After nearly two years of waiting, Game of Thrones fans can finally rejoice, as HBO’s blockbuster TV show has returned for its eighth and final season. Season eight will conclude the story of the fantastic world of Westeros and the battle for the “iron throne” that we have been following for almost a decade.
Fans of the show have undoubtedly heard the phrase “Winter Is Coming,” and that isn’t just House Stark’s famous phrase, it has become a terrifying fact for the show’s protagonists as we rejoin them in Season Eight. The show’s ultimate villain, the Night King, is leading an army of undead south, and as Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) has said, when The Night King arrives, it doesn’t matter who sits on the iron throne, they must join together to face him or die. It is almost hard to believe that the grounded political drama of the first few seasons will now culminate in a war featuring zombies, dragons, and zombie dragons, but the upcoming battle could prove to be one of the most memorable episodes of television ever.
Episode one, titled “Winterfell,” serves to set up the great war to come in the show’s final season. With the climactic battle between our heroes and the White Walkers likely only a few episodes away, “Winterfell” sets the stage by showing how all these major players will come together now that they are finally all in the same place.
It wouldn’t be an episode of Game of Thrones without a little political strife. While almost all of the show’s major characters have banded together against the White Walkers, this alliance is an unsteady one at best. The greatest conflict comes between the Northerners and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Jon, a Northerner himself, is forced to mediate between these two groups—which have notably feared and hated each other for generations—as a result of his controversial decision that concluded Season Seven.
The major themes of this episode are union and reunion. Game of Thrones operates on a tremendous scope, with characters all across its fictional world having adventures of their own, and, only now, they’re all crossing paths. In “Winterfell,” we get a heartfelt reunion between Arya Stark (Maise Williams) and Jon Snow, a more awkward reunion between Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and his former wife Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and even a jaw-dropping reunion between Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the boy Lannister pushed out of a tower in the show’s very first episode.
These reunions speak wonders to the character development in Game of Thrones. The prime example of this character growth across the show’s eight seasons is that of Jaime Lannister. In the show’s pilot, we saw Jaime have an incestuous affair with his sister, one that becomes a major plotpoint for several seasons, and throw a young Bran Stark out of a window for catching them in the forbidden act In “Winterfell,” Jaime is forced to look Bran in the eyes and face his past wrongdoings. Jaime’s arc over the show’s last seven seasons has been one of redemption, which culminates in him betraying love for honor, a noble choice for the formerly impassioned character. Jaime is walking into a castle filled with people he has wronged, and their reaction to his arrival in the next episode will likely provide a satisfying conclusion to his inspiring redemption.
“Winterfell” also gave us the moment we have been waiting for since the end of Season Seven: Jon Snow learning of his true parentage. Although fans have known of Jon Snow’s royal lineage since the Season Seven finale, the revelation will likely further mount tension between the newly united alliance between rulers, making for an explosive final season.
The premiere ended with a sign of what is to come for Snow, Targaryen, and the rest of Winterfell, as we see how The Night King slaughtered House Umber and left a gruesome message on what once was their castle. With winter’s final arrival, Game of Thrones has set the stage for a blizzard of cataclysmic consequences.
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