Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 1 – “Winterfell” Review
With only 6 episodes in the final season, “Winterfell” sets up the necessary groundwork. The season premiere is spent getting characters up to speed on what the viewers have already known for years (the show last aired in 2017) and in doing so also serves as a solid refresher episode. When the episode ended my reaction is “oh common on!” Not because the episode is bad, but because I didn’t want it to end. It’s great to get back to the Game of Thrones world, the characters and to whatever may happen next.
So what can we expect from this abbreviated season? A criticism of the past couple of seasons is that the show’s writing has become predictable. Compared to the earlier seasons, if you hadn’t read the books, there were many shocking turn of events that had significant consequences to the story and characters. But does the final season have any more big twists up its sleeve? Since the show is heavily theorized and discussed online it would be quite hard to truly surprise die-hard fans.
One on-going theory is that Daenerys’ dark side is going to reemerge. Her cruelty has always bubbled beneath the surface and from time to time erupts. We are reminded of her dark side when she tells Sam she killed his father and brother. While she is very sympathetic to Sam’s emotions in learning of his family’s fate, as the viewer we remember that she could have listened to Tyrion’s advice and spared Dickon Tarly’s life.
Daenerys next test will be how she handles Jamie Lannister’s arrival in Winterfell. She needs to win the respect of the Northerners whom are cold to outsiders and are weary of their new, unelected Queen. The North will likely want Jamie to face his crimes. For starters, Jamie pushed Bran out the window which this episode nicely ends in a circular reference to how the pilot ended with Jamie meeting Bran.
The big test will be how Daenerys reacts when she eventually finds out she’s not the rightful heir to the throne. Unlike Jon whom never wanted to be a king, never even thought about sitting upon the Iron Throne, Daenerys believes its her birthright. The fact that she can be usurped by Jon may feel like treason to her.
But to be usurped by a lover could be the thing that makes her lash out impulsively. Jon and Daenerys’ feelings for each other definitely complicates matters. Not to mention, Jon is her nephew. Their dragon riding trip is supposed to heighten their romantic bond and sets up Jon for some high-flying action scenes this season. It also means that Daenerys is potentially kind of replaceable now, at least as a dragon rider. And the dragons seem to like Jon a lot.
Of course, Grey Worm, Missandei, Jorah, the Dothraki, and the Unsullied are all loyal to Daenerys. Loyalty which she has earned, including Jon’s loyalty. Tyrion is loyal to Daenerys as well although likely not with a blind allegiance. Tyrion is the only person in Daenerys’ inner cirlcle, aside from Varys, who will openly talk about her fire and bloodthirsty tendencies. Who knows, maybe Jon’s love will be the thing that keeps her grounded and sane.
Jon’s reaction to finding out he’s Aegon Targaryen wasn’t exactly what I anticipated. But he never disputes he’s the son of Lyanna and Rheagar. He knows in his heart that Sam is telling the truth. He’s just not ready yet to come to terms to what it exactly means.
Sansa asks Jon, “Did you bend the knee to save the North or because you love her? “The answer could be a bit of column A and column B. Sansa is very good at knowing how other people think. And Sansa, based on her experience, is right to be cautious of another Queen and letting an outsider call the shots in her own home of Winterfell.
Jon has always done what he believes is the right thing to do whether it’s for the Night’s Watch, the North or Westeros. Perhaps though, Jon was a bit relieved that when he gave up the King’s crown, the responsibility for the fate of the seven kingdoms could be shouldered by Daenerys or at least shared. But when all is said and done, I think Jon knows that Westeros needs the true king to take the Iron Throne.
- So many great reunions and callbacks. Did you have a favorite? Arya and Jon’s reunion is a long time in the making. Nice reference to Needle. What new weapon does Arya want Gendry to make?
- Is Cersei really pregnant? When Sansa tells Tyrion about once believing him to be the most clever man alive, it’s almost like she’s also talking to the audience. Cersei shouldn’t be taken at face value.
- I don’t think Bronn would betray the Lannister brothers. It should be fun to watch all these characters meet up again for one last adventure.