Winter is here. What a pleasure it is to have “Game of Thrones” back. It’s a nostalgic experience getting to sit down to an episode of scheduled television that the world experiences live, especially as streaming sites like Netflix continue to dominate the industry.
HBO, the network that produces “Game of Thrones,” has a heap of story lines to introduce over the span of six episodes, rounding out the show’s eighth and final season. The rate at which major plot points whistled through in Sunday night’s season opener is a major sign of what’s to come.
At the end of the previous season, the Wall protecting the Seven Kingdoms was burned down by the Night King while riding the reanimated dragon Viserion. Now, his Army of the Dead marches on. The last season also revealed that Jon Snow was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, confirming the longstanding fan theory that he was born as Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Those two cliffhangers alone are more than enough to get the fan base excited for season eight.
THE OPENING CREDITS
First, let’s talk about the opening credits, which were a serious upgrade. The credits vary from season to season — even from week to week — depending on the locations visited in the current episode. But for the eighth season premiere, viewers are given snippets of the past events as well as potential hints to the future. Several interesting locations make their debut, such as the crypts under Winterfell as well as Qyburn’s dungeon laboratory beneath the Red Keep.
Season eight picks up with Jon, Daenerys and her armies arriving at Winterfell. Upon arriving, Bran informs them that the White Walkers have broken through the Wall. All of the Northern lords and their allies subsequently gather to form a plan, but not everyone is particularly happy to see Daenerys. Suddenly being expected to kneel to the daughter of the Mad King while learning that the Lannisters are joining forces is too much for some to handle.
On a brighter note, Jon finally reunites with his family, Sansa, Arya and Bran. That being said, both Arya and Sansa have made it perfectly clear to Jon that they don’t trust Daenerys, and Arya reminds Jon that he is a Stark.
IN KING’S LANDING
On the other side of the continent, Cersei Lannister shows no worry about the breach in the Wall; she meets with Euron upon his return with the Golden Company. And her plotting doesn’t stop there. She hires Bronn to kill both Tyrion and Jaime for supposedly choosing Daenerys’ side. Also happening at this time, Theon infiltrates the Iron Fleet and rescues Yara. She grants Theon permission to go fight with the Starks back in Winterfell.
To start, I have to give the show major props for pulling off an incredible flying sequence. Seeing Daenerys and Jon riding dragons throughout Winterfell and the surrounding areas was fantastic to watch. At no point did it look like the CGI was over- or under-used. Jon’s anxiety trying to ride a dragon made the entire scene much more authentic, rather than him getting on and knowing exactly what to do.
Tensions are at an all-time high with no one in Winterfell (except Jon) fully trusting Daenerys. It makes sense for Sansa and Arya to have doubts, especially after everything that they have gone through. It shows that they both have grown and know better than following other people’s orders.
Even though the siblings have spent a long time apart from each other, it is apparent that they care for one another. I imagine they would do anything to make sure that their family remains together. I wouldn’t be surprised if all this tension doesn’t bring its own set of consequences in future episodes.
My one complaint about the episode is that it wasn’t as action-packed as viewers were led to believe it would. It focused on setting up a lot of different plot points, which is normal for a pilot episode. However, given that there are only five episodes left in this season, I would have expected a lot more to happen. There was definitely a lot of hype behind the show coming back, but the episode itself didn’t seem to deliver as much as viewers expected.
But overall, I enjoyed watching the episode. Yes, I had some complaints, but the show still had enough to keep me interested in the story and the characters. The reunions between the Stark siblings were worth the wait, and the big reveal regarding Snow’s identity will surely bring up even more tension.
Like many fans, I’m eagerly waiting to see what the plan is to deal with the Night King and who will ultimately sit on the Iron Throne after the battle.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. PST on HBO.