595 days – 1 year, 7 months and 18 days – have elapsed between the finale of Season 7 and the premiere episode of Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Fans have waited with bated breathe to see how the tales of the residents of Westeros will unfold in this final season. The critically acclaimed HBO series has hyped up fans with cast interviews, teaser trailers and more. It has all lead up to this moment: Season 8, Episode 1. An episode where Jon Snow (played by Kit Harrington) brings Daenerys (played by Emilia Clarke) and the rest of Team Targaryan to Winterfell to a frosty reception, Cersei (played by Lena Headey) plots in a lifeless Throne room, Sam (played by John Bradley) is the epicentre of news and we witness a “Previously on” so epic that if you weren’t already excited, you will be by the end of it.
The episode serves as a set up for what this finale season could be going for without giving any clear indication as to how everything will end. The merge of Team Winterfell with Team Targaryan wasn’t dragged out in some time-wasting exercise to build tension. The tension was always simmering in the background of the preceding seasons. Everyone’s hostilities and in-fighting is not only authentic to their characters but to their experiences. The northerners in Winterfell are pre-dispositioned to be wrary of outsiders and the Southerners are going to struggle to reconcile their mission with their host. Jon is in the unenviable position of reluctant peace keeper once again but as the episode unfolds, that role could be severely undermined.
There are plenty of reunions and emotionally charged moments without being oversaturated. All the characters present make good use of their presence on screen. If there was such a thing as an MVP (most valuable player) in an episode, this would be won by Sam Tarly. In a short scope of time he has to handle two emotionally difficult situations that is well above reasonable. Any other character would resort to a form of spite or vengeance without a second thought but Bradley handles Sam’s unwavering good nature and principled ways in such a beautiful way. His pain and his convictions shine through. I’d be remiss to omit the pitch-perfect performance of Theon by Alfie Allen who continues his character’s uncertain journey.
Premiere episodes of a season are incredibly difficult to write. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the writers of Game of Thrones. There’s been so much build up and a lot of high expectations. High risk, high reward but does this opening episode deliver? Absolutely. It’s a wonderful returning episode promising more oncoming greatness.