There’s a saying around these parts that ‘what is dead may never die’ and with the final season already upon us the maester decided to pen a bit more words before we say goodbye to Game of Thrones as we know it. Today’s lesson: swords. Valyrian steel swords are the best weapons the living have against the dead, so what better moment than now, before the battle is done, to go through them, and a few other named swords as well.
Named swords (and other kind of weapons) can be found in both fantasy and history. Take Excalibur as an example, the legendary sword from the legends of King Arthur -which may be even more popular than the king himself. Or Sting, the Elvish blade that belonged to Bilbo Baggins (and then Frodo) in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Why would people name their swords, though? To be fair, naming inanimate objects (like ships, guitars or even cars) isn’t that uncommon. But when it comes to weapons, there can be a number of different reasons.
A well-manufactured sword wasn’t cheap. Bear in mind that making one can take a lot of time, especially if it’s a labor of love. A sword is a unique kind of weapon – hardly just a piece of pointy metal. It comes in a variety of shapes and designs (two-handed swords such as the claymore, double-edged swords like the greatswords or the longswords, edgeless such as the rapier, curved like the falchion or the katana), each with its own traits.
As an audience, we’re used to see brief montages of molten metal being poured into a cast, then some hammering here and there and ta-da, the sword is done.
A standard, cheap sword could be ready in a matter of days, but a more ornate one could take weeks – at best. It’s not just a butter knife, after all.
Swordmaking was an art, so it stands to reason that a good sword couldn’t be made by any blacksmith. You’d need a swordsmith, someone with the skill to not just shape the iron into a steel blade that is hard enough – but resilient and flexible as well, so they can bend but not break.
But most importantly, a swordsmith needed to know how to temper a blade. Back then there was no way to measure time or temperature like we can nowadays – no clocks or thermometers of any kind. So he had to rely on his experience and trust his instincts.
No easy task, as one mistake may possibly ruin a good blade, and then all that work would go to waste.
And that’s not even half of the process, since the blade would later need to be quenched (in water, oil or brine) and then polished, sharpened and decorated (if requested by the client).
Once done with all that, the blade still needed a hilt. And not just any hilt, there were no “one size fits all” kind of hilt, oh no – it had to fit perfectly, so the blade could be useable. Hilts could be made of metal, hard wood or bone, and decorated by incrusting jewels in it, give the pommel a particular shape or etch patterns in the grip.
As it still happens with people who are good at their job, talented swordsmiths were recommended and thrived thanks to word of mouth. And swords, especially if custom-made, were among the most valuable things someone might have in the Middle Ages. So it’s no surprise that the people who owned a sword would want to call attention to them (especially if we’re talking about kings or skilled warriors).
Some historical swords survive to this day and are on display at museums, such as “Tizona”, which belonged to Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (“El Cid”) or Charlemagne’s sword, “Joyeuse”. And mythical swords keep showing up in fiction and are sold as non-lethal replicas.
There are places like Toledo (in Spain) where you can find “Ice and Fire” swords, from both the novels and the TV show. And it’s in this case where arguably Arya got the last laugh, because Needle can be obtained by collectors but the Hound’s sword is nowhere to be seen (his helmet is another story, but alas, it’s not a sword).
Just a handful of (named) swords have appeared in Game of Thrones, and even less of them remain in play. No doubt that they’ll prove valuable in the battle against the Army of the Dead, so I’d expect to see them along with their owners.
But which ones are they? Here’s a bit of a refresher:
Eddard’s sword, Ice, is no more. But the Valyrian steel greatsword belonged to House Stark for hundreds of years (it comes from the Age of Heroes! Perhaps we’ll see it in the prequel?) before being melted by Tywin Lannister in order to make two other swords.
Greatswords were the largest weapons of their kind, and couldn’t be wielded with only one hand, since they were both long and heavy. They were as big as a person, so GRRM’s description of Ice (as taller than Robb) was pretty accurate.
Despite Valyrian steel is no common steel (it’s much lighter and also sharper, and doesn’t need to be sharpened since it won’t lose its edge), George himself suggests that it’s not likely Ned ever used Ice in battle, since it was so large and heavy (remember Theon had to hold it for Ned to be able to remove it from its scabbard!), which would have made him slow and clumsy.
So it seems it was more of a family heirloom reserved for special occasions (beheadings!) than a sword used for actual combat.
Arya’s weapon, according to actual medieval weapon experts, is more similar to a foil than a medieval weapon, since it’s not a full blade and its most important part was -you guessed it- the pointy end. Although it was used as a practice weapon for small-swords (the weapon of choice between mid 17th and late 18th century) you just needed to take away the protection to make it sharp and dangerous.
Much like Syrio Forel taught Arya about the water dance, the foil wasn’t used to hack, slash or hammer the opponent. It required near-perfect accuracy, since the user would need to target the vital organs of the enemy.
Duel weapons weren’t meant to be used in warfare (they were more useful as sidearms, like a bayonet), but they were highly effective in one-on-one fights, and they were also used as status symbols, not too different to, say, a top hat. If you wanted to look elegant and/or important, carrying a duel sword with you was a must.
Of course, that’s not the case nowadays, though small swords are still part of uniforms in both military academies or institutions.
Longclaw is a bastard sword, which is either ironic or appropriate depending on how you look at it.
Bastard swords were in the middle of the road between greatswords (such as Ice) and longswords (like both Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail). That’s one of the reasons this weapon got a name like that, since it couldn’t be categorized as one or the other.
The grip is long enough it can be held with two hands, but it’s not as heavy as a greatsword, which allows it to be used with one hand, no problem.
But what really makes it stand out from the other weapons in the show is the pommel, which looks like the head of Jon’s direwolf, Ghost. Originally a bear, Jeor Mormont had it replaced so the sword could be a present for his then personal steward.
It should be noted that pommels weren’t just decorative, they were meant to act as counterweights – a heavy pommel will result in a lighter tip, easier to maneuver, whereas a lighter pommel will have the opposite effect (but in that case the blade will hit harder). There wasn’t a blueprint for a “correct balance” since there could be different purposes for a blade.
A heavier tip would be useful to knock an opponent down with a strong enough blow, causing damage both to the body (and possibly the armor or chainmail) in the process. A forceful whack may also either break a shield or make the foe drop it.
On the other hand, a lighter tip was easier to direct to a vulnerable spot – and then thrust. Stick them with the pointy end.
Pommels doubled as weapons in their own right, too, as blunt instruments. Useful for striking enemies in weak spots – the face, for instance. It was a non-lethal (albeit painful) alternative to fell someone, unless the pommel was used to hit repeatedly, in which case things could get messy.
A lot of pommels were plain and round (or shaped like a pear of sorts), but some of them (like Jon’s) were unique, reflecting their owners’ beliefs or culture. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different varieties and all of them tell different stories. We’ll soon get to see how Jon’s story will conclude – and I think the Night King may (or shouldn’t) not be too eager to get close to his valyrian steel blade.
OATHKEEPER / WIDOW’S WAIL
Both Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail are Valyrian steel longswords that were made from Ned Stark’s greatsword, Ice. The longsword got its namesake not for having a long blade, but a grip that was intended for two-handed use. Its purpose was to be a weapon for warfare, and were mostly used by full-plate armored knights.
Longswords have a great reach and were able to cut off limbs or heads with a single clean stroke. If used by a knight on horseback, the thrusting ability of the weapon became especially dangerous, being able to be lodged deep into the bodies of enemy combatants.
They were quick, reliable and strong weapons, useful both for the battlefield and one-on-one duels, which made them a standard military sword for at least a couple of centuries. By the late 15th century they started to decline, though, and became obsolete by the time the 16th century arrived, replaced by rapiers and broadswords, among other kinds of blades.
It’s safe to assume Oathkeeper will remain in Brienne’s hands, and the same can be said about Jaime and Widow’s Wail – though it’s gonna be interesting to see how the Kingslayer handles himself against the undead. Losing his right hand turned him into a mediocre fighter to say the least (he has received help by both Dickon and Bronn in battle), but he remains a brave warrior who’s willing to risk his skin in order to change the outcome of a fight – he did try to take Dany out even if it meant getting burned to a crisp by Drogon.
The name of Brienne’s sword perfectly sums her up – she’s loyal and determined and fulfilled his oaths to both Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark (which was quite satisfying to watch, considering Brienne’s quest in the novels has been unfortunate so far). Jaime’s weapon keeps the name Joffrey chose for it (“He really was a cunt”, in the words of the late Olenna Tyrell), which is a bit curious. Conscious choice to honor the memory of his deceased son? Or not enough interest to rename it? Be that as it may, it’s rather apt that, in a way, Ned’s sword is coming home at long last.
The ancestral sword of House Tarly is a two-handed greatsword, a (seemingly) smaller one than Ice however, and thus easier to handle: Sam was able to remove it from its stand with a single hand!
As one of the few remaining Valyrian steel blades, it is sure to see battle against the Army of the Dead soon enough, which is yet another difference with the Stark ancestral sword, which was more of a ceremonial weapon than one designed for combat.
While Ned’s sword was relatively plain-looking, Heartsbane is richly decorated, its hilt depicting a hunting scene and the blade itself sporting a beautiful pattern. The prop makers really went to town with it, and it’s kind of a shame the camera just cannot pick up every detail.
Since Sam is not a fighter and we probably won’t see him riding into battle, he’ll give up the sword so someone else can use it. It’d be far too valuable an asset to waste. In the trailer, and the next episode preview, we see it’s Jorah he gives it to, appropriately.
Assuming Heartsbane doesn’t get lost (if, say, Jorah gets killed), then by the time all is said and done, it should return to Sam’s hands.
It is possible that the show is done with Lightbringer – it was never given all that much attention to begin with, and once Stannis was out of the picture, the sword was gone as well. The legend of Azor Ahai could make its way to the final season if one of my theories regarding Melisandre proves to be correct, but I’m not sure the screenwriters will want to drop some more lore in what surely will be some action-packed episodes.
So why include Lightbringer at all? Well, it has to do with the “magic sword” theme, which I feel couldn’t be left out from the article.
Magic or legendary swords are a staple of the fantasy genre, there’s at least one in most popular written fiction. But they have their roots in real ancient history.
Much like in Game of Thrones, there were swords that passed down from generation to generation, and were kept as a symbol of status (especially if the sword was used in an important battle, killed many enemies or belonged to a famous warrior) and beloved family treasures.
And some of them were believed to hold a soul (or many souls) inside – it could be one of its own, its maker’s soul or the stolen spirits of its victims.
There were swords that were considered to be cursed or bloodthirsty, or even worse, possessed by a demon. It was up to the wielder to see if he was able to control such blades.
The story of Lightbringer in the Ice and Fire novels follows this well-established path, by describing how Azor Ahai’s sword was imbued with the soul of his wife Nissa Nissa after he drove the blade through her heart, turning it into a magic sword made of living fire.
Whether or not a variation of Azor Ahai’s legend will happen in the adaptation remains to be seen.
Hello again. It’s been a while.
Much like the Starks after retaking Winterfell from the Boltons, I feel happy to be back at writing about Game of Thrones. The show is about to complete the final lap, and the journey we started back in 2011 is coming to an end.
It’s both with a sense of excitement and curiosity that I’ll be finally be able to find out how my “Endgame” theories stack up against the final six episodes. I’m expecting to be wrong about a lot of things, but that’s part of the fun, to be surprised by the twists and turns of the narrative.
It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to the show, even if we still have two novels and a HBO prequel to look forward to. There’s nothing quite like it, and I’m confident David and Dan will stick the landing, thus cementing its place as one of the best TV series from our time. Surely not everyone will like the ending, but hopefully it’ll be satisfying for most fans.
But the epilogue is still some weeks away, and even after the credits roll for the last time, there’ll be still a lot to discuss and write about. I hope you enjoyed this new article and the ones that’ll follow, this time with a bit of historical flavor.
The second episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 is right around the corner! While it remains without a title for now, there is plenty of anticipation and fervor awaiting before the Battle of Winterfell arrives on our screens and doorsteps.
The first scene we see in the preview is that of Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the infamous Kinglsayer, standing before the court at Winterfell. As expected, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is less than thrilled to see the sight of the man who had killed her father. This may perhaps be a bit of a misdirect as Daenerys is eager to not be her father, but meeting the man who had stabbed her father through the heart may nevertheless bring forth an emotional, trauma-imbued confrontation. It looks like only Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) may be happy to see his brother.
Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Daenerys may be finding common ground in not trusting Cersei (Lena Headey), which could signal an overcoming of hostilities between the two. It also suggests that the news of Cersei’s betrayal is now within the halls of Winterfell, which is probably not great news for Tyrion.
Arya (Maisie Williams) voices her desire to see this new face of Death as the Winterfell preparations for battle fill the screen in quick edits. Jorah (Iain Glen) appears to be holding Samwell Tarly’s Valyrian steel sword, Heartsbane; Daenerys approaches a brooding Jon (Kit Harington) in the crypts beneath Winterfell, in a scene that could mean Daenerys is now also aware of Jon’s parentage; Arya loosens a bow and arrow in another echo to the series premiere; and last but not least, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) announces that Winterfell has until sunrise, if that, to prepare for the Night King and the Army of the Dead.
What are your predictions for Episode 8.02? Who do you think will make it? How uncomfortable is Jaime’s first conversation with Bran (Isaac Hemsptead-Wright) going to be? Chime in below!
Con of Thrones has announced an exciting addition to the Game of Thrones convention taking place on Nashville this upcoming July: The Ringer’s Binge Mode podcast!
Wonderful returning guests Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin will be in attendance for all three days of Con of Thrones 2019 and participate in a multitue of panels. They are the hosts of Binge Mode, which is not only the most-popular Game of Thrones podcast on the Apple Podcasts charts—it’s on the top 10 list of podcasts overall!
Binge Mode joins a growing guest lineup, such as other returning fan-favorite podcasts History of Westeros and A Storm of Spoilers, as well as Game of Thrones starring cast members Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) and John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), both of whom will be attending the convention for the first time ever. And let’s not forget about the wolf dogs, with whom you’ll get the opportunity to take a photo!
Con of Thrones, the premier convention for fans of Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, will take place in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Music City Center, on July 12–14. Tickets are still available at ConOfThrones.net/register!
