We’ve all been waiting with baited breath for almost two years following THAT shocking Jon Snow revelation, and after what feels like forever, Game of Thrones is finally back on our screens for it’s eighth and final season! Ironically David Benioff and D.B. Weiss take us full circle as the season opens where the story originally began – back at Winterfell, the home of the Stark family. But the threat of the Night King and his army of white walkers grows ever closer; the seven kingdoms must unite to have any hope of defeating the undead and defending Westeros, but can they put their feud over the Iron Throne aside for long enough to stand together against their common foe?
The eighth season will be the shortest yet, with only six episodes to wrap up the entire epic tale of ice and fire, so there’s a hell of a lot to cram into each episode. ‘Winterfell’ is 54 minutes of us expecting the worst to happen, as we know what threat lurks ever closer to the North, but it’s also full of heart warming moments with plenty of long awaited reunions, particularly touching is the meeting of Jon and Arya, and Jon and Bran. I know it’s going to be short lived and that we’re getting sucked into a false sense of hope, but isn’t it good to see the surviving members of the Starks back in Winterfell?! Also great to see was Arya and Gendry finally crossing paths again for the first time since season 3, when they were captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners.
The parallels between ‘Westeros’ and the first ever episode of the show ‘Winter Is Coming’ are uncanny. There’s the opening shot of soldiers marching into Winterfell, a young boy running through the crowd and climbing a tree to get a better view of the proceedings, as well as the remaining members of House Stark lining up, waiting to greet a new Queen into their home. Jon Snow, Daenerys and her impressive army of Dothraki, Unsullied and two dragons ride into Winterfell to a pretty cold welcome, as Lyanna Mormont and the Northern lords are not happy that Jon Snow left Winterfell as King in the North, to come back in the company of a Targaryen Queen after bending the knee. It’s hard to watch Jon’s roasting in the Great Hall, especially when we know the threat that they’re about to face is far more pressing than petty politics. Jon argues that being the King of ruins and corpses is pretty much useless, and he’s right, but after years of constant war, it’s hard for the people to put aside their quarrels – especially Sansa and Dany. Oh the shade!
This episode predominantly serves as a platform to assemble all the players on the board, in preparation for the final stand ahead. There’s also quite a bit of fan service, with Jon finally riding a dragon and learning about his true ancestry. It’s also fascinating to see these characters who’ve we’ve watched for so long, and have never crossed paths before or haven’t do so for many years, to finally meet, with the most creepy award going to Bran and Jamie Lannister! But most telling had to be Sam and Daenerys meeting, as the poor maester learnt of his father and brother’s demise at the hands of her dragons. It’s in this moment we see the true difference between Jon and Daenerys, Jon gives people second chances and has given up his crown to protect them, compared to Dany’s uncompromising campaign to claim the throne, with Sam becoming living proof of her collateral damage.
Looping back to my earlier point about going full circle, towards the end of the episode we finally get another glimpse at the Night King’s eerie patterns as we learn of the gruesome fate of Lord Ned Umber. The undead pinned the child’s body to the wall surrounded by the severed limbs of their other victims in their sadistic artistry, harking back to the opening scene of the show’s premiere. This nightmare sequence features Ned screeching as he’s slowly burned to death (for the final time?) and it’s just so chilling, but it puts everything into perspective. How the hell do they have any hope of beating this unstoppable army? At least we know Edd, Tormund and Beric Dondarrion survived the attack on the wall and still have their humour with the hilarious line, “Stay back, he’s got blue eyes!”
It’s hard to believe that this incredible show will shortly be coming to an end, but if ‘Winterfell’ is the sign of things to come for the last season, then I’m sure we’re going to get a suitably fitting ending and I for one can’t wait!