Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere is all about the reunions

Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere is all about the reunions
Samwell Tarly (played by John Bradley) delivered a key piece of information in the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.  (HBO)

Game of Thrones returned Sunday night for its eighth and final season, and it was all about the reunions, not just between various characters but between fans and the show they’ve been waiting 20 months to see again.

Was it worth the wait? Yes, although anyone who expected the series to restart with the same intensity with which it left off — when the last thing we saw was a zombie dragon melting the Wall — would have been disappointed.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are playing the long game, putting the various pieces in position for the sure to be epic battle ahead.

In an hour-long episode that whizzed by, they brought us up to speed on all the major characters (and some not so major ones), gave us a couple of twists and one major reveal that I didn’t expect to come so soon.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) now knows that he is the rightful heir to the iron throne, which means his relationship with Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and all the Stark kin whom he assumed were his half-siblings just got a whole lot more complicated. And it was already complicated enough as Jon returned to Winterfell with Dany and her armies of Unsullied and Dothraki.

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) wasn’t a fan of Jon going to Dragonstone to meet Daenerys in the first place and is even angrier in the premiere that he has given up his title of King in the North to pledge allegiance to Dany.

“Did you bend the knee to save the North? Or because you love her?” Sansa asks Jon, demonstrating yet again what a shrewd, powerful woman she’s grown into.

Dany snipes back: “Whatever they want.”

Sure, there’s a massive army of corpses on the way, but there’s always time for a little humour. So we had scenes like Jon awkwardly riding a dragon for the first time, hanging on for dear life. Jon: “What if he doesn’t want me to?” Dany: “Then I’ve enjoyed your company, Jon Snow.”

Generally speaking, the female characters got the better of every scene they were in. For instance:

We also caught up with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), one of the show’s most powerful women along with Dany and Sansa. She has certainly not softened, ordering sellsword Bronn to kill both of her brothers, Tyrion and Jaime, with the very same crossbow that Tyrion used to kill their father. She’s wanted Tyrion dead forever, so no shock there, but I was surprised she would order the death of Jaime, who is also her lover and father of her unborn child.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) figured in one of the episode’s most gripping moments. Having arrived alone at Winterfell to fight the Army of the Dead, as he had promised, Jaime spies Bran Stark across the courtyard. His eyes widen with shock and horror as he recognizes Bran as the boy he pushed out a tower window to his presumed death back in Season 1.

Whether Jaime will live long enough to battle the White Walkers is an open question since Daenerys seems to want his head for having killed her father, Aerys Targaryen, a.k.a. the Mad King.

A bigger question is when the can of worms of Jon Snow’s parentage will get opened and how Daenerys and Sansa, in particular, will react when it does.

Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) broke the news to his old friend Jon that he is the son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’s brother, and Lyanna Stark, sister of Ned Stark, the man Jon believed to be his illegitimate father. And this makes Jon rightful heir to the iron throne, not Dany.

Ironically, Sam delivered this news right after learning that Dany had killed his own father and brother for refusing to bend the knee to her. So Sansa is not the only one questioning Dany’s fitness to lead. “You gave her your crown to save your people; would she do the same?” Sam asks Jon.

And then there was one character who was notably absent from the episode: the Night King and his army of zombies. Although unseen, however, his presence was felt.

He’s been staked to a wall surrounded by a pinwheel formation of severed limbs. It’s a message from the Night King, Beric declares. Then, in a gruesome scene, young Umber comes back to life with a dagger in his hand. Beric sets him on fire with his flaming sword and he dies again, writhing and screaming.
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