Watchers on the Wall are proud to be the official programming partner for Con of Thrones, working with Mischief Management. Look for regular updates and additional info at the official Con of Thrones Facebook, Twitter, andInstagram, with more to come in the near future. We hope we see you in Nashville this Summer!
If you were wondering about what the Night King’s spiral-like symbols signifies, especially after its last startling appearance during the season eight premiere, the writer behind the episode is here to tell all—and it really appears to be all. Also, there’s that small matter of Jon learning the truth about his parents and royal status…
At the New York Post, Lauren Sarner interviews the writer behind “Winterfell”, Dave Hill, who admits “there’s always a lot of pressure” writing Game of Thrones, though it was especially challenging to write Jon learning the truth about his parentage:
“This scene was trickier than many because Sam is conveying information that we the audience already know, and that Jon has to hear pretty much in its entirety to get the full effect,” Hill explains. “But it’s tough to balance so much necessary exposition and rehashing (for the audience) with the emotional charge that makes the moment actually land with the audience. Luckily for me, John Bradley and Kit Harington could perform the words of a phonebook, and David Nutter would win an Emmy for directing it.”
Speaking of another key scene in “Winterfell”, Hill opens up about the spiral symbol we have seen the White Walkers use many times, though never as gruesomely as in Last Hearth. The symbol has been described before as a way to show they have a culture, distinguishing them from their mindless thralls, but there’s more to it than that:
“As we saw with Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven,” Hill begins, referring to one of the most consequential yet oft-overlooked visions in season six’s ‘The Door’, “The spiral pattern was sacred to the Children of the Forest, who created the Night King by sacrificing a captured man in a spiral ‘henge of stones.’ The Night King then adopted the symbol as a sort of blasphemy, like Satan with the upside-down cross.”
That’s simply fascinating. Honestly, I don’t know how it never occurred to me that recreating the Children’s Stonehenge-like art with body parts may have been a purposeful perversion instead of just an honest replica. Thankfully, others in the fandom have been more astute than me. In fact, Watchers on the Wall’s own contributor JoeMagician advanced this theory on his Youtube channel just a few days ago!
Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) unleashes his mad fury in season seven’s “Stormborn”
In recent interviews, Pilou Asbæk talked about what’s motivating Euron in season 8, Bella Ramsey reflected on Lyanna Mormont’s strength, and Isaac Hempstead Wright joked with Jimmy Kimmel about the the theory that Bran is the Night King.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Asbæk discussed the evolution of Euron Greyjoy and revealed that quite a lot of the differences between Euron in season 6 and 7 had to do with Asbæk’s increased creative input. For example, Euron was toned down considerably in the Kingsmoot from what had been originally planned.
“I had some great lines at the Kingsmoot that they took away,” he said. “I had some lines where he’s talking to Yara and then, there was like 20 more lines where he was being ruthless, where he was like doing a comedy show for the Iron Islands. And [David Benioff and Dan Weiss] were like, ‘This is too much.’
By contrast, in season 7 when Benioff and Weiss wanted to omit Euron’s “two good hands” line, Asbæk felt comfortable enough to fight to keep it.
“Because I had more confidence in season 7 and felt like I belonged more, I went to them like, ‘Guys, don’t take it away. I know exactly how to be this guy, he’s gotta be charming, he’s gotta be arrogant, he’s gotta look Jaime right in the eye and say it with the biggest fucking smile — because he’s an idiot and a prick and that’s what I like about the character,” he said.
Discussing Euron’s motivations this season, Asbæk doesn’t seem to think that Theon and Yara are really on their uncle’s radar.
“I don’t think Euron gives a shit [about them].” he said. “For Euron his main focus is power and Theon doesn’t have any. Yara and Theon are nothing to him. They’re not a concern.”
Cersei, on the other hand, is very much at the forefront of Euron’s mind.
“He thinks Cersei is sexy and he wants to be the king with her and wants to be on the Iron Throne,” he said. “Because what’s more sexy than a powerful lady? He wants to become the king of the Seven Kingdoms. He’s also blackmailing Cersei — if you want a fleet you gotta do stuff.”
As for Euron’s longevity … of course, Asbæk couldn’t disclose if, how or when Euron dies, but he did strongly hint that, whatever happens, Euron won’t go out quietly.
“My agent sent me a text that said the most likely character to die first is me,” he said. “So a lot of people are gonna lose money … I do some cool shit,” he said.
Bella Ramsey, who plays Lyanna Mormont, recently spoke to The Cut about her fan favorite character.
“I wasn’t sure whether people would like her or not, because she’s quite a unique character. But I’m very glad and very grateful that people do like her,” she said. According to Ramsey, playing Lyanna really is as empowering as it looks.
“I think [I’ll miss] the opportunity to stand up in front of a load of grown men and shame them,” she said when asked what she’ll miss about Game of Thrones “I think playing confident characters also helps with your own confidence. Say you’re in a situation where you’re feeling anxious or nervous — you can become a character and work through it that way. I’ll miss that about her.”
When asked which character she’s rooting for the most (aside from her own, of course) Ramsey named Arya: “She’s little and powerful. There’s this great line from the show Matilda: ‘Even if you’re little, you can do a lot. You musn’t let a little thing like this stop you.’”
Fun fact, Kerry Ingram was one of the actresses who originated the role of Matilda in the West End. So, in a way, Ramsey just praised Arya with the wisdom of Shireen Baratheon.
Lastly, 20-year old Isaac Hempstead Wright appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to discuss what’s it’s like to have spent literally half his life on a hit HBO show.
Hempstead Wright could “neither confirm nor deny” the theory that Bran is the Night King (by all means, keep adding gasoline to that dumpter fire) and offered some insight (pun intended) into how he does that unsettling Three-Eyed Raven stare.
“I’m kind of getting good at this sort of intense stare but it’s actually aided by the fact that I’m completely blind when I’m on set. I don’t have glasses and I don’t have contact lenses.”
He also demonstrated his ability to do the warg-eyeroll sans CGI. It’s fun! Give it a look.
You’ve waited, and waited, and waited some more! But now that the season eight premiere is finally behind us, it’s time for your patented Watchers on the WallVideo Recap Roundup, featuring analyses, reviews, reactions and a few funny additions!
Kicking things off we have Westeros History, with an into almost as good as the show’s!
There’s also this wonderful (and unexpected) Game of Thrones collaboration with… Sesame Street, of all things! Did you want to see Elmo teach Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Cersei (Lena Headey) respect? Well, probably not, but I’m sure now you do:
My journey with Game of Thrones began underneath a quiet tree at night, at the edge of the campus green. It was not as a grand of a tree as the Weirwood in the Winterfell courtyard, but it was quiet and pleasant. It was an odd moniker of a tree, a symbol between the wide open grass and the parking lot right next to it. It was the smokers’ tree, hovering above a bench perched precariously on the dirt ground. I didn’t smoke, but it was a place to be. I wanted to belong, perhaps.
On a quiet night, a couple of friends mentioned that they were going to go watch Game of Thrones. The title perked my ears, for it sounded like something I would enjoy just based on those words alone. My friends joked that it was a show full of people having sex and killing each other for power, and therefore I would enjoy it. I raised my eyebrows jokingly, walking into the second episode of the series with that description as my only context. I instantly fell in love with Arya. I wanted Sansa to stab Joffrey. I screamed internally as Lady was executed for the sake of the hideous Lannisters. I was in, hook, line, and sinker.
I binged the first season when it came out as a set and then I simply needed to know what happened next. Season two was not there yet, but the books were. I delved into A Song of Ice and Fire with relish, finding my takes on characters and their journeys divided between the two mediums. I preferred show Cersei to book Cersei but I found something deeper in book Tyrion than the show’s version, who was excellent in his own right. I threw A Storm of Swords across the room when Arya reached the Red Wedding. I got to the end of A Dance of Dragons and rolled my eyes audibly.
Sometimes I think about how much my life has changed since that moment in the auditorium. I was barely an adult then, having just turned eighteen. I was in my first year in college, far away from my family and basically unsure of pretty much anything. I graduated, went back to school because I wasn’t sure what to do, and then become an adult with a minutely paying job and an apartment. I am now a little bit more of an adult (not quite sure how much) and in law school. I gained several dear friends, lost some, and learned how to forge a more independent relationship with my family (still working on that one). I became a better writer. I really got into baking.
The most significant thing that happened to me during this Thrones era was my acceptance of my sexuality. It first hit me over the head when I was in fourth grade (his name was Gregory). It continued to hit me over the head and in my chest and in other parts until I was about twenty-three. I simply had to tell someone for otherwise it was going to burst out of my chest like wildfire. I texted a friend (whom I brought into the Thrones fandom, btw) and he responded with a “Oh, yeah, I thought so.” It perhaps felt a bit anti-climactic but it was affirming. People assumed and not everyone who did treated me with scorn and distaste.
The more I grew into the world, the more open I started to become about being gay. There was something about the necessity of it that is ever-present, never contained, eager to leap out of the closet. My interactions with the Thrones fandom increased substantially during this period. I talked to more and more fans as just a gay person. With every interaction where we simply talked, tweeted, or theorized at lengths in with the cast and crew of Watchers, it helped me become more comfortable in my own skin. It’s one thing to theoretically know that people can know a defining characteristic about you but not define you to by it. It’s another to find a community where you are able to experience exactly that.
And did I mention Oberyn? My beautiful pansexual hero, so crisply written on the page and brought to great life by Pedro Pascal. He was the absolute antithesis of everything I was taught someone like me was simply not allowed to be. He was brown and a hero. A warrior. Fiercely loyal. He was confident and even though his hubris caused his death, hubris was something queer characters of color are almost never allowed. He was open in his sexuality. The perils to that in the real world are obvious. He was in love, committed, but also open about wanting to be with others. For a world that deems such open sexuality with disparagement, Oberyn and Ellaria’s fierce ability to be in love and lust was important. To say that I was sad to see him die would be an understatement.
Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire had an intense impact on me as a writer. When the show first premiered, I was an eager writer but without a sense of voice. A part of that was not knowing who I was, so the writing often felt voiceless, listless. The words would appear on the page, on the screen, but they often seemed to be without a purpose. There were gorgeous scenes, scenes that I could see in my mind as painted across a vast canvas. But they seemed to lack a depth. How did characters grow? How did they learn and adapt while remaining true to themselves? What was poetic justice? What did it mean to love something but recognize when it is problematic? How do you retain on your focus on the stories that needed to be told?
I searched for the answers to those questions in both Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire and I became a richer writer for it. It didn’t really matter whether or not the answers were what I was looking for. The process was valuable and rewarding in and of itself. The process of analyzing, world-building, and character enrichment were what I was hopefully able to bring to my own writing. When I joined Watchers on the Wall as a features writer, I was thrilled that I would be able to dig deeper into the multiple layers of writing in the series, both on a plot and a character level. I gained a better sense of what it meant to be a writer creating a world, a reader looking into one, and the necessity of balancing both as I wrote my own novels into being.
The show is coming to an end. The books are still coming. And there will be more characters to know and fall in love with in spite of ourselves in the spinoffs to come. I hope to continue being on that journey with you and perhaps we can stop at the Inn at the Crossroads for a pint of ale and a lemoncake. Or two.
You can follow Akash Singh on Twitter at @AkashSmarts and starting May 15th, you can find his writings on akashjsaran.com.
“The northmen are loyal to Jon Snow. Not to her. They don’t know her. The Free Folk don’t know her. I’ve been up here awhile and I’m telling ya, they’re as stubborn as goats. If you want their loyalty, you have to earn it.” —Davos Seaworth in “Winterfell”
With these words, Ser Davos encapsulated the political situation that the Stark/Targaryen coalition faced as it tried to prepare the North for an invasion by an enemy that comes out of the distant past, out of the songs and stories of old.
Daenerys’s problem is that the northmen she has come to aid are not recognizing her claim; the problem the North has is having gone unexpectedly from being an independent kingdom to being relegated to vassal state status once again under an outsider queen with a large, hungry foreign army; former King in the North Jon Snow has the problem of competing private and public loyalties, as what he wants to do and what his people and family want him to do are not exactly aligned; and everyone has a big problem in that face-eating wights are streaming into the North, looking for faces to eat. (Reports of actual face eating might be exaggerated for artistic license.)
In the overall list of policy and personal problems, an army of wights should take priority. So why do these other problems even exist now that the Wall has a hole in it? Why are they given narrative and screen time?
Because wights are simple, with uncomplicated motivations. Humans are not like wights.
The North might be excused for not jumping in on the Queen Daenerys train with the fervor one might expect from a population threatened by supernatural horror. Even if we assume that the existential threat of the White Walkers has fully taken seed in the northmen’s consciousness already, they’re still collectively suffering with the stages of political grief, in the loss of the King in the North Robb Stark. They’re being buffeted with political whiplash in declaring their first King in the North after centuries without, losing him months later, getting saddled with a Bolton Lord Paramount, watching an army of outsider knights install Sansa Stark (whom they initially refused to help) as Lady of Winterfell, declaring a new King in the North to scratch their need for a homegrown hero king, and then having him months later set aside his crown and abdicate his authority to a Targaryen queen. The new kid in town.
In fact, their unwillingness to follow Daenerys is consistent with a previous example.
The last time an outsider monarch showed up to defend the North from a threat beyond the Wall, it was Stannis Baratheon, whom they also rejected.
Bear Island knows no King but the King in the North, whose name is Stark
Stannis routed Mance Rayder’s refugee army at the Wall, and offered to remove the Boltons for the low low price of recognizing him as king. But Stannis was not the King in the North. After centuries of being ruled by southerners, the start of the War of the Five Kings sparked the desire to have their own traditional king, and it took deep root.
The moment that Ned Stark was dead and Robert Baratheon’s acknowledged-heir Joffrey had his claim disputed by both of Robert’s brothers, the independent spirit of the North had practically manifested in the shape of the hulking Greatjon Umber:
Catelyn was thinking of her girls, wondering if she would ever see them again, when the Greatjon lurched to his feet.
