GAME OF THRONES S8E01: WINTERFELL
The eighthand final season of Game of Thrones got off to a great start with its firstepisode titled “Winterfell”. It couldhave also been aptly titled “back to basics” because the whole episode reuniteda myriad of characters and reminded us why, nearly, the entire world watchesthis spectacle week in week out. The episode starts out with an unknown childmaking his way through the Winterfell crowd to catch a glimpse of the talk ofthe town, Queen Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. The crowd is mostly unresponsiveand unimpressed until the arrival of Daenerys’ dargons; their arrival is alwaysexciting and terrifying to the people on the ground. The common folk inWinterfell are not exactly the liveliest bunch as they have been through a lot,and they don’t warm up to Daenerys just yet. Throughout the episode there is somuch nostalgia that has been built up already that viewers are left feeling theheft of everything that transpired in the seven seasons leading up to thisfinal season. Even the scene where Daenerys and Jon Snow arrive at Winterfellis a callback to the beginning of the show where Arya, like the little boy,tries to catch a glimpse of King Robert Baratheon.
There ismention of the ever impending doom that is the the Night king and his army ofwhite walkers coming to Winterfell, but we never see them. The episode isinstead focused on heartwarming reunions and if you are like me and were toobusy to revisit the past 7 seasons, ‘Winterfell’ served as a recap episode. Theomission of the white walkers allows these characters to interact and breathebefore they get into the thick of it. It was for the most part a humorous andinnocuous hour of television, and Game of Thrones’ humor often gets overlooked,but witty characters like Tyrion and Varys make snarky remark within each lineof dialogue. It was nice to see the Starks altogether again, especially Arya’sreunion with Jon. It was also interesting to see Arya reuniting with Gendryafter all these years, and a bittersweet reunion with the Hound aftereverything that has happened between them. But the character that has grownsignificantly since the first season, and is quickly becoming a fan favorite isSansa. She is turning into a commendable leader and has had the best characterarc by far given what she has had to endure. I appreciated her moment with herformer husband to be, Tyrion, for the first time since the Purple Wedding.Daenerys comes with a lot of baggage and has had a growing superiority complexwith each season; she faces her biggest challenge with Sansa who has an acuteunderstanding of Daenerys’ manipulations and priorities. Sansa is alsorightfully suspicious of Cersei’s commitment to send her army North to fightalongside everyone.
No one at Winterfell is pleased about Jon giving up his titleto Daenerys in order to protect the North. Jon is righteous to a fault in thisshow, and the big revelation viewers have known for a while is relayed to himby his best friend Sam. After Sam understandably takes offense at the mentionof his family being brutally murdered by Daenerys’ men for treason and her notshowing any remorse, he takes it upon himself to inform Jon that he is thefurthest thing from a bastard and that his father is a Targaryen which makeshim the rightful heir to the iron throne. Jon has always looked like a man whohas reached the last straw in terms of responsibilities and people looking upto him; his idea of being a leader doesn’t involve an iron throne as he justwants to keep his people safe. So when Sam breaks the news to him that he hasindeed the best claim to the throne, he is not ecstatic and the implicationsthat this has on his now tainted relationship with Daenerys is anotherchallenge on its own. It was pointed out to me that the dragon Jon was ridingwas the one named after his father, Rhaegar Targaryen.
This was a great setup episode for things to come, but nothing is more important than the arrival of the white walkers so all the human tension in the overcrowded Winterfell will feel minuscule compared to the biggest threat to every character on the show. ‘Winterfell’ ends on a hilarious face-off between Jamie and Bran, who is an all-knowing alien-like figure at this point, that also calls back to the end of the very first episode. I appreciate the show’s effort to concentrate on the characters interactions and focusing on their humanity before the inevitable battle sequence that will be more epic than all the previous battles that came before. [B+]
GAME OF THRONES S8E02: A Knight of Seven Kingdoms
A knight of seven kingdoms takes place entirely in one location and further delays the gigantic incoming battle by giving the characters one last night of reflection and heavy drinking. Although a lot happens between the characters in Winterfell in this episode, far more than the premiere episode, there is the one almost fairytale-like moment of wonderment towards the end which is the knighting of the beloved Brienne of Tarth by none other than Jamie Lannister himself. It was an episode of wish fulfilment as it is dawning on these characters that this may very well be their last night living. I can only imagine how many characters we will lose following this episode because this episode felt like the end of times.
Jamie Lannister is confronted by everyone there but Lady Brienne comes to his defense, and surprisingly Bran omits the little secret that it was Jamie who pushed him from the tower. When Jamie asks Bran why he didn’t expose him, Bran’s answer is that it is for the common good and that they have a better chance with Jamie than without him. But when Jamie asks what will happen once it is all over, the ever cryptic Bran replies by saying “how do you know there is an afterwards?” Jamie and Theon are the two characters that are at Winterfell to right their wrongdoings and seek redemption. Bran’s plan is to serve as bait for the Night King who he believes is the key to destroying his army; Theon volunteers to be Bran’s protector so these two characters path has been set. The rest of the characters have to wait through the night to see if the trap has paid off.
The centerpiece of this episode involves Brienne, Tormund, Jamie, Tyrion, Podrick and Davos sitting around the fire drinking wine and contemplating their last night before going into battle. Podrick sings a beautiful song to commemorate their last night and it harkens back to films like Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King where characters sing before an epic battle. It is also in this room that Brienne’s dream of being knighted is realized, and she had never asked for it simply because she thought that being a knight was strictly reserved for men and felt it was silly to ask the impossible. But it turns out that it only takes a knight to make a knight as the group is enlightened by Jamie. It is here that Jamie does something truly selfless and knights Brienne to everyone’s applause; her big smile afterwards says so much about a character so stoic and brave yet human. A more straightforward distillation of the wish fulfillment theme in this episode is Arya finally embracing her womanhood and coming on to Gendry for her last night. These two characters actually have a lot of chemistry from their past and in the last episode, but in this episode they skip the small talk, understandably, because time is of the essence.
After Jorah’s suggestion, Daenerys goes to Sansa to smoothen things out which start with amicable and complimentary remarks towards each other. That is until the idea of “afterwards” comes about and that Daenerys wants to claim the North, even after the unknown outcome of the battle, and this doesn’t sit well with Sansa. Jon who has been avoiding Daenerys the entire episode like a highschooler finally tells her, perhaps unwisely, that he is her nephew right before the battle horns are sounded. Daenerys does question if the information he has gotten from Bran and Sam can be proof enough to take seriously. But both Daenerys interactions with Sansa and Jon are left unresolved because it is time for battle. So some of these characters will be taking the human tension built up into the sure to be an exhaustive battle in the upcoming episodes. Game of Thrones is exciting as ever, and if this episode’s end of the world theme told us anything, it is that characters will surely die starting next episode. [A]