Episode one, season eight’s title was kept heavily under wraps – much like most of the other titles to prevent any potential spoilers – before finally being revealed as Winterfell – which is where all the action took place. The episode saw characters meeting as the most unlikely of alliances were forged as too were new rivalries and old secrets came spilling out. Winterfell served as the set up to season eight, which will get underway in earnest next week.
WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Game of Thrones season 8, episode 1
Winterfell is one of the shortest Game of Thrones season premieres to date – coming in at just under an hour – but the episode did pack in a lot, making it highly satisfying.
There were some throwbacks to season one as things came full circle. The opening scene alone mirrored the first-ever Game of Thrones episode and the arrival of Robert Baratheon (played by Mark Addy) with a young child climbing a tree, harking back to a young, agile Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). The same was true of the closing scene but we’ll get to that.
The overriding theme of the episode was family. There were some wonderful reunions that warmed the heart. First, Bran and Jon Snow (Kit Harington), then Arya (Maisie Williams) and Jon in the Godswood by the weirwood tree swapping stories about their swords.
The other big reunion came in the form of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) who finally redeemed himself by rescuing his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) from the clutches of their megalomanic uncle Euron (Pilou Asbæk).
However, Yara head-butted to let him she wasn’t best pleased by his act of cowardice previously. They escaped and decided to take back the Iron Islands as a fortress for Daenerys to flee to should the Night King take over.
The Greyjoy sibling moment could only bring a smile as Yara urged Theon to go to Winterfell and fight for the Starks, again a lovely scene despite its brevity.
Speaking of character coming back together, we got telling glances between Arya as she saw Gendry (Joe Dempsie) after only moments after spying The Hound (Rory McCann).
One of the most interesting reunions was between Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) as the former husband and wife reminisced.
He complimented her but she warned him that he’d grown foolish by trusting Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss only have six episodes, so there’s no slow burn storytelling here like in seasons gone by.
There was good pacing to the story. Bran was a party pooper, as usual, breaking up the Stark family reunion to issue a sinister warning of the Night King’s (Vladimir Furdik) advance now the Wall had fallen.
Then there was the Jon-Aegon Targaryen (sixth of his name) revelation as Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) revealed his friend’s true identity, leaving him reeling. Will Jon tell Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) the truth about their incestuous relationship? She would make no bones about taking him down if he presented a threat to her throne as Sam hinted.
The biggest takeaway from the episode was the rivalry between Daenerys and Sansa with shade being thrown in every direction
On the one hand, the dynamic was great but on the other, it was a shame two such strong and formidable females battling each other.
You get the impression their relationship is one watch through season eight – and it’s one that will develop.
However, Sansa wasn’t the only one unimpressed by the Mother of Dragons. Daenerys seemed to be building up enemies within Winterfell with several characters wanting her dead, among them Tyrion, Sam, Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) and perhaps even Arya.
Meanwhile, down in King’s Landing, Cersei revealed she’d grown her army by enlisting the Golden Company and their warriors to fight for her cause – shame about the elephants or lack thereof.
Episode one was very much set up with the chess pieces all assembled for the last great game – Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) was the final one to show up as he met Bran for the first time since the season one premiere.
The encounter between the two served again as another cyclic moment that reiterated the end is nigh.
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