‘Game of Thrones’ premiere lays groundwork for final season

While the premiere wasn’t action packed, it was full of heart.

This review contains spoilers for the season eight premiere of “Game of Thrones.”

Exactly 595 days since its last episode premiered, “Game of Thrones” is finally back. While fans have been anxiously waiting to learn the fate of Westeros, the series has taken their time in shooting the final season, which will reportedly include the biggest battle scene ever filmed in TV history, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Because of the long wait and the fact that there are only six episodes this season, many fans were certainly hoping to hit the ground running in the season premiere and dive straight into the important stuff: the advancing Night King’s (Vladimir Furdik) army, the mounting attack from Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and the many brutal deaths that are presumed to be coming down the pipe. Much to the dismay of some hardcore fans, the episode is largely spent laying the groundwork for the rest of the season.

Who can blame the producers of “Thrones”? There is so much to be set up and reminded of in the complicated series. There are the long-awaited reunions, some of which have been seven seasons in the making, the first-time meetings between important characters and the reminder of the ever-present threat that is closing in on Winterfell. While it may have not been the explosive premiere that some fans were hoping for, it was the premiere that the audience needed.

The episode begins with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) riding into Winterfell with the Unsullied, Dothraki and their two loud and showboating dragons. While the opening was exciting and a good reintroduction to where the story left off, it mainly served as a subtle homage to the pilot of the series when King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) rode into Winterfell with his own royal entourage.

Even though this grand procession has been long-awaited and it is exciting to see Daenerys ride into The North, the real thrill comes with all the possible reunions between our favorite characters.

At the center of it all is the tear-jerking reunion between Snow and his little sister Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). It is perhaps the last of the great reunions that we will see in the show. While it is a sentimental moment, the two quickly get into the politics of the situation and the audience is forced to remember that there is no time to for hugs and a good cry when an army is marching steadily toward your home.

The remainder of the episode is largely filled with the complicated politicking that fascinates some fans and bores others to death. Despite the threats that loom large and the feeling that this is the end of Westeros as we know it, the characters of the show seem to be in surprisingly good moods.

The jovial tone is most obvious with Daenerys. Regardless of the fact that she is in a strange and unwelcoming land, she is laughing throughout the episode in a way that is unusual for the harsh and stoic leader that fans have fallen in love with. Much of this laughing takes place in scenes with Snow that serve to reinforce their romantic relationship, but are ultimately at odds with the characters’ history and temperaments.

Thankfully for the hardcore fans, the episode wasn’t all smiles and jokes, and there were some important plot points addressed. Most importantly, Snow finally learns from Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) that he is actually the child of Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding) and the true heir to the Iron Throne (which makes him Daenerys’ nephew… oops). Snow doesn’t seem to take the news well but who could blame him?

While Jon learning his true heritage would have been a perfect way to conclude the episode, the final scene of the premiere is actually the seemingly-futile reunion between Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bran Stark (played by Isaac Hempstead Wright, whose constant lurking provides unintentional comedic relief throughout the episode).

Considering that the last time we saw these characters together was when Jaime pushed Bran out of a window in the very first episode, this reunion is yet another way that the show is drawing parallels between the pilot and the season eight premiere.

If the full-circle moments of this episode are any indication of what’s to come, then we will see the show go to great lengths to resolve the many loose ends that have been hanging over Westeros for the previous seven seasons. We’ll just have to wait and see whether five episodes is enough time to wrap up the show in a satisfying way.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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