“MY LORDS!” he shouted, his voice booming off the rafters. “Here is what I say to these two kings!” He spat. “Renly Baratheon is nothing to me, nor Stannis neither. Why should they rule over me and mine, from some flowery seat in Highgarden or Dorne? What do they know of the Wall or the wolfswood or the barrows of the First Men? Even their gods are wrong. The Others take the Lannisters too, I’ve had a bellyful of them.” He reached back over his shoulder and drew his immense two-handed greatsword. “Why shouldn’t we rule ourselves again? It was the dragons we married, and the dragons are all dead!” He pointed at Robb with the blade. “There sits the only king I mean to bow my knee to, m’lords,” he thundered. “The King in the North!”
And he knelt, and laid his sword at her son’s feet.
— A Game of Thrones, Catelyn XI
The North would object to the R’hllor-worshipping Stannis on religious grounds, too:
Greatjon Umber: Even their gods are wrong.
Daenerys’s storyline had featured echoes of Stannis’s ever since she first occupied his former holding of Dragonstone. Both couldn’t get the lords of Westeros to recognize their claims, both had inconsistent results in trying to oust the Lannisters out of King’s Landing, both had Melisandre of Asshai insinuating that they were the Prince(ss) That Was Promised, and both eventually were convinced by their respective Hands to set aside their southern campaign priorities and make their focus in the North.
Like Stannis, Dany is in the North wanting to be given her due as monarch of the Seven Kingdoms, and relies on Jon Snow to facilitate this. Stannis tried to get a political lever in the north by offering Jon legitimacy and making him Lord of Winterfell. Jon refused.
Dany tried to get a political lever in the North by accepting Jon Snow’s fealty. Which removed his King in the North status, and made him …
Lyanna Mormont: Nothing at all?
It might be a problem that Daenerys is so closely following the model of Stannis in her interactions with the North and its established northern power. Instead of being so much of a Stannis, perhaps she should adopt some of the compromise practicalities of his peachy little brother, Renly.
Renly doesn’t get much credit due to his attempt to seat himself on the Iron Throne. Much of the criticisms leveled against him are fair. He could have supported Ned Stark during the transition period of Robert’s death and avoided much bloodshed (including his own.) Renly could have served his brother Stannis as advisor, rather than opposing him as rival usurper. Stannis did not like Renly, but Stannis liked so few people that it probably didn’t matter. Renly decided to defy both his brother and precedence to attempt to usurp the throne. But he was prepared to make one interesting move as king.
When Catelyn Stark was acting as an ambassador for her son Robb’s wartime court, she attempted to treat with both Renly and Stannis, to forge a coalition against the true threat of the Lannisters. Stannis rejected this out of hand, considering Robb a thief and a usurper. Renly at least was willing to listen. He recognized that between the Stark forces in the Riverlands and his combined Reach and Stormlander forces, King’s Landing would quickly fall. In exchange for Stark support, he would allow Robb to remain King in the North on the condition that Renly was recognized as Robb’s superior.
Then Renly was abruptly murdered by a shadow assassin and those plans were ruined.
Unfortunately, when Jon swore fealty to Daenerys, he didn’t plan ahead and keep his crown as the Wartime Winter King, or King Pro Tem, or some other designator to establish a reasonable limit that the northmen could get behind. Daenerys would have to agree to be flexible in this, which doesn’t sound too out of character. After all, Daenerys told Tyrion that she was willing to consider independence for the Iron Islands and she’d touted breaking the inflexible wheel of the political system currently in vogue in feudal Westeros. She might have allowed Jon to keep his crown conditionally. But that didn’t happen. He came back to the North crownless.
Even if Daenerys decided at this stage to declare Jon a kind of sub-king, in hopes of satisfying the northmen’s need for a King in the North, it wouldn’t be like Renly and Robb, two monarchs, coming to a power-sharing agreement. That boat has sailed.
Jon had already abdicated his power to Daenerys and if the northmen were grouchy about acknowledging her power, they’d just as be grouchy about Jon having his authority reinstated by her. The derived authority would be seen as hollow.
Lord Glover: Nice try. But I’m still staying in Deepwood Motte with my men.
Jon himself is disadvantaged by essentially being powerless, with Sansa Stark the legitimate face of authority in the North. And it might get worse when his identity as Aegon Targaryen becomes known. He’d be another damn Targaryen.
Ser Davos has proposed Daenerys marrying Jon, to wed north and south together in a political marriage and smooth things over. Although Davos should be respected for his forward-thinking, this plan is not likely to come through. Not that it’s a bad plan, but the show’s history indicates that once any plan is stated out loud, it is doomed.
Varys convinces Ned to confess, take the Black and live? Joffrey beheads him.
Robb has his uncle Edmure marry a Frey to smooth things over? Red Wedding.
Tyrion plans to take Casterly Rock with the Unsullied thanks to his knowledge of its cisterns? Jaime leaves it abandoned to capture the wealth of Highgarden.
Based on the show’s history of things being undercut, a proposed political marriage won’t solve things so simply. The evident fly in the wedding soup would be Jon probably not wanting to marry his aunt.
Daenerys: I don’t see why not. I’m not his sister. Jaime: Not that there’s anything wrong with that either.
So what can be done? Jon might not be able to do much, but there is someone who can.
Sansa Stark could start to rectify the situation by prioritizing the world’s needs over her relatively newly-embraced northern pride and working with Dany on public relations.
Since Sansa now eclipses Jon as the symbolic authority in the North, especially after performing as an effective civil administrator in getting her people ready for winter, Sansa could help her people accept Daenerys through example and also reassure Daenerys that she’s welcome in the land she’s trying to save.
Dany is somewhat of a fish out of water, and Sansa should empathize since she’d been raised throughout her childhood by Catelyn with an eye to the south. When Jon and Sansa were doing their recruitment tour of the North and trying to muster support, Sansa had setbacks dealing with the irate northern lords. It has only been recently that she’s kind of hit her stride as the Lady of Winterfell. Sansa also seized effective power with an army of outsiders, the knights of the Vale. So she might be able to bond with Daenerys over their similar experiences. Hopefully she still can.
And even though it might be difficult, it might not be too difficult.
Davos wouldn’t be warning Tyrion and Varys about the northern disposition if there were no problems he foresaw, and Daenerys is not wrong to be worried about Sansa not showing her the respect she expects. With Jon crownless, Sansa is the symbol of legitimate power in the North and symbols have power. Daenerys spent seasons in Meereen learning the difficulties of working with a population that didn’t accept her.
The northmen are not the Meereenese slavers, angry that Daenerys was disrupting their position and the economy. But Daenerys is a Targaryen and her father burned Rickard Stark alive. Some of the older men who watched Daenerys march into Winterfell with a dragon-bannered retinue might have fought against Rhaegar’s similarly-bannered forces at the Trident during Robert’s Rebellion. The fact that Randyll and Dickon Tarly chose death by dragonfire rather than bend the knee is going to reinforce any association Daenerys might be trying to avoid with her mad father Aerys. (Honestly, Randyll Tarly was so abrasive, he actually found a way to be an irritant in death.)
The folksy phrase the North Remembers seems a bit of a misquote since the northern lords were reluctant to rally to Sansa’s side against the Boltons. The North was not remembering its oaths to House Stark at that moment, but the North always seems to have a better memory when it comes to grudges. And the North remembers this grudge.
The northmen have now lost their second King in the North in a handful of years. They barely had time to get used to Jon Snow the White Wolf before he abdicated for a southern ruler, something the Greatjon had railed against. Robb’s death allowed the northern lords to either accept or deny Stannis as king (they denied), but Jon’s swearing of fealty to Daenerys forced the decision on them unbidden.
They’re as stubborn as goats. If you want their loyalty, you have to earn it.
Daenerys has yet to earn their loyalty. Still, the northmen do seem willing to play ball.
Wee Lord Ned Umber requested wagons and horses to extract the Umbers from Last Hearth, he addressed Sansa and Jon as “m’lady” and “m’lord”, respectively, and Daenerys as “my queen.” So, on the surface, this doesn’t seem to be a problem, right? The northmen can call Daenerys queen, and she can go about her business marshaling her forces against the wights.
However, Dany being recognized as queen – sincerely being recognized – will only come after she earns it by facing the wights. The doomed Ned Umber called Daenerys queen and now he’s dead. Dany should honor his example and act as his queen, engaging with the Army of the Dead that killed him before making further demands on the North.
All the major actors currently in the North are going to have to make some changes if this is going to work out. The only faction that doesn’t have to change a thing is the Army of the Dead. They have their role covered.
Even though it makes sense that the humans in the North should set aside all these issues, at least until they can secure their long term survival, from a narrative perspective the story, the characters and their world demand that this conflict exists and that these conflicts be resolved.
The Night King and the wights are an overwhelmingly clear threat, and humanity is obviously going to resist them. Even if the North refuses to bend the knee to Daenerys, she’ll fight for them – for the living, because it is so evidently the correct thing to do. What kind of person would ignore the manifest threat of the White Walkers?
But Game of Thrones has never been a straightforward good versus evil show.
Since the White Walkers represent such a monolithically motivated force, our heroes and villains and those in-between who represent the opposition to the supernatural threat will have to make up the difference in complexity and having cross-purposes. If the Night King represents cold and brutal order, then the defenders of the realm must be messy and chaotic and very, very human.
Or else it’s boring. And Game of Thrones is not boring.
Game of Threads is back to assess all of the beautiful costuming work featured in Season 8! Because of the nature of these final two seasons- everyone in survival mode and trying keeping warm, and the epic battles teased in the trailer- there might be less content to work with to warrant weekly recaps, but I am very excited to dive into this final season, none the less!
Let’s begin with “Winterfell”. As I’ve said previously, Michele Clapton likes to use the first episode of each season to root us back into the world that we’ve become familiar with, and she does this by dressing the characters in costumes from the previous season, or riffs on them. Arya is the first major character we see, and she’s wearing her signature Ned/young-Lyanna hybrid look while watching the royal procession arrive. This whole scene is interesting because while the show runners said that they wanted to mimic the royal arrival in Season 1, the tone is a great deal heavier in terms of costuming. Obviously the world has changed so much since Robert Baratheon arrived with all the pomp of the Lannister gold. Everyone is in all black, the Unsullied in sleek, matte black leather armor, which really stands out next to the muted grey tones and furs of the Northerners that are gathered to watch, further establishing the company as outsiders. As a side note, I am excited to say that as many requested, there will be an entire article dedicated to all of the different armor featured over the course of the series.
The only person not in black is Daenerys, who is wearing a modified version of her epic white fur coat that she debuted last season. The patterning in the fur panels is less geometric and more streamlined, and instead of contrasting brown fun, this one has been crafted with Targaryen-red running though the white like veins. She also adds a red silk cravat and strips of red silk ties at her sides, and of course, her version of her crown: her chain and dragon pin. Additionally, white has often been used as her royal color in the past. Back in Season 5 when she was stationed in Meereen, she often wore white to establish her rule over the city, and wearing it here is meant to show the Northerners that she has come to Westeros to do the same.
Jon is, of course, wearing his familiar Ned Stark cosplay. There’s still a loftiness to his costume that shows his importance, whether he wants it to be noticed or not. Tyrion and Varys are also in familiar costumes but with the added warmth of fur vests and trimmings for the climate. Missandei has a newly fashioned ensemble in heavier fabrics and furs as well, all while keeping in step with the Unsullied and the rest of team Dany.
As Jon, Dany, and company are received in the courtyard, you can see the obvious ties that unify Jon, Sansa, and Bran. A Stark costuming motif has always been piles off fur which, while practical, also elevates them as an important, noble family. Sansa and Jon, especially, have very similar silhouettes and colors which contrast Dany’s white, more form-fitting outerwear. Sansa and Jon are a visual unit, even if he’s an emotional unit with Dany. Sansa also continues to wear her Lady of Winterfell dresses that have been visually synonymous with her reclaiming her agency, as well as the respect from her people in the leadership position that she’s in.
It becomes even more obvious when the three are seated in the great hall, addressing the lords and ladies of the North. From the very first season on, Dany is constantly finding herself in situations where she is the outsider coming into a new culture, and it’s reflected in her clothing every time. She may have various fabrications and aspects of the regional dress here, but there’s absolutely nothing Northern about what she is wearing.
Speaking of dressing to rule, we swing down to King’s Landing to check in with Cersei, who is waiting on Euron and the Golden Company. It’s hard to tell in the coloring of the scenes if she is wearing the beautiful red velvet ensemble that was featured in her character poster, or if it’s an all black version. Judging from the outdoor scene with Qyburn, I think this is black velvet and we have yet to see why she all of a sudden starts incorporating Lannister red back into her rotation. The elements of this costume draw on a lot of details that Cersei wore last season. The epaulettes are a similar shape but the metal has been twisted in the same spine-like way that was featured on the back of the coat she was wearing in the Dragon Pit, as is the treatment that runs from the neck and sternum of the dress, all the way down to the hem. She has even more layers of protection with this, while also adding warmth for the cooler weather rolling in. There is much more hardware and detailing here than in the past, signifying her ever-increasing paranoia once again. Interestingly, the metalwork in her new gown is in warmer, slightly more golden tones than her previous cold-silver hardware that she and her Queensguard were wearing last season. Perhaps most significant is the use of the lion pendant that she and Myrcella wore previously, but it’s now strung through her armor as a symbol in her mind of being the only Lannister left, now that Jaime has abandoned her.
After sleeping with Euron, Cersei once again wears a similar pale blue robe to the one that she wore after sleeping with Jaime last season. The moody lighting can make you miss the color and details while watching, but this one has the sleeves trimmed in fur for extra warmth. Michele Clapton has said in the past that the use of blue signifies a sense of hope for the characters. Is this a reference to the child she is carrying? At this point, I’m not certain that Cersei really the type of person that would stop drinking even if she was pregnant. Or is the color of “hope” a reference to the hope that Euron and the Golden Company will be enough to defend her city? It also highlights her vulnerability when she is intimate with someone. She is literally stripped of her armor and black, high neck gowns.
Coincidentally, Euron’s shirt is also in the blue-grey color family, showing that his greatest “hope” or aspiration, bedding Cersei, has come true.
I’m so excited to see the armor for Sansa that’s been teased, in action, as well as potential new armor for Arya, Dany, and maybe even Cersei!
