TV Review: Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 1

EPISODE 8.1: The Great War has come, the Wall has fallen and the Night King’s army of the dead marches towards Westeros. The end is here, but who will take the Iron Throne?

THE LOWDOWN (SPOILERS!):

The time has come. Winter is here and the end has arrived. The final season of Game of Thrones begins and we start with a familiar scene; the arrival of royalty to Winterfell. Only, this time, it’s a Queen named Daenerys and a bastard of Winterfell named Jon Snow. The Unsullied march in with crowds gathered, including Arya, who is mixed in with them, watching everyone file in. Of course, this becomes an epic moment in itself, as it’s the first time Arya has seen Jon Snow since Season One and the first time she’s seen Daenerys ever. Oh, and her dragons, which swoop in and scare the shit out of the Winterfell crowd, of course, as Daenerys looks on proudly. The other bombshell for Arya is seeing The Hound marching along with them as an ally. Having left him for dead when he fought Brienne over her “safety”, Arya now has The Hound’s name back on her list. Or does she? Time will tell.

Jon Snow arrives to the castle and sees Bran and Sansa waiting for him. He runs to Bran and embraces him, kissing him on the forehead. He asks where Arya is and Sansa replies “lurking around somewhere”. Jon introduces Daenerys to Sansa, introducing her as The Lady of Winterfell. Sansa is cordial, but there’s something in her eye that says she doesn’t care much for Daenerys. But, before they can continue with the pleasantries, Bran goes all Three-Eyed Raven on them, saying they don’t have time for this and warns that The Night King has your dragon, he’s one of them now and that The Army of the Dead has already breached the wall and is marching South.

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The immediately go to the hall, where all the houses of the North have gathered. There, Lady Mormont confronts Jon, accusing him of leaving Winterfell a King and coming back something else. Many in the North feel betrayed, having named him King in the North, while he returned with a Targaryan Queen instead. Jon, however, doesn’t care about names and titles; he cares about survival. “I had a choice. Keep the crown or protect the North. I chose the North.” Tyrion then stands up in his defense. “If anyone is to survie the war to come, they’ll have Jon Snow to thank.” He explains that Snow proved the threat was real and marched an Army North, as well as two dragons. Then, he drops the (bad) news; he tells them that The King’s Landing army is marching North to help, which brings a lot of strife. Sansa interrupts with how they plan to feed “the greatest army the seven kingdoms has ever seen”, adding: “What do dragons eat, anyways?” Daenerys, in all her arrogance, replies: “Whatever they want.” Ah, I can see the Daenerys/Sansa rivalry is going to be fun.

After the meeting, Tyrion walks up to his former wife in the first meething the two have had since Joffrey choked on some bad wine. Tyrion approaches tepidly, but they both share a cordial moment. In fact, it wasn’t until this moment that I considered that maybe, just maybe, Tyrion and Sansa could potentially end up together. It would be ironic, but almost fitting. Food for thought as we careen to the end. Anyway, Tyrion reminds Sansa that the last time they saw each other was at Joffrey’s wedding. “Miserable affair,” he says. Sansa smiles a bit. “It had it’s moments.” I got a good laugh out of that. Tyrion continues, after Sansa reminds him that they both survived. “Many underestimated you. Most of them are dead now.” He then says that he knows she fears his sister, but that she shouldn’t, as Tyrion says she now has something to live for (which would be the baby she now carries, although he doesn’t disclose this to Sansa). Sansa is in disbelief about Cersei sending her Army there to fight for Tyrion. “You believed her?” Sansa looks at him with an entertaining inquisitiveness, then says,  “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.” 

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Sansa then just walks away, leaving Tyrion a bit dumbfounded. Sansa, it seems, after all the torture and pain she’s endured, has become wise, yet jaded. It would seem she trusts almost no one and it feels like the lessons of Littlefinger are ringing true. She’s no longer the scared little girl, but rather a person very aware and intuitive of the lesser nature of her enemies. She may well be the smartest person in the room at this point and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t seem like Tyrion didn’t fall in love at the moment she upstaged his usual wit and insight. I look forward to seeing what becomes of these two.

