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‘Game Of Thrones’ Power Rankings: Winterfell: Gothamist

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HBO

Last season on Game Of Thrones, Jon & Dany took a memorable boat ride, Sansa & Arya took care of Littlefinger, Samwell & Bran put together the details of Jon Snow’s true parentage, Cersei & Jaime broke up, almost everyone set sail for Winterfell, and the Night King used his zombie dragon to destroy The Wall. This week on the season premiere, Jon and Dany went riding, the Night King made some art, and Bran waited for an old friend. GOT is all about how people jockey for power, so click through for our SPOILER-FILLED season eight Game of Thrones Power Rankings.

1. The Arya Stark Best Friends Good Time Reunion Hour: The Stark children have been through a lot of bad shit since they were separated and scattered to the various corners of the Known World in season one. They’ve been tortured, married off to monsters, raped, blinded, crippled, and forced to listen to Littlefinger monologue—they’ve been literally murdered and literally resurrected. And they’re all so damaged with PTSD, even their reunions haven’t brought a lot of joy (the one exception was when Jon and Sansa first reunited in season six, but then they went back to mistrusting one another almost immediately, sigh). But all that changed in the season premiere when Jon laid eyes on his beloved sibling Bran, and they shared an embrace none of us will soon forget.

Just kidding! Bran is a fucking weirdo robot/raven/tree computer, he doesn’t do hugs. It was the reunion of Arya and Jon that brought a solitary tear to the eye of the GOTPR Powers That Be. When was the last time two people hugged each other and really meant it? (Dany kind of gave Ser Jorah a hug when he got over his greyscale, but it was understandably tentative, as she probably didn’t want him to think she missed him too much.)

As with other GOT season premieres, this was more of a table-setting, calm-before-the-storm type episode. Just because it’s the final season doesn’t mean we don’t have time for Ser Bronn to get some sexposition in! This episode was a chance to make sure everyone was in the right place before the big battles to come, and also an important moment to remind the audience who cares about whom, what’s at stake for these characters, and why these relationships matter to us so damn much. GOT is at its best when it throws two or three people in a room and lets them, and their shared history, bounce off each other, and this was as good an example of this type of episode as we could expect this late into the game. It was an episode filled with small glances and detailed callbacks, and also spelled-out motivations and heavy foreshadowing, but damn it, I liked it plenty fine and I am really going to miss the dragon incest show, okay?

After we spent the last five or six seasons watching Arya turn into a face-stealing murder machine, it was quite wonderful to see flickers of season one Arya reappear. Between her reunion with Jon, flirting with Gendry, and her slightly-less warm bantering with The Hound, it looks like Arya is getting back in touch with her humanity. Anything that can make Arya smile that doesn’t involve baking Freys into pies is okay to me!

2. Dragon Riding As Foreplay: GOT was always about more than just the big battles—it was also about weird forms of flirting, preferably by people who are related. So what would be sexier than having Jon and Dany ride Drogon and Rhaegal? How about Jon and Dany riding Drogon and Rhaegal to the soundtrack of Aladdin?

Maybe it was a little cheesy…but this is even cheesier:

I’m still not sure whether the show wants us to root for them as a couple, or view them as a doomed romance (“We could stay a thousand years, no one could find us”). The show started out all about inverting the stereotypical fantasy archetypes, but it’s not as clear now whether that is still the focus. I also am not sure whether Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke have no chemistry, or if they have truly exceptional nephew-aunt chemistry. There were some heavy hints dropped that Jon is going to have to choose between his family and Dany before this game (of thrones, aka chairs, this is a chair game now) is over. But the thing I am 100% sure of is that someone needs to invent a dragon saddle ASAP. That does not look comfortable for anyone!

3. Jon Snow Hates His Life: Bran passed the baton to Samwell Tarly to break the news to Jon that his parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, his real name is “Aegon Targaryen,” and oh yeah, he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Samwell just exposition pukes Jon’s entire secret backstory all over him! It’s like, every time Jon thinks things are going his way, a 10-year-old stabs him in the heart (literally).

Kit Harington told EW that this revelation is “the most upsetting thing in the world” to his character. “If Jon could go back in time and say: ‘Whatever you’re about to say, don’t tell me,’ he would. He’d happily be in ignorance,” Harington said.

