Summary: Jon and Dany return to Winterfell where Sansa takes an immediate dislike towards Dany, unhappy with Jon abandoning his crown. The others in Winterfell are similarly skeptical. Arya reunites with Jon, Gendry and The Hound, while Tyrion speaks with Sansa. Dany and Jon go dragon riding and enjoy each other's company. Dany tells Sam the fate of his family. Sam tells Jon about his heritage. In King's Landing, the Golden Company arrive and ally with Cersei. Cersei follows up on her end of the bargain with Euron, allowing Theon an opportunity to rescue Yara. Bronn is sent to kill Jaime and Tyrion. Jaime arrives in Winterfell and is immediately greeted by Bran. The White Walkers have gone through Last Hearth, killing everyone there.
The Good: Season 8 had been hyped up as being move-quality for all six episodes, so my expectations were quite high for the presentation of the show. Impressively, the show met and ultimately exceeded my expectations with some astonishingly nice visuals. The episode started on the right foot with the lovely new credits sequence. It was a refreshing change that immediately established the impressive scope of the season. The rest of the episode follows up on this terrifically, with some really impressive details. There were more extras than usual, wider shots of Winterfell, making the castle feel more alive, and some genuinely epic shots while Dany and Jon rode dragons. That last sequence was really nicely shot and would have fit in seamlessly in a "Harry Potter" movie. It was that well done.
Like much of season 7, this episode had plenty of character reunions. There was a nice sequence early on where Arya got to see a bunch of familiar faces arriving in Winterfell before enjoying some reunions later. Her scene with Jon was sweet and well-acted with some nice subtext from both characters. The scene with The Hound was short but sweet, and probably the best-written of the bunch. The scene with Gendry was filled with nice callbacks and continued their dynamic nicely. There were a few other interesting reunions too which had a little bit more story relevance, so I'll get into those later.
There were other callbacks outside of the reunions. The episode opened with a lovely sequence of a boy climbing the walls to see the king arrive. The scene paralleled Bran watching King Robert arrive from back in "Winter is Coming", even going as far as to play the same exact music. Though with the show's wildly increased budget, this arrival felt so much more grand and impressive.
Sam had most of the episode's finest moments. John Bradley gave a great performance and his emotions were very clear throughout the episode. I really loved the scene where Dany told Sam the fate of his family (see: Best Moment), and John Bradley did a great job of portraying how a character like Sam would react to this news. It was a tough episode for Sam who had to go tell Jon about his lineage immediately afterwards in another great scene. Sam brought up some great points to Jon, who now has a very exciting conflict to deal with.
There were a number of intriguing scenes between other characters that caught my attention. Sansa and Tyrion got to see each other for the first time since Joffrey's death, and the scene was great. Their interactions were as awkward as ever and did great things for each character. It continued to show us how Tyrion has fallen from being one of the smarter men in Westeros which is very interesting (see: The Unknown). But more importantly, it brilliantly showed us how much Sansa has matured and how intelligent she has become. She dismisses Tyrion's opinions on Cersei immediately, relying on her own experience with Cersei, and she also sees through Jon's facade, exposing his real feelings about Dany.
The end of the episode was really good. It's nice to see Jaime arriving in Winterfell as well, and seeing Bran actively waiting for his return was a really cool moment and Jaime's reaction was perfect. This reunion was one I never really thought about, so I was pleasantly surprised by it. This should lead into a great arc for Jaime.
The scenes in King's Landing were pretty good. Cersei's disappointment in the Golden Company was consistent with who she is, and I liked her zeroing in on the lack of elephants. I enjoyed all the scenes with Euron. He is still a fun and interesting character in his scenes with Yara and Cersei. I particularly liked him inquiring about how he was compared to Robert and Jaime, it was a nice little bit of character for him. I also liked Bronn being given an interesting conflict this season, even if I have some issues with it (see: The Bad). Also, did we just get an update on the fate of Ed Sheeran's character (the ginger Eddie)? If so, that's a nice bit of continuity.
The scenes at Last Hearth were pretty good. Tormund's eyes always being blue was funny, and I liked that he, Beric and Edd got more scenes. I liked how frightening the scene was, and Ned Umber's scream was pretty scary. This was a fantastic way to establish the wrath that the White Walkers were leaving behind, building up the fear for what is coming later in the season.
There were some nice moments of dialogue. It seems that Varys and Davos exist to provide us with some great dialogue.
The Bad: I loved the presentation, but was disappointed by the writing. Not all of the dialogue in the episode was as great as the scenes which I enjoyed. This show has always been carried by dialogue and most of the best scenes of the show comes from two characters simply talking. There were many opportunities to cover similar scenes here, but the writing failed to accomplish that. At times the dialogue felt clunky, and there was never more dialogue given to scenes than what was needed. While this is efficient to accomplish a lot of different things, it also means that each individual scene doesn't really stand out much. In an episode which is entirely built on scenes of characters talking, this is a problem.
