Game of Thrones S8E1 review: reunions, revelations and a threat
Please be aware this review contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8 episode 1 ‘Winterfell’.
It’s been eighteen months since we last set foot in Westeros, but did Game of Thrones‘ season eight premiere deliver?
Fans will remember the thrilling climax to season seven. Most of the show’s cast headed north to wage war on the dead, Bran and Sam made a predictable discovery, and Jon and Dany finally did the dirty. It was all a set up for ‘Winterfell’, which saw most of the show’s cast convening in one location and a lot of reunions.
Jon Snow reunited with siblings Bran and Arya. Arya reunited with the Hound and Gendry (do I spy flirting there, HBO?). Bran reunited (briefly) with Jaime Lannister, in an effort to bring Game of Thrones full circle. Former husband and wife Tyrion and Sansa were reunited, as were best friends Jon and Sam. It’s a lot for one episode, and consequently none of these reunions were allowed the power and gravitas of Jon and Sansa’s season six reunion. That said, Bran is quite right – we don’t have time for this.
As we’re reminded repeatedly, the dead are marching south – and Winterfell is on their way. There is only one undead in this episode, but the presence of the Night King is felt throughout. Jon Snow repeatedly defends his decision to swear loyalty to Daenerys by claiming he cares for the North’s survival more than a crown. The houses of the North struggle to accept this new foreign Queen. Meanwhile, there is a creeping sense of urgency about the episode. People are already dying, and they have no way to feed the troops and the dragons.
Jon Snow is a huge focus of ‘Winterfell’. His Northern men are unhappy with his allegiance to Daenerys, and even Sansa questions his true motives. Meanwhile, it seems things couldn’t be better for Jon and Daenerys. The new couple go on a romantic dragon retreat, which sees the much awaited moment that Jon rides a dragon for the first time. Jon, of course, has no idea what this means, until he gets the reveal we all got last season. Sam tells Jon his real parents are Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. He is the rightful heir to the throne. What Jon will do with this information, however, is unclear.
There’s a bit of drama unfolding down South too. Cersei is less than impressed when Euron delivers 20000 men, 2000 horses and no elephants. However, Euron’s charisma wins her around. She also asks Bronn to assassinate her two brothers, Tyrion and Jaime, in a move that absolutely nobody expects to work.
All in all, ‘Winterfell’ was as good as we might’ve expected from an episode that had so much ground to cover. There were some emotional reunions, there were epic moments, there was nudity (thanks for that), there was horror, and there were laughs aplenty. The show definitely hasn’t lost its ability to make decent in-jokes, nor frighten. It feels like we are building to something epic, and Game of Thrones is slowly but surely manoeuvring its players together.