- Helen Sloan/HBO
- Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Game of Thrones” season eight, episode one.
- HBO’s premiere of the final season of “Game of Thrones” Sunday included a long-awaited reunion between Arya Stark and one beloved character.
- The scene was poignant and emotional and a lovely moment of respite before the coming war.
- But the two characters also clashed a bit over Sansa and Daenerys, leaving open the possibility for disagreements among the Stark family.
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The eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” kicked off with a lot of forward momentum. Jon Snow and his queen/lover Daenerys Targaryen arrived in Winterfell, and his Stark family was there to greet him.
But the long-awaited reunion between Jon and Arya – the Stark sibling he was always closest with – wasn’t the purely happy scene people might have been expecting. Instead, there was a hint of disagreement over Sansa Stark and Daenerys, and the sticking point of familial loyalty.
Arya first saw Jon while she stood among the crowd of smallfolk watching their grand royal entrance to Winterfell. She was hoping he would spot her, and looked sorely disappointed when he didn’t glance her way. Later, she found him in the godswood of Winterfell, and the two fiercely embraced for one of the episode’s most emotional moments.
Jon and Arya’s initial run and embrace was incredibly moving, and a perfect callback to the way Jon picked up and hugged his little sister (cousin) back on the first season. The two compared swords and talked briefly about all they’d been through, giving us the first time a major character discussed Jon Snow’s death and resurrection with him on the show so far.
Jon and Arya have each changed significantly since they saw one another on season one. Jon may have been expecting to see his rambunctious little sister (well, cousin, but he only just learned that at the end of this episode) and was instead greeted by the somber trained-assassin Arya we’ve been watching grow up for years.
Add to that, Arya bonded much more deeply with Sansa while Jon was off forming an alliance with Daenerys.
Jon wasn’t expecting Arya to side with Sansa
The last time Jon saw Arya or Sansa, they were polar opposites with little warmth between them as sisters. Everything changed after the events of season seven, when Arya helped Sansa execute Littlefinger and the two young women of Winterfell put aside their own differences.
“Where were you before?” Jon asked Arya. “I could have used your help with Sansa.”
“She doesn’t like your queen, does she?” Arya replied.
“Sansa thinks she’s smarter than everybody else,” Jon said with a smile, clearly expecting Arya to join in lamenting about how he believes Sansa is being a pain.
“She’s the smartest person I’ve ever met,” Arya said with a straight face.
Jon thought Arya would side with him against Sansa’s frostiness. He didn’t realized they’d reconnected and become a team while he was away. When Jon became incredulous that Arya was defending Sansa, she emphasized that she was defending her family.
Arya didn’t say this with anger in her voice, or really much emotion at all. She’s stating facts, and hoping Jon will listen. He told her that he’s their family, too, and hugged Arya once more.
“Don’t forget that,” Arya said over his shoulder.
She once again stated this very matter-of-factly, but it almost comes off like a threat. Arya and Sansa have worked hard to avenge the deaths of Ned, Robb, Catelyn, and Rickon – she wants to make sure Jon hasn’t abdicated his loyalty along with his crown.
Kit Harington (who plays Jon Snow) teased a bit of complexity to Jon’s reunion with Arya in a pre-season interview with TV Guide.
“[Jon and Arya] have led brutal lives since we last saw them together in the series premiere,” Harington said. “It’s changed them. Are they going to be what we want them to be?”
The season eight premiere shot of Arya giving Jon that final reminder mirrored their goodbye on season one, episode two, “The Kingsroad.” While hugging Jon back then, Arya revealed the name for the sword he had just gifted her.
“Sansa can keep her sewing needles,” Arya said back on the first season. “I’ve got a Needle of my own.”
The intentional callback to this moment helps pinpoint all the ways Arya, Jon, and Sansa have evolved since they first left Winterfell. By the end of season seven, Arya and Sansa shared a heartfelt moment on the ramparts of Winterfell, where together they repeated a phrase Ned Stark had told when they were younger.
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives,” they said.
Sansa and Arya see Daenerys as an outsider, a non-Stark element coming into their home and potentially disrupting the order they worked hard to establish. They don’t know her the way we (the audience) or Jon Snow does, and they also are clearly concerned about Jon’s allegiance to this new queen.
- Helen Sloan/HBO
Later on the episode, Sansa straight up asks Jon if he’s in love with Daenerys, and the scene is conveniently cut short so we don’t get his answer. In short order, he’s in the crypts of Winterfell being told, for the first time in his life, who his real parents were and that he technically has the superior claim to the Iron Throne above Daenerys.
We know the Night King and Army of the Dead are marching towards Winterfell, so there’s very little time for in-fighting among the living. We’ll have to wait and see how Jon’s relationship with both Daenerys and the Stark sisters shakes out in the weeks to come.
- Read more:
- A stunning Jon Snow revelation finally came to light on the ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8 premiere
- ‘Game of Thrones’ has been hinting at Jon Snow’s true parentage since season one – here’s every clue we spotted
- Why Jon Snow’s ‘real’ name is so confusing for some fans
- Everything we know about the mysterious Rhaegar Targaryen