Game of Thrones: big questions ahead of season 8, episode 2

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Winter has come in earnest to Westeros, with the opening instalment of Game of Thrones season eight setting the board for an epic conflict between Daenerys, Jon and their allies and the Night King and his minions.

The question is whether season eight’s second episode continues to ploddingly lay the groundwork for the forthcoming fantasy rumble to rule them all. Here are 10 questions that we still want answering:

1. Is Jaime going to be held to account for killing Daenerys’s father?

Daenerys didn’t seem that miffed with Jaime “Kingslayer” Lannister when they locked gazes during the Dragonpit conference in season seven, but clearly she was choosing her moment. Now that Jaime has ridden into Winterfell, it has arrived.

“When I was a child my brother would tell me a bedtime story about the man who murdered our father – about all the things we would do to that man,” says Daenerys in official episode trailer from HBO.

This suggests that, though the world may be about to end, Daenerys still has time to take vengeance against the Kingslayer. But how will that play with Jon and Sansa? As Lady of Winterfell, Sansa will be mindful of the importance of treating guests with dignity. That was an honour denied her brother and mother at the Red Wedding. Will she step aside while Daenerys delivers some unspeakable fate upon Jaime?

There is no love lost between the Starks and Lannisters. Yet Daenerys’s father butchered Ned Stark’s brother and father – so it isn’t as if Sansa is a natural ally to the Targaryens either. Don’t expect her to meekly let Daenerys call the shots regarding Jaime.

2. Will Jaime point out that Daenerys’ father wanted to burn King’s Landing to the ground?

One of Game of Thrones’s most moving exchanges was Jaime’s heartfelt confession to Brienne in season three that he killed Aerys II to save the capital from the King’s plan to destroy it by wildfire. Far from a traitor, he made the ultimate sacrifice – blackening his knightly reputation – to prevent Aerys’s from living out of pyromaniacal fantasies.

If Jaime speaks the truth before the assembled lords and ladies of the North, he might find he has a more sympathetic audience than expected. The Northerners may not trust a Lannister. But their suspicion of Daenerys and her fancy foreign ways – dragons; Dothraki; haute couture winter jackets etc – potentially runs even deeper yet.

3. Bran’s not going be angry with Jaime, is he?

In the George RR Martin novels Bran isn’t even aware that it was Jaime who pushed him out the window (all he sees in flashback is a golden sun where Jaime’s face should be). In the show, meanwhile, Bran seems to have completely sublimated his identity to that of the Three-Eyed Raven.

So if old, human Bran might be understandably bitter about being thrown from the top of a tower by the glamorous knight he caught in flagrante with his equally glamorous sister, it is questionable whether spooky, staring-into-space Bran feels nearly so strongly.

Indeed, he may even feel indebted to Jaime. Had the Kingslayer not chucked him off that ledge, he would never have embarked on the journey that led him to the Three-Eye Raven. That will be fine by Jaime. In a recent interview Nikolaj Coster-Waldau suggested that his character really will be in trouble should Bran make it common knowledge that it was a Lannister who made a cripple of him.

The other question, of course, is why Bran felt the need to stay out all night in the cold waiting for his “old friend” Jaime (and why did nobody think to give him a blanket?). The War of the Five Kings essentially began with Bran’s “fall”. Does Bran’s eagerness to resume acquaintances suggest his and Jaime’s strange relationship has one more twist?

4. How will our heroes react to Cersei’s betrayal?

Team Winterfell never seemed wholly on board with the idea of Cersei as an ally. And now Jaime will surely confirm their worst fear that she is planning to betray them all. Her army are unlikely to have reached Winterfell in time for this revelation, so the more pressing issue is who stands to win or lose from the bombshell. Will it benefit Sansa, with her barely-suppressed hostility towards Daenerys (and, by implication towards Jon for bending the knee)?

Or, could it strengthen Daenerys – whose significance to the war will, in Cersei’s absence, be even more important? What can be said for certain is that one character in particular stands to have their reputation entirely demolished. Which brings us to…

5. Is Game of Thrones making Tyrion look like an idiot for a reason?

Tyrion once rooted out Stannis from King’s Landing armed only with ingenuity and a lifetime supply of Wildfire. How long ago those glory days now feel. He fumbled spectacularly urging Daenerys to take Casterly Rock in season seven (and advising that she keep her dragons in reserve). And as recently as the last episode he seemed to genuinely believe Cersei would gallop to their rescue at Winterfell.

Presuming Jaime confirms that Cersei has no intention of helping anyone, Tyrion’s reputation will surely suffer another blow. Daenerys has long since given up taking counsel from Tyrion. Sansa didn’t seem terribly impressed with him last week either. Has he been relegated to the less funny half of a imp-eunuch double act with Varys ?

6. Will Theon arrive at Winterfell by magic carpet?

A major criticism of season seven was that, having previously taken forever to traverse the Seven Kingdoms, now characters were zipping around as if by magical transporter. Theon was last seen bidding Yara adieu and setting off from King’s Landing to Winterfell – a distance which took Robert and Ned half a season to negotiate in series one.

If he arrives at Castle Stark this week, our suspicions will be correct: the practicalities of transport in Westeros have been shoved from a high window as the showrunners desperately push towards a denouement.

7. How will Tormund and co overtake the Walkers?

leeing Last Hearth and burning Ned Umber last week, Tormund Giantsbane observed that the Walkers lay between his rag-tag crew and Winterfell. With horses, they should outrun to undead army. But it’s hardly going to be that straightforward. As the Wildlings and what remains of the Night’s Watch thunder south, might this be the week we get a second look at the Night King atop Viserion?

8. Is the show setting Sansa up for a fall?

Every time Sansa came up in conversation this week, someone popped their head around the corner to declare her the smartest person in Winterfell, biggest brain of Westeros etc etc.

Is she being presented to us as Tyrion’s heir? Or is she being set up for a steep fall? Recall that her biggest “mentors” were Cersei and Littlefinger. The former tripped up terribly while attempting to turn the High Sparrow against Margaery in season five.

Littlefinger, meanwhile, ended up bleeding out on the Winterfell floorboards after trying to pit the Starks again one another. Episode two will hopefully clarify how deeply we are supposed to invest in the idea of Sansa as the most cunning player left in the game.

9. What will Jon do with his knowledge about his true parentage?

Jon didn’t take the bombshell that he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark very well. This places him in an awkward position with Daenerys – as she is both his Queen and lover but also his aunt and potential rival for the throne. Will he keep the knowledge to himself or go public and risk destabilising the alliance on the eve of the battle against the Walkers?

10. Will HBO release the episode title in advance this week?

Such is the veil Game of Thrones has drawn around its farewell season, even the episode titles are top secret. We didn’t discover last week’s was called Winterfell until after it went out. Will the paranoia continue in week two?

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