The following is a spoiler-filled review of the season premiere of the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Expect spoilers for the episode in the review.
In the final season premiere of Game of Thrones, Euron (Pilou Asbæk) returns to King’s Landing with the army of the Golden Company for Cersei (Lena Headey), while Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is given a special job. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), her army, and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) arrive at Winterfell, where the people of the North are distrustful of the woman that their king has bent the knee to. There are more reunions than you probably even needed in the premiere of the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
I’m sure there must have been at least a couple of hundreds of fans of the series that were slightly underwhelmed by the season premiere. With merely six episodes to tell the story of multiple battles for world domination, many likely rightly suspected that we would see more of the White Walkers than we did. In truth, the season premiere was a true setup episode, where the characters were moved into place (as the very end of the episode strongly indicated), while the stories we won’t get too much of were likely pushed to the side (I’m looking at you, Yara and your Iron Islands).
You see, one of the truly frustrating things about this episode is how easy and neatly they wrapped up the Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara-storyline. I’m sure they want Theon to be there for the great big battles, but to make Yara’s rescue so simple is just too easy. All of a sudden — before you knew it — she was on her way back to the Iron Islands likely until her army is needed as a deus ex machina, and Theon was sent back to Winterfell. This was the opportunity to have Theon have his revenge (I’m sure he’ll still get something. Euron won’t make it to the end of the show) and thus rise and make himself a true, unbroken hero. It is such a hurried conclusion to a storyline that was teased at the end of the seventh season.
But if you have been jonesing for character reunions, then this was the episode for you. Arya (Maisie Williams) reunited with Jon, finally. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) finally got a chance to speak. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) reiterated that he has lost all personality, but, yeah, I guess he got his moment with Jon, even if he didn’t get into it. He’s just the three-eyed-raven now, after all. Speaking of Bran, the end of the episode set up a reunion that I didn’t know I wanted: Bran and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in the same castle.
How poetic, the first episode of the series ended with Jaime pushing Bran out of the window, and, now, in the final season premiere of the series, we see them stare at each other. The thing Jaime did for love is coming back to haunt him. In general, this was an episode that pointed back to the series premiere. Back then, we saw King Robert and Cersei ride into Winterfell and be introduced to the Starks. Here, Daenerys did not receive a warm welcome — nothing is warm in the North.
The quieter scenes with the characters, the reunions, and seeing Dany and Jon take flight was the show giving us the calm before the storm. The episode had to make sure the conflict in relationships was clear and present — and with Sansa and, seemingly, Lyanna Mormont refusing to accept Dany that conflict is easy to see — and it had to make sure Jon received the news that will change the nature of Jon and Dany’s relationship for more than one or two characters on the show. There may not have been any elephants sent with the Golden Company, but the show was willing to talk about the elephant in the room — Jon Snow’s parentage.
After Samwell Tarly was praised by Dany and then informed of how she burned his family to ashes, he rushed out to Bran and was basically directed towards Jon. A clearly angry — and rightfully so — Samwell Tarly was uncomfortable giving Jon the news, but he did it forcefully. He challenged his friend by asking him if he’d do what she did. He wouldn’t have, and everyone knows it. He wouldn’t have destroyed the Tarly-house for refusing to bend the knee.
Anyway, Jon is eventually informed that his real name is Aegon Targaryen. He is the rightful heir to the throne. Jon Snow is no bastard. We don’t get too much of a reaction here that would indicate fully what this will lead him to do, but with Tyrion, Davos, and Varys plotting for Jon and Dany to be married, things will get complicated.
I have to mention Bronn and how Qyburn interrupted him to give him a tough job to do. This season he is being tasked with taking down his two best friends — the two Lannister brothers. Is Bronn loyal or just in it for the gold? He seems like too good of a guy for the answer to be anything other than the former. But, who knows, this is Game of Thrones after all.
I would also like to commend the show for actually questioning the lack of food for the army and the dragons. It’s cold in the North, and they are unable to feed all of these people. A lesser show would’ve ignored this aspect, but it is right for this show, in particular, to pay attention to it. You may not have expected that you were waiting two years to see Sansa question their food resources, but that feels exactly like something Game of Thrones would do.
Callbacks, reunions, and renewed character conflicts. The only action you saw was a horrific message from the White Walkers and a silly little flying lesson for Jon, but the episode effectively moved everyone into position, addressed the elephant in the room (and the missing elephants in the Golden Company), and the ending of the episode reminded the characters what everyone watching the show already knew — winter is here and with it, the White Walkers. And, with that, my premiere watch has ended, so to speak. There are only five more episodes to go of the unrivaled television epic, Game of Thrones.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.