SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Game Of Thrones Season 8 debut. BTW – we’ll be reviewing and recapping every episode of the final season of the HBO series right up to and including the May 19 finale.
Ending with a stare down that was literally years in the making, Game of Thrones kicked off its final season tonight with sex, dragons and, if they had electricity in Westeros and Essos, rock’n’reckoning.
As the Season 7 finale of August 27, 2017 proved, the dragon emboldened Night King is on the move in the North, but the true death stare came right toward the end of Sunday’s “Winterfell” episode. That poignant moment happened when the crippled but prophetically endowed Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) came to a prolonged and near silent public face-to-face with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Back in Season 1 of the David Benioff and D.B. Weiss executive produced drama, the incestuous brother of Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) tossed the second son of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) from a Winterfell window when the boy spied the siblings in coitus. After a series of events that helped bring the battle for the Iron Throne to new depths, the stand off is the first time the two have met since the first season and obviously a defining storyline for the final season.
In the teaser for next week’s second episode, the man mockingly called the “Kingslayer” is seen face-to-threatening face with another royal. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) tells the Coster-Waldau portrayed Jaime of the long nights she has pondered and plotted revenge on those who hurt her and her family, with more than daggers in her voice. A play that sweeps the table with the set ups that tonight bathed in and, as winter is distinctly coming begins the cold art of destruction of enemies and hierarchies to come over the next several weeks — which is A-OK with me.
Additionally, in the packed affair this week on GoT, there was a fight night countdown clock start on the premium cabler, a new opening (see below), a fiery warning from the Night King and a royal march through the North with “the greatest army the world has ever seen,” as Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) says with no hesitation later on. That great force was made much more apparent with the sky bound revelation to the untrusting people of the North that the Mother of Dragons is not just a title for Daenerys Targaryen.
Amid “eunuch jokes” from the once-exiled princess’ righthand Tyrion, GoT had a genuinely hilarious and stunning duel dragon ride on Sunday by now lovers and possible relatives Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys and a full-on both touching and awkward Stark family reunion of Harington’s character, Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran and more flew throughout the visually and narratively tenacious nearly one hour David Nutter directed season opener.
There was a blunt unveiling of Jon Snow’s true linage near the end by his best friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley). The brevity of conversation puts the once dead character assumed up until last season to be the bastard son of Ned Stark in a new role, for him and the show. A role that lines up a probable throne conflict with his lover Daenerys, his supposed family and the deep plots of the whole series based on George R. R. Martin’s writings.
Simply put, tonight’s episode added up to one of the best ever for one of the best dramas in the history of the small screen.
If the first episode of this concluding season is any indication, the eighth and last run of the multiple Emmy winning HBO series is also going out larger than ever. And that’s despite a short-ish leak of sorts earlier this evening of the S8 opener on GoT’s WarnerMedia corporate cousin DirecTV Now
Or, leak and a possible minor rating impact aside, to paraphrase hip-hop icons Public Enemy, believe the GoT hype. Perhaps any other show would have buckled under the expectations of this season. Instead, over pitched and delivering Thrones is flexing its muscles and wings with more strength without losing any of its traditional formats and pacing.
To that endgame, “Winterfell” does more than hint that the raucous six-episode final season is clearly intending to render the famed and bloodthirsty “Red Wedding” episode from the near end of Season 3 as a mere paper cut.
As a clue, I’ll point to ruthless, deceptive and consistently murderous Cersei’s reply of simply “good” when informed that the Night King’s army of the Dead have broken though the protective wall of the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms . For all the secrets of the last season of GoT that Benioff and Weiss have kept under lock and key, we know that there is a huge battle for the Iron Throne and the living to come. Which means, to quote a certain Daniel Day-Lewis move, there will be blood, an ocean of it before this is all done and someone sits on the throne – with my bet being either Tyrion or Arya
In another sense, tonight’s episode of the series that GoT guest star and Deadwood mainman Ian McShane once described as “tits and dragons,” was also a battle of the best lines, courtesy of Dave Hill’s script.
“You want a whore?” Headey’s Cersei tells the arrogant Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) as he clumsily tries to seduce her, only to have the queen seduce and dismiss the master of the Iron Fleet. “Buy one. You want a queen? Earn her.”
Clarke’s Daenerys and Harington’s Snow have corresponding quips and true romance of Cersai’s height too. “Then I’ve enjoyed your company Jon Snow,” Clarke utters when the former King of the North worries what to do if her dragon Rhaegal doesn’t want to be ridden by him. “You’ve completely ruined horses for me,” Harington’s Snow admits when the duo and the dragons land in an isolated part of the North for some warm affection of their own.
Another scene involving Daenerys occurred earlier in the episode when Sansa is taking digs at the army that intends to conquer the Seven Kingdoms with some winged and fire breathing help. “What do dragons eat anyway?” Sophie Turner’s Stark mocks as she wonders how the North will feed the troops and beasts of the Khaleesi. “Whatever they want,” replies Daenerys in a verbal TKO.
However, the best and most telling line has to go to the now freed Yara Greyjoy. The Gemma Whelan portrayed character sums up GoT in a mere six words when she says of the Night King’s oncoming army that “what is dead may never die.”
Stay tuned, very tuned
Dade Hayes contributed to this report.