Come fly with me: Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) mounts up alongside Queen Daenerys in the season opener of Game of Thrones.
Photos courtesy of HBO
How to train your dragons
THE X-PAT FILES - Scott Garceau (The Philippine Star) - April 21, 2019 - 12:00am

We should have known: that giddy moment during Game of Thrones’ Season 8 opener in which Daenerys and Jon Snow ride twin dragons like they’re Jack and Rose doing “King of the world!” on the Titanic just couldn’t last. Something was bound to get between the boat-sex couple, sooner or later.

Such happy moments, far from the world of treachery, beheadings, white walkers, red priestesses burning children and the like are quite rare in Game of Thrones, HBO’s megahit fantasy series set in fictional Westeros. As is boat sex.

After all, we left Westeros at the end of Season 7 with things in perilous straits. Jon and Daenerys were teaming up to fight an invasion of zombies from the north, and Sansa was giving everybody stink-eye; Cersei was promising, between guzzles of wine, that she would send an army to help them fight the white walkers, but you know Cersei: can’t be trusted as far as you can fling a cat. Then there was the sight of Viserion, one of Daenerys’ three dragons, resurrected from the dead by that crafty Night King, and employed to burn down the ice wall with a burst of blue flame and an unearthly wail.

Jon Snow and Queen Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) have a waterfall moment.

So perhaps riding dragons is not the best way to spend one’s opening episode, given that there are only five (five!) episodes left to wrap up not only the war in the north, but the problem of Cersei, the whole “thrones” question, and the very series itself.

But we have faith: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the show’s creators, have steered the series ably lo these many seasons — hell, they even got us to believe in dragons, yet another zombie manifestation, and boat sex.

Episode 1 of Season 8 finds us in Winterfell (the episode’s title), where the remaining Starks are trying to get together as many houses as possible to fight the white walkers. There’s Arya, finally joining up with Sansa and wheelchaired Bran/Three-Eyed Raven — the Stark children along with Jon Snow and Queen Daenerys all together for a rare group shot in the Winterfell compound, like it’s that wedding scene in The Godfather, and Michael is arriving late for the family photo. Though, of course, weddings usually have bad consequences in Game of Thrones.

The reunion of Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and half-brother Jon Snow is affecting.

Despite their airy dragon-winged date that ends near a waterfall in the frozen north (shades of Jon Snow and Ygritte’s cave sex moment in that earlier GoT episode, my wife points out), things are actually kind of touch-and-go between Jon and Daenerys. His rather rash decision to bend the knee last season leaves him with very suspicious followers in the north, including Sansa Stark herself, who seems to have mastered not only the pithy putdown (“Don’t bother having the last word, Sir Baelish, I’ll assume it was something clever”), but a keen ability to throw shade just about everywhere. (Looking at you, Daenerys!)

Jon, as always, lacks any ambition to take the Iron Throne or even be King of the North. He simply wants to protect the north from rampaging dead people. Perhaps that explains his somewhat blind allegiance to Dany. In any case, it’s a sticking point for Sansa, as well as brother Bran, who now just pops up suddenly in most scenes, creepily posed in his wheelchair, as though he’s been lurking and listening all along. (Some have even posited that Bran was “warging” his way into one of Dany’s dragons, peeping on Jon and her during that waterfall scene. One assumes, though, that he has better things to do with his time, being the Three-Eyed Raven.)

Oddly enough, Arya (Maisie Williams) seems like the “normal” kid among this Stark batch, which is saying something. Having returned from a personal killing spree, trained by not only The Hound (Rory McCann, great as ever) but the Faceless Men as well, she’s keeping her lethal weapons sheathed at the moment. Even a run-in with The Hound — whom she left for dead several seasons back — ends in a standoff of mutual respect. Arya’s reunion with Jon, then, near the family weirwood tree, is the most touching, simply because these two characters haven’t had a scene together since Season 1. At that time, Jon was leaving to “take the black” and protect the northern wall, and gave young Arya a sword which she quickly dubbed “needle.” “Have you used it since?” Jon asks her innocently as Season 8 opens. “Once or twice,” Arya deadpans. There never is much time in Game of Thrones to catch up, or trade war stories.

Mr. Cocky: Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) is back, trying to win Cersei’s affections.

Arya also reunites with Gendry, now fighting with Davos and the North, and it’s a mild flirtation that hints at new affections this season, albeit a bit too late. Will Arya Stark find true love? Or is it: once a stone-cold killa, always a stone-cold killa?

Reunions are the theme of this opening episode. Tyrion, still legally wed to Sansa, offers his two cents about the battle with the white walkers and Cersei’s pledge to join the fight; he is roundly dissed by Sansa for his naiveté.

And speaking of Cersei, she finally succumbs to too-cocky-for-his-own-good Euron Greyjoy’s endless come-ons and beds him; we’re not sure what game she’s playing there. But while Euron’s busy getting his groove on, his neutered nephew Theon is getting a move on, rescuing sister Yara from the Iron Fleet. So, another reunion, though not so sweet.

Later, we see Samwell Tarly briefly reunited with Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn), but it comes as Daenerys has some unpleasant news to share: she had to, unfortunately, roast Sam’s dad and brother Dickon because they would not bend the knee to her after the Battle of the Goldroad in Season 7. Sorry! Her bad! While Sam is none too sad to see his father go, the loss of Dickon hits him hard; at Bran’s urging, he’s next shown telling Jon some very explosive news. And, well, it’s just the kind of thing that can tear apart most budding relationships, dragon ride or no dragon ride. So we expect this battle between Jon and Daenerys to take center stage in Episode 2.

Welcome back, people of Westeros. The landscape of television has been barren without you.

Daenerys has some unfortunate news for Sam Tarly (John Bradley)

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Episode 2 of Game of Thrones airs on HBO this Monday, 9 a.m., with repeat showing at 9 p.m.

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