You know what didn’t come up? Any mention of the fact that Jon and his new girlfriend are RELATED. And what if it NEVER comes up? What if the incest remains subtext rather than text? Thankfully, Harington implies they’re not ignoring it: “He finds out such a massive piece of information. Not only does he find out who his mother is but also that he’s related to the person he’s in love with. It’s hard for any actor to play. It’s not a two-hour movie but eight seasons of playing a character who’s finding out.”

4. The Funniest God Damn Line Reading Of The Week: Tormund Romanticomedybane has been the red-headed gift that keeps on giving ever since he was introduced back in season three. Between his one-sided love affair with Brienne, his fascination with euphemisms for male genitalia, and his deep loyalty to Jon Snow, he makes every scene he’s in all the better. His absolutely perfect line reading of “I’ve always had blue eyes” might be his greatest moment on the show—though we’re still holding out hope that we get a glimpse of his and Brienne’s great big monster offspring one day.

5. Bran Staring At People Dot Gif: Since he went north of the wall in season four and trained to become a raven who is also a tree who is also a rude little shit who gets his friends killed, Bran has been known around these parts as The Worst Teenager In The Known World. But something has changed. Bran… is kinda great now.

Literally one-third of this episode was Bran staring at people—and it was hilarious and creepy every time. Jon gave him a big hug and he responded like a malfunctioning calculator. He loomed menacingly in the background of scenes. He sat in doorways for hours “waiting for an old friend.” He knows everything that has happened and what everybody is hiding, and the only thing he does with that knowledge is yell at everyone he meets, “WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS,” which should be the sigil for the final season of GOT.

So the episode ends with the one reunion a lot of people forgot about entirely—Jaime and Bran they haven’t seen each other since Jaime pushed him out of a window in the pilot, thereby jumpstarting the war between the Starks and Lannisters. They have some unfinished business, to put it mildly (although who knows, maybe Bran doesn’t give a shit anymore because if it wasn’t for that act, he never would have become a three-eyed raven, and therefore never would have known that his half-brother is actually his cousin).

One other question: is Winterfell shockingly handicap-accessible? Or was Bran stuck outside because no one remembered to help him move?

6. The Night King, Outsider Artist: We didn’t see the army of the dead marching toward Winterfell, but the Night King did leave behind one of his weirdo art projects along the way. Unfortunately for young Ned Umber, he turned out to be the canvas. Is this a White Walker graffiti tag? Does it purposefully resemble the Targaryen sigil? Is it a callback/echo of the dead bodies from the pilot? Is it a key to understanding the Night King’s motivation? Does it have something to do with Fibonacci? Or is it just supposed to be super duper spooky?

7. The Smartest Person Sansa Has Ever Known (Up Until Season Five): It’s increasingly hard to understand how Tyrion fits into this narrative now. For the first four seasons, he was arguably the lead of the entire ensemble, the most complicated, lovable, brilliant character in the entire show. Since hooking up with Dany in season five, he’s become increasingly adrift. Sometimes it seems like he’s in love with Dany, sometimes it seems like he thinks she’s going mad like her father. The strategist behind the Battle of the Blackwater became the dude who idiotically suggested Jon Snow should lead a ragtag team behind The Wall to snag a wight on the off-chance that his sister—who would never help Tyrion in a million years—would join forces with them.

Sansa used to think Tyrion was the smartest person she knew, but now she knows better. Arya thinks Sansa is the smartest person she knows, which Jon doesn’t quite agree with. Meanwhile, I personally think Ser Davos is the only smart person on this show at this point. Although, he does have a wife somewhere out there he hasn’t seen in about five years…

8. Rehashing Arguments About Trust And Titles On The Eve Of A War With A Bunch Of Undead Zombies: Sansa Stark may be the smartest person Arya knows, but the tension and mistrust between her and Dany is frustrating and, so far, forced. Or maybe it makes total sense that someone who spent that much time around master manipulators like Cersei and Littlefinger and Ramsay Bolton assumes the absolute worst about everyone, even when her brother is vouching for them. The thing is, I caught a rewatch of “Hardhome” the other day, and if I were Jon Snow, I too would be screaming at everyone I know that all this other stuff doesn’t matter because the Night King is resurrecting dead humans to act out his Thriller cosplay fantasies.

Why can’t they just talk to each other—wasn’t that the whole point of their heart-to-heart after The Battle of The Bastards? At least they have more chemistry than Jon and Dany. Wait…if they’re not related…does that…change everything? Are Jon/Sansa shippers in for a happy ending? Eh, I still don’t think so.

Sansa does have one really good point: how are they gonna feed all those armies (and the dragons) through winter? Maybe she is the smartest character on this show.

9. Disgruntled Northerners Attend Their Local City Council Meeting To Air Some Grievances: Northerners really don’t trust outsiders. Or anyone who has left the North for any reason at any time. They’re basically like the townspeople in South Park who go “rabble rabble rabble” whenever one of them speaks loudly. But hey, at least we got to check in on our Write-In Campaign To Elect Lord Lyanna Mormont King Of The Seven Kingdoms.

10. Wrapping Up Extraneous Plotlines In A Timely And Efficient Manner: When season seven ended with Theon revealing his super no-penis strength, I was dreading having to spend any time during the final episodes on a quest with him. But in just three scenes, the entire Theon/Yara rescue plot was resolved. 1. Show audience exactly where Yara is. 2. Have Euron distracted by sex with Cersei. 3. Kill off Mac from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia? 4. Theon rescues Yara, Yara headbutts Theon, all is forgiven. 5. Yara gives Theon permission to complete his redemption arc and die in battle for the Starks.

Yara is now heading back to retake the Iron Islands. Hmm, I wonder if it will be significant that she will have a fortified place “somewhere the dead can’t go” for Dany and co. in case things go to shit at Winterfell. As the Drowned God might say, what is plot may never die.

11. The Statue In Honor Of Ned Stark’s Man Bun: The last time Jon saw Ned, Ned promised him we would tell him the truth about his mother “when we see each other again.” Cut to seven seasons later: Jon saw Ned in the crypts under Winterfell for the first time, and learned about his mother. It’s another kept promise from the most honorable man in Westeros.

As for the real Ned Stark, actor Sean Bean has fallen behind on recent episodes of the show. But he did offer his thoughts to Vulture about why the show was such a success:

I mean, the sheer balls of the thing. It takes no prisoners. It touches upon all those very deep emotions — anger and jealousy and love and hate. People can see themselves in it. The characters might seem out of this world, but they’re very much like all of us. And anything can happen. When you can kill the main character in the first series, everybody’s in danger! It’s pure fantasy, but rooted in issues with power — the power of the throne, the power of the families, and the lengths that they would go to to achieve this ultimate power, which is quite a curious thing.

12. Finding Out Your Dad And Brother Were Killed By Your Best Friend’s New Girlfriend Right After Joking With Her About Needing To Be Pardoned For Stealing A Sword From Your Family And Oh God It’s So Awkward: It was Samwell’s lowest moment, it was actor John Bradley finest moment.

His second finest moment of the week: Bradley talked to EW about breaking the big news to Jon Snow, and he compared it to “Revolution 9” and I am speechless:

“You know The Beatles White Album? Just toward the end is ‘Revolution 9,’ which is a very sinister soundscape. The inclusion of that on the album makes you doubt what you’ve heard before it, makes the rest sound darker and more dire. You thought you had an angle on the album but that track means nothing you’ve heard before can be trusted. With Jon, he can review his entire life backwards and see everything completely different and in sinister terms even if [withholding his parentage] was done for the right reasons. Everything he’s done seems to have been compromised.”

13. Elephants: It was a very bad week for Westerosi rulers who had their hearts set on having elephants fighting alongside their army. But it’s just like Chekov said: if you mention an elephant in the first episode of the final season of your prestige fantasy drama, then elephants must trample over some undead zombies by the final episode of the final season of your prestige fantasy drama. It’s just the rules of drama, I don’t make them.

In the meantime, the elephant-deficient Cersei must make do with Psychotic Pirate Joshua Jackson, whose arrogance is indistinguishable from his charm. “You’re not boring, I’ll give you that,” Cersei says after they’ve slept together. “You might be the most arrogant man I’ve ever met. I like that…but now I wanna be alone.” She giveth and she taketh. Just like the Golden Company’s tantalizing promise of war elephants.

14. Qyburnus-Interruptus: After Creative Consultant Adam Friedberg was brought back to the fold to liven up the only Ser Bronn scene of the episode, let’s just say the scene started working. “I am the only man you’ve ever met who shot a dragon!”

For the first time in a long while, we had the triumphant return of pointless sexposition, only for Qyburn—who I think is a sciencesexual?—to interrupt Bronn’s four-way. Just to make his day even worse, Qyburn then said that Cersei wants him to track down her treasonous brothers, and kill them using the crossbow Tyrion used to kill Tywin on the toilet. “That fuckin’ family,” Bronn sighs, and it’s almost an understatement.

15. Jaime “This Is Fine” Lannister:

The Viserys Targaryen Memorial Least Powerful Person Of The Week Award: We could talk about Ser Bronn’s no-win situation in King’s Landing, or the almost-certain doom of Theon Greyjoy, but I think this week, we have to hand the award to
Lord Ned Umber
, whose scream is going to haunt my dreams tonight:

But let’s not forget This Poor Bastard, who is stuck between a rock and a hard place:

Or maybe the truly least powerful person was Late Late Show writer Lawrence Dai, whom James Corden locked in a room to bingewatch the entire series over one very delirious weekend.

The Ser Pounce Memorial Most Powerful Pet Of The Week Award: The elephants are not well-suited to long sea voyages, and the North is far too cold for the Dragons. But they sure got a lot of screen time: the first third of the episode mostly consisted of people looking up in awe at the dragons, either reacting with excitement (Arya) or trepidation (Sansa). Then we got the Jon/Dany dragon riding, your mileage may vary. And to top it off, the dragons got to learn how baby dragons are made.

The Hodoriffic Honorary Minor Character Of The Week Award: Brienne Of Fucking Tarth was robbed of precious screentime this episode (you could spot her standing behind Sansa at the start of the episode and in the background during the Winterfell City Council meeting), so we’ll give this one to Tyrion, Varys and Ser Davos, three all-time great GOT characters who didn’t get a lot to do here besides throw around a few eunuch jokes. The best part was when these “lonely old men” started discussing an arranged marriage between their surrogate kids, which is basically the plot of The Fantasticks. All these dang young people!! They never want to talk about how we all will die, what is wrong with them!!!

Anderson Cooper Award For Newscaster Who Seamlessly Becomes A White Walker: Self-explanatory.

Revamped Opening Credits Explained: Despite adding and subtracting locations based on where episodes were set, the opening credits have been incredibly consistent for the last seven seasons. With most of the characters in one of three places now (Winterfell, King’s Landing, The Wall), the production studio decided to completely revamp the intro for the final season.

“You’re not getting this overarching view anymore. You’re getting this down-low, really specific micro view of what’s going on,” Kirk Shintani, who led the CG team for the credits for the first seven seasons and was the art director for the season eight credits, told BuzzFeed. Creative director Angus Wall added, “We wanted to explore the idea that there was more under the surface than previous seasons, and that there was an interior and a depth in terms of the layers beneath the surface that we had only hinted at before.” You can get a complete breakdown of the new parts here.

Hey, Remember That Thing That Happened? Of The Week: Oh yeah, Tyrion and Sansa were married like twenty years ago! The last time they saw each other was at Joffrey’s wedding in the second episode of season four (“The Lion and The Rose”), when Sansa conveniently slipped out just as Joffrey was poisoned to death. “A miserable affair,” Tyrion reminisced. “It had its moments,” Sansa countered. They’re both survivors now (their marriage was annulled because it was never consummated), even if Tyrion is an idiot to believe his sister will actually follow through on sending troops to Winterfell.

BOATSEX WATCH 2019: How Much Pro-Incest Propaganda Was In The Episode? After they took a romantic/corny dragon flight to a secluded spot, Jon made out with his aunt and Dany made out with her nephew. Seems pretty pro-incest to me! Considering that Rhaegal let Jon touch him in the first place, maybe Dany’s spider sense should have been going off a lot sooner.

Way Beyond The Wall: With all the necessary contracting that has happened over the last two seasons of GOT—we only visited three locations this week, and I suspect we may not be seeing The Wall much in the coming weeks—we got to check-in with all the major characters (except Ghost 🙁 ) who are still alive this week. Which just leaves us wondering about all the scattered side characters floating around the Known World, including: Melisandre, Robyn Arryn (aka Prepubescent Julian Casablancas), Salladhor Saan, Daario Naharis 2.0, Meera Reed, Edmure Tully (?), The Children Of The Forest (maybe some of them are still kicking?), The Faceless Men (I guess they count?), and of course, the mighty Hot Pie.

On next week’s episode of GOT, Jaime goes before the Northern lords and everyone at Winterfell gets ready to battle the White Walkers. Until then, Jack White already has the right complexion for a White Walker, so let’s just take this to its logical conclusion.





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