This review contains spoilers for “Game of Thrones” season eight, episode one: “Winterfell.”
Nearly two years after the season seven finale of “Game of Thrones,” the first episode of season eight — the show’s final season — premiered last night. The highly anticipated premiere kicked off what is going to be a six-episode season; the previous season was only seven episodes.
With so few episodes, this premiere needed to do two things: quickly reintroduce its audience to the world of Westeros and jumpstart the stories that will unfold this season. It not only accomplished both tasks, but it also provided several key moments that will undoubtedly be some of the most memorable material “Game of Thrones” has had to offer.
This episode of “Game of Thrones” closely mirrored the first episode of the entire series, “Winter is Coming.”
The pilot began with a young Arya Stark running through crowds to get a glimpse of the King, Robert Baratheon, and Queen, Cersei Lannister, as they rode into Winterfell. This episode does something similar by focusing on a child wandering through people, even running past Arya in the process, to get a glimpse of the King in the North, Jon Snow, and Queen, Daenerys Targaryen. This was an excellent start to the episode and reminded audiences how far this series has come since it premiered back in 2011.
Adding further to the parallels between this episode and the pilot was the episode’s final moment. Earlier in this episode, Bran Stark said he was waiting for an “old friend” while sitting in the courtyard. At the very end of the episode, we discover that he’s referring to Jaime Lannister, who quietly rides into Winterfell only to turn around and make awkward eye contact with Bran. This was the first time we’ve seen these characters on screen together since Jaime pushed Bran out a window and paralyzed him at the end of the pilot. Their interactions in the rest of the season will undoubtedly provide some excellent character moments.
The reunion of Bran and Jaime was far from the only reunion we saw in this episode.
Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister, who had previously been married, interacted with each other for the first time since Joffrey Baratheon’s death in season four. Jon and Bran finally saw each other again; their last interaction was in season one, when Jon left for the Night’s Watch. Arya was reunited with her former travel companions Sandor Clegane “The Hound” and Gendry, but her most interesting reunion was with Jon.
The relationship between Arya and Jon was one of the most heartfelt aspects at the beginning of the show, and it's nice to see it again. It was apparent they had both changed dramatically since they last saw each other in season one. They have both grown up, and they take the world much more seriously. But they are still siblings who love each other, so they were quick to let their guards down. The irony of Jon asking if she’d ever used Needle, the sword he gave her, was hilarious since Arya is basically a ninja assassin now.
Of course, the two are actually cousins, not siblings — a fact that Jon was made aware of in this episode.
After seven seasons, Jon finally learned who his mother is. His old friend, Samwell Tarly, was the one to tell him he’s not the son of Eddard Stark. Instead, Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark, who was Eddard’s sister, and Rhaegar Targaryen. His real name is Aegon Targaryen, and he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. This information was revealed to the audience previously, but now that Jon (or Aegon) knows, the show has officially entered its concluding chapter.
Also, I want to mention that Jon rides a dragon for the first time, and it’s awesome.
The season eight premiere of “Game of Thrones” was exactly what it needed to be.
It got audiences reacclimated to this world after a nearly two-year break between seasons, and it laid the groundwork for what could be an incredible final season. With its interesting characters and dire situations, “Game of Thrones” proves with every new episode that it is one of the best shows on television. “Winterfell” was certainly no exception, and with all of the plot threads that will be explored and tied up this season, I’m sure the remaining episodes will prove that, too.
As great as the episode was and as exciting as this final season will be, it’s going to be sad to see this show end. It has defined a decade of television, and entertainment won’t be the same without it. Even though HBO is working on a prequel series called “The Long Night,” I’m going to miss the original “Game of Thrones.”
Winter has come, and it is bittersweet.