Game of Thrones

Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in the season 8 premiere of "Game of Thrones" as lovebirds Jon Snow and Queen Daenerys. The pair managed to find time for a little mid-episode flirting by a picturesque waterfall after a dragon ride around the North.

As I settled in to watch the “Game of Thrones” season premiere Sunday night, a wave of sadness came over me.

This would be the last time my husband and I would tune in to the beginning of a “Thrones” season, anticipating what was to come for all of our favorite characters. We still have a month of episodes left until the show officially signs off, and I’m already mourning the end.

I hate when things are over (original, right?).

For the most part, the episode itself was more of a place-setter than anything else, featuring a slew of long-awaited reunions.

Jon and Bran. Jon and Arya. Sansa and Tyrion. Arya and the Hound, then Arya and Gendry. Sparks flew during the latter encounter, and not from the hearth where Gendry was forging weapons for the war to come.

Arya

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark 

I wouldn’t mind seeing Arya get a worthy love interest, but is there time for romance when an army of ice zombies are marching your way?

Jon and Dany sure think so; the pair even managed to find time for a little mid-episode flirting by a picturesque waterfall after a dragon ride around the North.

That’s not a euphemism; Jon actually rode Rhaegal, the dragon named after his father.

I’m completely here for Jon and Dany, related or not. As Davos said in the premiere, if they can survive the Night King, wouldn’t it be nice for the Seven Kingdoms to be ruled by a just queen and an honorable man?

Dany

But Sam, Jon’s best friend, definitely has something to say about that after his own meeting with Queen Daenerys. It starts out sweet, as he stumbles over his words and asks Dany for a pardon for stealing books from the Citadel and a sword from his family. But the encounter turns dark when Dany recognizes his last name and tells Sam she executed his father and brother for not pledging their allegiance to her.

Sam’s reaction was heartbreaking (I’m assuming he was mourning his brother more than his awful father, who was always hateful to sweet Sam), and one hopes it will resonate with Dany, a mostly just queen who occasionally has a tendency to channel the despotic ruling style of her own late father, the Mad King.

A scene later, and Sam is breaking the truth to Jon, that he’s the real heir to the Iron Throne, son of Lyanna Stark and Dany’s brother, Rhaegar. Jon doesn’t believe it at first and, even when he does, still seems ready to yield the title in favor of the woman he loves. But that isn’t good enough for Sam, who thinks Jon would be a better ruler.

I’d honestly forgotten that Dany killed Sam’s dad and brother, but that fact and Sam’s loyalty to Jon are going to be crucial as we move forward.

Jon Snow

We all knew the truth about Jon’s parentage going into the final season; the question was how he’d find out and react, and what that would mean for Dany. Jon’s never cared about any crowns, while Dany most definitely does, and you had to wonder what she’d do if her path to the Iron Throne was threatened by a male heir, even one she clearly has the hots for.

It would have been a legitimate source of tension, but I figured the honorable Jon would step aside for his queen. Or that they’d just get married and rule together. But Sam pushing him to claim his birthright could certainly change that.

Are we going to see a wedge between the lovebirds already? And how funny that the wedge would be over power and not that, you know, they’re related. When in Rome …

But all of this court intrigue is really beside the point at the moment, and marked one of several times during the episode I wanted to shake the characters and remind them of the stakes.

There are ICE ZOMBIES marching toward Winterfell. Maybe we can sort all this other stuff out later you guys?

Night King

A few more random thoughts before we go:

– What is going on with Tyrion? I’m in denial that he might be jealous of Dany and Jon’s budding romance. There was that dark look in the season 7 finale, when he witnessed Jon going into her cabin late at night to consummate their flirtation. Is Tyrion secretly in love with the queen and, if so, whyyyy? We really don’t have time for that.

Tyrion

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion 

Either way, he certainly appears to be off his game, something Sansa points out when he insists Cersei’s army will be marching north to fight with them.

Really, Sansa says in so many words, you actually believe her? And then she follows it with a cutting line straight out of Cersei’s playbook: “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.”

– Speaking of Cersei, she continues her plotting in King’s Landing. The Golden Company has arrived from Essos and will fight for her against whoever survives the war up North. I’m OK with her surviving — but only long enough for Arya to take care of her, crossing what is arguably the most important name off her list of targets.

Cersei

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister 

– I hope Sansa and Dany get over their rivalry quickly; it would be a nice change of pace to see them as allies instead of pitted against each other.

Sansa

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark 

– So Tormund, everybody’s favorite wildling, survived the Night King’s assault on the wall at the end of season 7. Hallelujah! I’m sure this means he’s slated for a gnarly death at some point soon, but I’ll take what I can get.

His reappearance, alongside Beric and surviving members of the Night’s Watch, coincided with the episode’s creepiest moment, as they found young Lord Umber dead, his body pinned to a wall surrounded by a spiral pattern created using human arms. A message from the White Walkers, Tormund says. They’re on their way to Winterfell.

– The final scene was a perfect echo to the end of the pilot, when Jaime pushed a young Bran out of a window after he witnessed him hooking up with sister Cersei.

Bran

Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran 

Sunday night, Jaime came face-to-face with Bran, or what’s left of him, just as he arrived at Winterfell. I can’t wait to see what this means for the Kingslayer’s redemption arc.

Contact Casey Gillis at (434) 385-5525 or cgillis@newsadvance.com. Find her on Twitter: @tvcouchpotato.

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