I’m always excited to see Theon in his Greyjoy armor.
Sam gets some nice leathers to wear before he learns that he’s the last male Tarly…
The men are dressed in a way that is true to their character and, while mostly utilitarian, is distinguishable from one to the next.
Along with Helen Sloan’s photos, there is this beautiful screen capture of Gilly (Hannah Murray), Little Sam (not so little anymore!), and Sam (John Bradley).
We may not even know a title yet, but we already have promotional photos for the second episode of season eight! There’re things we expected, like Jaime’s trial and everyone planning for war… and stuff we didn’t expect, too!
Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
We start with the weirwood tree, and Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). We’ve seen this a lot since Bran returned to Winterfell — which vision could he be having this time?
Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
We’ve seen a low-res version of this photo of Sansa at dinner before. She looks thoughtful, maybe even a bit sad? It’s so hard to tell in the dim lighting — apparently all of Winterfell is light by a single candle these days.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
It looks like Jaime has will have some kind of trial in Winterfell, and if the armed guards behind him are any indication, it will be tense to say the least. Will Brienne speak for him?
Hannah Murray as Gilly. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Gilly makes an appearance, at last! Hers and Sam’s is one of the sweetest relationships in the show. Who is she talking to here, though? For some reason, I don’t think it’s Sam.
Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm and Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
It’s Westeros’ other sweetest couple! Although this looks like another solemn meeting…is Missandei preparing to say goodbye to Grey Worm for good?
Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Davos usually has a speculative look — as one of Jon Snow’s closest advisors, he should — but this looks even more intense than usual. Is this the same scene with Gilly? Who is he looking at and is it the same person she’s seeing?
Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Bran seems to go only one of three places these days: the godswood, his room and Winterfell’s courtyard. He’s facing toward someone or something, though, not toward the fire as he usually is when he’s in his chamber.
Conleth Hill as Varys, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys and Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Varys, Jorah and Dany are looking solemnly at something (or someone?). This seems like a planning session or war council of sorts, perhaps.
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Based on the lighting and positioning, this photo of Tyrion, cup in hand, looks like it’s from the same planning session as the Varys/Jorah/Dany photo.
Kit Harington (left) as Jon Snow and John Bradley as Samwell Tarly. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Jon and Sam also look like they’re part of the planning session mentioned earlier, and Sam looks as though he’s feeling more concerned for his friend than usual.
Harington and Maisie Williams as Arya Stark. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Another photo from the strategy session? Arya would be at home there, and they look as though they’re glancing down at a map or a table.
Bella Ramsey as Lyanna Mormont. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Lyanna Mormont has come out as no fan of Jon’s recent decisions, but what has our little she-bear wearing armor? It looks like this is outdoors — you can see some of the dragonglass-studded weapons from the trailer in the lower left corner.
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys. Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO
Finally, we have another view of Daenerys in the library at Winterfell. She’s sporting a new coat and looks thoughtful. It fits previous photos that hinted at a chat with Sansa in the library. Hopefully they start getting along! The Preview and a new piece of concept art at the official Making Game of Thrones blog confirm this meeting.
What do you all think about these new Episode 2 photos? Let us know in the comments!
There have been some exciting guest announcements for Con of Thrones 2019 including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and John Bradley, but for a pack of Stark-loving nerds like us, the latest one just might be the coolest- and the fuzziest. Con of Thrones announced this week that they’re welcoming the Wildefell Wolves to this summer’s gathering in Nashville, TN, with the wolf dogs making their appearances on Saturday, July 13, 2019.
Once you have your tickets to the convention, you can purchase your own photo session with a wolf dog for $35! What’s a House Stark cosplay without a direwolf by your side, right? So reserve your photo before the photo spots are all snapped up.
In addition to the photos, the good folks at Wildefell Wolves will be leading a panel at the con entitled “Wolfolution.” The lecture offers a look back at the real life dire wolves (Canis Dirus), and the grey wolves (Canis Lupus) that lived along side of them, touching on the lore that surrounds the wolves and a Game Of Thrones direwolves comparison.
The thirst for cool Game of Thrones merch is never quenched, but luckily, there are always new goodies just around the corner. The latest addition? Popular international retailer Primark has announced they’re teaming up with HBO for an official new line of Game of Thrones products, and they’re now in store! The fun collection features a diverse assortment, with everything from “Mother of Dragons” bags, nightwear, phone cases, luggage tags to “Hodor” doorstops. (Too soon? Nahhh!) Arriving just in time for season 8, fans will find something up their alley, no matter which Great House you pledge allegiance to!
A few of our favorites from the Game of Thrones collection:
Winter is Here Ale Mug
House Stark Direwolf Headphones
I Drink and I Know Things Flask
Direwolf Sigil Boyfriend-style Nightshirt
Dragon Egg Tealights
Not a Queen, A Khaleesi Mug
With prices ranging from €3/$4 to €13/$15, the product line is affordable for all fans. Head down to your nearest Primark quickly to get your hands on the collection! Primark can be found in eleven countries: USA, Republic of Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, France, and Italy. Find the nearest Primark using this Store Locator!
Thanks to HBO and Primark for the season premiere survival pack, offering us a sneak peek at a few of these items!
In new interviews about “Winterfell”, the season eight premiere, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau discusses Jaime’s cliffhanger with Bran; John Bradley talks about Sam’s scenes with Bran, Jon, and Dany, about whom he has a pretty harsh and controversial outlook; and the creators behind the new title sequence offer all the details. Also, in a wonderful piece, Game of Thrones producer Bernie Caulfield finally gets the recognition she deserves!
Speaking to Patrick Shanley of The Hollywood Reporter, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau talks about his short but significant appearance in the season eight premiere:
“I’m sure [Jaime] went through all kinds of scenarios of what would happen when he made it to Winterfell. I think that’s the last thing he expected to see,” Coster-Waldau says. “It’s the same conundrum as in episode one of the whole show: if this kid—if this young man now—tells anyone what he knows, Jaime’s in trouble. But then again, [Bran] did say earlier on in the episode that he was ‘waiting for an old friend’, so…”
Later in the interview, he also discusses his experience with Lena Headey and the writers, keeping all the secrets, the ending, and Jaime’s relationship with Brienne.
Meanwhile, at Variety, Coster-Waldau looks back on the show’s legacy:
“I think working with an amazing group of people, especially on an experience as strange as this, is the best [part of the Game of Thrones experience],” the Danish actor says, “and I will miss seeing all of these people. As an actor, I’ve never worked on anything this long. Families have formed on this show. People have gotten married and divorced. Kids have been born. It has been quite something.”
“It never ceases to amaze me that this show has traveled so far,” Coster-Waldau reflects. “I think if before someone explained to you what this show was, I don’t think you’d ever think it was going to be the biggest show in the world.”
At The Wrap, John Bradley discusses his immense—and stellarly performed—role in “Winterfell”, beginning with Sam’s scenes with Bran… or rather, the three-eyed raven:
“There’s something really eerie and disconnected about it,” Bradley says. “When you are acting against Isaac, when he’s in character, it’s like you’re speaking to him from the other side of a wall.” Though Bradley admits that can be a challenge, it also “injects something into your performance. You find yourself overcompensating for the lack of response that you get, like people would do if they were talking to somebody like that.”
As for Sam’s devastating moment with Dany, Bradley has some harsh words about her, though he’s speaking strictly from Sam’s perspective: “Sam is now very, very aware that Dany is very imbalanced and very volatile and in quite a dangerous state with people,” he claims. “She says, you know, ‘They refused to bend the knee.’ And that’s a very pragmatic way of dealing with it, ‘They disobeyed me, and so I killed them.’ And in that moment he sees what a dangerous figure she is and that’s what motivates him to tell Jon.”
“He’s probably dreading telling Jon Snow that very sensitive piece of information because nobody wants to hear that,” Bradley says. “It’s only because of […] Jon actually being the true heir to the Iron Throne, it’s only because things are in such a precarious state with the person who everyone thinks should be on the Iron Throne, who is such a volatile character — that’s what is actually pushing Sam on to relay the information.”
He also says Sam sees Dany as “psychopathic,” so it’s fair to say Sam isn’t team Dany.
Also at The Wrap, CG director for ElasticKirk Shintani discusses the work of his team of designers and animators on the award-winning Game of Thrones title sequence, which was for the first time ever completely remodeled from the ground up for season eight:
“In the crypt, you’ll see Lyanna Stark’s statue in the very beginning. And it goes really fast,” Shintani helpfully points out, as an example of their attention to detail, which he attributes to showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss: “They wanted to make sure that things like that are in there for the fans and they can recognize that stuff and that stuff is kind of a reward for paying attention and following along.”
They have also added elements they have wanted to do for years, such as army movements being marked, which we see as golden dots “representing the White Walkers’ march south.” There’s also the change in the astrolabe; while it told the history before the events of the series before, it now depicts major events from it, namely the fall of The Wall, the Red Wedding, and the birth of Daenerys’ dragons:
“I think adding these new scenes to the astrolabe is meant to be a reward to the viewers, that they have witnessed events that have turned into a lore that have been realized in the relief sculptures on the astrolabe bands, much like the existing depictions on the astrolabe bands on Seasons 1-7 that we don’t experience on the show,” Elastic‘s director explains. “So in a way, it’s kind of a new chapter where we’re acknowledging that in the first seven seasons, we witnessed massive historical events.”
For those avid to get as much as possible from the premiere, you may get hints of future episodes if you pay close enough attention: “Everything that’s there, is there — if that makes sense,” Shintani enigmatically says, before clarifying: “All the little bits and pieces that we wanted to put in, they’re always kind of there, whether or not they are noticeable or if you actually pay attention to them. That’s kind of something that we wanted to make sure of, that it felt like it’s a set piece that’s sitting there and you happen to catch something in Episode 1 at a certain point and time. And as the episodes progress, you know, as the set piece changes, the things that you notice happen later, you might find little hints of those same things in the previous episodes.”
As a tease for the series finale title sequence, Shintani claims they were “finally able to put some of the things” they’d wanted to do for years. What could that possibly mean?
Producer Bernie Caulfield with showrunners D.B. Weiss (left) and David Benioff (right)
Finally, for something less premiere-related, there’s a wonderful new feature about Bernadette Caulfield in The New York Times which you should all read in its entirety, so I’ll only offer a few highlights here. If you don’t know who Bernie Caulfield is, she’s one of the main producers in Game of Thrones, the one who makes the intricate production machine run smoothly if you believe the showrunners—and you should:
“We only made it this far because of Bernadette Caulfield, the greatest producer alive,” co-showrunner David Benioff says. “The single best thing that ever happened to the show,” he says together with fellow showrunner Dan Weiss. “Without her, the whole thing would have collapsed under its own weight long ago.”
“There are so many versions of ‘Game of Thrones’ that would have fallen apart under the strain of producing 10 increasingly big hours of television on a 12-month schedule,” they elaborate. “Pretty much every version except the Bernie version.”
And the cast agrees, having nothing but praise about her. Emilia Clarke calls her “the beating heart” of the show; Sophie Turner sees her as “the woman” she wants “to grow up to be like”; Lena Headey says she’s “the true Mother of Dragons.” You get the gist.
Caulfield, of course, doesn’t take the credit. “Well, I wish I was that important, but obviously it takes a major team to put it together,” she says. “My job is to make whatever they write on the page come to the screen.” Oh, that easy, is it?
I won’t give away any more, as I insist you read the feature in its entirety. It’s worth it!
The final season premiere of Game of Thrones (excuse me while I reach for my Costco-sized box of tissues) came with great expectation and went. It was just shy of an hour, bursting with moments of hilarity, discomfort, and a moment or two of questionable dialogue. It was gorgeous and cinematic, as we have come to expect from the HBO juggernaut. Ramin Djawadi continues to be the proverbial handsome God of Music.
The sharpest note of “Winterfell,” however, was not a singular scene but rather how deeply the writing harkened back to the pilot episode of the show: “Winter is Coming.” The echoes were present from the opening scene to the closing shot. Some of the callbacks were more subtle than others, but in the context of this being the beginning of the end, it largely worked. The key was for the show to toe the line of tapping into to our deep sense of nostalgia but in away that feels like the story is moving forward, that things have changed, maybe irrevocably.
The opening scene harkens back to Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) climbing stones and trees to catch a better glimpse of the arriving Baratheon royal family. Here it is an unknown boy doing the same to catch a glimpse of the arriving Targaryen army. Arya (Maisie Williams) is once again initially missing from the welcoming party, rushing to observe her memories from the past in the flesh and seeing the dragons with an eye of wonder. Fittingly, it is Sansa (Sophie Turner) who formally welcomes the new arriving party, a key reversal from a pilot where she wanted nothing more than to be as far away from the North as humanly possible.
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) remarks to Sansa about the beauty that she holds, a remark a younger Sansa took with great pride from Cersei (Lena Headey) but now looks upon with a sharp disinterest. Sansa understandably worries about the grain and supplies rations now that there is an army of Unsullied, Dothraki, and two fully grown dragons. It’s a valid concern echoed by Catelyn’s (Michelle Fairley) pilot concerns about the amount of alcohol alone Robert (Mark Addy) was going to consume.
In the macabre, destroyed halls of Last Hearth, Lord Ned Umber (Harry Grasby) unfortunately continues to remind us why it is a bad idea to name a child “Ned.” The limb, um, artistry, around his displayed body is reminiscent of the design the White Walkers left in their wake at the beginning of the series. When he awakes, his eyes pop and I was instantly reminded of the young girl in the pilot, whose piercing blue eyes instantly told the audience that there was something terrible amiss.
Arya and Jon’s (Kit Harington) reunion held a significant amount of pathos. Arya and Jon spent little screen time together, but their importance on one another’s character development was immense. When she presents Needle to Jon, it mirrors the heartbreaking scene in season one where Jon gave her that very sword, a sign that he believed in the path she was choosing for herself. The additional pathos in this nostalgic comeback comes from Jon not realizing yet how much Arya has changed since the last time they had seen one another. It mirrors additionally how Jon has yet to fully realize how much Sansa has changed and how much more capable she has become.
