditch Hail Mary chat, which feels like a bad idea given what just happened.
Tyrion meets Cersei in her chambers and the conversation goes about as well as you’d expect before Tyrion tries to goad Cersei into killing him, which she surprisingly doesn’t do, and after pouring himself a “thank the Seven I’m alive” glass of wine, he pours his older sister a “thanks for not killing me” glass. Cersei basically not so subtly reveals to Tyrion that she’s pregnant, which he uses to leverage Cersei back onto their side.
Jon and Theon chat about the meeting, and the Ironborn tries to apologize for what he’s done. Jon essentially reminds him of a lot of the things he’s done wrong, but eventually forgives him for “what he can” forgive. As well, he accepts Theon as a Stark, apparently inspiring him to do the right thing, and take over the Ironborn soldiers to go rescue Yara.
Back at Winterfell, Sansa brings Arya to trial, but eventually levels charges against Littlefinger. He attempts to schmooze his way out of things as usual, even going so far as to call on his authority as Lord of the Vale to try to get an armed escort out of there. “Bronze” Yohn Royce of his personal guard refuses, and after begging for his life, on Sansa’s orders, Arya kills Littlefinger.
Back in King’s Landing, it turns out Cersei isn’t actually on board, and Euron actually didn’t peace out, and instead is going to Essos to ferry the Golden Company, a mercenary army that she hired to come to Westeros. Jaime is NOT about any of this and intends to fulfill his oath. He peaces out before Cersei can give the order to kill him and as he leaves, winter comes to King’s Landing in the form of droplets of snow.
In his chambers, Bran meets with Sam Tarly, who has recently arrived at Winterfell, where they reveal the R+L=J theory that I’ve mentioned before, but will briefly explain:
Jon Snow is the true heir to the Iron Throne as the son of Rheagar Targaryen (Dany’s older brother and first son of the Mad King) and Lyanna Stark, who upon the annulment of Rhegar’s marriage to Ellia Martell, wed Lyanna in a secret ceremony and fled to the Tower of Joy in Dorne where they had Jon, who in order not to be killed by the new King, Robert Baratheon, Lyanna’s former fiancee and proud Targaryen hater, had her brother Ned pass Jon (or “Aegon”, rather) off as his bastard child. This theory would be earth shattering, and it is, but is slightly undercut by a scene of Jon and Dany banging on the ship back to White Harbor. Gross.
Sansa and Arya bond on the parapets of Winterfell and validate each other’s VARIOUS traumas. And after so long of these characters being pitted against each other, its cute. They share sage quotes from their father and reveal in moments of individual vulnerability and sisterhood that they miss Ned Stark. Us too, ladies, us too.
Oh, also the Wall falls and the Army of the Dead now pass through it unabated. Big yikes.
I found this to be a brilliant finale for the season as it ends on such a dread worthy note while simultaneously placing each and every one of the pieces on the great Westerosi chess board into place. But enough about that, onto the premiere
SEASON 8, Episode 1, “Winterfell”
We open things up with how it seems to have started all that long ago, with an army marching into Winterfell (<—I actually figured out the name of the castle is the name of the episode as well, so think on that and its significance). Though it isn’t the army of King Robert Baratheon, Arya Stark is still there to witness the Unsullied march into the castle in massive numbers. Her long lost half brother (cousin) Jon, the mysterious queen arriving in the form of Dany, and her former….uh….we’ll go with “traveling companion” in Gendry Stone, means much for Arya but even more for the North. The Northerners have an intense distrust of outsiders in general, but when they start flying dragons above their heads, Dany might find a tough crowd in her nephew’s bannermen and citizens. Sansa and Dany meet up as courtesy dictates with her being the Lady of Winterfell, but it is transparently clear that there is some tension between them.
Being back in Winterfell and having missed a bunch of stuff, Jon reunites with Bran who does his weird psychic tree boy comments about “almost” being a man. Jon honestly didn’t even seem to mind considering the last time he saw Bran was all the way back in the early sections of Season 1, unsure if he was going to die or not. So, weird Professor X Bran or not, its good to see Jon in high spirits. The other Stark reunion is actually between two people with emotions, so theres more to write about. At the Weirwood Tree, Jon and Arya catch up with each other, last time seeing each other when Jon left for the Wall. I thought it was very cute that they somewhat mimic that hug goodbye from season 1 as the hug hello in this episode. They geek out about each other’s weaponry, Jon noting that Arya still has Needle, a gift from Jon.