Jon, meanwhiles, stops by the Weirwood tree to pay his respects and hears a familiar voice: Arya. They embrace and it’s a beautiful moment for the two, who haven’t seen each other since season one. “How did you sneak up on me?” Jon says. “How did you survive a knife through the heart?” she retorts. “I didn’t.” Jon sees that she still has Needle and he asks her if she’s ever used it. “Once or twice,” she replies, knowling full well how much blood it’s spilled. Jon shows her Longclaw. “Too heavy for me” she says. Jon tells her he could’ve used her when dealing with Sansa. Arya says she’s the “smartest” person she’s ever met, acknowledging that Sansa doesn’t much care for Jon’s new Queen. “I’m just protecting our family,” she says to him. Jon says, “I’m your family, too.” They embrace again and Arya sneaks in, “Don’t forget that”. It would seem that Deanerys could divide House Stark as soon as they’ve come back together. Will it come down to Jon choosing between them or Daenerys? It’s sure shaping up that way.

We then cut to Euron Greyjoy, sailing his fleet back to King’s Landing. He goes into the hull where Yara Greyjoy is tied up, having been captured last season. Euron teases her a bit when she asks why he hasn’t just killed her. Euron makes it clear where his sights are set as he’s looking to “fuck the Queen”. We then cut directly to her with Euron and Captain Strickland reporting to her what they’ve brought in terms of an Army (she’s disappointed there are no elephants, of course). Of course, Euron, full of arrogance and insolense, makes his play for Cersei. She reminds him that the agreement was for them to “connect” after the war.

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“You want a whore, buy one. You want a Queen, earn her.” It’s a clever line, but Euron doesn’t give up easily, reminding her that he’s brought her an Army, a Fleet and Justice, yet he can’t seem to win her affection. She starts to storm off, but then stops, turning back.  It would seem loneliness has gotten the better of her and she invites Euron into her bed.

Bronn, no longer a knight with a castle and a wife, is about to partake in a good ol’ threesome, when interrupted by Cersei’s Hand, Qyburn, who has a mission for him from Queen Cersei; kill Tyrion Lannister and Jaimie Lannister. Although, she doesn’t just want them dead, she wants them killed with the same crossbow that Tyrion used to kill their father. Bronn seems to accept the task, although you never quite know what Bronn has up his sleeve. Will he show loyalty or is it truly the gold that matters most?

Back in Cersei’s bedroom, Euron is getting dressed and pressing Cersei for details about how he compared to “the fat King” as well as The Kingslayer. She says he may be the most arrogant man she’s ever met. “I like that. But, now I want to be left alone.” Euron seems satisfied with this, putting his hand on her belly and saying, “I’m going to put a prince in your belly.” He exits the room and Cersei gives a sly smile. Ohhhh, if he only knew. However, I’m not sure what she gains by duping him into thinking it’s his child, as that really hasn’t helped her in the past.

While Euron is busy banging the Queen, however, another Greyjoy is staging a rescue. Theon raids Euron’s ship and frees Yara, who quickly punches him, then gives him a hand. All is forgiven for him abandoning her before. They get to their ship and Theon says he’s committed to her as Queen, but she knows that he wants to go to Winterfell to fight with the Starks. They both give a “What is dead may never die” and hug. Yara adds, “But kill the bastards anyway.”

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Meanwhile, back at Winterfell, Varys, Tyrion and Ser Davos watch as Jon and Deanerys walk around lovingly. Davos reminds Tyrion that in order for The North to embrace Daenerys they’ll need to earn their trust. They also comment on the fact that both Jon and Daenerys are a bit too wrapped up in each other to really pay any heed to their advice. “Our Queen respects the wisdom of age,” Tyrion says. “Of course she does,” says Varys. “Respect is how the young keep us at a distance, so we don’t remind them of an unpleasant truth; nothing lasts.” You gotta love the wisdom-fests that go down when Varys, Tyrion and Davos are around. It’s such a great pairing of minds, each of them having advised some of the greatest (and worst) leaders in Westeros.

