Game of Thrones season 8 episode 1 Winterfell review: Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark are faced with tough decisions and new challenges in the final season as they reach Winterfell. Rating: 3.5(Spoiler alert)

Game of Thrones, Season Eight, Episode One (Winterfell)
Director – David Nutter
Cast – Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maisie Williams
Rating – 3.5

It’s the blessed day and our watch of 595 days has finally ended. HBO’s biggest show, Game of Thrones has returned to our televisions, computer screens, cells phones, and things have changed quite a bit, and not all for the best.

While the brand new opening theme took a deep dive into the world we only saw from up above so far, the same cannot be said of the episode’s treatment of the story. (Spoiler alert)

The first episode of Game of Thrones season eight, rather lazily titled Winterfell, looms over the icy old town which has now turned into an army camp with the arrival of Queen Daenerys and her army. Unlike us, the ‘Winterfolk’ wasn’t looking forward to giant dragons swooping over their thatched roofs or a silver queen riding next to the King in the North.

A zombie king may be marching to their gates but depend on petty lords and ladies to still fight about who gets to rule them should they ever make it out alive. No matter how slim the chances may look. However, it was a wise decision on the showrunners’ part to not abandon the game of thrones, as most expected them to consider the really small window that they have to tie things up.

Watch the Game of Thrones season 8 trailer here

Talking about tying things up, almost all major reunions are addressed in the first episode itself. Sadly, most seem rushed and the ones that were supposed to make you cry tears of joy, get a silent huff at best. The most anticipated of them all, Jon Snow and Arya Stark’s first embrace was also the most disappointing.

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Maisie Williams’ sudden, a large smile made the moment feel shallow and fake. The dialogue between them brings only a shadow of the warmth we felt between Jon and Arya the last time we saw them together. It’s used more in service of their sister Sansa Stark to establish her as the greatest player in the game.

Not that she needed any more help in that department, but the reunion between exes (or still married? I don’t know much about Westrosi marriage laws) Sansa and Tyrion Lannister also hammers in the fact that she is the one the show is placing all its bets on. The little scene between the two not only manages to build Sansa as perhaps the wisest of them all but also does a disservice to Tyrion.

It seemed cool to let Sansa have the upper hand but is it really fair to say Sansa learned more about Cersei Lannister’s treacherous ways in a couple of years than Tyrion learned in his whole life? But I will not take any points away for that just yet. Sansa may have spent lesser time with Cersei but she has had more than a few varieties of villains to deal with.

Another moment of great significance also came wrapped in a reunion. Brothers of the Night Watch, Jon and Samwell Tarly’s embrace soon turned sour as with the revelation of Jon’s big secret. I’d maybe give it more credit if I wasn’t already so put off by John-Bradley West’s bad attempt at crying in the scene preceding this one.

A secret as large as this, built over the course of seven seasons with tenderness and great weight, deserved a better revelation. It deserved better than being just another conversation in a crypt, desperately made ‘more serious’ by the heavy sounds of a cello. The only positive I took away from the scene was Sam’s question to Jon that showed Daenerys in a whole new light to me. “You gave your crown to save the people. Would she do the same?”

Finally, we hop right to the end for the best reunion of them all, the one I had totally forgotten about. For the first time in the last couple of years, Bran looked excited about seeing someone. He lay like a dead fish when his brother or sisters gave him hugs but that smug smile on seeing ‘old friend’ Jaime Lannister really gave me the giggles.

The scene that led up to it might have confused you for a second about the ‘friend’ he was talking about, but you soon moved on to bigger things like Jon realizing he is the ‘true king’. It was only a few moments later that you realize what they have just pulled on us. And I am all for such reunions.

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Come to think of it, it didn’t take a lot of effort, did it? A simple hint a few moments before did the trick and now we want to know what happens when the two finally meet. Why didn’t Arya and Jon deserve something equally good?

The reunions are mostly out of our way now and we have just five more episodes to fight the Night King and fight for the throne. It has been a jerky beginning but hopefully, it will be a smooth sail from here on, as Jon Snow on a dragon.

Game of Thrones season 8 schedule

This last season will comprise six, supersize, hour-plus-length episodes. It will all be over — sniff — by mid-May.

Plan to clear out your Sunday evenings at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central) in the US, starting around tax day. Here’s the schedule:

Episode 1: April 14 (now available on demand)
Episode 2: April 21
Episode 3: April 28
Episode 4: May 5
Episode 5: May 12
Episode 6: May 19

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