Game of Thrones writer Dave Hill penned the dramatic season 8 opener which gathered a large cast of main characters at Winterfell and included Jon Snow learning the truth about his parentage. Below, Hill gives some behind-the-scenes insight on major moments in the final season’s first episode.
The opening sequence: “We toyed with the idea of a cold open* but the sequence that most appealed to us was a traditional Game of Thrones opening. A lot of it is mirroring the pilot. Instead of the king’s arrival, we have the queen’s arrival. We now have the budget and the crew to do it properly with a lot of crowds. We start off with a little orphan boy, to see what to a commoner, to the people on the ground where it’s the most exciting thing they’re ever going to see in their life — a Targaryen queen who also has dragons. Everyone can’t help but look even though what they see makes them afraid. They have a new monarch with monsters to fight other monsters.”
Sansa meeting Dany: “Sansa sees her as the foreign interloper. She trusts her family and no one else. You can see from Sansa’s view that Jon went to meet with this southern queen who burned her grandfather and uncle alive and suddenly Jon bent the knee to her. She’s also very pretty, and how much does that factor in? Sansa starts off this season very suspicious and not at all friendly with Dany.”
Tyrion and Sansa’s reunion: “You have to address the elephant in the room of her abandoning him. What did she know and when did she know it? There’s that awkwardness and yet also Tyron realizes how far Sansa has come, she’s no longer that scared little girl, that she’s very much a player.”
Arya and Jon’s reunion: “They’re the two Starks that had the clearest connection in the pilot. He gave her Needle. He knew she was back last season but couldn’t do anything about it. Those scenes are always interesting and fun to write but also tense because you want to do right by these characters, but you can’t have them do what they would naturally do — ‘tell me what happened to you’ because it would be boring for everybody. You have to emotionally convey that information without having to detail it. The first two episodes, in particular, are tough because they’re so contained and have so many characters. It’s hard to script when you sometimes have 6 or 7 characters all in the same room and to give each their due while having it progress organically and not be 10 pages and a lot of recapping information just because there are some things some characters don’t know.”
Jon finding out his parentage: “One of the things Jon always clung to is that at least his father is Ned Stark — this incredibly honorable beautiful man. Ned was his idol growing up. Now ‘my father is not my father, my father lied to me, and I’m actually the thing I want to be least in this world — an heir to the Iron Throne and a rival to the woman I love.’” (Read our Kit Harington postmortem interview where he reveals exactly what Jon is thinking during this scene).
Jaime Lannister arrives at Winterfell and sees Bran Stark: “You’re watching the premiere and the question is: How are we going to end it? It’s an emotional punch that works really well. I knew it was a scene that [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau] was absolutely going to nail.”
*A “cold open” is a scene that takes place before the title credits, a device that GoT has employed on a couple of occasions — such as the season 5 premiere opening flashback to teenage Cersei learning a devastating prophecy from Maggy the Frog.
MORE on the premiere: Game of Thrones season 8 premiere deep-dive recap. Plus read our interview with Kit Harington where the actor reveals exactly what Jon was thinking when he learned his parentage. Also, watch the trailer for episode 2 and the new opening credits.