Daenerys tells Jon, “Your sister doesn’t like me.” Jon says she didn’t like him much when they were growing up. “She doesn’t need to be my friend. But, I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…” she trails off. Hmmm, what could come after that? That she’s be killed? However, Daenerys is interrupted by her Dothraki troops who are feeding her dragons, saying that they haven’t eaten as much as usual. Daenerys is concerned and walks with Jon to go check on them. While there, she mounts Drogon, she tells Jon to mount Rhaegal. Jon is apprehensive, saying he doesn’t know how to ride a dragon. “No one does. Until they ride a dragon,” replies Daenerys. Jon hesitantly mounts Rhaegal and they take flight. It’s a big moment for Jon and Daenerys and one that’s been building for a while. Now that we know Jon is actually a Targaryan it has even more of an impact. After they land, Jon says, “You’ve completely ruined horses for me.” And that got me thinking; Is Daenerys just seducing Jon to her side or is this all about love? They stare at a waterfall where they landed. “We could stay a thousand years here and no one would find us.” They start to kiss and Drogon acts like a bit of a protective parent for aminute before seemingly accepting the match his mother has found.

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Back at Winterfell, Gendry is busy making dragonglass weapons for their army. He gives an axe to The Hound, who acts mostly unimpressed and kind of insulting. “Leave him be,” a familiar voice says. It’s Arya. The Hound walks up to her, face-to-face. “You left me to die.” Arya doesn’t miss a beat. “First I robbed you.” They have a good stare off until The Hound says, “You’re a cold little bitch aren’t you? Guess that’s why you’re still alive.” He walks off and she stares after him. Seems like they haven’t missed a beat since their days on the road. Gendry then tells Arya that she looks good and she says he does as well. Of course, they’ve always had an attraction, but it’s never been as apparent as it is now.

Arya hands Gendry a piece of parchment with a weapon design on it. “Here’s my wish. Can you make it?” Gendry says she already has a sword and a Valerian steel knife. She smiles and spins away and it appears that there’s much more to be told between the two (and perhaps a really cool weapon for her to brandish in a major battle?).

Jon reconnects with Sansa in her chambers after she informs him that House Glover will be staying Deepwood Motte. This causes some strife, as Sansa brings up the fact that he gave up his crown for a Targaryan Queen. Jon says he never wanted to be King and that he only cares about saving the people. “Do you have any faith in me at all?” he asks. “You know I do.” Jon says she’ll be a good queen and that she’s not her father. Sansa then asks the big question: “Did you bend the knee to save the North or because you love her?” Jon gives a beat and we never get an answer. Personally, I think it’s a bit of both.

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Daenerys, meanwhile, goes to Samwell to thank him for saving Ser Jorah last season. She says that she’ll have to find a way to repay him once she “takes the throne”, but instead finds out his last name is Tarley. This obviously causes a rift, as she executed his father and brother last season when they refused to bend the knee. She is, unfortunately, rather cold about explaining this to him. Tarley doesn’t know what to make of this. He’s conflicted in a way he never has been and must deal with the fact that his best friend’s queen is also the one who killed his father and brother. As Samwell exits to collect himself he sees Bran waiting. “What are you doing out here?” asks Tarley. “Waiting for an old friend. It’s time to tell Jon the truth.” Bran tells him that he must tell Jon Snow the truth as he trusts Tarley more than anyone. “Now’s the time.”