Overall, I feel like Jon caught a lot of gripe for not really wanting to be King in the North anymore in exchange for allegiance to Dany. I understand that the North doesn’t really like outsiders, but this I find to be a little excessive. Lyanna Mormont had something to say, the little sass master she is, but Sansa also had some jive to talk to Jon. She questions wether or not this decision to become enthralled to Dany and bend the knee was born out of strategy or love, which is a legitimate concern. Jon lays it down in that town hall meeting, and says that if he has to choose between a crown and the North being safe, he’s gonna choose his people. I don’t think Jon really wants to rule at all, but would accept ruling at Dany’s side as a consequence of saving the world I think. Either way, I don’t know how much I can handle more of “ bUt ThA nOrTh” going forward. Does anyone realize there’s an apocalypse coming?! Sansa too, as she later confronts Jon for it, wondering if Jon bent the knee just because he loves Dany.
At the town hall, Tyrion at one point stands up and announces that the Lannister army is marching North to join the cause, but most seem generally distrustful, especially Sansa. This is yet again another reunion this episode, as the last time Tyrion and Sansa saw one another, as they explain was during the “Purple Wedding”. When Sansa unknowingly committed regicide and was spirited away by Littlefinger, it was the last time she saw her husband at the time, Tyrion. Westerosi soap opera all over the place this episode. Sansa and Tyrion kept it pretty brief, but ultimately Sansa won the chat by remarking that she basically no longer believes Tyrion to be as smart as she thought if he trusts Cersei is actually sending the Lannister army to help them.
We can all see that Jon did what he said he was going to do, which is come back with a swole army to defend the North with, but some aspects of his grand hero’s return that are less that stellar. Mainly, one of Sansa’s concerns since being put in charge of the whole ball of wax in Winterfell is their food stores. Sansa has called for grain from all the keeps in the North that have retreated to Winterfell, and while everyone will be able to eat through winter, Sansa can’t put food into all the Unsullied, Dothraki, and dragons that come along with Jon and Dany’s military parade. Sansa is basically attempting to hold her homeland as well as her ancestral home, the place she grew up, and I feel like having to ration food to an army of thousands as well as citizens of the North, she would rather see the North flourish, same as Jon, but I think that since it rails against all the Dany and Jon 2gether 5ever squad, Sansa’s gonna catch a lot of heat for this one.
We find Yara has been tied up in Euron’s captains quarters, and has been kept alive simply because 1. She is family, and 2. Euron is just bored. What I loved most about this little interaction between niece and Uncle is that he mentions that he has no one to talk to because his crew is all mute. Which is supported from the books, and is why his ship is called the Silence. I do love some source material on the big screen! Euron pretty much just declares his carnal intentions for Cersei, and leaves. Later, under cover of night, Theon leads some Ironborn onto the Silence, and sets his sister free. This interaction between them doesn’t need any dialogue to let Yara’s feelings known. She’s upset with Theon but ultimately glad to be rescued. Later, the two are wondering where and what to do next, and Yara plans to take back the Iron Islands now that Euron is occupied, but Theon is still emo over his conversation with Jon, and plans to join the Zombie Hunting squad up North and hopefully save the world. Yara gives her younger brother the Ironborn blessing, and they seem to part ways. With this information at play, I don’t exactly hold out too much hope that Theon is gonna make it this season.