Bronn (Jerome Flynn) echoes Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) brothel dalliances in a callback that was maybe gratuitous but ends on a note of poignant tragedy. In the latter’s case, he was interrupted by his brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and in this case, it is arguably the less pleasant company of Qyburn (Anton Lesser). Qyburn’s arrival signals further memories from “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (Episode 3.02) and “The Children” (Episode 410). The most infamous crossbow in Game of Thrones history, it was a tool of manipulation by Margaery (Natalie Dormer) against Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and it was used by Tyrion to discover that Tywin (Charles Dance) did not in fact shit gold.
The writers making that particular crossbow a potential weapon by which Bronn is going to kill Tyrion and or Jaime is more than just “a keen sense of poetic justice.” It’s a beautiful layering that exemplifies the types of callbacks and nostalgia that lift a story instead of just giving it a cheap emotional punch. Tyrion was often used to psychological abuse by his family, often finding some reprieve only in Jaime’s presence. Bronn arguably became his truest friend, the one with whom he was able to forge a deep friendship in spite of their numerous difference. For that friendship, never absent their respective realities, to be attacked by the same crossbow Tyrion used to put an end to his abusive father is heartbreakingly poignant.
Hello and welcome to all new Watchers on the Wall, and, hey, what’s happening, it’s been a while, to all old Watchers on the Wall (The Night’s Watch takes anyone of any age). “What kind of title is this?,” you ask, “Why isn’t there a review in here?” Well, as you might have realized by now…Game of Thrones is pretttttty prettttttty popular, and there are already a fair amount of reviews on the Internet. So vast is the Internet, that we decided it would behoove us to gather all these reviews in one place.
Every Monday night (or Tuesday morning, as the case may be) I’ll be deconstructing the multitude of reviews out there, boiling them down to one short summary sentence that will perfectly encapsulate what the original author was saying, no questions asked…kidding. What I will do is attempt to summarize the original review as best I can, and if my tease whets your appetite for their style of review, you are encouraged to head over to their site and let them know…after of course letting us know your thoughts in the comments below. All squared? Jolly good, let’s dive in.
Here at Watchers on the Wall, we encourage you to ‘Always Support the Bottom.’ This naturally extends to your support of our editor-in-chief Sue the Fury, and her ‘Sullied recap‘ of the episode, in which her background knowledge of the books informs her perspective on the episode. Once you’ve done that, you would do well to support our peerless Oz of Thrones‘s ‘Unsullied recap,’ in which his fearless determination to avoid reading the books has outlasted all others, continuing on for 8 full seasons. After this, you can check out what these Internet critics thought of ‘Winterfell‘:
Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture – In which she thinks the season 8 premiere is the best premiere since season 1 because of the way it combines necessary plot milestones with sequences of straightforward indulgence.
Kelly Lawler, USA Today – In which she says the episode concluded with a pitch-perfect callback to the series premiere.
The season is HERE! And with it comes a deluge of articles, recaps, videos and podcasts for every episode — and The Night’s Cast, the official podcast of Watchers on the Wall, is pleased to be part of the onslaught!
Join us every Tuesday morning as we recap and react to Sunday’s episode. This week, naturally, it’s the premiere episode, “Winterfell” and Vanessa and Samantha are here to break down some of the details.
The hype for this final season of Game of Thrones is unparalleled. More people than ever are watching the show, and more of them are doing so as soon as possible to avoid getting spoiled. What did that result in, ratings-wise? Let’s have a look!
Entertainment Weekly reports that the season premiere, “Winterfell,” was viewed by a record-breaking 17.4 million watchers in the US on Sunday evening. EW points out the 17.4 million make the season eight premiere HBO’s biggest telecast ever and 2019’s most-watched scripted content, surpassing The Big Bang Theory‘s 14.1 million viewers earlier on the year, despite it being aired on a broadcast network. However, there is a catch: these 17.4 million were across multiple airings, and including some streaming services.
On first airing, the traditional metric, The Wrap reveals it was viewed by 11.8 million, so the record-holder remains the season seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” at 12.1 million. On overnight telecast and partial streaming, “The Dragon and the Wolf” had an at-the-time record-breaking viewership of 16.9 million, so “Winterfell” did at least break this less concrete and comparable rating of overnight viewership, if not live.
Moreover, season eight has a new record average viewership for now, breaking last season’s record of 10.3 million, which we’ll see develop (probably upwards) as the season continues. Crucially, “Winterfell” beats all previous season premieres, surpassing the previous record-holder, season seven’s “Dragonstone,” by about 1.7 million viewers:
In terms of growth, it’s too early to say, as there’s only a single episode available, but for now season eight, with 1.5 million over season seven, is comparable to the jumps in viewership characteristic of earlier seasons, which ranged from 1.2 to 1.9 million. The show plateaued a bit going into seasons five and six, with slightly higher viewership on average but no big jumps, and then absolutely skyrocketed in season seven with 2.6 million higher viewership than the previous season. Unless season eight improves dramatically on first airing, it’s unlikely to break season seven’s growth record.
Though it’s a pity the premiere didn’t break every ‘live’ (first airing) records, to be fair more people than ever watch television via streaming nowadays. With our viewing habits changing, there’s simply no perfect comparison to be made with earlier seasons.
The final season of Game of Thrones opened with a solid premiere episode full of callbacks, reunions, dragon riding, and yes – plenty of shade. From the stunning visuals, to the interesting character moments, to the grisly reminder of the White Walker threat, the premiere has set the stage for a compelling end to the series, and I’m excited to see what happens next. In the meantime, let’s go behind the scenes of “Winterfell” with today’s interviews and videos!
First up, Entertainment Weekly brings us an interview with episode writer, Dave Hill. He reveals that they initially thought about using a cold open before making the decision to go a more traditional route, and have the premiere mirror the pilot. Hill also explains what Daenerys’ arrival means to the northern crowd. “We start off with a little orphan boy, to see what to a commoner, to the people on the ground where it’s the most exciting thing they’re ever going to see in their life — a Targaryen queen who also has dragons. Everyone can’t help but look even though what they see makes them afraid. They have a new monarch with monsters to fight other monsters.”
Dany didn’t get the warmest of welcomes, especially from Sansa. “Sansa sees her as the foreign interloper. She trusts her family and no one else. You can see from Sansa’s view that Jon went to meet with this southern queen who burned her grandfather and uncle alive and suddenly Jon bent the knee to her.” Hill adds, “Sansa starts off this season very suspicious and not at all friendly with Dany.” Perhaps he is hinting that the season won’t end that way? Let’s hope Team Stark and Team Targaryen pull together before the White Walkers arrive.
Another character in for a hostile reception is Jaime Lannister, who arrived at Winterfell in the final scene. Hill admits, “It’s an emotional punch that works really well. I knew it was a scene that [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau] was absolutely going to nail.” It will be fascinating to see Bran’s interaction with him next week – will Jaime be forgiven?
Check out the entire EW article for Hill’s thoughts on the Jon/Arya reunion, Jon’s parentage reveal, and more!
Speaking of that parentage reveal, another EW interview gives us Kit Harington‘s take on how Jon feels about it, saying it’s “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 confesses that getting Jon’s reaction just right wasn’t easy. “You mark the particularly tricky scenes that you’re going have to concentrate on and this was one. 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.”
While Sam is clearly trying to push Jon to stake his claim to Westeros, Harington firmly states Jon isn’t interested. “He has no ambition for the throne. He’s never wanted that.” The news also complicates Jon’s life at a time when he needs to focus on defeating the White Walkers with the help of his ally and lover, Daenerys. “The end of the world might be coming soon but at least he’s in love with somebody and knows who he is, and then comes this sledgehammer.” Will their relationship survive once the truth is out? Perhaps we’ll know the answer on Sunday.
Head over to EWfor the rest, including commentary from Samwell himself, John Bradley.
John Bradley also shares his perspective on the scene with Making Game of Thrones. “Sam is the one Jon trusts more than anyone: He knows Sam wouldn’t tell him unless he was 100 percent sure. It’s a big emotional moment for Jon because his relationship with Ned is something he always took pride in. As soon as that’s questioned, Jon reacts quite violently — you see it in Kit’s eyes. But he quickly computes that Sam is saying this for all the right reasons and has Jon’s best interests in mind.”
Bradley explains Sam’s reaction to his father and brother’s deaths, saying, “it comes as a surprise how much it affects him emotionally. There’s a moment where he rationalizes his father’s death and he looks for a positive — at least Sam can go home now…But when Daenerys mentions Dickon’s death, that really rips Sam’s heart out. Dickon is just another casualty of Randyll’s toxic masculinity.”
“This is the moment he decides to tell Jon about his heritage because he can foresee problems [Daenerys] may cause for Jon in the future. Sam realizes he is dealing with a very important, but dangerous person.” Sam should tread carefully if he doesn’t want to lose Daenerys’ vitally important support before the White Walkers arrive. The fallout from this reveal could have dire consequences for everyone involved.
Speaking to The New York Times, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and Isaac Hempstead Wright discuss their characters’ reunions. On Sansa and Tyrion, Turner remarks, “They never filed for a divorce or an annulment, so I guess they technically are still married! I don’t think it’s as awkward as people would say because Sansa has been through so many rocky relationships that her relationship with Tyrion actually seems pretty sweet, in retrospect.”
Williams says of Arya and Gendry that she doesn’t know if they “have a lot in common anymore. And Arya’s never really been very good at communicating verbally how she feels on the inside anyway…It’s weird for her to be reminded of the girl that she was, you know, and how she last felt when she was with certain characters, because I feel like she’s sort of severed that part of herself.”
We haven’t quite gotten a reunion between Jaime and Bran, but Hempstead Wright teases that Jaime may be off the hook for pushing Bran out of a window as far as he’s concerned. “It had to happen, I reckon. It’s given him incredible abilities, which made him far more significant than he could have ever dreamed of being, had he not had the power…he certainly doesn’t hold grudges. He kind of transcends all the petty quarrels of most of the other characters.” Maybe Bran can help the rest of the Winterfell crew get on the same page before it’s too late.
Hempstead Wright is featured in an article by The Hollywood Reporter as well, in which he elaborates on what Bran’s priority is this season. “His sole focus is that he wants the living to survive. He’s on the side of the living. He’s the ancient arch-nemesis of the Night King. He’s so far beyond any petty squabbling or wanting to get revenge or a comeuppance on someone. He doesn’t view the world like that anymore. He just views things as timelines that intersect and have to end up in certain places.” Ancient arch-nemesis? That’s quite an interesting phrase. Hopefully we’ll find out what he means in the episodes to come.
About those upcoming episodes, Hempstead Wright cautions us to prepare ourselves, saying “The first episode was quite funny. I suppose that’s a warning, to ease you back in before all the pain that’s about to come. The rest of the season might not follow quite as happily.” Keep your tissues handy – we will probably need them!
For more on Bran’s reunion with Jon, the parentage reveal, and more, go to THR.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has his own thoughts about Jaime encountering Bran again. Speaking to EW, he says that for Jaime “it’s like: ‘What the hell?’ and then, ‘Oh my god, that’s the kid.’ I think he knows Bran didn’t die, but he doesn’t expect to meet him.” Jaime intended to go to Winterfell “to fight the good fight” and now he’s “in deep sh–.” He adds, “This is the Lord of Winterfell that I tried to kill and I’m sure he wants revenge. That’s what Jaime expects.”
There may be a happier reunion for Jaime, however – seeing Brienne again. “For Jaime, he would assume she would be there,” Coster-Waldau admits. “I don’t think that was the reason he went. They’ve both been very good at compartmentalizing whatever feelings they have for each other.” We may finally get to see those feelings surface, especially knowing the end may be coming for all of them soon. Braime forever!
In a final article from EW, Lena Headey confesses she wasn’t initially on board with Cersei’s decision to have sex with Euron Greyjoy. “I kept saying, ‘She wouldn’t, she wouldn’t, that she would keep fighting, but [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] obviously know what they’re doing and were adamant Cersei would do what she had to do.” Headey came around to the idea, however. “Cersei is such the ultimate survivor in all of this. She refuses to fall to her knees. She goes to the place where she doesn’t want to go, which makes it more powerfully sad because of who she’s not with.”
Pilou Asbaek admits there were many conversations about whether to include the scene. “Cersei has only been with two people throughout the entire series — the fat king and her brother.” (Actually she has been with her cousin Lancel as well, but I digress). “We had a lot of discussions. Would it be out of character for her to be with Greyjoy for power? We discussed it so much that we almost ended up going, ‘Maybe it’s too much.’ Then we decided to try it out and see if it works. Sometimes you have to show different sides of a character.” Will this be the only time Cersei has to give in to Euron’s desires? I don’t see him giving up that easily…
In this week’s “Inside the Episode,” David Benioff and Dan Weiss break down Daenerys’ arrival to Winterfell, long awaited reunions, and Jon’s first dragon flight.
The next two videos are from HBO’s website, so apologies in advance if they don’t play for those of you outside the United States. In this one, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner and Nathalie Emmanuel discuss Team Targaryen’s frosty Northern reception.
Kit Harington and Maisie Williams share their thoughts on Jon and Arya’s emotional reunion.
In “The Game Revealed,” we get an in-depth (and at times hilarious) look at the making of the season eight premiere from several of the cast and crew.
In case you missed it, check out next week’s preview!
Spoiler note:The discussion in this post is primarily for non-book readers (book fans can discuss the show-only here). We ask that all Sullied book-readers refrain from posting any mentions/references to the books in the comments here, veiled or otherwise. No spoilers, at all! This show is best viewed without knowing all the surprises beforehand or afterwards, so please be respectful of your fellow fans. Thank you!
The wait for the beginning of the end is finally over. The feelings are real. The emotions are real. The reunions are real. And the inevitable is real. This phenomenon that many of us have been nothing short of fanatical about is coming to its denouement. Like it or not, agree with it or not, there are only a few short mornings we have like this left.
Let’s put aside our differences and analyze, discuss and ponder as adults. We all know that this is not going to end necessarily the way we want it to. It’s numerically impossible. But I can promise you this: It’s going to be glorious and painful and triumphant and downright miserable all at the same time. Join a man… and let’s do this together!
Welcome to the in-season, boys and girls! I am your Unsullied leader and this post is where show-viewers only get to release their likes/dislikes/understandings/misunderstandings in a safe environment guarded against those who may judge us for being uneducated idiots (although we value all feedback constructive pleasantries).
How about that new intro???
The Unsullied Parade
What better way to ring in the new season by reminding us who is still alive and heading to Winterfell (it has been almost two damn years, so thanks HBO).
Arya is clearly waiting for the Unsullied to throw her some beads and to see who entered a float in this years’ version of the winter celebration. She wanted to yell at Jon. I wanted her to yell at Jon. But we save the reunion for later and I’m content that we did.
Arya was unimpressed with the Hound float yet loved the Gendry one, but not nearly as unimpressed with the local’s Django Unchained reaction to Worm and Missandei riding horses.
The dragon balloons were incredibly life-like and a huge hit with the parade attendees, other than Sansa.
It starts off well enough with Jon finally reuniting with Bran and quickly realizing that the little boy he used to know is vastly different. Before Dany can fully enjoy Sansa’s expected warm greeting, Bran breaks up the party.
“This is nice and all, but we ain’t got time for this shit.”
Inside the gathering hall, Little Lord Umber tells Sansa that he needs horses and wagons to round up the folk at the Last Hearth. I yelled at him from my couch that he didn’t need to go; that the intro already told us where the AOTD’s first house call would be. He couldn’t hear me.
Next up was the always bashful and shy Lady Mormont who is confused on how to address King/Lord/Pushover Snow. Jon begins his same season 7 spill on how he didn’t choose to be king when thankfully, Tyrion steps up.
How many times does everyone in the North need to be reminded that there are thousands of frozen zombies coming to destroy them?
Understandably, Sansa is perturbed by anything having to do with the newcomers. There is nothing wrong with her having doubts. But complaining about what everybody is going to eat when the dead are en route to kill everyone is just one example of why many don’t like her. The writers don’t do her any favors.
Yet, she then reveals her wisdom by letting Tyrion know that he’s not very clever if he thinks Cersei’s army is coming North. She’s right of course, and where this series leaves her standing is still a mystery. As I said, her arc is still a work in progress.
Eight Years Waiting on No One
Arya and Jon finally reunite with a hug that probably made you cry (or at least think about it) where they compare swords and have a laugh. Arya reinforces that Sansa is looking out for the best interests of the family.
When they ask me to write this post, they ask me to give my true feelings on the episode, so that is what I will do. Seeing Arya take up for Sansa is heart-warming and refreshing considering the differences the sisters have had. But all of a sudden she is the smartest person she’s ever met? OK. That’s not Sansa-hating. I don’t hate her. That line just seemed like an extreme in an effort to emphasize Arya’s support for Sansa. Having said that, we get the point.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Photo: HBO
“The dead have broken through the Wall.”
Cersei still doesn’t get it. Or maybe she does and she’s just mad.
Regardless, Euron brings in the Golds along with newcomer Strickland and reveals that Yara is alive and somewhat well and tied up below the deck of the ship.
Cersei once again fends off the romantic advances of Euron only to seemingly have second thoughts. You have to assume she realizes that she really has no one left and to keep his loyalty, she has to give him what he wants.
What she really wanted was elephants. Apparently Euron doesn’t have one (hehehe).
And sorry Euron… there’s already one in the oven. Or is there?
Ser Bronn of the Brothelwater
Nobody in the KL seems all that worried about the frozen dead. Everybody’s just getting naked.
I’m not going to elaborate on the deal with Bronn because I already have. My conjecture is almost always admittedly wrong. But not on this one.
The Redemption of Theon
Theon’s atonement tour is in full swing already as he rescues Yara from Euron’s yacht. I’m not going to say it was excessively easy, but I’m not saying it wasn’t. Yara makes it clear that she is going to retake the Iron Islands while Theon feels the need to continue to pay restitution for his prior indiscretions and head back to Winterfell to help the Starks. And yes, this makes me very pleased.
The Dragon Roller Coaster of Love (say what)
Look… I try to be upbeat and positive about everything so I’m going to do my best to give this sequence a pass. I suppose there needed to be a Disney-esque moment where a special romantic interlude was included to help sell the deep love that Jon and Dany now apparently share with each other. But God, this was cheese. I had hoped the first time Jon rode a dragon it was going to be something awe-inspiring. Instead it was kind of aww-ful.
And then, let’s-get-down-to-business-take-the-throne-with-fire-and-blood Dany is all of a sudden so smitten that she suggests climbing into a waterfall with Jon for 1000 years where no one would find them. I completely understand what they are trying to accomplish here. But this seemed forced, especially with the dead on the doorstep.
But, oh well… if you disagree, sound off below.
I’m more interested in knowing what Dany was about to say about Sansa before she was interrupted. “If she can’t respect me…”
No One, a Bastard and a Hound
Arya reunites with two former sidekicks at once meeting both the Hound and Gendry at the same time. The Hound/Arya could have been a little more riveting considering their time together was one of the more entertaining pairings of the series. However, I’m sure there’s more to come.
But were the sparks flying with Arya and Gendry or was that just weapons being forged?
Different Kind of Sparks
We knew a showdown was coming between Jon and Sansa and the fact that he is no longer a King. It didn’t last long and while Sansa’s concerns are legitimate, Jon defends himself and reminds her again that they were in desperate need of help to fight the dead.
If there is a library scene, you can bet your ass that Sam is going to be in it. But it doesn’t go well for Dany as Sam gets very emotional after realizing she barbecued his father and brother. Remember, Tyrion begged her not to. And Sam and Jon remain very close.
Sam then retreats and finds Bran who tells him that now is the time to tell Jon the truth. Jon understandably doubts Sam after being told he’s not the King in the North, but rather the King of the fucking world. Episode 2 is going to be very intriguing.
Beric and Tormund are alive as is Edd and other Crows. Considering the Last Hearth was in that fancy new intro, this is likely where they are with blood everywhere yet no bodies, save one: Little Umber. And his eyes are bluer than Tormund’s.
Waiting for a Friend
At the end, a hooded figure rides into Winterfell that ends up being Jaime F-ing Lannister. And guess who is there to greet him first… his old friend.
Episode 801 Personal Awards
“What do dragons eat, anyway?” “Whatever they want.”
“Poor girl. The pox will take her within a year.” -Qyburn
“That fucking family.” -Bronn
“Did you bend the knee to save the North, or because you love her?” -Sansa
“You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?” – Sam
“I’ve always had BLUE EYES!” – Tormund
Favorite Sequence: Jon and Arya reunion, Jaime arriving in Winterfell to Bran
The “Ow, That Shit Hurts Award” goes to: Bronn, for having to stop in the middle of the act and then stuff it in his pants
Two Guys I’d Most Want to Grab Some Sour Goat Milk (but preferably a beer) With: Beric and Tormund because, dammit, one of them is going to die soon
Official Season 8 Penis Count: Zero (but close)
Overall Thoughts: Despite my minor complaints, I really liked the episode. The reunions seemed a bit rushed and didn’t necessarily meet expectation. However, there was a fair amount of methodology necessary and if the payoff is five episodes of holy shit moments coupled with incredible storytelling, then I can absolutely live with it.
To be honest, I’m just glad the damn show is back.
That’s it for me guys and gals! Thanks for putting up with my perspective and please share yours below.
Until next week, hang out and stay awhile. Invite a friend to join us. And may there always be peace in your realm. –Oz
**SPOILER NOTE: The Management of this fine site would like to remind you that spoilers (book or leak) are not allowed in Unsullied posts. This includes spoilers covered by code or otherwise. Personally, I appreciate feedback from Sullied and Unsullied alike, so long as they do not include any type of hinting or conversation related to the written verse. However, spoiler coded comments do tend to lead to further Sullied conversation and for that reason, we ask that you please refrain from posting any SPOILERY content whatsoever in Unsullied posts. Thank you for the coop, ya’ shits. -Oz
The look your kids give you when they catch you making out with your boyfriend.
Welcome back, Watchers! After a lengthy wait (something any George R.R. Martin fan is familiar with), Game of Thrones is finally back with a new season of six episodes to conclude the show. With only a handful of episodes remaining, did “Winterfell” use its precious minutes well? Let’s dive in and find out.
Spoiler Note: This is our book reader’s recap, intended for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section may contain spoilers from the novels, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you have not read the books yet, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap, by Oz of Thrones!
Right off the bat, GoT knocks it out of the park with beautifully updated opening credits. The reduced scope of the episode could’ve left us with skimpy main titles but instead the show expanded the detail of GoT‘s legendary credits, going deep into Winterfell and the Red Keep, as well as adding in Last Hearth, which we briefly saw in this week’s episode, and a fallen Wall.
Back to the actual episode- season 8 begins very much as season 1 did, with a royal procession marching into Winterfell, with deliberate callbacks to the first episode. In “Winter is Coming,” King Robert arrived, as Arya raced through the town, trying to get a glimpse of the action; this time, a young boy plays that role, as a grown Arya watches, probably remembering how she once did the same. If the emotion of that wasn’t enough, we get a one-two-three punch of it a moment later as Arya sees Jon, The Hound and Gendry all arrive. I’m not sure which reunion I’m itching to see first (that’s a lie, it’s Gendry- I’m sorry, I’m weak). In an episode loaded with reunions, it’s difficult to choose.
It’s apparent it won’t be easy for Daenerys in the North, from the start. Northerners have a long memory, and her father did execute Ned’s father and brother. As far as people are concerned publicly, Dany’s brother Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark. On the show, we saw Jon crowned King in the North by his people; they didn’t choose this southern queen.
I love that Jon has a weird reunion with Bran just like his siblings did. Nothing will ever be normal for the Three Eyed Raven. He has no patience for these basic human rituals when reanimated corpses are marching around the North. He really is Bran the Buzzkill now, isn’t he?
With the Wall fallen, they decide its time to clear out Last Hearth, the Umbers’ place. Little Ned Umber heads back home with the support of the Starks and Dany, and no one thought this was a bad plan. Really? Okay. He couldn’t have designated some of his men to do it for him? He’s not even in puberty. Okay then.
Lyanna Mormont calls out the awkward elephant in the room then, that they crowned Jon only for him to immediately kneel. Jon makes a good point, but he is running into the same struggle he did when he led the Night’s Watch. He’s basically correct, but he doesn’t win people over to his cause and earn their support, before he makes drastic decisions.
People will criticize the Sansa-Dany conflict but I find it much more organic so far this season, what we’ve seen in this one episode. In season 7, the conflict between Sansa and Arya was drawn out pointlessly to fill time. But it’s understandable to me that there are genuine points of contention between Daenerys and Sansa, with the two having just met under less than ideal circumstances. That doesn’t make either of them bad people or poorly written. It’s a source of drama that I look forward to being resolved in an interesting way. I hope to see it resolved with them coming to terms, rather than being enemies.
Another reunion, satisfying but less emotionally resonant for me: Sansa and Tyrion. The (estranged? divorced? what’s the deal here?) spouses spar and take stock of one another, with Tyrion appreciating that Sansa survived them all as he once predicted she might, while Sansa correctly challenges Tyrion’s naivete in trusting Cersei.
Jon and Arya’s reunion in the godswood underscores how much he doesn’t know his little sister anymore. He doesn’t realize how much she’s had to use the gift he gave her, how much Needlework she’s had to do to survive. I suspect the admonition Arya gives Jon, about remembering family, will be an important one this season.
In King’s Landing, Cersei receives news that the dead have broken through the Wall. She’s cool with that because she’s terrible and all has gone according to plan, mwahahaha.
On Euron’s ship nearby, Yara lives! Mostly because Euron is bored and narcisstic and wants someone to talk to. The only motivation they can come up with him for sticking around is that he still wants to fuck the queen. This is not that riveting, and a weak point in the episode.
The Golden Company’s leader is presented to Cersei at the Red Keep, with the show slipping in a reference to the book-Company’s elephants which clearly did not fit into GoT‘s budget. It’s just as well. Fewer elephants and time with the Golden Company means we get to spend more time listening to Euron talk about how he wants to fuck Cersei.
No, wait. Sigh.
Anyway. Cersei, sensing she’s put the unstable Euron off for too long capitulates and invites him to bed.
At a brothel somewhere, Bronn is having sexy times with three unnamed sex workers. Qyburn interrupts and brings the mercenary an offer: kill the Lannister brothers. Are we finally going to get an opportunity to see if Bronn is as ruthless as he claims to be? He once claimed he’d kill a child for the right price. Bronn is unpredictable, and strangely loyal for a sellsword. His affection for Tyrion and Jaime is a weak point. He’ll take the gig but somehow I don’t think he’ll be able to finish the job.
Meanwhile, Euron is having fun with Cersei, and wants to put a prince in her belly, but has no idea that that uterus is already occupied.
HECK YEAH THEON! But he most definitely had the headbutt coming that Yara gives him after he frees her from captivity. Theon abandoned his sister in the sea battle last season, leaving her to the mercy of her uncle. God knows how Yara has suffered all this time. But he came back for her, so four for you, Theon Greyjoy!
Yara is planning to head home to the Iron Islands, safe from the invasion of the White Walkers, but she can see Theon has other wishes. She encourages him to fight for the Starks. I suppose she’ll drop him off in the area on the shore, and a jet pack will take him the rest of the way to Winterfell.
Speaking of Winterfell, the braintrust of right-hand men (Davos, Tyrion and Varys) convene for a walk-and-talk a la The West Wing to assess the current situation with the queen and her unofficial consort. Of special note: ominous words from Varys as he gazes at Dany and Jon and says, “Nothing lasts.”
Honestly how do they stay on the dragon without a saddle and reins…or anything? Kit Harington has impressive thigh muscles but I just don’t understand how it all works. Anyway, Jon goes for a hot-rodding session on Rhaegal, with Dany and Drogon, and manages to not die, which was also very impressive of him. I mean we know he’s a Targaryen so it will work out, but Dany doesn’t, so it legit seems like she’s trying to murder her boyfriend with this joyride.
Incidentally, any single parent recognizes that funny stare from the dragons: it’s the look your kids give you when they catch you making out with your boyfriend. Yes, yes it is weird and uncomfortable.
Reunion number…I don’t know, 5? The Hound and Arya. He calls her a bitch, she reminds him that she robbed him before she left him to die, and he walks away with the light of admiration in his eye. That’s his murder daughter, you can’t tell me he’s not a little proud. Can’t wait to see Sandor use the dragonglass weapon he scored from Gendry!
Next reunion: Gendry/Arya. I fully lost my shit over the blacksmith rom-com shenanigans. “As you wish, m’lady.” Are you fucking kidding me? Don’t tell me we’re not supposed to ship this. Christ on a cracker. I’ve got the vapors.
In less-cute moments, Deepwood Motte sends word that Lord Glover is staying put and not joining the Starks because of Jon’s bending the knee. Sansa gives Jon hell for it, but he defends his choice. Meanwhile Dany is off attempting to make more friends in the North…and unfortunately makes it all so much worse.
Offering her thanks to Sam for healing Jorah, Daenerys realizes she roasted his father and brother. After she steps up and admits what happened, Sam does not take it well. You did not win over Jon’s best friend, Dany. Not even close.
Running into Bran outside, Bran coyly says he’s “waiting for an old friend.” Hmmmmm, inscrutable. He encourages Sam to tell Jon the truth finally about who he is.
Still reeling from the news Dany shared, Sam rushes into the truth: Jon is the bloody King of the Seven Kingdoms.
Jon is in denial; it can’t be possible, but Sam hammers home the facts. You can see that the truth is so large and overwhelming that it hasn’t even occurred to Jon yet that his girlfriend is his aunt.
Beric, Tormund, and men from the Night’s Watch turn up at Last Hearth in a spooky sequence, that turns comical as they run into Dolorous Edd. Slowly we realize something terrible has happened, as Edd reveals a bashed-up room- and the impaled body of a boy, stuck to a wall, with limbs arranged around him in a familiar swirl pattern. It’s Ned Umber, sent home to die. He reanimates as a wight, but is quickly put down with fire.
In Winterfell, more people stream in, including a mysterious hooded figure. He dismounts, removes his hood and then we know- it’s Jaime! He’s made it to the North. But don’t be relieved just yet. He turns and finds Bran staring him down- the Three Eyed Raven was waiting for him, and there’s a reckoning long overdue.
Theon’s Redemption: It was fantastic to see Theon able to save his sister, and able to make up for not only the sea battle, but also when she tried to save him from the Dreadfort. I’m relieved to see Yara saved, with her tongue intact.
John Bradley: Obviously this is a great cast but he was my star of the episode. Sam reacting to the death of his brother and the father (whom he hated, but still his dad!) was beautiful acting.
The Smart One: Can I just say how much I appreciate Arya acknowledging that Sansa is the smartest person she knows? It undoes some of the damage from season 7, for me.
Alas, poor Ned: What a cursed name.
Dragonglass Army: I am ridiculously excited to see the pile of weapons Gendry is going to make out of the dragonglass. Starting with that javelin thingy Arya designed, which seems like a split cousin of the ice javelin the Night King used to kill Viserion. Has Arya figured out something new?
Surprise! I’m shocked at the tiny body-count.
Overall? The King’s Landing portions had some clunky bits and the dragon joyride date went on too long, but I thought it was a great episode to set up the entire season, and covered a ton of ground while dealing with a lot of emotional baggage. Overall rating 8/10.
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Today’s piece is the first in a series; throughout the final season of Game of Thrones, you will see many Watchers sharing the story of their walk along the Fandom Road. Everyone has taken a different path, at their own pace, but ultimately we all came together here. The series is less of a farewell to GoT and more of a tribute to the power of fandom, and the community that has always been the most important thing to us at Watchers on the Wall. Even in the Long Night, when there were no episodes, we had each other, and you all. So thank you for reading, and sharing, and joining us on the Wall.
I never planned on Game of Thrones becoming such a large part of my existence; like so many things, it crept up on me in a sidelong manner and tapped me on the shoulder, and now I can’t imagine it not being with me all my life. The story has changed me, the community has changed me, and you can’t unblow that horn.
I first heard of A Song of Ice and Fire in early 2005 when some friends were reading the books; if my then-boyfriend hadn’t urged me to read it, I might have passed it by entirely until the TV show came along. I fell in love with the series that year and gobbled it up, my affair with the books lasting far longer than the one with the man who recommended them to me. By the time A Feast for Crows was published later that year, I was obsessed and rushing straight from work to Barnes & Noble to pick up the book the day it was published.
Like everyone, I had my favorite characters from the start. Growing up in Massachusetts rambunctious and rejecting of all things “girly”, and an insatiable reader, I was drawn to Arya and Sam, and Brienne’s unconventional vulnerability. When I finished the books, I was 26, and unmoored, and only vaguely aware of what I was capable of. I understood the desire to wander free, the need for a quest, and the refusal to believe that anyone could appreciate you for yourself.
So much changes in just a few years! By the time HBO announced they were ordering a pilot in late 2008, and it was in the hands of some dudes I’d never heard of, I was living in Ohio. I was a new mother, and a new widow.
Everything changes when you come out on the other side of watching people you love die. I didn’t understand that before, not truly. When I read A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords again, it wasn’t Arya’s role I fell into; it was Cat. Hollowed out by grief, yet persevering for her offspring. Surviving the experience taught me you can do anything if you have to. It also speaks to the power of George R.R. Martin’s writing that the story remained just as brilliant, despite my shifting perspective. Even now, ten years later as I heal and grow in new ways, I continue to find additional nuances to the characters, I connect to different voices. Sometimes I’m Sansa, I’m Varys, I’m Jon Snow, I’m just a little bit Ned, and sometimes on a rough day, I’m even Cersei. Part of me will always be Arya and Cat.
Being a big nerd in 2011 when ADWD was published. Yes it’s been 8 years.
The birth of the TV show gave me fresh light in a dark time. Occasionally something as a simple as a new series to look forward to can make all the difference. I’d spend time every day checking in on WiC and Westeros, to see what the latest gossip or fancasting was. Eventually I gained the courage to start commenting, and when the time for the show to premiere came, I started a tumblr. That tumblr connected me even further to the fandom, particularly to the amazing women who give so much creative lifeblood to the fandom with their meta, fan art and gifs. Tumblr’s where I met Bex, and how I came to the attention of the guys at WiC who eventually offered me a position writing with them.
And of course, ultimately we spun off from WiC to found Watchers on the Wall. The person who sat reading alone in her kitchen wishing she had someone to talk to about these stories could never have imagined what a global phenomenon Game of Thrones has become. But more importantly, I couldn’t have imagined what I have done, running Watchers with my friends, helping out with Con of Thrones now for the third year in a row, and learning how to manage multiple gigs at once while being a mother and a healthy human being. I couldn’t have had all these adventures and I couldn’t have become who I am now without the story, the show and all of you along the way.
So what now, facing the end? What happens after this final season is a mystery that we can’t understand or control as fans. But we didn’t know what would happen with Game of Thrones, either; it could’ve been a complete failure after the disastrous pilot, with the show scrapped and never heard from again. Despite it seeming like an obvious juggernaut from the start with our rosy hindsight, it wasn’t. Originally, GoT was a gamble for HBO and its creators and this anxiety over the spinoff is familiar to those of us who were here from the start. It’s comfortable and dare I say exciting? We have a future and a world of possibilities, and a long road ahead of us.
Watchers on the Wall has teamed up with CafePress to get you ready for tonight’s grand return of the show for a final time, with the latest in their Game of Thrones merchandise—T-Shirts, blankets, mugs, what have you. Moreover, CafePress allows you to create your own merchandise based on official Game of Thrones designs. Below the cut, check out all the featured items and a code to take 25% off of your CafePress Game of Thrones order!
At CafePress, our mission is to create human connection by inspiring people to express themselves. We believe a mug can start a conversation, and a t-shirt can ignite a movement.
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As the first official fan-design partner for Game of Thrones, CafePress offers a huge assortment of fan-designed Game of Thrones merch including apparel, drinkware, bags, home goods, and more. Here are some highlights:
Ahead of tomorrow’s 60 MinutesGame of Thrones special, CBS has released a part of the program in which Anderson Cooper interviews George R.R. Martin, and the A Song of Ice and Fire author is more open than ever about his feelings on the show coming to an end, especially before his books do, and just how close their two endings will be.
“I published a fifth book in 2011, when the series was just going on the air, so I was like five books ahead,” he says. “I was completely confident that I would have the entire series finished, and ‘Winds of Winter’ and ‘A Dream of Spring’ would be out before they got to them. [So] it was a blow when the series caught up. I didn’t think it would happen.”
As it’s been famously recounted many times, Martin had to tell showrunners Benioff & Weiss about “the major beats” so they could continue the story with an ending on sight. Just how detailed these “beats” were has been a topic of much discussion, yet here the author puts the rumors to rest. If there was ever a possibility he merely offered a few key moments and a vague outline for the rest, it’s now clear that wasn’t the case:
“We’re talking here about several days of story conferences taking place in my home,” Martin clarifies. “But there’s no way to get in all the detail, all the minor characters, all the secondary characters. The series has been extremely faithful, compared to 97% of all television and movie adaptations of literary properties. But it’s not completely faithful. And it can’t be. Otherwise, it would have to run another five seasons.”
Martin adds that the show being “a different version” of the books is “true of every adaptation.” In fact, when asked about whether he worries people will have the show’s ending in mind before the books, he makes it clear there’s not that much of a difference after all: “I don’t think Dan and Dave’s ending is gonna be that different from my ending, because of the conversations we did have,” he says, decisively putting many rumors to rest. “But on certain secondary characters there may be big differences.”
Unless for you discussion of “the ending” heavily involves the resolution of secondary characters whose path has diverged significantly (say, Bronn) or who don’t even feature in the show (say, Arianne), Martin has now confirmed the show’s “ending” will be essentially his own, at least as it relates to the main characters and the world.
Martin finishes with a calm, brutal honesty about the whole affair that I honestly find incredibly satisfying. Just listen to the man predict what’s gonna happen so perfectly:
“There will be a debate, I’m sure. I think a lot of people [will] say ‘Oh, Dan and Dave’s ending is better than the one George gave us. It’s a good thing they changed it.’ And there will be a lot of people who say, ‘No. Dan and Dave got it wrong. George’s ending is better.’ And they will all fight on the internet. And there will be debate. And that’s fine. You know, the worst thing for any work of art, be it a movie or a book, is to be ignored.”
In a more tongue-in-cheek clip, Cooper asks the cast and crew to just spill out the ending. Featuring showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as cast members Kit Harington, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Liam Cunningham, John Bradley, and Gwendoline Christie, the interview doesn’t just give us jokes but also a few serious answers too:
“It ends brilliantly,” says Peter Dinklage. “It brings everybody into it. And it questions everything [about what we thought,] which I love. It really makes you question yourself, I think. I did when I was reading it. Not in any sort of snarky way; in a beautiful way… I would love to talk to you more about it, but I can’t. It’s really good!”
“We’ve challenged people all along,” John Bradley contends. “If you would’ve asked people halfway through season one, ‘Do you want Ned Stark to die in episode nine?’, they’d have gone ‘Absolutely not, no way’… We’ve never given people what they think they want, because we know that [what] people really want [is] to be challenged, and they don’t like to be spoon-fed. All those great, visceral moments of people’s reactions to this show have come from things happening that they didn’t want to happen.”
“When we read the final six scripts, I just thought ‘Wow, they’ve done an amazing job, they actually wrapped it up. They ended this show,’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau recalls. “And it’s an ending. We’re not gonna come back. And you do feel proud that you’re part of something like that.” And you should feel proud, Nikolaj! You all should!
While our gazes are understandably focused on tomorrow’s season eight premiere, that’s not all that’s happening in the world of Game of Thrones, as pre-production continues for Jane Goldman’s prequel, reportedly set during the Long Night, starring the likes of Naomi Watts, Miranda Richardson, John Simm, and many others.
At Paint Hall Studios on Belfast, Northern Ireland, which Game of Thrones used for almost a decade and the spin-off has now taken over, a new set is being erected…
We thank Graham L. for the following photos, which prominently show a prop for what looks like a basic pulley system of some sort, as well as a stone structure, with similar buildings in the background as well, hinting at a much larger set to be:
These look like ruins of some kind, while the scaffolding to the right is the framework for a gigantic green screen, but there’s not enough detail yet to speculate any more, especially about a story set thousands of years in the past. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see pre-production is moving along, just as it is reassuring that they’re obviously not skimping on the sets either; ‘season one of Game of Thrones’ budget this ain’t.
Before you go, a reminder: HBO has only greenlit a pilot, which they will then use to judge whether to go ahead with the show. There’s little doubt the prequel will go to series, considering the success of Game of Thrones and the good word behind Jane Goldman’s concept for this new show, but we should still keep in mind they’re only producing—building sets for, and presumably casting for—a single episode.
For those of you who have clicked on our store in recent months, you know that it has been closed for some time due to redesign. However, it is now officially reopened just in time for Season 8 with a new design and a HUGE SALE on our existing inventory!
Last year at Con of Thrones, we unveiled the Protection shirt and it is now available for purchase in the official WotW Store!
To celebrate the final season of Game of Thrones, everything else in the store is 30% OFF including the Raven shirt, the Weirwood, the WotW contest winner, and the top-selling Distressed Hoodie!
Support the Wall with Official Watchers on the Wall merch and prepare for the beginning of the end!
To whet your appetite before the season eight premiere tomorrow, Sophie Turner and Nathalie Emmanuel look back on their long Game of Thrones journeys and tease the roles Sansa Stark and Missandei of Naath respectively will play in this final season.
Harper’s Bazaar published a beautiful feature with Nathalie Emmanuel, where the actress looks back on how she began on the show: “I had told my agent a few times: ‘I need to be in that show!’ But until [a casting call came out for a ‘non-white female aged 18 to 23′ to play a small part called Missandei], the likelihood of them casting someone who looks like me felt pretty slim. But when I saw the breakdown I thought, ‘That’s me!’”
“When it came to character work it was kind of difficult,” she says of her first days. “Because, in the books, Missandei is only nine years old. She is described as a very quiet, very still person. Kind of timid. But I didn’t really want that for her. I thought: ‘She has survived so much, so much horror, but underneath there’s this impenetrable strength.’ So at first, I created a person who was very contained. Then I got to play with the subtleties of her coming out of that, and having more freedom to think and feel.”