Jon is seen in the crypt under Winterfell, paying his respects to Ned Stark’s tomb. Samwell stumbles in and Jon and Sam embrace. It’s the first time he’s seen Samwell since he left for the Citadel. Sam is hesitent. He tells Jon that Daenerys executed his father and brother. Jon didn’t know this, of course, as she never told him. Jon says he’s sorry, but that they need to end the war. Tarley wants to know if he would’ve done the same. Jon says he’s executed men that disobeyed him before, although Tarley reminds him that he’s spared people before, such as the Wildlings. “I wasn’t a king.” Tarley stops him. “But, you were. You’ve always been.” Jon says he’s no longer the King in the North.

“I’m not talking about The King in the North I’m talking about the King of the bloody Seven Kingdoms!”

Cue the shock and awe. Tarley spills the beans. “Your mother was Lyana Stark and your father, your real father, was Rhagar Targaryan. You’ve never been a bastard. You’re Aegon Targaryan, true heir to the Iron Throne.” Jon approaches him, disbelieving. “My father was the most honorable man I ever met. You saying he lied to me all my life?

Samwell calmly explains: “Your father, Ned Stark, he promised your mother he’d always protect you and he did. Robert would’ve murdered you if he knew. You’re the true king. Aegon Targaryan, sixth of his name, protector of the realm, all of it…”

“Daenerys is our queen,” says Jon. “She shouldn’t be,” says Tarley. “That’s treason!” Jon replies. “It’s the truth. You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?” Jon is left flabbergasted. That’s a hell of a lot to take in!

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Meanwhile Tormund and Beric Dondarrion head to Last Hearth and find it abandoned and with a lot of dead around. They then run into some of the crew from Castle Black who direct them to something truly horrific; a child, staked to the wall, surrounded by bloody limbs in a spiral. Straight out of a horror movie stuff. Dondarrion says it’s a message from The Night King as the child awakens with blue eyes and a freaky screech. Dondarrion stabs him with the fire sword and burns it all down.

In the last scene, we see a mysterious rider arrive at Winterfell. He dismounts his horse and turns around. It’s Jaime Lannister, now with dark hair and looking a bit ragged, yet with that same arrogant smirk. However, that smirk comes to a screeching halt when he sees a boy in a wheelchair looking back at him. It’s Bran Stark. The last time they saw each other, it was when Jaime pushed Bran out of a window, causing his paralysis. Now, that’s going to be a hell of a confrontation in the next episode!

So, this really felt like an episode of reunions, both good and bad. I didn’t feel like it sped along too quickly, but hey, we’re at the end and things are going to move a bit quickly. No longer are we spending long scenes in Littlefinger’s whorehouse while he waxes poetically about sex and politics. This is the endgame and the dominos are falling. However, this was a wonderfully even-paced episode, even if there’s not much bloodshed to speak of. With Game of Thrones, though, episodes like this are some of the best, because as cool as it is to see blood, gore and general violent mayhem, it’s the reveals and the character moments that make this show so damn compelling. There’s definitely a lot of set-up here, but the thing that sticks with me the most is the conflict that will arise out of Jon and Daenerys having to choose between being lovers, enemies or something else entirely. It feels like some lines are being drawn in the snow and Jon, now knowing the full truth of who he is, will have to make some tremendous choices, whether he wants to or not.

SEX/NUDITY: Bron gets three fully-nude whores in his bed for a proper threesome before being interrupted.

VIOLENCE: A few bloody arrowshots and an axe to the head when Theon rescues Yara. The kid staked to the wall with bloody limbs surrounding him (and then torched). A very light episode in the blood and gore aspect.

BEST SCENE: Without question, Samwell revealing to Jon who he really is. This is a moment we’ve been waiting for Jon to find out since the beginning. It’s such a pivotal moment and one that really needed to happen as early as possible so we can see what he does with that knowledge. It most certainly sets him up for some serious conflict and although we always knew he’d find out, it’s finding out what he does with that information that’s got us on the edge of our seats. Now, we wait. And that’s the killer!

FINAL VERDICT:

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