In a time of increased division, it's wonderful that the entire populace can put aside differences on a Sunday night to watch warring factions slice each other open on battlefields and roast them alive with dragon fire. Game of Thrones is back, and it means bugging all your friends for a working HBO Go code.

We've got so many questions that need answering in just six episodes. Will Arya Stark scratch off the remaining names on her list? Will the Khaleesi learn of the, um, materteral nature of her relationship with Jon Snow? (Look it up.) Will the Hound and the Mountain give us the Cleganebowl that Reddit is screaming for? And will Xaro Xhoan Daxos ever get out of that Qarth vault he's been stuck in since Season Two? (Okay, nobody cares about that.)

Wondering about what's going to happen is more contagious than greyscale, but finally we can put that aside. Episode one of Season 8, 'Winterfell,' is here, and these are the five moments that knocked us on our Essos.

1. A New Beginning


Let's not mince words: part of the success of Game of Thrones is that hummable opening theme (“doo doooooooo doo-de-dooooooo, doo-de-dooooooooooo!”) and the nifty gearpunk credits sequence that goes with it. But for Season 8, there's something new. The Night King (with the aid of Viserion the undead dragon) knocked down the wall, so the first image includes a wall with a hole in it big enough for an invading white walker army!

A “white domino” effect, representing the march of the zombie horde, continues through the realm, as the camera eye swoops down. Instead of seeing the lands of Westeros from above, we zoom underneath tunnels and lairs, in the trenches, if you will, of these bloodsoaked lands. Finally we emerge from beneath the Red Keep in King's Landing, to settle upon the Iron Throne.

2. A Cuck in the North


Jon Snow returns to Winterfell with the woman to whom he has devoted his loyalty (and, it seems, his heart), she of the longest sig file in Westeros, Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea,Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.

We, the viewers of Game of Thrones, know it is right for he to be at her side, for she has the might to bring peace to the Seven Kingdoms, and he has the wisdom and virtue to cool her sometimes rash decisions. (Tyrion, Varys and Davos Seaworth are later found chit-chatting in agreement, basically acting like GoT fans “shipping” their favorite characters.) But not everyone agrees.

Young lippy Lady Lyanna Mormont of Bear Island is first to say what so many are thinking: Jon Snow, WYD? We rallied behind you, made peace with the Wildlings and expect you to be our King in the North. And you bent the knee?!? To blondie over here?!?!

We were so worried about a treaty with the Lannisters, looks like there will be just as much trouble here at home.

3. A Whole New Whirl

It was a long wait for Season 8, so it's good to see the production team wasn't playing ping pong all day. The special effects team clearly put in some long hours. Daenerys and Jon Snow took a long, frightening dragon ride through the icy air above Winterfell, and it was glorious.

But the dialogue beforehand? Maybe a little corny. “I don't know how to ride a dragon,” the man who overcame a knife to the heart worries. “Nobody does, until they ride a dragon.” How do you say “zing!” in Dothraki?

After he soars on Rhaegal (“you've completely ruined horses for me!”) they end up near a waterfall. “It's cold up here for a southern girl,” Jon Snow says, and batting her regal eyelashes, she orders him to “keep his Queen warm.”

George R.R. Barfin' over those cheesy lines!

4. Sam Spills the Beans


Honestly, I thought it would take the whole season for Samwell Tarley to explain to Jon Snow that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. But learning that Daenerys executed his father and brother goosed him a little in that department. I bet if he he had a day to sleep on it, Sam would have kept his mouth shut, but when he sees him in the Stark crypt, he lets it all out.

This information is just going to give Jon Snow agita. He doesn't want to be King. He wants to be the husband of the Queen, which is a big difference! (He also probably doesn't want his Queen to be his Aunt, but let's not worry about that right now.) Seeing his best pal Sam in crisis plants a seed in Jon. Of all the people on the show to cause such a disruption, this was the last one you'd expect. That's why this show is genius.

5. Red Beard Lives!


“I love this guy!” my wife shouts every time Tormund Giantsbane appears on Game of Thrones. There have been many times when it looked like curtains for our favorite ginger-faced rogue, but the wall crumbling down at the end of Season 7 surely meant he'd met his end. Right?

Wrong! A cheer rose from our couch (and couches across the Seven Kingdoms, no doubt) when we saw that he'd survived. He and his pal Berric Dondarrian start talking strategy against the Night King when the hanging corpse of young Ned Umber surrounded by a swirl of amputated limbs begins to squeal and freak everyone out.

Soon he's stabbed through the belly and lit on fire. Ew. Why the hell do we watch this show?

Well it's too late to stop now. We'll tune in next week and hopefully by then Ser Bronn will have taken a cold shower.

Gallery — The Best Dressed Game of Thrones Characters: