Skip to content

Game of Thrones: Season 8, episode 1

Ken Ilgunas and David Dalton are reviewing each episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. Check the “Game of Thrones” category to list all of these posts.


Mornin’, Ken…

I greatly enjoyed this episode, and what struck me is how the moral middle ground of former seasons is gone. Now the forces of good and evil are lining up as the surviving characters choose sides — good people at Winterfell, wicked people at King’s Landing. It put me in mind of a hymn:

Once to ev’ry soul and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.

(The words were written in 1845, by James Russell Lowell, as a protest against both war and slavery. The hymn is sung to the hymn tune Ebenezer, which is very much in a minor key.)

Consider poor, poor Theon, who was tortured by living in a moral vacuum as much as he was tortured by Ramsay Snow. Now Theon, having rescued his sister and feeling a bit better about himself, will go to Winterfell to fight with the forces of good. Even Jaime had to choose sides and joins the good people at Winterfell — though the first person he sees is Bran. (I’m hoping than Bran will forgive Jaime for knocking Bran off the tower because Bran foresees that Jaime has a part to play. And would Bran be the Three-Eyed Raven if he had not fallen?)

There is a huge imbalance, though. In the wicked south, we have only Cersei, Euron, and a new sellsword. And how much longer can Euron survive until Cersei orders him snuffed? Unless Cersei cooks up something new, the ingredients of drama (including characters) are now scarce in King’s Landing. Will Cersei have to rotate uselessly in dramatic circles for a while, the way Daenerys once circled in the desertlands waiting for her next cue? If not, how will Cersei stay in the thick of things? Who is there to even engage her in dialogue, since we’re all as tired of Euron as Cersei is?

Whereas at Winterfell we have a great surplus of characters all cramped up in inadequate accommodations. Thus we can expect treachery at Winterfell. But who will betray whom? Daenerys is now the character in the most awkward position. Jon Snow is suddenly the biggest obstacle to what she regards as her right and her destiny — the throne. Daenerys is faced with the choice of either great sacrifice or great cruelty. It is Sansa who is most critical and who expresses the most discontent with the present situation. Arya is an enigma and a wild card.

Though many reunions were had and much exposition was exposed in this episode, we still have many things to wonder about. Any character who is still alive can be assumed to have a critical part to play before the end. Where is Melisandre? Why was Gendry brought back after a long absence? What work do two of my favorite characters — Brienne and Podrick — still have to do? How will Tyrion and Varys get back into the thick of things? Is Sam superfluous now? Is it meaningful that Yara chose to go back to the Iron Islands?

One character, though, has risen to the top of the dramatic heap — Bran. Bran now supplies much of the plot’s remaining mystery. Isaac Hempstead Wright has grown up in this role. I believe he was 12 years old when the series started. Now he is 20 and is as perfectly cast as any character in the series. All the wise old maesters are dead, but Bran is now wise. The transformation of Bran is one of the most beautiful surprises of the entire series. I would not be surprised if Bran upstages Jon Snow hereafter.

I’m not going to make any guesses about where it’s all going. I remain convinced that George RRRRRR Martin and the HBO writers still have many shocks and surprises up their sleeves and that they’ll pull this thing off in the end. I’d say they’re off to a great start with the season opener.

One piece of foreshadowing continues to needle me: When the dragon gave Jon Snow that funny look, what did it mean?

An aside: The New York Times has a piece this morning about how GoT tourists in silly costumes are flooding Northern Ireland, oblivious to the area’s real history. Jeekers, people. Get a life.


Hi David. I thought this was a rock solid beginning to the final season. We are primed for small personal dramas. (Will Arya and the Hound fully reconcile? Will Arya and Gendry have the show’s final romance?) And we are primed for the big picture political dramas. (Who will be the ultimate king or queen of the seven kingdoms?) Some stray thoughts and questions….

• Euron Greyjoy has tested our patience long enough. I sense that Cersei will double-cross him soon and keep his ships. You’re right: Once that’s settled, there’s not much else for her to do, apart from move her military machine. Might we get a good Martin-esque twist if Cersei uses her political talents and maliciousness for good? Her collapsing under her own treachery and deceit seems too simple, but sometimes that’s how things play out, too.

• Yara Greyjoy is going to take back the Iron Islands so Team Dany will have a safe haven should things go wrong with the zombie war. Does this mean that such a course of events is inevitable?

• There are countless things foreshadowing the demise of the Dany-Jon love affair. Verys says “Nothing lasts” as he looks down on them. The dragon gives Jon an odd look when Jon and Dany are making out. (I think the dragon’s saying to Jon, “You better think about what you’re doing.”) And Dany seems like she’s properly smitten (you have some special word for this, I remember, which sounds like “luminescence,” right?) [Note from David: Limerance!] whereas Jon is more hesitant. (Romantic unreciprocation spells disaster!) As for who takes power… Jon has never cared for titles, just what’s right and just. It seems most appropriate for him to allow his allegiance to Dany to persist (even if he’s convinced of his superior claim), but the show seems to be moving in the direction of Jon taking over eventually, and it would be too weird for them to do that as one half of another incestuous couple. The most reasonable solution to this is Dany dying in a moment of sacrifice, and Jon taking power only when he’s called to. The person in the middle of all of this is Tyrion, who is firmly on Team Dany, but who has lost favor and who has a soft spot for Jon. It’ll be interesting to see how he navigates the situation.

• Acting award of the week goes to Sam Tarly. So many relatives die on this show. So many people are reunited after years apart. When the main characters learn of deaths or are reunited, their reactions are sometimes weak, and the acting job is uninspired and half-assed. (Think of those YouTube videos of military fathers returning home to their teary, jubilant children—that’s how real people react.) The actor playing Sam gave everything he had, and I think he found a nice balance between grief and indignation. On the other hand, Arya’s emotional reunion with Jon seemed forced and forgettable.

• I do think the show is still missing some of its old Martin magic, and we see this most clearly with the absence of good humor. Martin is a very funny and clever writer. Think of all the Verys/Tyrion/Little Finger dialogue from the early seasons. A lot of that snappy, funny dialogue came straight from the books. Now we have just a few poorly crafted testicle (or lack of testicle) jokes. They have squandered poetic opportunities, too. Think of when Jon asks Dany how to ride a dragon. “Nobody does,” she says, “until they ride a dragon.” She could have quoted a fabled line from a dragon-riding ancestor, or shared a metaphor about riding the wind, or something of the sort. (PS: Why don’t they make some sort of dragon seat for the riders? It looks impossible and dangerous to hold onto those wobbly dragon spinal spikes.)

• House Glover has it coming to them. Count on them getting sacrificially obliterated next episode.

• Great dragon ride! That’s an amazing use of scenery (as you pointed out last week), and it’s a great character-building scene, as Jon begins to embrace his Targaryen side.

• Random thought of the week: It’s way too late, but I wish the show had incorporated a character or two representing the lowest classes (i.e., the ordinary people). Sure, there are lots of characters who have risen to be warriors and advisors with merit, but I’d like a few characters who are firmly stuck at the bottom, and who look at the people of the great houses from afar and from their hovels, because that’s what it would have been like for 99% of the people in such a time.

Main characters that are unaccounted for: The Red Woman, Brienne and Pod, Daario Naharis (please no), Jaqen H’ghar.

Next big character to unexpectedly die: Onion Knight

Unanswered questions:

Are we going to have a sit-down convo with the Night King, or is he just an evil force of nature without soul and complicated motivations? I feel like we need a little more explaining about his motivations…

What will be the form of government in the end? Still a straight up monarchy?

Are there no caribou or moose for the dragons to hunt? Just barnyard animals?

Will there or will there not be elephants?

Predictions: Jaime will die in the arms of Brienne.


Speaking of humor, some of it went right over my head. This morning’s review in the New York Times mentions these lines:

Tyrion: “The last time we spoke was at Joffrey’s wedding, a miserable affair.”

Sansa: “It had its moments.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *