Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Wherever you are in the world, you have had 19 hours to watch the Game Of Thrones Season 8 premiere so I can safely assume you have caught up before reading this post. 2 long years I have waited for this moment and it did not disappoint. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant set up for what we have ahead of us and I’d like to thank script supervisor Bran Stark for keeping the arc moving along quickly. ‘We don’t have time for this’ you bet it kid we’ve only got 6 episodes to plough through.
Let’s start from the very beginning shall we? Brand new opening animations. It’s always been known that these animations are relevant to the season / episode that they are fronting, so to see such a bold difference from its predecessors it shook me slightly. Most importantly the new edition to the opening animation is THE PATH OF THE NIGHT KING. A frozen strip turns the paved stones to ice blue starting beyond the wall and reaching up to The Last Hearth (where we see the Umber boy later on.) I’m assuming that this path will be updated each week and oh my god it’s so tantalisingly terrifying. In addition to the new ‘Night King Tracker’ we also cut into and through the castles for the first time with particular focus on the Winterfell Crypts and ending upon the Iron Throne. I wonder if this is a foreshadowed look of where the Night King will cause wreckage? Will he walk the crypts of Winterfell and raise hell as I suspected in my theories post or is this just an overview of the episodes location as previously used.
The episode opens with a direct parallel to the pilot episode. We see a young boy running overhead to catch a glimpse of the royal arrival just as Arya and Bran once did. The exact same music score bathes the visuals as Arya makes way for the child to watch Jon and Daenerys arrive as excitedly as she once watched King Robert Baratheon and Cersei arrive all those years prior.
Daenerys’ arrival stirs the Northmen as Jon knew it would. The arrival of the dragons gives us the reaction shots of both Arya and Sansa that we have seen teased in the trailers. The first reunion that we are treated to is that of Bran and Jon. I literally can’t help but laugh during his scenes. Like, WTF Bran. His reaction to Jon’s ‘You’re a man’ is almost comical. His brooding stare soon wipes any sense of humour from the air however. That and Sansa’s coldness towards Daenerys which continues throughout the episode adding an interesting dramatic tension between the two of them. Soon after comes a reunion that we have been waiting for a long LONG time. Arya and Jon. Oh my heart. Her humbled ‘once or twice’ so as to not scare Jon off so to speak will soon be proved wrong when we potentially will see both Arya and Jon in battle side by side. I was as surprised as Jon was when she sided with Sansa and her hesitant attitude towards Daenerys – they are really painting her in a doubtful light this episode and this is the first time we experience this conflict as strongly as it was shown in this instance which is directly setting up a Stark / Targaryan conflict which Jon will land himself, and the viewer, in the middle of. We are used to rooting for both Daenerys and The Starks in different situations – so now it comes to having to ‘choose sides’ as an audience member it is definitely challenging. Talking of Southerners in the North – big shoutout to Varys’ winter wardrobe. It’s strange to see him without his usual jewel coloured robes but we absolutely Stan a seamless summer to winter fashion transition as smooth as his was.
Tyrion and Sansa meet for the first time since Joffrey’s wedding and share a touching moment reminiscing on old times and providing a dribble of humour to overall intensity. I admire Sansa’s last line to him ‘I used to think you were the cleverest man alive’ because yes Tyrion – what are you thinking?!
We are thrown from the cold of the North to the cold of Cersei who is watching the Second Sons reach Kings Landing. Even Qyburn looks a little perplexed at the lack of emotion Cersei shows after being told about the North Kings break through. Cersei is as disappointed as we are regarding the lack of elephants that the Second Sons have brought over. I guess Jon and Danys magical dragon ride really blew the elephant budget.
Euron Greyjoy really is a vile man but I’m especially glad that Theon was able to override him so quickly. I couldn’t bare precious minutes of screen time being elongated on the rescue of Yara Greyjoy. It was rounded up nicely with her allowing Theon to go back to Winterfell whilst she would go back to the Iron Islands to reconquer and wait out the war incase Daenerys and co need a safe place upon the Night Kings arrival. I think this will be an important point to come back to in future plots as it is a pretty big deal that (for now) the Night King and his armies can’t cross water. However with an icy Viserion beneath him who’s to say where he can and can’t get to. Also BONUS FEATURE from the Yara rescue mission scene – a wild Rob McElhenney is spotted. Yes that’s Mac from Always Sunny In Philadelphia and yes I want a sunny episode centred around this appearance #MacsBigBreak
So what about our precious Bronn. Bronn who is being faced with a tough decision between loyalty and gold. But Bronn has no loyalty. He is a sell sword who has only ever acted on what he is being paid despite his friendships with both Tyrion and Jaime. In short, no I don’t think he will kill either brother. I’m hoping by next episode he will arrive in Winterfell cross bow in tow and be ready to join the battle for the living in episode 3 in a Han Solo-esque recovery. Providing he hasn’t contracted fatal pox by then. Other takes from Bronn’s scene are firstly its parallel to the pilot (yes I will be saying these words a lot) as it mirrored Tyrion’s first pleasure house scene which was interrupted by Jaime. Secondly the reference to the ginger Lannister soldier Eddie – did the writers mean to reference Ed Sheeran? Did they know we HATED that appearance so much they’ve justified it with burning off his eyelids?
I cannot believe that within the first episode the truth behind Jon’s heritage was delivered to him, and God I’m happy it went that way. But first I want to take a moment to say just how well John Bradley West performed in this episode – without a doubt his greatest performance as Sam so far. I hadn’t even considered the Tarly family / Daenerys matter until then so what was a forgettable piece of history became one of the most poignant moments of the episode due to the emotional response from Sam. Sam also mentioned in that scene that he had taken a few books from the Citadel. Let’s pray that one of them is the one that details Rhaegars annulled marriage to Elia Martell and his secret marriage to Lyanna thus proving Jon’s heritage and right to the throne. It always had to be Sam to tell Jon, as Bran said, Jon trusts Sam more than anyone. It also mirrored the conversation that best friends Ned and King Rob had in the crypts in the pilot episode. However this time, instead of standing in front of Lyanna’s grave, they were stood in front of Ned’s. This is touching because the last thing that Ned said to Jon was ‘the next time we see each other, We will talk about your mother. I promise.’ I’m not crying. Jon seemed torn by the news of his true heritage (as anyone would be) and this complexity will surely be conflicted in his conscious. Most of the pilot episode that Jon appeared in was centred around him being a bastard and the woes that come with it. Now, he will be dwelling on the woes that come with being a king. It seems forever ago that Maester Aemon told Jon ‘Kill the boy Jon Snow’ and there we have it – Jon Snow as we knew him effectively dead in the crypts of Winterfell. Enter Jon Targaryan.
Whilst Jon is being told from every corner to watch out for Dany and his feelings for her, she has no trouble being openly besotted with him (I mean can you blame her?) The flight of the dragons ended with a sweet moment between the two, and an angry Drogon watching on as his mum and his new step dad / cousin made out. It would appear Jon has a penchant for romantic liaisons in icy wastelands. The filming of the flight of the dragons scene made my stomach turn as the editing was cut so finely it appeared as a simulation as if we too were gripping to scales for life.
Arya and Gendry. Need I say more about the prospect of these two getting together at some point? I’m all for it. Remember way back when King Robert said to Ned ‘I have a son, you have a daughter, we shall join our houses’ THEY CAN BE THE JOINT HOUSES!!! What I DO need more information on is the weapon that Arya has asked him to devise. It appeared to be some form of crossbow / javelin hybrid – most likely she has her sights set on slaying the night king or Viserion. The designs weren’t lingered on for too long but I have a strong feeling that this was setting up for something big. We actually were treated to a glimpse of the suspected weapon in the trailer for next episode and it can also be seen in the season trailer:
It was an episode of reunions for Arya who was also greeted by her former nemesis and companion The Hound. I think in him calling her a cold hearted bitch there was some love behind it, no? This is likely to be high praise from The Hound.
Ok so the ending. The Last Hearth. I was recovering from my joy to see my favourite guy Tormund Giantsbane alive and kicking and throwing about excellent one liners (I’ve always had blue eyes) when I was thrown from my sofa screaming at the demonic little Lord Umber wailing from the dead surrounded by corpse ends. As if the visuals weren’t disturbing enough the jolted scream really was horrifying, not an element we often see in Game Of Thrones. It worked so well to remind us about the true threat amongst an episode centred on interpersonal human relationships. The symbolic way the corpses were laid out of course was another parallel to how we have previously seen this done in the pilot episode.
The episode ends with a reunion that caught me off guard. When Bran said he was waiting for an old friend I thought he meant Sam. So in the episodes final moments when he was (still) sat in the courtyard and off comes the hood of Jaime Lannister I jumped with anticipation. A W K W A R D. Awkward yet another fantastic link to the pilot episode which ends with Jaime looking at a scared Bran before he pushes him out the window. Now, it’s Jaime’s turn to look scared as he sees an all grown Bran sat before him with that – well Bran – look in his eyes. It’s also hugely contrasting to Jaime’s first arrival in Winterfell in the pilot when he takes his golden helmet off to toss his golden hair in all its glory. He now looks like a total different person. His hair is darker (perhaps a sign of his allegiance against the Lannisters) and he is dressed in grey.
Whilst the first episode was short on action packed set pieces, it was big on setting up dramatic tension between characters and some really well scripted and at times dark humour.