TV Reviews

Review | ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Episode 1: Winterfell

It's time to begin the final outing of Game of Thrones. "Winterfell" sets up important conflict that sets the stage for the rest of the season, as not everyone realises the threat the White Walkers pose.

If you don’t want any spoilers, don’t read this review. There are spoilers a-plenty. You have been warned.

It’s time to begin the final outing of Game of Thrones. “Winterfell” sets up important conflict that sets the stage for the rest of the season, as not everyone realises the threat the White Walkers pose.

Rating:

Season 8, Episode 1: Winterfell
Original air date: 14/04/19
Directed by:
David Nutter
Written by:
Dave Hill
Starring:
Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Joe Dempsie, Jacob Anderson & Iain Glen

It’s been almost two years since we last saw these characters on screen, and it’s tough in a way to remember the interactions that have happened or have merely existed in our heads. Of course, while the dramatic revelation that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is a Targaryen have been buzzing around our brains since August 2017, the only characters currently in the know when our episode begins are Samwell (John Bradley) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright).

Right from the beginning credits, you can tell that the war is almost at its end. The wall is crumbling, with ice spreading southwards towards both Winterfell and King’s Landing – and these are the only two locations that we see in the opening, which is the first time I can recall that happening. What’s more, pretty much all of the characters in the series are confined to these two locations.

Let’s start with the easier of the two locales: King’s Landing. Cersei (Lena Headey) is still standing firm on her assertion that she shall send no Lannister forces northwards to aid Dany (Emilia Clarke) and Jon against the White Walkers even though the Wall has now fallen, while Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Askbæk) arrives with Yara (Gemma Whelan) as his prisoner. For those of you with sturdy memories, Euron has been promised to marry Cersei once they win the Iron Throne, but he wishes to start their relationship with sex. Despite trying to pull him in line, Cersei ultimately ends up having sex with him – after all, she probably needs him more than he needs her at this point in the story. Meanwhile, showing that Cersei is apparently foreseeing a Seven Kingdoms in which she is the sole inhabitant, Hand of the Queen Qyburn (Anton Lesser) approaches Bronn (Jerome Flynn) to assassinate Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in the unlikely event that they survive the White Walkers.

Meanwhile, on Euron’s flagship, Theon (Alfie Allen) liberates Yara. Yara wishes to sail back to the Iron Islands and reclaim it, but Theon wishes to return to Winterfell to help against the White Walkers. The two siblings part.

This leads us to Winterfell. The episode begins in a very similar way to how the very first episode of the series began: with forces marching into Winterfell. This time, it is Dany’s army that marches inwards, with other allies that they have amassed to assist against the White Walkers. Arya’s (Maisie Williams) face lights up as she sees people from long ago, such as Jon, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the Hound (Rory McCann).

However, while Dany and Jon have arrived at an alliance, it appears that the North, including Sansa (Sophie Turner) in particular, still need convincing – a problem that does not go unnoticed by advisors Davos (Liam Cunningham), Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion. The forces in the North are angry at Jon for being elected King in the North and then swearing fealty to another ruler in the form of Dany. Sansa makes this known to Jon himself, though Jon is adamant that there are more important things at stake than titles and the quest for the Iron Throne.

Jorah (Iain Glen) and Dany seek out Sam to thank him for curing Jorah’s greyscale and Dany promises him reward once the Iron Throne is hers. Unfortunately, she also reveals to Sam that she executed his father and his brother for failing to bend the knee to her. This spurns Sam to confront Jon in the crypts and reveals to him his true parentage: that Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen had a legitimate child who is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

In another callback to the first episode, Jaime arrives in Winterfell at the very close of the episode to be faced with his past in the form of crippled Bran Stark, who seems to be staring directly into Jaime’s soul.

There seems little in the way of White Walker progression, but we see Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) – clearly having survived the fall of Eastwatch reach the Last Heart, the seat of House Umber. There, they encounter Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton), who had evacuated House Black upon hearing of the fall of the Wall. They plan to retreat further from the wall towards Winterfell, but soon discover the body of Ned Umber – the young lord – dead and nailed to the wall, surrounded by a spiral of severed limbs. They resolve to ride to Winterfell before the White Walkers arrive there. A fight is in the offing…

Highlights

  • Arya did very little of particular consequence this episode, but her interactions with Jon, Gendry and The Hound were delightful. See below:

Jon: You still have it.

