Inside the Episode: Go behind the scenes of “Winterfell”


Game of Thrones is back! There’s a lot to unpack from the season 8 premiere, and luckily HBO is giving us an inside look with its Inside the Episode segment. Take a look at how showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss conceived of the opening episode:

The premiere episode, “Winterfell,” was full of callbacks to earlier seasons. We have a throwback to the series premiere, when Arya was dazzled by the arrival of the King Robert Baratheon and company. Fast forward to now, it’s a young boy rushing to see who’s coming over the hill. We catch a glimpse of Arya smiling at this moment unfolds, recalling how she felt once upon a time.

As Daenerys walks through the winter town with Jon, the people of the North look upon her with distrust and confusion. It becomes clear that Jon has given up his title for the sake of bringing in allies to help fight the war against the dead, and not everyone approves. “When you’re doing something good for people, and you get met with what Sansa gives her when they meet in the courtyard, it’s understandable that [Daenerys] would be upset,” Weiss says.


Stark Sigil Snapback Hat from Game of Thrones
Stark Sigil Snapback Hat from Game of Thrones /

Stark Sigil Snapback Hat from Game of Thrones

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“Winterfell” was full of reunions, which as Weiss points out may mean more to the characters than it does to the fans. Just imagine being a member of the long-sundered Stark family; these guys haven’t seen each other in a hot minute, and being together again has to feel amazing.

But not all reunions are warm. Weiss thinks that Tyrion may have gotten a better reception from ex-wife Sansa had to returned to Winterfell on his own rather than as the chief advisor to the woman who is threatening Sansa’s world. It also doesn’t help his case that he believed Cersei when she said she would come north to help. Seriously, though?

Benioff says that Arya and Jon are two of the most important characters in the story. In fact, Arya was arguably the only one who fully accepted Jon as a family member when others doubted him, and he’s always shown her a lot of respect in return. Their reunion was a long time coming.

But despite all that, Arya is still on Sansa’s side when it comes to Daenerys. While she understands why Jon did what he did, it doesn’t mean she agrees with him. And honestly, I get it. “Blood is definitely thicker than water when it comes to the Starks,” Benioff says.

Now, let’s talk about Jon riding on a dragon. No one living other than Daenerys has done this, so this is a huge deal. Benioff reminds us that in addition to being a way to “re-anchor” the relationship between the two, it’s a clue about Jon’s Targaryen heritage, one that comes home later in the hour.

And how does Jon find out about his true parentage? Through Sam, who talks with Daenerys and Jorah in the Winterfell library. Dany is grateful that Sam saved Jorah’s life, but her core is shaken when she realizes that Sam is the son of Randyll Tarly and brother to Dickon Tarly, men she killed when they refused to bend the knee. Sam’s reaction to this news is difficult to watch. Kudos to John Bradley for killing it in this scene. You can see his heart break right then and there, and sense a resentment growing towards the Mother of Dragons.

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This takes us to the moment when Sam tells Jon about his heritage. Clearly, he’s pissed, and reminds Jon that when he was a king, he spared the lives of people who didn’t kneel to him. As Weiss points out, Jon tries to deflect this point by bringing up other stuff, like how Ned lied to him his whole life. Also notice that the camera is focused on Jon’s face the entire time he’s speaking with Sam. He’s processing a lot of emotions at once here, and we see them all.

Five more episodes left, folks. What is going to happen?!

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