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.
1. Gendry and Arya?
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.
2. Waiting For A Friend
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.
3. Lannister Hair
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.
4. Riding the Right Dragon
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.
5. Tyrion the Traitor?
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.
6. Coming Full Circle
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.