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Recap: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 8 Episode 1 “Winterfell”

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It’s Finally Here

The 2-year-long wait is finally over! Game of Thrones has returned for its much anticipated eighth and final season – with some cool new opening credits. This bittersweet farewell tour began with “Winterfell”, a primarily reunion-filled episode.

Main characters caught up and finally were clued into information audience members already knew. Even if nothing really moved forward plot-wise, the character interactions were enjoyable. As always, there was a surprising amount of levity and the episode nicely established everyone’s place in the story.

Winterfell

As the title suggests, most of this episode takes place in Winterfell. Most of our main characters finally converge in The North. Jon, Daenerys, and company (the biggest army the world has ever seen PLUS two dragons) return to a less than a welcoming crowd.

The Stark siblings’ sweet greetings – especially Jon and Arya’s – are cut short by the approaching threat. Add some tension brewing between Sansa and Daenerys, and things are tense. The Northerners are torn on who their loyalties lie with.

The Conflict

Who is/should be the leader? How does one feed citizens, soldiers, and dragons? Speaking of which, we do get to see Drogon and Rhaegal show off their aerial moves in a scenic tour of the north. Jon gets some skeptical looks from the dragons, begging the question: Are they just defensive of Daenerys or can they sense that Jon has Targaryen blood?

Daenerys isn’t the only one Sansa doubts though. She rightfully questions Jon’s eagerness to join Daenerys, as well as (former husband) Tyrion’s belief in Cersei’s allegiance. The pair amusingly reminisce over Joffrey’s death at his wedding, as Sansa remarks that the event “had its moments”. Even Arya vouches for her sister’s intelligence to Jon with their reunion at the Godswood.

The Preparation

With wheelbarrows full of Dragonglass acquired, the blacksmiths – including Gendry – begin crafting weapons for the upcoming battle. We get some playful banter between Arya and Gendry, before she requests a Dragonglass weapon be built for her.

The Hound gets fitted with a new Dragonglass ax, and exchanges snarky greetings with Arya, who had previously left him for dead at the hands of Brienne. Arya may have downplayed her use of Needle to Jon, but viewer’s know very well what she’s capable of with any weapon.

The Big Reveal

The real drama of the episode comes from Samwell Tarly. His first meeting with Daenerys starts off sweet. That is, of course, until she confesses to executing his father and brother for not bending the knee. Daenerys’ uncompromising nature has always been a point of caution with her. Through Sam’s devastation, we see more of the unfortunate consequences of her ambition. But in this Universe, you should never throw a stone and hide your hand.

After Bran meets Sam outside, he tells him it’s time for Jon to find out the truth about who he really is. Sam travels to the Crypt to finally reveal to Jon about his Targaryen heritage and true claim to the Iron Throne. Daenerys’ brutal methods are once again called into question, while Jon keeps on unwillingly getting titles. This reveal further complicates the pursuit of the Iron Throne, as well as Jon’s budding relationship with Daenerys.

The Major Concern

Looming throughout the episode is the threat of the Night King and his undead army breaking through the Wall. However, it’s quite clear that the always-dubious Cersei stubbornly doesn’t seem to care. When we arrive at Kings Landing, she seems to be the only one content with the White Walkers’ upcoming arrival. Whatever her endgame is, Cersei now has the Iron Fleet and the Golden Company of mercenaries at her disposal; albeit without elephants, much to her displeasure. After sleeping with the ever so arrogant Euron (who intends to impregnate her), Cersei goes back to her favorite pastime of drinking wine while glaring into the distance. Is she still pregnant? Was she ever pregnant?

We then get our first look at Bronn in what seems like a callback to Season 1 Episode 1 with Tyrion. Only this time its Bronn having fun with the multiple of ladies. Cersei’s Hand, Qyburn, interrupts this fun with a proposal for Bronn: Kill her traitor brothers, Jaime and Tyrion. The clever Queen she is, would like to acquire his skills for poetic justice. For those wondering, she wants Bronn to use the same crossbow Tyrion used to kill Tywin.

The End

In what was made to look like a Horror movie, we get to our final location, Last Hearth. We meet up to find Tormund and Beric Dondarrion search the abandoned halls. They soon come upon Dolorous Edd and the remaining Night’s Watch. The group explores the massacred castle to find young Lord Umber’s lifeless body impaled on a wall. The limbs are arranged around him in a familiar spiral shape we’ve seen times before. When the boy awakens as a blue-eyed wight – prompting Beric to set him on fire – they conclude the Night King is responsible and is making his way down south rather quickly.

Several other characters make brief appearances too. In “Winterfell”, a parallel of Season 1 Episode 1 is shown when Jaime and Bran meet for the first time since Jaime crippled him. Additionally, Ser Davos thinks Jon and Daenerys should marry to garner the loyalty of the Northerners, which makes Varys skeptical. Meanwhile, across the sea, Theon continues his uphill redemption arc by rescuing his sister Yara, from Euron’s captivity. Yara intends to take back the Iron Islands, while Theon embarks to aid Winterfell.

Overall

Game of Thrones’ season premiere, “Winterfell”, is definitely the calm before the storm, as it clearly puts all the pieces into play. It’s the necessary set-up episode that brings several characters together and establishes the general direction for this final season.

The main conflicts from past seasons start to come to a head, while newer complications and questions have expectedly arisen. Interpersonal relationships drive this episode more so than plot or action. The various character interactions are charming enough to keep viewers engaged and invested, as they wait for the conflicts to really escalate. Until next week!

You can check out the preview for Episode 2 below:

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