Missandei has come a long way from her reserved ways in season three, developing on her own and alongside Grey Worm, but her loyalty to Daenerys has been a constant. Will this hold in season eight? “I think it is very safe to say,” Emmanuel teases, “that the war is here for Daenerys, and Missandei marches right beside her, all the way.”
Head to Harper’s Bazaar for the original interview, including a wonderful video portion. She discusses the role of women in Game of Thrones, the wrap party, and more.
“Sansa this season is very much enjoying becoming a leader in her own right and the leader of Winterfell,” Sophie Turner tells James Hibberd at Entertainment Weekly, “and this year there are certain challenges of people who come into her life that threaten that. She has to go behind a few backs and risks tearing apart her family.”
“Her relationship with Jon is struggling because he’s so clearly in love with Daenerys and believes in her completely,” she elaborates. “Sansa thinks she’s power-hungry and not the rightful queen. There’s a huge amount of fighting between Sansa and Jon.”
Tiresome conflicts aside, Turner talks about her good friend and cast mate (and soon maid of honor) Maisie Williams, with whom she doesn’t plan on parting ways any time soon despite the end of Thrones: “We’ve more been talking about what can we do together. We’ll probably end up writing scripts and producing things together. I don’t think we’ll never work together again. The saddest part is I don’t get to be Sansa, she doesn’t get to be Arya, and we don’t get to interact on that level — which is sad because their relationship is a big part of who Maisie and I are. That’s going to be the saddest thing. I won’t see Maisie in her costume anymore, I won’t see Kit in his costume anymore. I won’t be able to be in my costume. We won’t get to play these characters.”
I think we will all miss that too, alongside with… everything else!
Only a weekend stands between us and the premiere of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, and we can’t quite believe it’s almost here. We have so many questions for the final season to answer, and while The Night’s Cast, the official podcast of Watchers on the Wall, can’t answer them all, we can give you some food for thought as you head into premiere weekend!
We’re concluding our White Book episodes, in which we discuss the character arcs and possible endgames of some of the characters who are still standing as Season 8 begins. This week, Samantha and Akash of the Andals are joined by Travis and Brett from the wonderful Planetos Podcast to discuss Bran Stark, Varys, Jon Snow and the Hound.
Don’t forget — The Night’s Cast is going live for Season 8! Starting Sunday and going until May 19th, you can find us livestreaming every Sunday at 5 p.m. EST on the Watchers on the Wall YouTube channel.
The European premiere for the final season of Game of Thrones took place yesterday in Belfast. Though not as extravagant an affair as the New York City premiere, much of the cast still attended the screening of the season premiere, including a few missing in NYC.
Alongside Game of Thrones producers Bernadette Caulfield and Chris Newman, much of the cast were in attendance at the ICC Belfast Waterfront Hall convention center, including a distressingly clean-shaven Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth), Carice van Houten (Melisandre), Conleth Hill (Varys), Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy), Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Joe Dempsie (Gendry), Richard Dormer (Beric Dondarrion), Jerome Flynn (Bronn), Ben Crompton (Edd Tollett), and even Kerry Ingram (the late Princess Shireen Baratheon.) Of course, Sky Atlantic covered the cast’s arrival to the event:
During the red carpet, SkyAtlantic also interviewed the cast, including Isaac Hempstead Wright, who says “the first episode [of season eight] is spectacular. I think it’s one of the strongest—probably the best—opening episodes we’ve ever done in Game of Thrones.”
Absent from New York, Gemma Whelan was elated to attend the Belfast premiere, as attested by her Instagram post, where she says she was “blown away” by the season premiere (“Holy dragon balls”, she exclaims) and that it was “so special to be back in Belfast with the best gang in the world.”
HBO just released a short —I can’t emphasize enough just how short it is— featurette about the first day on set of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, with the cast arriving early in the morning and getting ready to shoot. Take a look!
The video features Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuele, Jacob Anderson, Sophie Turner, Isaac Hampstead Wright, Gwendoline Christie, Kit Harington, and Iain Glen, though you’ll miss many of them if you blink for even a second:
The countdown is on, and with three [long, dark] nights [assuredly full of terrors] until the final season of Game of Thrones debuts, the news continues to pour in like crazy. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Ser Jaime Lannister) is flying from coast to coast to catch in a last-ditch effort to catch every last talk show host before the final season debuts, while the rest of the cast is fielding press junkets left and right. Meanwhile, a CNN personality flies to Belfast, all while slowly turning into a white walker. Only on Game of Thrones, right? Let’s get to it.
On The Late Show with James Corden, Nikolaj recounts the “unbelievably bad” pilot. “No one should have picked that up,” he quips. Turns out, the cast sat down with (showrunners) David Benioff and Dan Weiss to watch the original pilot. Oh, how I’d have killed to be in the room and see what a low-budget, high concept fantasy pilot was like. And to think of the cast differences! Jennifer Ehle had played Catelyn Stark in the original pilot, and Tamzin Merchant of The Tudors fame had played Daenerys. I have no familiarity with Jennifer Ehle, but having seen The Tudors (really a great show, do please find it if you have time), it’s mind boggling to imagine how different a take she would have had on our beloved dragon queen. The butterfly effect is a crazy thing.
Meanwhile, in a very odd pairing, Gemma Whelan (Yara Greyjoy) and Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont, the Andal of Bear Island and all around best character on GOT) got together for an interview. While the above is written in Spanish, the interview clip is in English. There’s not too much to report, but, while drinking his tea, Iain does let slip that he was in “floods of tears” while dreading about the ending of the show.
Meanwhile, ‘Mophie,’ as Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) call themselves, did a team interview on GMA with Strahan & Sara. My favourite bit from this clip is that Maisie says that although GOT is ending, she won’t miss Kit Harington (Jon Snow) because “he lives three minutes from me.” And – oh, was it spoilers for season 8 you wanted? Sorry, Sophie was really good at that. Here’s a tease: “There’s a lot of mud, and blood, and snow, and fire.” Well jeez, thanks guys.
And finally, get excited because CBS staple 60 Minutes will air a pre-recorded interview with various cast and crew members, courtesy of chiseled hunk, and self-professed GOT nerd, Anderson Cooper. How do I know he’s a GOT nerd? Well, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Anderson revealed two important aspects of his GOT-related nerdiness: One, the more headline-catching part includes Anderson’s trip to the set in Belfast, visiting Castle Black, the prop storage room, and donning a ton of makeup to become a white walker – truly all very cool stuff! But two is Anderson’s inability to focus on anything Kit was saying in an interview because Anderson was too busy swooning his way through the whole thing. It’s really great and you should watch and enjoy because I could never do his reaction justice:
The art for the Spotify playlist “The End is Coming,” curated by Game of Thrones showrunners Dave Benioff and Dan Weiss.
In the two days since Spotify released Dave Benioff and Dan Weiss’ “The End is Coming” playlist, a list of 50 songs that supposedly contain hints as to how the series will end, speculation has been running wild here in the Watchers newsroom. “The answer to the ending is one hundred percent hidden in the playlist choices,” Benioff and Weiss told For the Record in an email. “No one will believe us, but it’s true.”
With that said, Vanessa and Samantha put their thinking caps on and have each chosen a few tracks from the playlist that have been particularly intriguing. What do they mean and why were they chosen? Which potentially earth-shattering events do they reference — and which characters? For a bit of fun, here are a few selections:
“Her Black Wings,” by Danzig
The repeated line of “under her black wings” might make you think this is a reference to Daenerys, but “Harder than life, she offers me sleep … in another form” really made my eyebrow raise — and the verse “Her stride is such/Mortals freeze/When she walks past” drove it home. This sounds an awful lot like how you’d describe the Night Queen. It’s something I thought the show wouldn’t touch on, given the limited time frame of Season 8, but now I’m not so sure. The question is, who would she be?
“War,” by Grandson
We all know that a battle is coming to Westeros, but it’s a little too on the nose to say that’s what this song is about. Rather, this song is a look at racism and inequality — “We chose one race superior and another inferior” — and that strife will continue “until the color of a man’s skin serves no more significance than the color of his eyes.” What does this mean for Season 8 — perhaps a tense meeting between Dany’s Dothraki forces and the Westerosi northmen? Or that as a leader who’s brought together both foreign and domestic peoples, Dany truly is the one who will change Westeros for the better?
“Wave of Mutilation,” by Pixies
I desperately want a good ending to Theon’s story, one where he reconciles his Greyjoy past and lives to serve Yara well and faithfully — but I think the ending that’s more likely is that he dies saving her (which is okay too). The lines “Cease to resist, giving my goodbye/Drive my car into the ocean” make me suspect this will be the case. And although I don’t think most of these songs have titles that relate so specifically to a situation or character, “Wave of Mutilation” is pretty spot-on, not only for Theon’s mental, emotional and physical state but also a nod to his ironborn heritage.
“Furr,” by Blitzen Trapper
This is another one that might be pretty obvious when you look at the lyrics. “But I was drawn into the pack and before long/They allowed me to join in and sing their song/So from the cliffs and highest hill/Yeah, we would gladly get our fill” sounds an awful lot like a reference to the Nymeria-led wolf pack that we last saw in the Riverlands and that we suspect (or at least hope) will be seen again at the battle of Winterfell. There’s a possibility that it also means someone (Bran?) warging into a direwolf again — “And now my fur has turned to skin/And I’ve been quickly ushered in/To a world that I confess I do not know/But I still dream of running careless through the snow” — but I think it might just be a reference to the close connection the Starks and direwolves share.
“This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life,” by Born Ruffians
Can you think of a better way to explain Jon finding out about his parentage than a sentence that has the potential to both ruin and save someone’s life? The song is the story of someone who’s spent a lot of time thinking about what they don’t have and what they think the need, but more importantly, struggling to find out who they are and what their purpose is — “I need to know who I am/And what I’m going to do while I’m on earth.” Well, Jon, you’re about to find out, and I hope to the gods you know what to do with the information when you get it.
“Cruel,” by St. Vincent
I’m going way out on a limb here, but as a HUGE fan of St. Vincent, I just decided to have fun with this (like my beloved Annie Clark has fun with everything): I’m going to say this song means the Golden Company will indeed turn on Cersei. “Can’t you see what everybody wants from you?” is a poignant reminder that sellsword companies only want your money, while “They could take or leave you/So they took you, and they left you” means that the GC may well take Cersei’s money and leave her high and dry once they see the Army of the Dead descending on King’s Landing. It sounds pretty awful for a company to break a contract once they’ve been paid, but it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened, and to a group of sellswords, it’s not personal — just business. “How could they be casually cruel?” is a line that particularly snags my attention in this respect.
“Love Is Blindness,” by U2
When Jaime Lannister says that you can’t help who you love, it’s just another way of saying “love is blind.” The problem with “blind” love is that it can be problematic and abusive — not unlike the relationship between Jaime and Cersei. The lyrics to this song scream the realization of that abuse and the grief over knowing it has to end — “Thread is ripping/The knot is slipping” — not to mention the allusions to Jaime’s gold hand and snuffing out life, either through squeezing (valonqar, anyone?) or wrapping: “Love is clockworks/And cold steel/Fingers too numb to feel/Squeeze the handle/Blow out the candle … Won’t you wrap the night/Around me?”
Immigrant Song, by Led Zeppelin
As of the season seven finale the White Walkers are on the move with the Army of the Dead, invading Westeros and bringing destruction as they come. With lyrics like “We come from the land of the ice and snow/From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow/How soft your fields so green/Can whisper tales of gore/Of how we calmed the tides of war/We are your overlords,” Immigrant Song seems to state the purpose of the White Walkers pretty well – after all, there won’t be any more war once everyone is a mind controlled wight, right? There may be a small ray of hope at the end, however, as the song concludes “now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins/For peace and trust can win the day/Despite of all your losing.”
Flugufrelsarinn, by Sigur Ros
This song’s inclusion is interesting, as it brings Theon Greyjoy to mind. The song title translates to “A Fly’s Savior” (I don’t get it either), but if you think of Yara as the fly the lyrics fit really well: “I rushed down to the lake/A savior/I built a ship and said a small prayer/Because I was scared…He is both on/Sea and land, saving/Flies that die here/Though especially himself/Eternal war and peace nowhere.” It’s difficult to say whether this points to their survival or not, but I have hope!
There is another possibility for this song being on the list, as the cover art shows a baby with wings. Could this be a dragon (Targaryen) baby? It’s another potential hint that Dany will be pregnant in season eight.
War Pigs, by Black Sabbath
There have long been theories about the destruction of King’s Landing, and Dany’s season two vision in the House of the Undying certainly added fuel to that fire (pun intended) as she walked into a burned and destroyed Red Keep. We may finally see it happen – as well as Cersei’s downfall – if these lyrics are any indication: “Politicians hide themselves away/They only started the war…Treating people just like pawns in chess/Wait ’till their judgement day comes, yeah/Now in darkness world stops turning/Ashes where the bodies burning…Day of judgement, God is calling/On their knees the war pigs crawling/Begging mercies for their sins.” This doesn’t bode well for the Lannister queen’s fate.
Gold Lion, by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Speaking of Lannisters, perhaps we should be concerned for all three siblings. A “Gold Lion” is the sigil of their house, and while the lyrics aren’t particularly alarming (although the phrase “Take our hands out of control” could be telling), the video is a different story. Several instruments are set alight, and the fire eventually surrounds the entire band. Is House Lannister destined to go down in flames?
Power, by Kanye West
The marketing for season eight has been pushing a “For the Throne” narrative, and speculation has run wild about who will win the Iron Throne. Many fans think that the throne will ultimately be destroyed at the end, however, and that a new form of governance will arise in Westeros. “Power” certainly supports that narrative, with lyrics like “I seen people abuse power, use power, misuse and then lose power/Power to the people at last, it’s a new hour…Take the power in your own hands…No one man should have all that power/The clock’s ticking, I just count the hours.” We may not see a true democracy, but a more even distribution of authority via a ruling council would be a start.
What do you think of the playlist? Did any songs stand out to you? Let us know your theories in the comments!