Game of Thrones: Series 8 Episode 1
As global phenomenon Game of Thrones returns for its final season, its opening episode eschews (on-screen) battles and bloodshed for personal drama and reckonings
It has been 20 months since Daenerys Targaryen brought her dragons north of the Wall, the Lannister siblings betrayed each other, and the remaining Stark children (legitimate and illegitimate – wait, scratch that) clawed their way back towards each other. These characters have been iconically embodied since the beginning, with the cast growing in figurative and literal stature as their characters survive Westeros. Little can be said about these performances now; they simply are Martin’s creations taken beyond the text.
One of the Series 8 premiere highlights is watching those characters interact in new and familiar ways as revelations and reunions fly thick and fast. Where the remaining Starks are concerned, this reunification in Winterfell seem to bring the show full circle in preparation for their biggest threat – the suddenly tangible horror of the undead, teased since the show’s first moments.
That said, this return to old faces and places highlights that this is a fundamentally different show than the one that adhered strictly to George RR Martin’s pre-existing novels. What began as a ponderous, meticulously crafted political drama that just happened to have dragons in it is now an out-and-out fantasy melodrama. It might never reach the heights of Seasons 1-3 before the final episode, but the show is not necessarily weaker for this choice.
It has become wildly entertaining, if a bit ridiculous, since it abandoned hope of Martin finishing the books first and left the wheel-spinning behind in Season 5. Not all of the plotlines and character points feel as strong as those rooted in the novels (what happened to Tyrion, and why can we not have two powerful women get along?), but the remaining five episodes will ultimately prove if these choices’ pay off.
It is hard to imagine that this episode, beginning the final chapter of a global phenomenon, would have been anything other than momentous. While it eschews (on-screen) battles and bloodshed for personal drama and reckonings, it brings viewers right back to Westeros’ apocalyptic stakes faced by these well-loved survivors. All men must die has never felt more like a promise.
Currently broadcast on Sky Atlantic and available on NOW TV