Game of Thrones: Winterfell (S8Ep1) (****)

After nearly two years of anticipation, Game of Thrones returned to our screens last night in a sentimental episode heavily paralleling season one’s pilot all those years ago. With the processional arrival of Jon and Daenerys, the young boy climbing trees to watch, Sam and Jon’s conversation in the crypt, and Jaime and Bran’s awkward meeting to round off the action, the episode strikes nostalgia in the hearts of fans across the world.

Standout Moments

This episode was everything I expected a pilot to be, absent of excessive action but setting up much of the drama for the remaining five episodes. Sam Tarly’s emotional roller-coaster of a scene is one of the highlights for me, from his excitement at meeting Daenerys to finding oImage result for game of thrones s8 ep 1ut his father and brother have been executed at her hand. In true Sam fashion, he is unable to contain his emotion and asks to be excused, bumping into Bran who urges Sam this is the moment to reveal the truth of Jon’s heritage to him. Kit Harington captures the gravity of this revelation perfectly in one of the most dramatic moments of the episode.

Whilst these emotionally charged scenes are achieved to almost perfection, there are a couple of disappointing moments which border on un-thrones-esque cheesiness at points. A standout example of this is Jon riding the dragon, which feels more like a scene from a Marvel movie (no judgement, I love Marvel!) and didn’t quite capture the true weight of the moment for me. Daenerys and Jon’s smooch by the waterfall is also lackluster, feeling far more superficial than Jon’s previous wintry romantic moments with Ygritte.

Also worth mentioning is the controversy of Jon bringing Daenerys home to Winterfell having bent the knee and renounced his title as ‘King of the North’, sparking anger amongst Northern families who have pledged themselves to him – particularly little Lyanna Mormont. Sansa also meets Daenerys with a cold (at best…) reception – I’m certain there will be upcoming drama between the two women.

The Reunions

Arya has three highly anticipated reunions during the episode, the most awaited being with Jon. Maisie Williams perfectly delivers a more emotional side to Arya, leaving ‘the assassin’ behind at the gate of the Godswood and finally allowing herself vulnerability in meeting Jon again. This scene is one of the purest moments of an episode which has heavily divided the opinions of critics in the 24 hours since its release. Her reunion with Gendry is equal parts awkward and sweet, heavily hinting at a potential flame between the two. In contrast, her meeting with the Hound is frosty, but fans would expect nothing less between two of the most brutal characters in the series. It is abundantly clear the Hound is still on Arya’s list of names.

Image result for jon and arya

Sansa and Tyrion’s brief reunion is suitably awkward having last seen each other during Joffrey’s wedding / death. Whilst it’s clear Sansa still holds contempt for her previous husband, who has never been anything but kind to her, the two have a certain respect for each other now at the very least. The most awkward reunion, however, is the cliff-hanger ending of the episode in which Jaime arrives at Winterfell spotting Bran across the courtyard (for those who don’t remember, the last time they saw each other Jaime pushed Bran out of a window crippling him… *awkward*).

Looking Forward To…

The next episode should be largely centered around Jaime, who I assume will be defending himself against accusations left, right and center from all those who he’s crossed over the years. Particularly exciting will be the meeting between Jaime and Daenerys, whose father he killed years previously. It will also be interesting to see how the Starks treat him after his attempted murder of Bran as a child. I predict the end of the next episode will see the arrival of the Night King at Winterfell, and fingers crossed the Battle of Winterfell will take place the following week in an ideal world.

Part of me hopes the next episode will see the death of a main character – as much as I love them all it’s been a long time since Game of Thrones has seen a particularly shocking death, especially of a much loved, central character. I’m sure fans are also looking forward to finding out if Cersei will ever get her elephants…

 

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