This article is dark and full of spoilers.
The show opens to a long parade of soldiers marching through the streets outside of Winterfell. The first familiar face we meet is Arya; it is fitting because In at least two past episodes Arya served as a reflection of the audience. She is playing this role again, but now as a grown woman.
Arya sees her beloved brother Jon riding next to Daenerys. She seems to want to call out to him but doesn’t. Jon and Dany meet Sansa, Bran, and the Lords and Bannerman in the courtyard. This scene was parallel to the first episode of the first season when the starks meet the Lannisters in the courtyard. Bran cuts to the chase immediately and tells everyone that the Wall has been breached and the Knight King is on the way. Lyanna Mormont points out the obvious that Jon renounced his title as King in the North by bending the knee to Daenerys. Jon argues that he did so to save the North.
Tyrion and Sansa reunite a scene that was very interesting given their history of forced marriage and Sansa’s deep dislike and mistrust of the Lannister family. Jon and Arya later reunite in the Godswood. This scene was one that viewers have been looking forward to for years.
It shows how far the Starks have come. These characters have all grown up and changed so much. Bran has become the Three-Eyed Raven, Sansa has become the Lady of Winterfell, and a master of secrets. Jon has literally come back from the dead. Arya has become a Faceless Man and a master assassin. Jon has come home to his family, but a family he no longer knows.
Back at King's Landing, the Golden Company arrives, and Cersei continues to spiral into madness. She overestimated the resources and abilities of the Golden Company. It is also pretty clear she is feeling the weight of the world by herself. She has only Qyburn and The Mountain. It will be interesting to see the part Qyburn will play this year. We meet up with Euron, who still has his niece, Yara in captivity. The circulating theory that Euron had cut Yara’s tongue out was quickly deterred as the two engaged in some pretty useless dialog.
Qyburn goes to Bronn and offers him wealth and prosperity in exchange for killing Jaime and Tyrion with the crossbow that Tyrion used to murder Tywin as he sat on the toilet. Theoretically, Bronn could get close to Tyrion and Jaime, as he has had relationships with them.
Euron is distracted by Cersei enough that Theon and the Ironborn are able to board The Silence and free Yara. What this means for the Iron Island’s role in the Great War, we don’t know yet, but it seems that Theon is headed back to his childhood home of Winterfell to fight by Jon’s side.
Davos is once again the most useful person in the world as he explains to Tyrion that Daenerys needs to earn the love and trust of the people of the North in order to lead them. Davos suggests out loud the idea of Daenerys and Jon getting married as a way to uniting the Seven Kingdoms.
We meet up to the real stars of the show, Rhaegal, and Drogon. The dragons are not eating well and don’t like the North. Jon climbs aboard Rhaegal, and they pair set off together. Jon becoming a dragonrider has been a theory that fans of the show and books have been writing and talking about for decades now.
We then come to a standout scene. Daenerys and Jorah go to meet and thank Samwell for saving Ser Jorah’s life when he had Greyscale. The scene is very sweet until it is revealed that Daenerys executed Sam’s brother and father. John Bradley is absolutely phenomenal in this scene. Sam then meets up with Jon and blurts out the secret of Jon’s heritage. Jon is the heir to the Iron Throne. Sam also asks a crucial question: would Daenerys give up her crown to protect the kingdom?
We then come to find that Ser Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane are both alive and well, despite being at Eastwatch when the Knight King decimated the Wall. In the episode’s first bit of true horror, Lord Ned Umber has been killed, turned into a wight and left to terrorize the living.
This episode was all about setting the stage for the upcoming drama and battles to come. This was setting the pieces in the game before we play. The pace of the show was excellent, and it was an hour that was over far, far too fast. Standout performance hands down was John Bradley. He was truly born to play Sam.
This was a difficult episode to get right, and the creators got it right. It’s going to be an exhilarating season, and almost anything could happen at this point.