Cersei gets the bad news of the century when she learns that the fancy army she paid for couldn’t deliver on the one thing she was looking forward to, ELEPHANTS! (If I tried to explain the previous sentence to anyone who doesn’t watch this show….) After meeting with Captain Strickland of the Golden Company, the sellsword collective that Cersei hired in the last episode of the last season, she learns that their famous war elephants couldn’t be transported due to the long journey. As a historian, I did some digging, and it turns out that employers of war elephants actually never had to deal with this problem because they were considered better on land. Hannibal Barca’s famous crossing of the Alps with his elephants is considered to be a great feat, and it seems no one has ever even dared to put elephants on ships with regard to warfare. Euron gets all boo-hooey about getting teased by Cersei, who offers him the ultimatum, “if you want a queen, earn her.” Which honestly would have been great, if Cersei didn’t immediately relent and brought Euron into her chambers. Being a queen means you kind of have your pick of the litter of partners I suppose. Euron starts to really push Cersei’s buttons which she just got back in place, asking if he was better in bed than Robert and Jaime, before getting sent off by Cersei. Before he leaves, Euron implies he’s going to get Cersei pregnant, which seems to….work? I don’t know how to read Cersei in this scene because her motivations are always pretty difficult to find out, but since Jaime walked off in a huff its possible that Cersei is lacking in attention. However, we can’t discount the fact that Cersei could (and should) be using Euron, giving him this particular carrot to keep him in line. Both angles are possible, and even a mix of both where Cersei is concerned. No one can deny that Euron is a powerful piece on the board, but it would make sense to keep him at arms length. But while Euron is canoodling with Cersei, he paid the price while Theon saved Yara.
Everyone’s creepy grandpa Qyburn rolls up on Bronn in the middle of some Game of Thrones Famous SexpositionTM, and gives him an offer he can’t refuse from Cersei. Bronn is upset that the Lannisters cheated him out of his castle and noble wife, but Qyburn reminds him that was Jaime’s fault, not Cersei’s. Qyburn gives him a crossbow and implies that Cersei would be grateful if someone gets rid of her brothers. Bronn has had long soul bonding journeys with both of the Lannister brothers, and could possibly get close to both of them, close enough to maybe put a crossbow bolt in them. We know Bronn would do anything for money, but how far would he go to get his castle back? This truly will be an exciting season with this little tidbit in the soup.
Jon and Dany meet up with her dragons to check up on them as they haven’t been eating as much due to being in the cold North, so the two decide to take the Murder Dogs for a walk or rather a fly, about. Jon has his “dumb city boy doesn’t know how to ride a horse” moment, if the horse was several tons and could immolate you. They find a quiet spot, flirt, and kiss. Yuck. Alright folks, so I know I haven’t been the biggest fan of Dany in the past, but Jon seems to really have drank the Kool-Aid in that regard, so while I dislike their quite….familial relation, I won’t be all that upset if the “girl at the edge of the world” ends up saving it and parks herself on the Throne. There’s an apocalypse to overturn, guys, we can’t be picky anymore. Dragon watching them make out was peak comedy and I don’t wanna hear anything else. One of the best visual gags the show has ever done.
There are two other reunions to go over, but first the reunion of Arya and the Hound. We find “blacksmith character” stereotype Gendry making weapons from Dragonglass for the impending war with the dead, an important job by any stretch of the imagination. He hands the Hound a large Dragonglass axe, complaining of how much material it takes to make. He’s a TANK, Gendry, he needs his two handed weapons, Seven Hells…the nerve of some people. Arya and the Hound’s reunion is not exactly warm, as they had a complex last meeting. The Hound immediately calls Arya on leaving him for dead, but Arya cheekily reminds Sandor that she also stole all of his money as well. Sandor relapsed to using his bad words, but eventually sees that Arya’s self preservation is central to how she survived without him. Then comes the reunion of Arya and Gendry, who traveled for a period of time together, and their repartee continues it seems right where they left off. Seeing Gendry coming back with Jon (who, as my partner pointed out for me, she respects more than anything in the world) must kind of legitimize Gendry in her eyes, and they were (as my partner also had to tell me, as I am oblivious) some flirtations passed between them. Arya asks for a mysterious special order from Gendry and shows off her Valyrian steel dagger.
