Review: Game Of Thrones S8E1, Winterfell
What did you think of Game Of Thrones S8E1?
We’re doing it. But before that, a warning: The post below is long and full of spoilers.
Where’s the dragon fire?
Let’s start with the obvious: After almost a two-year break, Game Of Thrones is finally back!
Whether you’re part of the side that obsessed with the show by bingeing theory videos, catching up on key episodes and geeking out on each and every trailer (like me) or you’re part of team hermit that actively decided to look the other way when news broke or when new footage arose, there is no arguing one point: Winter is here!
But is it the big time gap that makes episode one feel a little underpowered? Is it my rush for closure? Was I expecting too much in one episode? While I know season openers usually build a lot of foundation for the rest of the episodes, my biggest reservation is that this one still feels like an opener for an eight or ten-episode season. Character arcs move forward, but some feel better placed than others and the end still feels nowhere in sight.
Openers and Arcs
The change to the opening sequence is a nice touch. We see the broken down wall, new symbols on the rings (did I see a beheaded wolf there and the actual wall being broken down by Viserion?). It even deep dives into Winterfell and King’s Landing (trivia: Did you know that the opening sequence usually reflects the locations featured within the episode?). Hats off to the details they paid attention to!
The Starks finally reunite (and my frozen heart melted when this happened), but the sisters (Sansa especially) don’t appreciate the idea of knee-bending to Daenerys. Bran (who mysteriously pops up everywhere) is the level one who insists on banding together and worrying about the wordplay and mind games later.
Daenerys shows little remorse for her past executions when confronted. Mind you, her sense of justice has killed many already; her lack of regret when she tells Sam that she killed his brother and father reveals so much about her character. Doesn’t she remind you of a certain “mad king” that burned anyone he wanted to burn?
Anyway, the new Jon-Dany romance soars to the clouds. In one of the episode’s highlights, Jon finally rides a dragon, cementing his place as a Targaryen. Just when you thought you knew the characters, they show you something else that makes you go “ohhhhh…”
Well played again, show runners.
A sequence that felt really rushed to me was Theon rescuing his sister. From Theon to a tortured Reek to trying to regain his identity as Theon, we see a full journey of failure after failure, until the very last moment of last season! We saw how he suffered (serves him right for betraying the Starks!) as he turned into a coward and shell of his former self. This transformation comes to a huge crossroads when Yara is kidnapped in season seven. Theon was powerless as he was time and again. Sure, by the end of season seven he finds Ironborn that are willing to support his cause but in this episode, out of nowhere, he rescues Yara and they make plans to support the war in the north.
What took seasons to build was changed in less than a minute and while we did anticipate the rescue by the end of season seven, the execution seemed too fast and I really wanted to see a bit more of his transition into bravery. Did he plan the rescue? How did he know where Yara was going to be? One does not simply resume a season after two years without some dot-connecting. It made her kidnapping feel “poof I’m here to rescue you”—all too easy.
Jon Snow (Targaryen), Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm?
Sam finally tells Jon about his parents; that he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, that his parentage makes him the rightful king—hang on a second. Based on track record, Jon Snow has never wanted to be any sort of ruler. So what is he going to do? He considers Dany first, of course, as he pledged his loyalty to her; but under the rules of lineage, she now loses her entire claim to him.
It’s good that he has no clear direction because it keeps us guessing. If the title of the series (taking A Song of Ice and Fire to represent Jon Snow as a manifestation of ice and fire) is any indication, it could lead to either Jon becoming king and the whole story is his ascent to the throne or he gives up the throne to Daenerys and it becomes his story of heroism. Two out of a billion theories that are still in play!
An Ending to Open Up a Can Of…Dragons?
Towards the end, Tormund (who has always had blue eyes!), Edd and Beric being at the Last Hearth wasn’t so much a surprise though it did make me think. The symbol itself isn’t new as we’ve seen time and again throughout the show. The moment it started burning it made me think “It looks so familiar…it reminds of the Targaryen sigil.” Apparently I wasn’t alone.
— حزلم ارشد🖤 (@Hazlams1) April 15, 2019
They chose to end the episode with another theory that keeps fans guessing; but why? They’re good. They’re very good.
And to cap it off, the Kingslayer finally joins our heroes but surprise-surprise, who is the first person that sees him? The boy that he pushed out a window so many years ago, naturally. More unresolved conflict. Just when you thought we would be at the tail end, old issues are still popping up.
If you’ve seen patterns in the article, you’ll know that this isn’t a bad thing. There’s so much left in the story with so little time to complete it and yet, the only thing you can probably say at the end of this episode is “HBO, why the hell do I have to wait an entire week for episode two?” We’re so close to the end and still so hungry.
As I wrote this, my opinion actually changed. Characters moved forward and I was cheering for them even if no one was really fighting. I was set to give this a lower score, but I realized the rush I was in and how much story guesswork I was still doing. I feel like a dragon that ate at Winterfell. Apart from the hiccups, what it lacked in resolution, it made up for in story.
What did you think about Game of Thrones S8E1: Winterfell? What are your theories? We’ll be here all season.
Words Yosu de Erquiaga
Art Alexandra Lara