Game of Thrones
After a nearly two year wait, the pop culture phenomenon, Game of Thrones, returns to HBO for its final season.
This premiere episode was spent largely moving pieces around the board and getting players into position for the final stretch. Jon Snow (when do we start calling him Aegon?) and Daenerys Targaryen return to Winterfell with Daenerys' armies at their backs. What follows is a massive house-keeping project as the writers address the North's reaction to their new queen (spoiler alert: they're not too happy about it) as well as move through a number of introductions and reunions.
These numerous sequences feature, among others, Sansa coldly meeting Daenerys; the brief and somewhat bitter reunion of Sansa and Tyrion; Ser Davos' counsel being added to Varys and Tyrion's; the first meeting of The Hound and Arya since Arya left him to die; the tragic encounter between Sam and Daenerys, in which Sam learns of the death of his father and brother; Jon's reunion with Bran; and, of course, the long-awaited reunion of Arya and Jon, where the siblings seemingly check each other's stats from their years apart.
In the South, Cersei's Golden Company investment is delivered by Euron Greyjoy (alas, sans elephants) and Euron finally gets what he's been after all along-- the chance to bed a queen. Of course, while Euron continues to entangle himself with dangerous liaisons, Theon seizes the opportunity to free Yara. There is also the small matter of Cersei tasking Ser Bron to murder her "treasonous" brothers to put a cap on the happenings in King's Landing for now.
Back in the north, Jon and Dany take a dragon ride and see their relationship strengthen as Davos, Tyrion, and Varys contemplate what a handsome couple they would make, only to have all of that overly-complicated as Sam reveals to Jon his true lineage and rightful position as King of the Seven Kingdoms.
As the survivors of the fall of the Wall make their way south, we see Tormund, Beric, Edd and others merge at Last Hearth only to find that the Army of the Dead have already passed through, annihilating the stronghold and leaving poor Ned Umber nailed to the wall as a message. The last sequence of the episode sees Jaime Lannister arrive at Winterfell.
Undertaking a review of Game of Thrones at this point in the game is a difficult feat. There is a delicate balance to found between simply praising the show for its ambition, high production value, excellent casting and acting, etc. and finding small nitpicks here and there to poke and prod. Comparison to the “Song of Ice and Fire” books is out the window now that the show has surpassed the source material fully. So where to begin?
The episode begins with an odd choice– the changing of the award-winning title sequence. Much of the structure remains the same but for the first time in eight seasons, the viewer’s perspective is changed and the interiors of Winterfell and the Red Keep are seen for the first time. Presumably the consolidation of power throughout the world leaves less places worthy of making the intro sequence, giving more time to spend on the only two places anything is happening at this point. Also curious is the new imagery found on the astrolabe that hovers above the map.
There is much complaint on the internet already about the length of this first episode as many were under the belief that these final episodes would be longer than usual given the shorter than usual season. It has since been revealed that the first two episodes clock in at just under an hour each and after that, the episodes will indeed be longer.
The Night King and the Army of the Dead do not make an appearance in this episode, although their handiwork is seen. Tormund and company happen across this message in the form of poor Ned Umber near the end of the episode. There are a number of curious items at work here. The Night King has, thus far, not been one for sending messages, nor should he feel the need to. His army vastly outnumbers all those who oppose him, and while, yes, his army does have a number of exploitable weaknesses, his possession of means to kill and reanimate dragons would seem to be a bolster to his confidence. The mode of the message also seems oddly out of place, as if this were unused production reel from the Hannibal series rather than Game of Thrones. The Night King’s message reads more the work of a psychopath than an age-old soldier and creature of the night, but perhaps that is just me reading too much into it. Also of minor note, am I the only one who feels like the march of the Army of the Dead seems to be moving incredibly slowly? In the time it took Dany to get her army to Winterfell from King’s Landing, Euron has crossed the narrow sea two times. I know its narrow, but that is one slowly advancing army. Something about the timeline here feels slightly off/too convenient to the progression of the plot.
While a large part of the episode focuses on the budding romance between Aegon and Dany, we also see hints of another relationship forming that will have longtime fans excited. Gendry is at the forges of Winterfell crafting dragonglass weapons for the army and it is there that he is reunited with Arya and sparks seem to fly. Of all the pairings we’re likely to see as the show winds towards its inevitable end, this one feels like the most natural pairing and the one I find myself most pleased to see developing.
All in all, while there are many disappointed in the lack of real development in this season premiere, the episode remained strong and true to form. Game of Thrones is back for one final hurrah and I’ll be anxiously awaiting Sunday all week.
Game of Thrones is back for its eighth and final season and fans couldn't be happier.
Game of Thrones Ep801: Where Do We Go From Here?
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Acting - 9.5/109.5/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 10/1010/10