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 EW for 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.
Read the entire interview here.
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 case you missed it, check out next week’s preview!