This moment from the Game of Thrones season eight premiere has captured the attention of fans over the world, and for very good reason…
Fair warning to all Game of Thrones fans: this article is dark, and full of season eight spoilers.
Game of Thrones is finally back on our screens at last. And, naturally, we have a lot to say about episode one of the HBO show’s eighth season – particularly that beautiful opening scene.
As we’ve already noted in our official GOT episode recap – which you can find here – the final season opened with a gorgeous homage to the first: namely, Robert Baratheon’s arrival in Winterfell From the music to the little boy clambering up a tree to get a better view (clearly a reference to the young Bran Stark), it played out in almost exactly the same way, bar a few crucial details. Whereas Robert rode alone (Cersei was sat in the royal litter when the Baratheon contingent arrived in Winterfell all those years ago), Daenerys and Jon ride side by side - which is seemingly indicative of their united front, their respect for one another, and the equality of their claims to the Iron Throne. Sansa does not wait shyly in the yard: instead, she watches from the battlements and waits for Jon to come to her. Arya, likewise, doesn’t come to meet her brother straightaway: instead, she watches from the crowds and then disappears (“lurking somewhere,” Sansa notes, when Jon asks after his favourite sister). And the interaction between Daenerys and Sansa is vastly different to the Stark’s interaction with Cersei all those years ago, too. Then, she was young, and naive, and eager to please. Now, she is the Lady of Winterfell, she doesn’t approve of the Targaryen queen, and she isn’t afraid to show it, either.
You can see the season eight opener below…
And here’s the scene it mirrors from the first season, for comparison:
A lot of people, this Game of Thrones fan included, have spent hours trying to figure out the vital differences between the two scenes, in a bid to uncover some GOT secrets and Easter eggs. But what if the takeaway isn’t intended to be the little differences, but the glaring similarities? What if producers decided to have the final season mirror the first in a bid to show us all how pointless and futile the fight for the Iron Throne is. That there will always be another spoke on the wheel. That these petty differences and squabbles between Baratheon, Lannister, tagraryen, Stark, Tyrell mean nothing in the end.
That there is a far bigger, and more immediate, threat to be dealt with: an endless and deadly winter (clearly a metaphor for climate change) which can only be stopped if our heroes stop ignoring it and work together to put things right.
George R R Martin, who penned the original A Song of Ice and Fire series upon which Game of Thrones is based, previously told the NY Times: “The people in Westeros are fighting their individual battles over power and status and wealth. And those are so distracting them that they’re ignoring the threat of ‘winter is coming,’ which has the potential to destroy all of them and to destroy their world.”
Adding that, on the HBO show, most leaders from the Seven Kingdoms are too preoccupied with their quest for the Iron Throne to recognize the White Walkers as legitimate threats, he said: “But while we’re tearing ourselves apart over this and expending so much energy, there exists this threat of climate change, which, to my mind, is conclusively proved by most of the data and 99.9 percent of the scientific community. And it really has the potential to destroy our world. And we’re ignoring that while we worry about the next election and issues that people are concerned about, like jobs. Jobs are a very important issue, of course.
“All of these things are important issues. But none of them are important if, like, we’re dead and our cities are under the ocean.
Could it be that the HBO show is going to defy the public’s thirst to know who ends up on the Iron Throne and focus on Martin’s vision of an apocalyptic weather shift instead?
Well, the show’s creators recently released a 50-song playlist ahead of the season eight premiere, which they said contained a massive clue about how the series will end.
Speaking to For the Record, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said: “The answer to the ending is 100% hidden in the playlist choices. No one will believe us, but it’s true.”
Aptly titled The End Is Coming, the playlist features such ominous tunes as Cage The Elephant’s Cold Cold Cold, Rage Against The Machine’s Sleep Now In The Fire, U2’s Love Is Blindness (surely a reference to Jaime and Cersei Lannister), and a lot of songs with the word “war” buried in the title. Which, you know, isn’t all that surprising, considering the Battle of Winterfell is going to be a big deal this season.
There was one song in particular, though, which caught our eye.
Here’s Your Future, by The Thermals, is an eerie track from the album The Body, The Blood and The Machine, which details the same apocalyptic event detailed in the Bible’s Old Testament. You know, the one where God flooded the world, forcing Noah to build an Ark and sail off in search of drier, safer lands? Yeah, that one.
God reached his hand down from the sky
God asked Noah if he wanted to die
He said, “No sir
Oh, no, sir”
God said “Here’s your future
It’s gonna rain”
So we’re packing our things
We’re building a boat
We’re gonna create the new master race
Cause we’re so pure
Oh, Lord, we’re so pure
Well, what if Game of Thrones doesn’t end the way we all expect? What if the Night King and his White Walkers do bring eternal winter to Westeros, forcing any survivors to jump aboard ships and head across the Narrow Sea to… well, to somewhere new? Somewhere where humanity has a decent chance of survival, if they all work together?
It’s a compelling theory, particularly as the show’s location scout recently revealed that they were forced to find an entirely new spot for the filming of this year’s big finale. “I’m hoping that the fans don’t even notice the biggest amount of work that we had to do in this season, but you’ll know it,” they said, when asked about the destination on the Still Watching Game of Thrones podcast.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, similarly let slip that he “had a great last scene… shot at a beautiful location” – a loaded statement, to say the least. Why? Well, Colder-Wastau has spent much of his time filming in Northern Ireland (for Winterfell) and Croatia (for King’s Landing), both of which are, admittedly, very beautiful – but he’s seen them before. So this suggests that he ends up somewhere very different for his character’s big goodbye.
And both Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, and Aidan Gillen, who played the late Littlefinger, have hinted that, come the end of the show, the battle for the Iron Throne will be almost entirely forgotten.
There are several other songs on the playlist which point to our heroes being forced into a strange new land come the end for Game of Thrones – such as, for example, The Doors’ The End:
Can you picture what will be?
So limitless and free
Desperately in need
Of some stranger’s hand
In a desperate land.
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah.
And Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song:
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying,
Valhalla, I am coming!
And Mama Kin, by Aerosmith.
It ain’t easy, livin’ like a gypsy
Tell ya, honey, how I feel
I’ve been dreaming
Floatin’ down stream and
Losin’ touch with all that is real
Whole earth lover, keepin’ under cover
Never knowin’ where ya been
You’ve been fadin’, always out paradin’
Keepin’ touch with Mama Kin
Oh god, it all seems so obvious now, doesn’t it?