Arya: Needle.

Jon: You ever used it?

Arya: Once or twice.

Arya, dramatically underestimating the number of people she has slain.

The Hound: You left me to die.

Arya: First, I robbed you.

Arya, the pedant.

Gendry: I always knew that you were just another rich girl.

Arya: You don’t know any other rich girls.

Arya, bursting my poor shipper heart.
  • Edd panicking that Tormund was a White Walker because of his blue eyes and Tormund responding that he’s always had blue eyes is frankly hilarious.
  • Sansa being rightfully respected this episode is joyful. Both Tyrion and Arya credit her for her great intellect. On the subject, she shows that she understands the game better than Tyrion does, laughing at the idea of Cersei sending Lannister forces to help. She knows Cersei’s brain better – she learnt a lot in King’s Landing, and knows what she will do to cling to power.
  • Sansa vs. Dany makes me very conflicted. I like them both! I can understand why Sansa is suspicious though, considering the numerous people that have come into her life that have betrayed her. Her new resolve to be loyal to her family is clearly sticking, as it is with Arya.
  • On that topic, poor Dany. Her face when she found out that Viserion was the Night King’s dragon was (incredibly subtle) heartbreak.
  • Also, Bran is deeply unlikeable. He just doesn’t give a shit about anybody else. Which I’m sure would be delightful if I ever cared for his character in the first place. I hope he does something other than just deadpan sitting and telling people what to do soon; else I might be hoping that wights eat him. Pretty please.

Ponderings

  • Where is Gilly? Just chilling with her timeless baby?
  • How much of a barrier will Jon’s parentage put between him and Dany? Jon has never been one to seek out leadership, but merely does what he thinks is right. Right now, I don’t think that he will do anything about his claim to the throne – especially since it would make a dangerous enemy of Dany who is much more attached to her role as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • What will Bronn decide to do? His last conflict was deciding between which out of Tyrion and Jaime to stand by, and he proved he went where the money was, but betraying both of them seems a lot even for him.
  • I doubt that Bran will actually do anything about the fact that Jaime pushed him out of the window. Bran is essentially dead of emotion at this point, but it will be interesting to see just how much Jaime has changed since the beginning of the series.
  • It will also be interesting to see Jaime reunite with Brienne on the same side, as it’s been a while since this has been the case.
  • I am now more certain than ever that Theon will sacrifice himself to save a Stark.

Verdict

As you can see from my rating, I was very fond of this episode. You can really tell that everything is ramping up for some blockbuster episodes to come and – miraculously – all of the main cast survived into another week! It’s practically a miracle, but with the White Walkers almost at the gates of Winterfell, you can expect a lot more to come. Speaking of which, it was so easy to miss with the whole case separated into different parts of Westeros/Essos just how big the cast is. When they are all compressed into one space it’s mind boggling! Though it does help to explain why some of the characters, like Missandei, Grey Worm and Gilly (not to mention Melisandre) are pushed to the sidelines. Hopefully they don’t appear to be killed off. That would be annoying.

The interactions between some of the cast, who we have never seen in the same place – or have been waiting years for a reunion – were satisfying. All of Arya’s interactions were pure joy, and it’s nice to see Sansa being in charge in Winterfell. Progression within Jon and Dany’s relationship was fun too, especially when she made it very clear that her loyalty was to her dragons. It was nice to see a moment of jollity considering the dramatic revelations that were to follow in the form of the impending White Walker attack and Jon’s status as true heir to the Iron Throne.

My predictions

Tyrion Lannister
Jaime Lannister
Cersei Lannister
Daenerys Targaryen
Jon Snow

Davos Seaworth
Sansa Stark
Arya Stark
Theon Greyjoy
Missandei
Brienne of Tarth
Samwell Tarly
Bran Stark
The Hound
Varys
Melisandre
Tormund Giantsbane
Gilly

Bronn
Gendry
Jorah Mormont

So, so far, none of my predictions have come to pass.

However, also none of the characters who I predicted to have died have died yet. So I’m not doing too badly. I stand by this though. I reckon these will be the ones to make it through – mark my words.

Tune in next week for another review of Game of Thrones‘ final season.

Previous episode:
The Dragon and the Wolf

To view the other reviews of Game of Thrones Season 8, click here.
To view other posts about Game of Thrones, click here.

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