The other issue with the dialogue came from how the episode handled its exposition. A lot of scenes were rushed to get to plot details, such as Sam's reunion with Jon which was rushed through so that Jon could learn about his heritage in a moment that didn't feel as important as I was expecting. It wasn't the content of the scene, but rather the execution that gave me this feeling.
My biggest problem with the episode was its pace. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for slower episodes and I respect the decision to start the season out slowly, but this did not feel like an appropriate time to do this. The White Walkers have broken through the Wall and death is literally incoming. Yet we are sitting around to watch characters talk and ride dragons. Really? The destruction of the Wall should be a much bigger moment than this, and there should be a real sense of urgency in this episode as everyone prepares for battle. But we don't get that, and I was left confused as to why nobody was doing anything. To add salt to the wound, everyone knew the Wall was destroyed and they simply treated it as just another thing that happened. Seriously? This should be an earth-shattering moment, yet it is treated like no big deal. Furthermore, why gather everyone at Winterfell? Surely the Wall should be incorporated into their plans as it is an important asset.
Speaking of making plans, why was nobody doing anything to prepare for battle here? Instead the main source of conflict was that people of the North didn't like Dany and they don't want to fight with Lannisters. Seriously? With certain death marching in, why does anyone even care about this? I don't buy that people would ignore the White walker threat to worry about bending the knee to Dany, especially since the Wall has fallen. Furthermore, this led to one of the dumbest scenes in the show. Sansa brings up a huge problem: food. There is a massive new army to feed and there are no ways to feed them. So how does everyone react to this? They never bring it up again and Dany dismisses it with a crappy one-liner about dragons. Yikes. Who would trust Dany as a queen after this?
The dragon riding scene was a spectacle, but it was really unnecessary. Why the hell would Jon risk riding a dragon when he didn't know he was a Targaryen? Dany doesn't have total control over them and it's foolish of him to try. What if he died? Everybody would freak out and nobody would trust Dany! That would ruin everything and it seems like a ridiculous risk to take. Furthermore, Jon flies right next to Winterfell. What kind of a message is he sending to his people by doing this? Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if his people decide to assassinate him again with how stupid he is being.
Once more the show has fixated around a shouting fest between Sansa and Jon. Are we seriously still on this storyline? It's been going on forever and has been resolved so many times. I really don't care to see it yet again this season. Also, Sansa's distaste for Dany feels so forced. They talk for like one brief 20 second scene and then all that everyone talks about is how Sansa doesn't like her. What? Did I miss a scene or something? Show me that she doesn't like Dany, don't just make people claim that she doesn't like her.
Bronn's scene had some problems. First of all, it was a pretty forced way to get some boobs in this season. Do we really need this nudity? Secondly, why is Cersei trusting him to kill Jaime and Tyrion? Of all the people she could send, I would never send Bronn who knows them well. What if he decides not to do it because of his attachment to them? It would be so much easier to just send some other sellsword/assassin.
Theon getting Yara back was rushed and ridiculous. It's crazy how easy it was for Theon to infiltrate and escape Euron's fleet. The quick and flippant way that Theon rescued her was an unsatisfying end to that storyline. All of that build up for the story, and this is the climax.
Why is Bran not more freaked out that everyone is going to die? Surely he would try harder to get everyone to focus on the main threat.
The Unknown: Will Sansa's distaste for Dany lead somewhere? I definitely think so. Is it possible that she can drive a wedge between Jon and Dany this season?
What will Jon do now that he knows who he is? I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't do anything with the information for now, considering his character and love for Dany. Who will he reveal his lineage to?
Will Bronn go through with killing Tyrion and Jaime or will he ally with them instead?
I'm interested by Tyrion continually being looked over as an intelligent man this past few seasons. Could the popular theory of him betraying Dany have some merit to it?
What about Cersei's pregnancy? She doesn't seem to say anything about it to Euron? Is she pretending not to be pregnant? Or was she never pregnant to begin with and just lied to Tyrion?
What is the weapon that Arya asked Gendry to forge? What does she need it for?
Best Moment: Dany comes to Sam to thank him personally for saving Jorah. She wishes to reward him, yet her good intentions end up bringing Sam nothing but pain as she reveals what happened to his father and brother. It's a heartbreaking scene and John Bradley's acting was damn good.
Character of the Episode: Sam.
Conclusion: A bit of a mixed bag of a premiere. I enjoyed a lot of the individual scenes and I thought there was a lot to like about this. Unfortunately, the lack of urgency, rushed writing and fan service detracted from the episode.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.