The road to Game of Thrones Season 8 has been hard on viewers. Taking an emotional – and to some a physical – toll. Death, despair, a cyclone of political machinations, copious amounts of violence…oh and did we mention death? Lots and lots of death! Seeing beloved characters find their demise while villainous vultures continue to find victory (*cough* Cersei *cough*) , has almost been too much to bear. One would teeter on being a real masochist to have held on for this long. But that’s GoT for you, a show that defies convention. There is nothing quite like it and there may never be again. And here we are, the beginning of the end for one of the biggest, most ambitious, ground-breaking entertainment franchises ever.
After 7 seasons of war and individual hardships, the sprawling story has dwindled itself down to but a handful of characters. The fight for the (Iron) Throne remains, but so does the threat of the Night King and the horde of white walkers. Unless differences are put aside and lasting alliances forged, the fate of Westeros hangs in the balance.
Below is a SPOILER FREE take on the premier episode. Alludes, implies, and discusses, but never spoils.
It’s been almost 2 years (August 27, 2017) since those final moments of season 7 came to a close. Jon Snow met, befriend, and subsequently bed Daenerys (a song of Ice and Fire indeed!). The power duo, along with Tyrion, barely succeeded in convincing Cersei and her cronies that the white walkers are real and are gonna murder the whole world. The queen of Westoros begrudgingly agreed to a truce but Cersei, being a forever scheming, wrathful bitch, has other plans. Meanwhile, Sansa and Arya Stark held down Winterfell and pulled a (satisfactory and overdue) fast one on Little Finger. The Night King and his newly acquired ice dragon laid waste to The Wall marking the beginning of the long winter.
Impatience and excitement for season 8 has reached critical mass. Was the premier episode worth the wait?
When the title sequence drops and notable characters are re-acquainted with the viewers, the fervor is real AF.
Alas, the premier episode contains no epic battles or large-scale set pieces. But it doesn’t need to. This is a purposely slower paced, lighter, and humorous episode; and one that injects just enough substance and sequences to be deeply satisfying. It does precisely what it needs to. Give a moment for the characters and story to breath.
Where once there was a seemingly endless web of characters, each with 5-10 min segments and gaps in narratives, there is now only a handful of characters left. The show, however, still manages to cover a lot of ground and doesn’t change much in it’s pacing. Almost every character gets some screen time and balances their part in the story well. The episode lingers on each for just long enough to want more and make the hour+ experience go by ever so quickly.
The premier cheerfully reunites long separated characters, and allows for much needed warm moments between them and others. There’s a bit of fun too. Some joyful jabs and wit between Tyrion and Varys. A smile inducing foreshadowing scene with Jon, Daenarys, and her Dragons that is nothing short of epic. Even Cersei has a rousing moment, finding herself entertained by the arrogance and affection of Euron Greyjoy, citing him as anything but boring. There’s even a chunk of action to balance out all the ruminating, leaving one character’s redemption arc to finally play out to much applause.
But this isn’t an all-out happy episode either. In between the momentary relief and action, Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion encounter an ominous tableau from the White Walkers leading way to deeper and scary objectives. And in Winterfell, pretty much no one is thrilled with the arrival of Daenerys and Jon’s pledge to her. One encounter breaks way for a revelation that could drastically fracture relations, opening the opportunity for inner turmoil and cataclysmic ramifications. It’s a foreboding reminder that happy endings aren’t meant for this world.
By no means is it a time of peace, but it is likely the last any one character gets a moment of reprieve. It is very much the calm before the storm.
Game of Thrones remains nothing short of extraordinary. Season 8 is going to be one hell of a ride.