That Game of Thrones is a deadly one, and like all good games, it has winners and losers. Welcome to Game of Thrones: Winners & Losers, where we take in the latest episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones and determine the top MVP’s as well as those who were handed a healthy dose of defeat.
Below you’ll find the winners and losers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 1, “Winterfell.” If you find your favorite character listed as a loser, just remember that the tides on Game of Thrones are always shifting; I swear it by the Old Gods and the New.
*Spoilers for the latest episode of Game of Thrones below*
Oh my sweet summer children, I never thought we’d make it. Five hundred and nintey-five days! Almost two years, people! But finally we’re back in the Light of the Seven; for us watching at home, the Long Night is over. Like I assume most of you did, I rewatched several episodes of the series before the premiere so that my mind, body, and spirit were prepared for these final six episodes, and it was amazing how many details I’d either buried away in my head or forgotten altogether. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it definitely doesn’t help you remember all of the intricacies of a sprawling fantasy epic. But whatever, I’ll stop bemoaning HBO’s scheduling decisions and just be thankful that Game of Thrones, one of the last vestiges of TV monoculture, is back. The premiere is stacked with fan-servicey reunions, dragon rides, and delicious callbacks, so let’s dive into all of it in this glorious(ly stupid) column. Bring on the dragons!
2. Jon Snow
Or should I say King Aegon Targaryen? I really struggled with whether to put ol’Jonny Boy, Mr. Happy, in the Winners or Losers column. On the one hand, he rode back into Winterfell, the home that he once felt like a stranger in, looking super comfortable, flanked by his new silver-haired girlfriend, her two dragons, and an enormous army. That’s a huge flex. That’s like showing up to your high school reunion in a Lambo with Emily Ratajkowski on your arm, handing out business cards that highlight that you’re now on Amazon’s board of directors. Then my guy romantically rode a freaking dragon around with Dany, basically singing “A Whole New World,” and telling Aladdin to hold his beer. He reunited with Arya and Bran, and even got the answer to the mystery of his life.
Except that answer, that his mother was actually Lyanna Stark and his father Rhaegar Targaryen, complicates everything. When Sam delivered the news to Jon, I fully expected him to put his hands on his head and say in horror, “I’ve been f**king my aunt,” but Jon keeps that can of worms closed and instead focuses on the political repercussions. Daenerys certainly isn’t going to step aside for him, and he likely doesn’t want to be king anyway. He barely accepted his title of King in the North. Speaking of that, the Northerners are pissed that he bent the knee, and in other bad news, Sansa is immediately distrustful of Dany, and Arya and Bran have gone from sweet younger siblings to creepy, cryptic strangers. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Still, I’m going to call Young Aeg a winner this week, if only because of that magic dragon ride. We’ll deal with the Targaryen reveal fallout next week.
3. Sansa Stark
The Lady of Winterfell has suffered too many creeps, cretins, sadists, and fools and will not be dealing with any sucka shit for a moment longer. She throws shade at Tyrion, essentially calling him washed and stupid for trusting Cersei, and she’s not wrong. She throws shade at Daenerys, raising legitimate logistical concerns about housing and feeding her armies and dragons. Sansa is thinking first and foremost about Team Stark and she won’t let Jon’s crush on the Dragon Lady get in the way of doing what’s best for their house. Sansa has become such a savvy player in the game of thrones that even Arya, who once dismissed her as a materialistic priss, calls her the smartest person that she knows. Everyone that underestimated Sansa is dead now, so let that be a warning to anyone that threatens the Lady Wolf in Season 8; Sansa aint here to play.
4. Cersei Lannister
Okay, so no elephants (sad face), but things are going pretty well at King’s Landing! Her hair is growing back nicely and my girl is ROCKING those golden shoulder pad things. That fit is a look and a half. Anyway, she’s now got The Golden Company on the roster to do her bidding and she even gets a quickie in with Euron Greyjoy, the Billie Joe Armstrong of the High Seas, while simultaneously threatening to kill him. Come on, that’s like two of Cersei’s favorite things! She also delivers the Lannister family crossbow to Bronn and promises him a pretty penny if he caps one or both of her brothers (but not in person because breakups are hard, and Lena Headey and Jerome Flynn cannot share a scene together). Who cares if her plan to duke it out with whomever remains in the battle between the living and the dead is a bit shortsighted; Cersei is thriving in full-on villain mode for the time being.
5. Theon and Yara Greyjoy
While Euron is off knocking the boots with his coveted Queen, Yara is freed by her brother Theon. Now she won’t have to suffer any more stories from Euron about the time he opened for My Chemical Romance before they were famous, or whatever. It’s a quick and easy rescue mission, and Yara even gets to sock Theon in the face for allowing her to get captured in the first place. Now she’ll return to take back the Iron Islands, which can be used as refuge for Dany and Co. should their first run in with the Army of the Dead go poorly. As for Theon, this is just another stop in the Theon Greyjoy Redemption Tour. After having arguably the roughest stretch of any character on the show, Theon not only returns the favor and rescues his sister, satisfying the Greyjoy part of his identity, but Yara grants him permission to go battle the dead with his spiritual family, the Starks. There’s no doubt in my mind that Theon ends up as a casualty in the Great War (he’s not exactly the most skilled fighter), but I have a feeling that he’ll go out on a high noble, honorable note, erasing the memory of his early betrayals.
1. Daenerys Targaryen
Just like when she’d show up in a new city in Essos, Daenerys is not getting the warm reception that she hoped for at Winterfell. The Northerners are a stubborn, tribal bunch and don’t take kindly to outsiders. She’s already clashed with her new boyfriend’s sister and makes the worst first impression imaginable with Samwell Tarly. Maybe there’s an easier way of telling someone that you burnt their father and brother to a crisp? Even the one positive aspect of her new life in Westeros, a blossoming relationship with Jonny with the Good Hair, looks like it could be in jeopardy now that Jon has discovered the truth about his parentage. Everything that we know about Dany (she’s got a surprisingly cold violent streak) tells us she isn’t going to take Jon’s new claim to the throne lightly, and if she reacts too strongly, she’s surrounded by Starks and Stark loyalists on all sides. Could Khaleesi blow a three dragon lead?
2. Samwell Tarly
This week, Sam has to stomach some bad news and hand out some hard truths. Look, I don’t care how messy your relationship with your family might be, if you found out your estranged father and brother got brutally burned alive by dragons, ordered by the woman who you’re now sworn to serve, you’re probably going to have complicated feelings about it at the very least. If that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve got creepy Bran telling you that you’ve got to drop a truth bomb on your best friend. Sam tries to get Bran to do it, telling Bran that since he’s Jon’s brother, he should deliver the news, but Bran hits him with a “Well, actually…” about that brother business. Sam gets roped into telling Jon that he’s banging his aunt, awkward to say the least.
3. Drogon and Rheagal
Our dragon friends would like to fly south for the winter, thank you very much. These two lost the third wheel of their fire-breathing tricycle and are now sulking about like Jon Snow, barely eating and causing Dany to worry. The North is cold as hell and these two did not sign up for this. Also, Drogon is obviously a little wary of Jon Snow, did you see the way he mean-mugged the King of the North when Jon laid a smooch on his Mommy? Then these two are subjected to being participants in Jon and Dany’s silly little romantic fly about. This isn’t the worst card these dragons have been dealt, it’s not exactly as bad as being locked up underground, but it isn’t ideal either.
4. Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion was once a major mover and shaker in all things Thrones related, and now he’s little more than an observer. Sure, he’s Hand of the Queen, but Dany’s actual hand is being held by Jon Snow, and he’s the one scheming and planning with ol’Stormborn, not Tyrion. Despite his considerable intelligence and everything he knows about Cersei, Tyrion is taking Cersei’s promise to send aid at face value. Rightfully, Sansa calls him stupid and naive to his face, and the Tyrion of old would have had a replied with a cutting quip back at her, but these days, he’s got nothing. Game of Thrones hasn’t really found meaningful business for Tyrion since shipping him off to Essos and the premiere does little to change this.
5. Euron Greyjoy
I had the same problem placing Euron, pirate Pete Wentz, as I did Jon Snow. On the one hand, he completes his ultimate goal of sleeping with the Queen, and despite her barbs and threats, he never loses his arrogant swagger throughout the affair. However, homeboy totally left his prisoner under-guarded and now he’s likely lost the Iron Islands. Also, Euron talks about giving Cersei a baby, but unfortunately Jaime has already beat him to the punch. Something tells me Euron is going to outlive his usefulness to Cersei very soon, and if Cersei doesn’t rid of him, his new colleague Captain Strickland of the Golden Company will.
Lord Umber – So much for the Westerosi Youth Movement. He went out like Chucky at the end of Child’s Play. – LOSER
Dolorous Edd – Loving the new beard, Edd! – WINNER
Arya Stark – Setting the thirst trap for Gendry. Love it. – WINNER
Jaime Lannister – You got some ‘splain’ to do! – LOSER
Bran Stark – Tone down the detached creepiness just a bit, Professor X. – LOSER
The Hound – Dragon glass axe, yes please. – WINNER
Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane – Survived the fall of the Wall. – WINNERS
Bronn – Would it kill you to knock? – LOSER
The Night King – Subtelty isn’t his strong suit, but he really knows how to send a message. – WINNER
Lyanna Mormont – Did not vote for this. – LOSER
Fans of Elephants – CGI is expensive. – LOSERS
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.