'Game of Thrones' Final Season Premiere: What to Expect

The end begins.
Helen Sloan/HBO
'Game of Thrones'

The final season of HBO's Game of Thrones is finally at hand. Every week before a new episode, The Hollywood Reporter's resident Westeros expert Josh Wigler will offer up a guide to the must-see moments of the coming installment. What should you expect from the latest adventure of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and anyone else who is still lucky enough to be alive? Who will die this week? What monstrous twists have creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss cooked up as Thrones rushes toward the end of the line? Chew on those questions and more in the story ahead.

Season 8, Episode 1: "Winterfell"

Directed by: David Nutter

Written by: Dave Hill

Airdate: April 14, 2019

Runtime: 54 minutes

Number in series: 68 of 73 total episodes

Where we left off: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are marching their armies to Winterfell, in order to take on the Night King and the Army of the Dead. The King in the North and the Mother of Dragons have freshly consummated their relationship, but there's a wrinkle: Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has learned that Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne, and therefore Daenerys' nephew. Awkward! Meanwhile, the Night King's army has broken through the Wall at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the northeastern-most portion of Westeros, putting them closer to Winterfell than ever before. Tensions are only heightened thanks to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who promised to join the alliance against the White Walkers, but is already planning to double-cross King Snow and Queen Targaryen.

What we expect to see: A lot of callbacks to the first episode of the series, "Winter Is Coming." Back then, the story centered on Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) and his inner circle arriving in Winterfell, in order to task Ned Stark (Sean Bean) with becoming Hand of the King. It was the perfect introduction to Thrones, filled with rich tensions between the houses Stark and Lannister, setting the table for all of the ensuing violence across the seasons. Expect a similarly uncomfortable arrival for Daenerys when she makes landfall at Winterfell, as sisters Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) are not primed to receive the Mother of Dragons with open arms. What's more, expect an even more intimate look at Winterfell than usual. Since most of the stories are finally converging in the North, we're not likely to spend much time anywhere else, save for a scene or two in King's Landing. Game of Thrones needs to prepare the audience for the upcoming Battle of Winterfell, too, so keep a close eye on any of the castle's unusual nooks and crannies; they're likely to become important components of a future action set piece of two.

What we won't see: A cold open in which Arya Stark wears the face of someone familiar, someone she's just killed: Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen). As fun as it would be, it would too closely mirror the cold open of season seven, in which Arya wore the face of Walder Frey (David Bradley) to murder the rest of House Frey. Arya could still put on a Littlefinger song-and-dance before all is said and done, but not at such an early juncture.

What we're hoping to see: The Night King, up close and personal. Now that he's firmly in Westeros, it's time to see the humanity behind the monster. What's motivating the Army of the Dead, aside from a need to conquer the living? Is there more to this menace than meets the blue eyes? It's not a guarantee that the premiere will reveal some character for the Night King, but it's definitely worth a hope or two.

Catch up on the past week of THR's Thrones coverage:

The Complete Guide to the Final Season
• 21 Final Season Predictions
9 Final Season Burning Questions
Podcast: Five Fatal Final Season Theories
• Who Will Die in the Final Season?
George R.R. Martin: "I Don't Think It Should Be the Final Season"
• Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Fan Theories, Calls the Ending "Satisfying"

Read all of THR's Final Path series, featuring character-by-character predictions:

1. Jon Snow
2. Daenerys Targaryen
3. Tyrion Lannister
4. Cersei Lannister
5. Jaime Lannister
6. Sansa Stark
7. Arya Stark
8. Bran Stark
9. Samwell Tarly
10. Theon Greyjoy
11. The Hound
12. Brienne of Tarth
13. Varys
14. Melisandre
15. Davos Seaworth
16. Jorah Mormont
17. Bronn
18. Tormund Giantsbane
19. Beric Dondarrion
20. The Dragons
21. The Night King
22. Across the World of Ice and Fire
23. Final Predictions

Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for continuing coverage all season long.