In Winterfell’s library, Sam gets introduced to Dany by Jorah. We’ll remember that Sam saved Jorah’s life, which he relates to a grateful Mother of Dragons. When Sam reveals his family name while asking pardon from his new Queen, Dany rather bravely fesses up to barbecuing Sam’s dad, Randyll, and his brother, Dickon. Sam doesn’t really care about his dad, but gets like….questionably sad about his brother? I don’t really remember any great interactions between Sam and Dickon, but I suppose its difficult to hear either way. Dickon was clearly favored by their hard as nails father for being such a jock, but I don’t remember Dickon railing against his dad and having a good relationship with Sam. Overall, a bit of a confusing moment for me, but we digress.
Sam, fresh off of learning the truth about his father and brother, runs away to the Winterfell crypts to weep, but Jon is already down there mourning over Ned Stark’s statue. This is significant, and I had a little party in my heart when this moment happened after making such a big deal of Jon visiting Ned. Sam has had enough and is finally going to tell Jon the truth about his parents after Bran insists that its the time in all of his arboreal wisdom. He starts off by telling Jon about Randyll and Dickon, which Jon didn’t even know. Obviously learning that his draconic boo thang killed his best friend’s family is a bit disturbing, but Jon tries to level the situation by saying that he’s executed people who disagreed or disobeyed him. (See: Janos Slynt, Allister Thorne, Olly, etc.) Sam notes that while Jon knows when to take a life, more often than not he knows where to spare one. (See: the thousands of Wildlings that refused to bend the knee) Sam later brings up a salient point about Dany in saying that she might not be all too willing to give up her crown to save her people, like Jon did. This ticks off Jon as that’s his Dany he’s talking smack about, but Sam Tarly drops a bombshell so large that it took 8 seasons and myriad deaths to come out: the true parentage of Jon Snow or rather, Aegon Targaryen, Sixth of his Name. Son of Rheagar “The Last Dragon” Targaryen and the “She-Wolf” Lyanna Stark. The news you can see is too much for Jon to conceptualize right now. You guys remember Ned’s statue? This is another reunion this episode, because the last time Jon Snow saw his “father” now “uncle” Ned Stark, Jon asked him about who his mother was. Jon was wondering if she was someone to be ashamed of, and the last thing Ned said to him was “The next time I see you, we’ll talk about your mother.” In a way, and even if he doesn’t want to believe it, Jon knows now the terrible secret his uncle sacrificed his honor for and what labeled him as a “bastard” his whole life; and I think Ned Stark is finally at rest for it. Either way, there is no doubt that this revelation carries huge consequences and choices for Jon and the rest of the team to make, and that Jon isn’t too thrilled about having even more responsibility he didn’t ask for. Also his whole life was a lie, so, that’s a lot.
I personally was overjoyed to see that Tormund and Berric Dondarrion survived the breaching of the Wall, and we see them skulking around the castles of the Wall, only to hear something, a threat ahead. The threat turns out to be Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Dolorous Edd and the other brothers of the Wall running into them. Edd almost sics the brothers on Tormund because he has blue eyes like the White Walkers, but Tormund clears up that his baby blues have been lifelong. They all discover a young Umber lord pinned to the wall with severed arms in a strange pinwheel pattern around him. The lord had been bade by Sansa to go back to Last Hearth, the keep of the Umbers, and must have been taken by the dead along the way. Last Hearth is called such because its the castle closest to the Wall, and thus the “last hearth” for some distance. This shows just how closely the dead are advancing, and after a little jumpscare, Berric puts down the young wight with his flaming sword.
Finally, we see Jaime Lannister arrives at Winterfell and has a moment recognizing the young man staring at him blankly from his wheelchair is the youth he pushed out the Cracked Tower of Winterfell all those years ago. His eyes widen with a revelation that sometimes the deeds in our past survive to our present. Bran stated early in the episode that he was waiting for an “old friend”.
What an absolutely titanic way to start off this season, we see the cracks showing between the two sides set to save the world from the oncoming threat, we have reunification leading to revelations, the healing of old wounds, and a culmination of the people best set to ensure the survival of both Westeros and the known world. Without them, its gonna be a real Long Night. *rimshot*
While I’m sad that I know I have but a few more pages of the Tales of Westeros to write, I know that this season will give us plenty to talk about before we hear the final notes of the Song of Ice and Fire. I’m Grand Master Zed, and as always, Valar Morghulis.
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