The premiere of Game of Thrones season 8 aired early this week after nearly two years of waiting. It fulfilled a lot of my expectations, especially with regard to all the reunions and interactions that I know most fans, including myself, were looking forward to. There’s still a lot more of the season to come, and a lot more unanswered questions.
While there were many interesting moments in the episode, some of the most fascinating were the interactions between Sansa and Daenerys. Clearly, these two have yet to trust each other, and I am looking forward to seeing how and whether they connect moving forward. If they continue to fight, what could it mean in the context of the larger fight against the White Walkers?
Let’s break their relationship down, starting with their first meeting in the Winterfell courtyard, which is visually similar to when the Stark family greeted King Robert Baratheon in the very first episode of the series:
Sansa even echoes her father’s words when greeting Daenerys: “Winterfell is yours, your grace,” although it’s icier than when Ned said it to Robert. The first time this happened, the events that followed resulted in the decimation of the Stark family, which is perhaps why Sansa seems hesitant.
Personally, I think Sansa’s concerns are well-founded, especially when it comes to feeding two gigantic dragons and Daenerys’ armies. “What do dragons eat, anyway?” Sansa asks in the great hall. “Whatever they want,” Daenerys replies. It’s a sassy line, and a lot of fun, but also a gentle threat. Daenerys is expecting the people of the North to obey her because she is their Queen, when only Jon has accepted her as his queen and gave up the title of ‘King’ that the Northerners bestowed on him. She has been a determined (and good) Queen so far, but as Jon has pointed out multiple times, to multiple people, there are bigger problems than titles to worry about.
Daenerys has worked hard and fought many difficult battles on her way to the crown, so yes, she’s earned her claim to the Iron Throne. But in the premiere, she comes off as entitled, with characters like Davos saying that she’ll need to “earn” the respect of the Northerners. And then there’s the moment when Sam tells Jon that he gave up his crown to save his people. “Would she do the same?” he asks. Clearly, Sam doubts it. This is all intentional on the part of the writers and producers.
Shifting to Jon for a minute, his reunion with Arya is everything I’ve ever wanted. I’d love for Jon to see some of her assassin skills. That said, I think it’s interesting that Arya asks Jon to never forget that they are a family in the same episode that Jon finds out that he is literally not part of the Stark family, at least not as immediately as he thought.
The preview for the second episode of the season also shows a tense moment between Sansa and Daenerys where they talk about how trusting Cersei was a bad idea, something that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Could this a bonding opportunity for the women? Surely disliking Cersei is something they can agree on.
In the center of all this acrimony is Jon Snow. “Winterfell” seemed to re-emphasize Jon’s sense of isolation from the Starks; both Sansa and Arya are wary of his new lover and queen, and Bran is hard to reach these days. Learning his true parentage presents Jon with yet another set of titles he doesn’t want. Will the knowledge that he has a claim to the Iron Throne put him at loggerheads with the woman he loves? Will the fact that he’s a Targaryen put him in conflict with Arya and Sana? Both? Neither? It’s an impossible situation for Jon.
Sansa and Daenerys’ feud could be symbolic of Jon’s conflict in having to choose between two houses. If those two can come to an agreement, perhaps he, too, can find equilibrium. At the moment, it doesn’t seem like Sansa’s distrust of Dany is going to dissipate anytime soon, particularly if Dany expects her respect based on title alone, but things could change. The time is soon approaching when the Northerners could be very thankful for Daenerys’ armies and her dragons. If the Dragon Queen defends Winterfell from the dead, it could go a long way toward endearing her to Sansa and all of her followers. Possibly that’s what she has to do to “earn” their trust, as Davos suggested?
Personally, I’d like to see the ladies become friends and allies, but I doubt we’ll get anything more than a reluctant alliance, if only because of how few episodes remain before the end. There are many story threads to tie up. Still, I very much hope the rivalry doesn’t become so bad that Jon has to “choose” between the two women, one symbolic of his upbringing as a Stark and one of his birthright as a Targaryen. I think the character interactions in “Winterfell” have lit a spark that could eventually rage into a fire. We’ll have to wait to see how hotly it burns.