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Game of Thrones' final season episode 1 ending explained

After a long, tense wait, the final season of Game of Thrones finally premiered on April 14, 2019, with the first episode coming in at just under an hour — despite being packed full of revelations, reunions, and more. The return of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the three Lannisters (Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Peter Dinklage), and more of the show's characters — beloved and not — brought answers and even more questions with them.

This highly anticipated, long-awaited premiere, which marked the first new episode of Thrones since the summer of 2017 and the first of only six episodes left in the entire series, opened on numerous questions that needed answers. When will Jon learn the truth about his parentage? What's going on with the Greyjoy clan? Did Tormund survive the wall's fall? Fans were given plenty of answers in the first hour of the eighth season — here's everything of importance that happened in the Game of Thrones season premiere.

Daenerys arrives at Winterfell

The trailers leading up to the premiere offered plenty of shots of Daenerys arriving at Winterfell, and audiences didn't have to wait long — in the very first shot of the season premiere, an unnamed Winterfell boy climbs a tree to see Daenerys' army arrive, with the Mother of Dragons and her right-hand man, Jon Snow, flanked by dragons, Unsullied, and Dothraki as they arrive at the stronghold of the North. Appropriately for the chilly North, the welcome is less than warm, considering Northerners are instinctively distrustful of any foreigners, especially a new Queen from the far South with two enormous dragons.

It isn't just the townspeople who don't trust Daenerys. Sansa (Sophie Turner), Jon's sister, immediately dislikes the Dragon Queen, who she considers at once naive and arrogant for trusting Cersei to serve as an ally to the North. Whatever Sansa's attitude might be, it's clear that Daenerys' assimilation into the Northern way of life won't be simple, and will likely be a struggle for the rest of the season.

Cersei's plan

Cersei Lannister is always one of the toughest characters to read, and in the premiere, she's just as inscrutable as ever. Still astride the Iron Throne, she seems completely unperturbed by news that the White Walkers have breached the Wall, especially considering that the Golden Company, an army of mercenaries under Cersei's control, has just arrived at King's Landing thanks to her unlikely fiancé, Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk). After he delivers her new army, the two finally consummate their relationship, and when Euron tells Cersei he'll put a "prince in her belly," the icy queen looks unusually discomfited, sipping a glass of wine as he leaves the room. Last season, audiences heard Cersei tell Jaime she was pregnant with his baby; either she's still keeping that child a secret, or something has gone wrong with her pregnancy.

The most brutal reveal regarding Cersei ultimately comes from Qyburn (Anton Lesser), her resident mad scientist, who shows up during one of Bronn's (Jerome Flynn) routine brothel visits to casually tell him that Cersei would like both of her brothers dead, and the one to do it would be honored beyond his wildest dreams. Cersei obviously has a plan in place, but how it will unfold is still anyone's guess.

Jon's fateful dragon ride

Ever since viewers found out the truth about Jon's parents — that he was actually born to a legally married Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, making him an undisputed prince — fans have been waiting for Jon to find out too, and this episode got right to the point. Aside from plenty of pointed comments about who Jon "is," there's one huge clue in this episode about Jon's true heritage, followed by one big reveal that finally puts one of the show's biggest bombshells right out in the open.

Jon, still blissfully ignorant to the fact that he just started sleeping with his aunt, is having a lovely day-date with his new girlfriend until she suggests that they ride her two remaining dragons. With Daenerys riding Drogon, the dragon she always takes into battle, Jon is left with Rhaegal, who is actually named for his father, Daenerys' brother Rhaegar, and in the moment, it feels especially significant that Rhaegal allows Jon to board without protest. However, at the end of the episode, the show does away with all pretense that it will keep this secret, letting Sam tell Jon the entire truth about who he is, much to Jon's shock — and naturally, it all happens right in front of Ned Stark's statue in the crypt.

Tormund's discovery at Eastwatch

Audiences haven't seen Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), everyone's favorite red-headed wildling, since he was spotted at Eastwatch last season as the Wall melted around him, so fans were likely thrilled to see both Tormund and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) alive but not particularly well at another Northern castle, trying to figure out how many dead they had to deal with and whether or not the army was close by. Ultimately, they find the body of young Ned Umber, the tiny leader of the House of Umber, pinned to the wall and surrounded by dismembered limbs in a spiral pattern, which Beric notes is a "message" from the Night King.

Spiral patterns shouldn't surprise any loyal Game of Thrones viewers, especially not where White Walkers are concerned — a circular pattern somewhat reminiscent of this appeared in the very first episode, when Walkers arranged the limbs of their victims. They can also be seen using dead horses in season 3, and a similar circular pattern might remind some fans of the meeting place where the Night King once turned Craster's infant offering into a brand new Walker.

Reunions galore

Reunions between favorite characters rank among the most important and anticipated moments in this season, and the premiere certainly didn't disappoint — even though some of them weren't particularly happy. Arya (Maisie Williams) and Jon's emotional reunion at the Godswood in Winterfell was certainly one of the episode's most emotional moments, even giving the two a minute to compare their swords, and another brother, Theon (Alfie Allen), showed up in the eleventh hour to rescue his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan), who eventually showed her gratitude after giving him a well-deserved headbutt.

Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) also got the chance to thank Sam Tarly (John Bradley), who once cured him of greyscale, though their reunion took a pretty sour turn once Daenerys let Sam know what happened to the rest of his family last season. The reunion between Sansa and Tyrion was equally tense, since Sansa doesn't believe in him or his plans anymore. Another tense reunion took place between Jon and Sam, especially since a hysterical Sam holds the key to Jon's parentage and is fresh off the discovery that he's now the only Tarly man left. However, the most fraught was definitely between Jaime Lannister and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) once the former arrives at Winterfell, considering that Jaime last saw Bran when he pushed him out a window and tried to kill him.