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Spoilers ahead for the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones on HBO. Seriously, if you haven't caught the episode yet and don't want to be spoiled, feel free to check out some of our spoiler-free articles about the series. Otherwise, proceed!
Game of Thrones has finally returned after a hiatus that seemed as long, dark, and full of speculation-based terrors as the Long Night is bound to be in Westeros. The premiere picked up after the Season 7 cliffhanger that saw the Night King break through The Wall with his army of the dead, Jon and Dany hook up, and Bran realize that Jon is the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, making said hook-up an incestuous union. Oh, Game of Thrones. Now, the Season 8 premiere may have revealed that Winterfell is doomed.
Of course, on the surface, Winterfell looks like it never had a better chance at surviving the upcoming attack from the Night King, the White Walkers, and the army of the dead. Thanks to Daenerys, the forces of the North that congregated at Winterfell are fortified by the Unsullied, the Dothraki, and the little matter of those two dragons.
We've known for a while that the Winterfell battle is going to be huge in scale; the events of the premiere -- while hardly apocalyptic taken on their own -- indicate that the battle might not be able to go the way of the living in the end. Here's why.
The Game Of Thrones Is Still Being Played
Okay, yes, the name of the show is Game of Thrones, and the entire series has been building to whoever winds up sitting (or not sitting) on the Iron Throne as much as it has to the confrontation with the White Walkers. Still, the whole point of Season 7 was that it was time to put the game of thrones on hold and focus on the army of ice zombies being led by creatures that can only be killed by certain weapons that aren't exactly in wide circulation.
Unfortunately, pride of the people of Westeros may lead to all of them falling. Daenerys has never taken well to receiving less than the utmost respect, and the Northerners weren't falling over themselves to swear allegiance. Most of them are loyal to Jon as King in the North or Sansa as Lady of Winterfell, and Sansa hasn't been shy about disliking Dany's presence in the North. The Northerners don't want the dragon queen in the midst, and that's pulling their focus.
It's probably not going to help that Dany's not exactly going the extra mile to befriend the Northerners. Instead, she took off on a dragon ride with Jon, worried about her dragons, and took care of her own affairs. Her actions are understandable given the way she's accustomed to rule, but they're not conducive to banding together with the stubborn Northerners. Especially since her dragons are eating the dwindling livestock that the Northerners were probably hoping to at themselves.
Throw in the fact that Sam spilled the beans of Jon's true birth to Jon after learning that Dany veered dangerously into "Mad Queen Daenerys" territory by roasting his father and brother, and he's already looking to put Jon on the throne rather than Dany. Jon's urgent message of doom and gloom is being clouded by all the scheming in Winterfell, and a lot of people could die because of it. The preview for next week indicates that the squabbling will continue, very unhelpfully.
The Dead Are Fast-Approaching
The dead are very, very, very fast-approaching. The army that broke through The Wall in the Season 7 finale is on the move, and Game of Thrones' pacing issue from last season that had characters all but teleporting from place to place isn't going to do the living any favors. The meeting between survivors of the Night's Watch (including a very dolorous Edd) and Tormund and Beric's group at Last Hearth revealed just how fast the dead and White Walkers were moving south, and poor young Lord Umber was killed and cruelly (although somewhat awesomely) posed to send a message.
The living have a chance of reaching Winterfell before the dead if they double up on the Night's Watch horses, and the preview for the next episode proves that they have hours rather than days before the White Walkers' army arrives at Winterfell.
Given how the people are squabbling amongst themselves -- not helped by the arrival of Jaime Lannister, who Dany is understandably not thrilled to meet -- and Jon may be struggling with the huge news he just received (along with the encouragement from best bud Sam to see if Dany will give up her claim to the throne for the people like Jon gave up his Northern crown), I have my doubts that they can be ready to fight any time soon, let alone in a matter of hours!
Honestly, Gendry is still forging weapons from the dragonglass! There's just not time for the good guys to make a stand at Winterfell and win. Admittedly, I am kind of pleased that this makes my theories that the dragons torch Winterfell to destroy it and that the big battle will happen sooner than expected, but still. Just as it seemed the White Walkers would win in Season 7, it feels like they have to take Winterfell in Season 8.
There's Not Enough Resources
Sansa raised the point in the first half of the Season 8 premiere that Winterfell isn't packed with inexhaustible resources. There was enough food for the Northerners to last the winter, and I'm guessing they would have been tightening their belts as the weeks passed as it was. The arrival of Daenerys brought thousands of Unsullied and Dothraki, not to mention the dragons.
Dany clearly didn't endear herself to Sansa with her response to Sansa's question of what dragons even eat. Admittedly, Sansa's tone was decidedly frosty, but telling the Lady of Winterfell that dragons eat "whatever they want" probably wasn't the way to start winning Northern hearts. She's clearly not on the same page as the Northerners.
When the Dothraki brought word that Drogon and Rhaegal had killed and eaten a bunch of the livestock, Dany was concerned that they weren't eating enough. I'm guessing that the Northerners who are facing the prospect of starving if they're not executed or massacred would probably prefer if the dragons found their own food rather than eating livestock.
The living may run short on resources other than food as well. Tyrion Lannister claimed that the Lannister army is marching North. While Sansa knows Cersei well enough that she's well aware that the Lannister army isn't coming, Tyrion has Dany's ear rather than Sansa, and Dany has Jon's.
If everybody advising Dany expected the Lannisters to arrive (presumably until Jaime drops the news that they're not coming), then they might have been counting on help that won't come. The Battle at Winterfell may not end like the Battle of the Bastards, with a third party charging in to save the day. At this point, my money is on Winterfell being doomed.
Tune in to HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET for new episodes of Game of Thrones. As has been the case with recent seasons of the series, the episodes will run for various lengths, so be sure to count on at least an hour for each installment. If you're not going to be in a constant state of Thrones chills for the next six weeks, there are plenty of other viewing options and streaming choices available now and in the not-too-distant future.