The long-awaited final season of the critically acclaimed fantasy drama Game of Thrones has finally arrived and taken the internet by storm. In case you missed them, be sure to come back for the breakdown because spoilers await ahead!
Episode 1: “Winterfell”
Aptly titled, we return to the beloved castle of Winterfell, home of the Starks and now a safe haven of the North against the impending war. This episode was brimming with nods and cinematic parallels to the first episode of season one. The young child running through the crowd trying to get a view of the newcomers, royalty arriving in the North, and most importantly: the reunion old friends (and enemies).
Amongst the heartfelt reunions between the endearing Starks, Daenerys’ arrival to Winterfell has caused rifts within its walls, particularly with the Lady of Winterfell, Sansa Stark. Just like her people, Sansa is more than weary of this dragon queen who so clearly has the heart of her brother Jon and fears he is being manipulated into submission. Though many are pro ‘Jonerys’, Sansa’s concerns are reasonable now more than ever. What was really enthralling about the episode is that you couldn’t side with anyone entirely because each leader had valid arguments, especially considering their position. Sansa is thinking of her people and their survival through the long winter, Daenerys is thinking of her army (and dragons) in order to gain the iron throne after the war, and Jon just wants everyone to survive winter zombies.
Alongside the Winterfell focused episode, we do briefly return to King’s Landing and see the ghost kingdom that Cersei feebly rules over. Her only hope is the arrival of Euron Greyjoy’s Golden Company, despite the revolting sacrifice that comes along with it: Euron Greyjoy. His determination for power in the form of the Queen’s hand in marriage has been unrelenting, promptly “earning” a queen by providing Cersei with everyone she has asked for. Though to many it was deemed uncharacteristic of her to submit to his unspoken request, it was actually quite fitting for a Lannister to repay their debts. Cersei has lost any and all allies except for Greyjoy and has clearly decided to count her blessings in this war. However, she remains blissfully ignorant to the fact that her idea to let everyone kill each other and take over whatever is left is a fantasy. If all else fails, winter will come for her too.
One of the most important and surprising moments in the brief episode was the long-awaited reveal of Jon’s true heritage and identity. Though this was certainly unexpected to happen so quickly, the urgency Bran gave when telling Sam that there simply was no time fit into the tone of the episode and the season to come. However, Jon’s conflicted reaction was definitely expected with the weight of the news, running through his mind all the implications his true last name involves. Of course, there isn’t much time to ponder over the matter because people keep arriving at the safe haven in the North and preparations for the battle to come must be attended to first.
Despite criticisms towards the short runtime for the episode and the slow pacing, the premiere definitely sets the stage for the season to come. Characters from a myriad of places across the series have finally united and seeing how their interactions build up the story was satisfying, a feeling that is so rarely rewarded to fans by the series’ showrunners.
Episode 2: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
Focusing entirely on the storyline in Winterfell, this episode brought another round of iconic moments to the series. With the impending Battle of Winterfell weighing down on everyone, there is very much a “last night on earth” tone that carries the characters towards the end of their journeys.
With the return of the Kingslayer to Winterfell, Jamie Lannister faces immediate scrutiny from its leaders. Daenerys delivers a cold speech to the Lannister’s crimes against her family, depicting the thirst for revenge her brother shared with her during her upbringing. Even Sansa agreed with the queen for the first time over Jaime’s character, also recounting his crimes against her family. Fortunately for Jaime, Brienne of Tarth jumps in and attests to his character in front of the leaders. She recounts the sacrifices he made to protect her, including saving her life at the cost of his hand. Though Sansa is weary of Jaime’s intentions, she trusts Brienne with her life and ultimately trusts her word, saving Jaime from immediate execution in the end. Jon, as usual it seems, has his mind on one key goal: the survival of the population against the White Walkers. The Kingslayer is dismissed and added as a much-needed hand in the fight to come.
Later on, Daenerys confronts Sansa over the hostility between them and attempts at making peace. It does seem to work in the beginning, but Sansa is her mother’s daughter; always thinking ahead of the game. When presented with the question of what will happen after Daenerys takes the iron throne, Daenerys comes up short of an answer whilst Sansa reminds her of the North’s independence and history with the Southern rule. This gripping exchange between them was definitely a standout moment in the series, especially with the resounding “What of the North?!” from the hardened Lady of Winterfell. Their conversation is cut short, however, when Theon Greyjoy returns to his boyhood home to pledge himself to Sansa. This moment completes the arc of Theon, having saved his sister, proven himself to his bannermen, and now volunteering himself to protect Bran from the Night King. It’s no surprise that Theon is expected to bite the dust first in the Battle of Winterfell next week.
After the wildlings and remainder of the Night’s Watch make their arrival to Winterfell, Jon is warned that the Night King and his army are much closer than he thinks. Suddenly, the episode seems to shift into urgency as the castle prepares for a battle arriving before the sun comes up. Dragonglass weapons are mass produced and handed out to the army as quickly as possible with the help of our favorite bastard blacksmith, Gendry. Reunited in the previous episode, Arya and Gendry seem to spark up their love interest from when they first met so many years before. This interest heats up in the episode when Arya realizes that she has fought too long and hard to spend the last night alive sulking with two miserable men such as The Hound and Beric Dondarrion. Determined to experience at least once what it feels like, she finds Gendry and shares with him her first sex scene in the 8 season run. This was a shocking moment for most but certainly does not overshadow the emotionally gripping knighting scene.
Elsewhere within the castle walls, a Breakfast Club of Thrones misfits gathers around the fireplace to drink to their last night on earth. The club members exchange stories and deliver even more enthralling dialogue, leading to an iconic moment in television history with Tormund’s experience with a giant and how he came about being named Giantsbane. Aside from the wildling’s comedic relief, the topic of knights came up and prompted Tormund to question as to why Brienne was not a knight, despite her vast preparation and arguably ideal stature (in his humble opinion). Naturally, Brienne simply explained that it was not tradition for a woman to be a knight and Tormund reacted incredulously, prompting Jaime to explain that a king is not necessary to declare someone a knight. This leads to his offer to knight her right on the spot, seemingly subtle gratitude for Brienne defending him in front of the council. Brienne disbelievingly gets up and kneels before him to be granted her childhood dream of becoming a knight of the seven kingdoms, calling back to the episode’s now emotional title. The moment Brienne tearfully realizes she’s accomplished her dream before she prepares to die for Winterfell has become an immediate stamp of scene-stealing approval for the entirety of Game of Thrones.
Of course, nothing satisfying and heartfelt can last too long on this show. The episode gives one final pan over all the characters spread throughout the castle and inevitably pans out further to reveal the arrival of the White Walker army that awaits them.