Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1: Analysis and Review
This article is dark and full of spoilers...
The first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones mirrors the very first episode of the series in many ways. Starting with the grand procession of Daenerys Targaryen along with Jon Snow and her unsullied army. Their numbers are only dwarfed by the fully grown dragons flying their way into Winterfell.
Parallels to the very first episode
All this echoes the coming of King Robert Baratheon in the very first episode of the series. His entourage consisted of Lannister forces, along with his Queen, Cercei Lannister, and her brothers, Jaime and Tyrion. This one reflection is most clear. There are much more, scattered throughout the episode. For instance, we see young Arya climbing up to get a better view in the first season, this time it was a little boy who did the same, with Arya watching from below.
But that's not all. The first episode was also one of the few to feature the dead and the ultimate threat so fully. Later episodes moved more towards the politics and the Game of Thrones. Rarely, moving to the matter of a dead army. But like the first episode, this episode makes clear of the massive threat moving towards Winterfell, although this time it's well known.
There are also contrasts. The Game of Thrones debut split off the characters from Winterfell. On the other hand, this episode brings them together. Almost all those who were present in that first assembly are also present in this episode. At least those who are still alive.
Touching and not so touching reunions
Winterfell is the center of all things in season 8. Just like Kings Landing was back in the early seasons. Almost all the major characters are making their way or have made their way to mount a defense against the dead. The Starks'(not really) renunion mostly goes as cold as the snow in Winterfell. With any icy exchange between Bran and Jon Snow. Jon Snow also did a great job at ignoring Arya Stark who was standing right in front of the crowd.
It is only later in the Weirwood tree grove that Jon and Arya get their heartfelt reunion. This was one of the many reunions in the episode, and the best one at that. Arya shows Jon needle which he gave to her in the very first episode while Jon shows of Longclaw. Yet another parallel to the series pilot.
Arya also meets with the Hound, but the Hound remembers what Arya has done to him. Although it seems Arya has finally decided to remove him from her kill list. Also meeting Gendry for the fisrt time in several seasons, she proceeds to hand him a weapon schematic.
Tyrion and Sansa also met up in a slightly less awkward meeting. Tyrion remarks how Sansa's departure from the Purple Wedding left him in a very bad position. Sansa reminds Tyrion that both of them are alive. Tyrion assures Sansa that a Lannister army is coming. But finally after seven season Sansa is not so gullible anymore. She assures Tyrion that no help is coming and that he is a fool to be so gullible.
The most chilling scene was perhaps the end scene. A hooded figure arrives in Winterfell who is revealed to be Jaime Lannister. Whom Bran refers to as an old friend. When Jaime dismounts and turn around to find Bran, sitting in his wheelchair and staring at him, he sees a ghost. Jaime would probably not get that look on his face even if he saw the Night King himself. At this moment Jaime would rather be anywhere but facing Bran.
The calm before the storm
Winterfell may be the title for the episode but a more accurate title would be, 'a calm before the storm.' Everyone and everything seems to be holding its breath for the arrival of the dead. With Bran announcing nonchalantly that the dead have breached the Wall and the Night King has one of Dany's dragons, an impromptu meeting is arranged to discuss the issues.
However, in the outskirts Tormund and the surviving Night Watchers find the young Lord Umber nailed to the wall with an array of mutilated body parts. As they approach, the corpse is reanimated only to be burnt down by Beric Dondarrion. This is as close to combat and anything undead as we get in this episode. This only means that there will be much more of it in later episodes. In fact, this may be the only episode with minimal fighting.
The next episode recap shows us that Beric and company makes it safely to Winterfell.
Sansa Stark, the Lady of Winterfell
It wouldn't be Game of Thrones without some politics. The episode highlights the issue that most northerners are not supportive of Dany. Moreover, most Northern lords are disappointed that Jon bent the knee to Dany and gave up his King in the North title. It is exactly this reason why some Northern lords didn't make it to Winterfell.
Moreover, Sansa herself is not very happy at Jon's decision. She wants to know what will happen next and how will things stand. The matter is made more complex on Samwell Tarly's long awaited reveal of Jon's true parentage and true name. Sam also not-so-subtly told Jon, that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne.
How to train your Dragon
We were waiting to see Jon ride a dragon for a long time. It finally happened and in the most wonderful way. Jon rode alongside Dany and they flew themselves off to a quiet retreat. This dragon flight was also in the trailers with one glaring omission. The riders. But we forgive HBO.
Rhaegal was the only choice too. With Dany riding Drogon and Viserion becoming the Ice Dragon. Becoming a dragon riding is not so simple. One Dragon only accepts one rider, and another dragon would not accept a rider of another dragon. Dany couldn't have ridden Rhaegal even if she wanted to. And it couldn't have been more fitting. Jon's maiden flight as a rider came before Sam's revelation about his parentage. His father was Rhaegar and so he rides the dragon named after him.
It a good thing too. And just in time. He will need these dragon riding skills soon.
Stay tuned for our entire coverage of the final season, as each episode comes out.