Warning! SPOILERS ahead for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 1.
Game of Thrones season 8's premiere, "Winterfell" brings together much of the HBO series' huge cast, reuniting characters who have been apart from one another for years. Everyone is gathering at the northern castle ahead of the upcoming battle against the Night King and his army of the dead, which - depending on how that battle unfolds - may turn a few of these reunions into goodbyes.
Game of Thrones season 8 is the final season of HBO's epic fantasy series, wrapping up its sprawling story in just six weeks time. The forthcoming Battle of Winterfell is the largest battle ever filmed for the series, befitting the heightened stakes of a fight against death itself. Those high stakes are likely to also translate into a high death toll, though, and at least a few major characters aren't likely to survive. However, whether the heroes gathered at Winterfell defeat the White Walkers or not, there's still Cersei to deal with - and her forces have just been bolstered by the arrival of The Golden Company.
Yet, before the fighting really breaks out, the Game of Thrones season 8 premiere allows its characters a few moments of calm, providing ample opportunity for old friends to be reunited. The first of these reunions is that between Jon Snow and Bran Stark. It's a touching scene as Jon embraces his brother, having previously said his goodbyes to a then still-unconscious Bran in season 1. Things take a turn for the weird, though, once Jon realizes Bran isn't really Bran anymore but the Three-Eyed Raven. Still, Jon isn't one to let a little mysticism ruin a family reunion.
The next major reunion between long-separated characters is that of Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister, and the former husband and wife share a short but not entirely unfriendly reunion. Though, what the scene best illustrates is the change in dynamics between the two. Sansa is now the one who keenly understands how to play the game while Tyrion is at a bit of loss, especially among the stubborn northern lords. Arya Stark and Jon Snow are the next to be reunited, embracing in the godswood after seeing each other for the first time since Game of Thrones' season 1 premiere. It's easily the most heartwarming of all the many reunions in the season 8 premiere since Ayra and Jon are especially close, but even their reunion is laced with a little tension over Jon's decision to bend the knee to Daenerys.
Theon and Yara Greyjoy are also reunited in the Game of Thrones season 8 premiere, with Theon coming to rescue his sister from their uncle Euron's ship. The two siblings haven't seen each other since Theon abandoned Yara following Euron's attack on their fleet in season 6, but all appears forgiven (that is, once Yara headbutts Theon for leaving her in the first place). Back at Winterfell, another two reunions come in quick succession - Arya and Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, followed by Arya and Gendry. The first is a terse exchange that hides the mutual respect the two former traveling companions actually share, while the second is a sweet, flirtatious exchange, potentially even hinting at a little romance later in the season.
The next two characters Game of Thrones season 8 reunites only met for the first time in season 7 - Samwell Tarly and Jorah Mormont - but their familiarity with one another is an interesting connection between two previously far flung characters. Of course, the reunion of Sam and Jorah is what leads Daenerys to reveal that she executed Sam's father and brother - news that hopefully won't create an awkward rift between him and Jorah, but definitely gives Sam a negative opinion of the dragon queen. More importantly, though, that meeting paves the way for another, much more anticipated reunion between Sam and Jon, two brothers-in-arms who have been apart since the Game of Thrones season 5 finale. In this scene, Sam shares with Jon the truth of his parentage, laying out how he is actually Aegon Targaryen and the true heir to the Iron Throne.
Before "Winterfell" wraps up there are two more reunions that occur. The first is a hilarious encounter between Tormund Giantsbane and Edd Tollet ("Stay back, he's got blue eyes!", "I've always had blue eyes!") that brings together the wildling and Night's Watchman for the first time since Game of Thrones season 6. However, it's the final reunion of the Game of Thrones season 8 premiere that is most exciting - Jaime Lannister and Bran Stark. It's a scene which perfectly mirrors the final moments of the Game of Thrones season 1 premiere where Jaime pushes Bran out the window, as the now older and wiser Bran waits for his "old friend" in Winterfell's courtyard. Once he arrives, that look between Jaime and Bran is laced with so much meaning, reminding us how it is Game of Thrones first began as well as highlighting a few matters which will still need to be addressed before it's all over.
Game of Thrones season 8 continues Sunday, April 21 at 9:00pm on HBO.