White knuckles for sure.
White knuckles for sure. Helen Sloan/HBO

HBO's obscure, low-budget television program Game of Thrones aired the first episode of its final season last night, to little media fanfare and a virtually non-existent viewership. Nevertheless, we've decided to champion this overlooked, off-the-radar gem! We've assembled a crack team of Stranger and Portland Mercury contributors who've been obsessing over Game of Thrones since the very beginning, and given them a list of topics to discuss each week. So instead of reading one person blathering on about dire-swords and the lineages of assorted bannermen, you can read several!

We'll be doing these each week until the end of time, or until HBO airs the final episode, whichever comes first. We'll be discussing spoilers, of course, so don't be a baby and act like you weren't warned. And now, on to this week's topics of discussion!

This was a (GOOD/BAD) episode of Game of Thrones because…

SUZETTE SMITH: This was a GOOD, albeit salad episode. It had a lot of good stuff in it, but it’s not the spicy candied bacon GoT that the crowds demand. After the episode, there was a short where Benioff and Weiss explained that they tried to create parallels between this episode and Season One’s first episode. I went back and watched that episode and damn this show used to be a lot more interesting.

LEILANI POLK: Good. Everything was set up for shit to go down the rest of the season while creating tension and suspense in all the right places (Jon’s newly discovered heritage vs how he feels about Daenerys, White Walkers approaching with white dragon in tow, Golden Company’s arrival down south to join the queen, Jamie and Bran…), and giving us all the expected reunions without making a big fuss out of it.

NED LANNAMANN: GOOD, because it really addressed the elephant in the room. I mean, the elephants NOT in the room. Seriously, you guys couldn’t have brought at least one elephant? Cersei's probably never seen one before. You could have probably just dressed up a large dog and told her it was an elephant.

Helen Sloan/HBO
The character I was most excited to see again was...

SUZETTE SMITH: Tyrion Lannister, but then he didn’t really do much other than give good advice so I’m changing my answer to THE DRAGONS who did a lot of cool flying and making “chuffff” noises.

LEILANI POLK: Tormund Giantsbane. Didn’t think he’d died but still glad to see his wild ginger face still alive.

NED LANNAMANN: Weirdly, Bran. Not because I like him—he creeps me out—but because I don’t know what he’s doing, or what he’s capable of doing, or why, when you have all the power and accumulated knowledge of eternity, you’d spend it just hanging out in the middle of a muddy square staring at people and making them uncomfortable. Close second: Jaime, who’s apparently a brunette now.

The part that made me say “ohhh shitttt” the loudest was...

NED LANNAMANN: I realize that nine times out of 10, the correct answer to this question is the shrieking undead child pinned to the wall while surrounded by a spiral of flesh, but to be entirely honest what thrilled me most were the totally revamped opening credits, which included the crypts of Winterfell and lots of other cool new details.

SUZETTE SMITH: Watching everyone in Winterfell see dragons for the first time made us stop and rewind.

LEILANI POLK: When the mysterious hooded rider who turns out to be Jamie turns around and realizes that Bran, whom he pushed out a window in the very first episode, is alive and creepy-kicking, and that his virtuous idea to come to Winterfell was probably a really, really bad one.

Also, when Jon Snow Aegon Targaryen and Daenerys Targaryen are trysting, and the dragons are ogling them like oversized dogs. The curious interested look on Drogon’s face was a masterwork of CG.

Also, Jon riding the dragon = classic GoT comedy.

Helen Sloan/HBO
The part that made me the most confused was…

NED LANNAMANN: Basically the first 10 minutes. I couldn’t remember a lot of the specific details of the last season, but I guess it doesn't matter because apparently everyone’s in Winterfell now? (Except for the Glovers of Deepwood Motte, those jerks.)

SUZETTE SMITH: I totally forgot that Daenerys burnt up Sam’s fam last season. At first, I thought she was talking about something that happened offscreen, but then I remembered the long scene, after the Lannister vs. dragons skirmish, that absolutely screamed, “this shit will be consequential, just you wait (20 months).”

LEILANI POLK: Daenerys way of telling Sam that she’d murdered his dad and brother. It seemed a little tactless and cold when held up against who her character is supposed to be.

The most UN-surprising thing that happened was...

LEILANI POLK: Cersei letting Euron into her bed; now that she’s on the outs with her bro/ex-lover, she’s gotta have someone else be the stand-in to that little bastard she’s growing. I feel like, despite her seeming to be hesitant about it, that the move was totally calculated. Also, the mix of humor and self-disgust on her face when he said he was going to put a prince in there? Priceless.

SUZETTE SMITH: Some people (Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys, two armies, two dragons) came to a reasonable compromise, but some other people (Sansa, Arya, Bran, the North) DON’T LIKE IT.

NED LANNAMANN: Jon getting even more sad and pouty when Sam gives him the big news. Take the win, dude!

Helen Sloan/HBO
The first thing someone in my viewing party said when the credits rolled was…

SUZETTE SMITH: "This is an arts and crafts side of the White Walkers we’ve never seen before."

NED LANNAMANN: “Uh, so Arya’s like 13 and Gendry’s, what, 30?”

LEILANI POLK: I watched it alone, and I exclaimed to no one, but aloud, “Oh shit, it’s gonna go dooownnnnnnn.”

MVP of the week goes to…

NED LANNAMANN: Euron Greyjoy. This week he won his own personal Game of Thrones. Nowhere to go but down, buddy.

LEILANI POLK: Theon Greyjoy. ‘Bout time he grew some balls.

SUZETTE SMITH: Drogon, the dragon who was either staring at Jon because he’s the true king or because he likes watching his parents kiss.

Helen Sloan/HBO
My outrageous prediction for next week’s episode is…

NED LANNAMANN: Yeah, Bronn’s not ever going to kill his old friends Tyrion or Jaime. He’s the worst person for the job whom Cersei could’ve hired. On a more gossipy note, it's interesting that they wrote in Qyburn as the proxy, since apparently Lena Headey and Jerome Flynn hate each other and can’t be on the set at the same time.

LEILANI POLK: Jamie gets put through the Stark ringer, but somehow keeps his head because of… Bran. Like, we’re going to find out that Bran is the very least of his worries.

SUZETTE SMITH: Jon won’t tell Daenerys about his 23andMe results and she will find out at the absolute worst moment, from the absolute worst person.