hbo game of thrones jon snow

More than a year has passed since the Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones, and HBO hasn't released a whole lot in the way of what to expect from the eighth and final season beyond the episode count and general premiere window. Well, we still don't have a trailer, but details about the very first episode of Season 8 have been revealed, and you may start to get more excited than ever about what's to come.

The eighth season kicks off at Winterfell, which should be very white and snowy now that winter has fallen on the Seven Kingdoms. Daenerys will be arriving at the ancestral home of House Stark with her army, presumably comprised of her surviving Dothraki, Unsullied, the allies she's managed to pick up since finally arriving in Westeros, and her two surviving dragons.

Dany's arrival will bring about the meetings of a number of characters that have been separate for the entire or almost the entires series to date. Dany herself hasn't met any of the Starks other than Jon, and EW reports that Sansa won't be too happy that Jon left Winterfell as King of the North and will return after bending the knee to his secret aunt/lady love.

Assuming Jaime caught up with Dany's forces by the time they get to Winterfell, we could get some compelling reactions to his return. Bran hasn't seen Jaime since Jaime flung him from the tower and crippled him. Interestingly, Jaime never ended up on Arya's kill list, unlike Cersei, Tywin, and Joffrey. That could change if Arya finds out what Jaime did to Bran.

Personally, I've been curious for years how the Dothraki and Unsullied would fare in the far North. The men of these groups are fierce fighters who are fiercely loyal to Daenerys, but they also lived and were trained in the much-warmer Essos. Could the snow and cold debilitate Dany's most fearsome fighters?

We'll have to wait and see. Plenty of meetings are in store. Although neither will be part of Dany's procession, I'm going to be seriously annoyed if Game of Thrones ends without reuniting Gendry and Arya. She had people on her kill list because of him! Surely Thrones won't end or kill one of them off before letting them reunite. As the last known son of Robert Baratheon -- despite his status as a bastard -- Gendry could be key to the final season.

Speaking of Robert, Dany's procession will reportedly feature callbacks to the Game of Thrones pilot and Robert's grand arrival at Winterfell. The Seven Kingdoms changed a great deal since the days of King Robert Baratheon, so it should be fun to see the contrast between his arrival and that of Dany. Robert wanted to bring Ned south to run the Seven Kingdoms for him; Dany wants to save the Seven Kingdoms from ice zombies and win the loyalty of its people.

Co-executive producer Bryan Cogman teased what's to come with the arrival of Dany and Co. to Winterfell, saying this:

It's about all of these disparate characters coming together to face a common enemy, dealing with their own past, and defining the person they want to be in the face of certain death. It's an incredibly emotional, haunting, bittersweet final season, and I think it honors very much what George set out to do -- which is flipping this kind of story on its head.

It's not surprising that Dany and her forces will arrive at Winterfell early in the season. There are only six episodes left, and the fight against the White Walkers and their dead army will almost certainly take place closer to the far North than King's Landing, although we shouldn't rule out King's Landing being affected. Surely Dany's desolate vision from all those years ago wasn't for nothing!

There's also the point that all signs point toward Winterfell not coming out of the series entirely intact. Back in February, news out of Belfast, Ireland (where Game of Thrones has long filmed) broke that the Winterfell set was set ablaze, with a fire large enough that folks could catch the flames on camera from a distance. No emergency services were required to put out the fire, indicating that it was deliberately set and controlled for the sake of filming.

At the time, reports stated that as many as 500 extras were present for a battle scene around the time of the fire. The grand scale of the battle was confirmed by a social media post courtesy of Game of Thrones assistant director Jonathan Quinlan. He commended the people on set for "enduring 55 straight nights," which included "the cold, the snow, the rain, the mud, the sheep shit," all for the sake of "something that's never been done before."

If Winterfell is indeed destroyed, at least it will probably go out in a blaze of glory! I do have to wonder if Dany's dragons will be part of the reason Winterfell presumably goes up in flames. The Night King's handy undead dragon (R.I.P. Viserion) would be a candidate, but it wasn't clear when he took down the Wall if he was breathing fire or some kind of icy substance. Could Dany deliberately set fire to Winterfell if it was overrun with White Walkers and wights?

Dragon fire is one way to take them down. That said, it's all speculation at this point. The good news is that we now have more information to speculate about with the confirmation that Season 8 opens with a procession to Winterfell. If we're lucky, the next Game of Thrones release will be a trailer and/or release date. My fingers are crossed that we'll get more sooner rather than later.

Only time will tell. At this point, we can only say for sure that Game of Thrones will return for its eighth and final season at some point in 2019 after taking 2018 off. For some viewing options to pass the time between now and whenever Thrones returns, check out our fall TV premiere guide and our 2018 Netflix premiere schedule.

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