Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: The Night King was Here

Game of Thrones Season 8 episode 1
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Spoiler alert: this post contains spoilers from “Game of Thrones” Season 8 Episode 1, “Winterfell.”

It’s been quite the wait, eh?

Well, you can rest now (or should you?) Winter is here, finally.

There’s not been a lot of popular culture events in history that have been anticipated as much as Game of Thrones season 8 episode 1. And as with everything hyped, there was the very real danger of the first episode ending up being a letdown.

I’ve seen a few posts on Facebook from fans complaining about the episode being too slow. But you guys should relax. It’s not always gbas gbas gbos! from the get-go — and I’d be super disappointed if it was. Game of Thrones seasons has always had slow openers; openers that continue from where the previous season left off, run some sort of refresher course across plot lines, and re-acquaint you with the characters. This strategy has always worked. Game of Thrones season 8 episode 1 continues this tradition and sets up what could be one of the most—and I daresay the most—cathartic moments in motion picture through history up until now.

If the culmination of season 7 was disappointing, you have to take two steps back to applaud the shift in focus in season 8 episode 1; the new season’s first episode focuses on the characters instead of mere performances. Maybe the pacing of this season 8 episode 1 was a tad dramatic at some points and leggy at others, but it does well enough to set things up for disaster.

Game of Thrones Season 8 episode 1
Opening scene | Image credit: The Telegraph

There’s a lot of high points, so let’s just dive right in.

First of which is that this new episode is in its very essence a throwback to the series pilot (yep, the very one that aired eight long years ago). The arrival of the queen versus the arrival of the king; a little boy climbing the castle walls to get a better view; the encounter the Night King’s ‘package’ vs. the attack on the rangers, and ultimately the big staredown between Bran and Jaime Lannister (Gods be good, you could see the horror in the Kingslayer’s eyes!)

Everything’s set up nicely. But while we don’t expect any major confrontations until the third episode, it’s quite interesting to watch and see how it goes from here on. There’s a lot of reunions (and, Seven Hells, Jon now knows his true identity!) Fingers crossed on what could happen, although you get the sense that with just 6 episodes, all the politics will be hurriedly wrapped up for the first great battle sometime in the next two episodes. But Bran has no time for y’all mushiness, the Dead are marching.

Meanwhile, Sansa, 1:0 Tyrion. Sansa is the only isn’t buying Cersei’s bullshit. And for good reason, since she learnt scheming from the queen herself albeit in the most unsuitable manner. “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive” has got to be the most epic line of the episode. Gods! I felt that reverb between my eyes. Cordialities between them aside, a lot has changed since King’s landing, and you can sense who’s in charge now.

And yass! Back in Winterfell’s forges, Arya definitely has a thing for Gendry!

Down south, Cersei, even though annoyed by the size Euron’s entourage, finally gives in to Euron’s charm(?) even after all the tough talking. (Really, is this your queen?!) My best part of this episode is when the Ironborn promptly asks for a customer review once the deed is done. Typical.

Earlier on, though, I sulked for a moment when the captain of the Golden Company arrived and announced that there’d be no elephants. It was expected, but wouldn’t you have loved to see elephants on the battlefield a la Lord of the Rings?

Bronn isn’t left out of the action, though. We’ve always loved his greed, his ambition, but how far can he go? He’s still pissed he lost his castle and Lollys Stokeworth after the field of fire. But will he go ahead and kill Jaime and Tyrion with a crossbow (I swear it by the Seven Pointed Star, Cersei is going to drive me nuts!) just for a few bags of gold? We’re just about to see.

Back up North, Jon is busy asking dumb questions. Expressing mild shock that Arya sees eye to eye with Sansa about Dany is fine, after all, wolves aren’t besties with dragons; but pray, tell, how can you ask Arya if she’s ever used Needle? Anyway, he’s forgiven because we loooove to see him ride a dragon! There’s a nod to Jon Snow’s fire-haired lover Ygiritte when they land and Dany suggests they could stay a thousand years in the cave behind the waterfalls (A teardrop escaped my left eye here).

Jon and Dany Kiss and Drogon (or was it Rhaegal?) is jealous, ha-ha!

Game of Thrones Season 8 episode 1
Jon Snow’s Magic Dragon Ride | image credit: Popsugar

Sansa is not feeling all this mushiness, and she confronts Jon. The Glovers are staying put in Deepwood Motte, (that’s on you Jon). All that talk about the alliance being the only way, did he bend the knee ’cause he wanted to save Winterfell or ’cause he was lovestruck? Shortly after, Jon Snow finds out that he’s the rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms. Which is awesome because, come on, everyone’s been fighting #ForTheThrone all along. Not so awesome because he’s been boning his aunty. What’s Jon going to do about this new information? Well, judging from recent events, I’m not holding my breath that he’ll make a smart decision.

And now, the low points

I really didn’t want to do this because the episode is so good that it’s hard to single out a few minor annoyances; that would amount to nitpicking. But a few things made me roll my eyes a bit. Take the befuddling speed at which Sam grieves and gets over it enough to announce Jon’s heritage, for example. I mean, one minute he’s about to break down, the next, he’s confronting Jon matter-of-factly. Wow, guys!

Arya and The Hound’s reunion? Meh.

Also, where the hell is Brienne of fucking Tarth?!

Finally, how the hell did Dolorous Edd, Beric Dondarrion, Tormund Giantsbane and co survive the wight dragon assault? No explanation of their escape whatsoever. I mean, I was glad to see Edd again and I’m rooting for Tormund any day, but none of this makes sense. I still haven’t recovered from season 7’s deus ex machina beyond the wall. There’s also the too easy rescue mission of Yara by Theon Greyjoy. That scene screamed lazy writing. (By the way, Yara headbutting Theon was satisfying, though.)

For the Night is Dark and Full of Terror.

The Night King has left a gift for them in Last Hearth, though (it’s the Umber kid, sad story), and they plan to outrace the army of the dead to Winterfell. (LOL!) I can’t wait to see that happen.

The ending of season 8 episode 1 is gold, no pun intended. Jaimie Lannister rides into Winterfell. Turns around and sees a boy-man in a wheelchair staring at him intently. Then the slow realization. He doesn’t know what a Three-eyed-raven is yet, but ‘oh shit” nonetheless.

I’m stoked and desperate for next week. Valar Morghullis, my brethren. Six episodes until GoT is no more. Winter is Now.

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  1. Gideon

    Detailed piece.

    But I think your demanding for Brienne of Tarth waters down your argument, to which I agree, that everything shouldn’t be gbas gbos gbos. And as you rightly said, everything is a throwback to Season 1 Episode 1, and there there was no Brienne.

    So let’s unwrap this gift slowly.

  2. Chud

    You’re wrong about Sam. Anything more expressive than he did would be out of character for the Samwell Tarly we know and a little nollywoody. He isn’t just revealing Jons parentage, he is clearly trying to rile up Jon out of his dislike for Dany. It’s clear now that Sam will never support Dany and he wants Jon to take the throne partly because he is the rightful king and partly because he thinks Dany is callous.

    1. Ama Udofa

      I don’t think I’m wrong about Sam. Sam is a mushball. He got over it too quickly in that scene. It is obvious they were rushing to get these smaller (by comparison) things done with so they can get to the war sharp sharp. But still.

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