Game Of Thrones came back for its eight and final season on Sunday and here’s Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman reviewing the first episode. Warning: a few major spoilers ahead…
Director: David Nutter
Stars: Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams
The last season of television’s most-heralded show of the decade is finally here, and showrunners Benioff and Weiss, while not providing us with an explosive opener, have certainly crafted something that exudes closure. Secrets are quickly revealed, while former allies turn against one another as the chess match reaches endgame.
What this show reminds us of is how much the surviving characters have evolved (even Cersei!), along with the show itself – it’s obviously far more of a visual spectacle now, with too many plot strands to get through to allow too many witty or indulgent digressions, or focus on minor characters. All the lead characters have made their choices, and everything now is about who will be sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of episode six.
There are some excellent counterpoints to earlier series, for example Cersei enlisting Bronn to kill Tyrion and her former greatest ally, and lover, Jaime. Not everyone gets a great deal of screen time – we get to see Jon Snow and Daenerys riding dragons (in an extensive scene that seems to have wandered in from another show) but little of Tyrion, but then he has never been as magnetic or entertaining since he was forced to leave King’s Landing. He gets to amusingly mock his cohort Varys (who responds in kind) but then uncharacteristically advises Sansa to trust Cersei – something, as Sansa points out, that the old Tyrion would never have done.
The pivotal scene in the episode, when Daenerys tells Samwell Tarly that he killed his father and brother, leading Tarly to reveal to Jon Snow that he is Aegon Targaryen is well done, with especially fine acting from John Bradley, but far too hurried considering how paramount that bit of information was in the context of the entire series. There’s a lot of exposition to get through, which is where Bran Stark becomes somewhat crucial, informing everyone at Winterfell that the White Walkers have gained control of one of Daenerys’s pets while destroying the Wall.
Probably the best scenes ironically feature relative newcomer Euron Greyjoy, whose scenes with Cersei have the best dialogue – Cersei, never more evil and ruthless, is in fine form, grudgingly praising the scenery chewing Euron for being as arrogant as she is.
By trying to cram in as much of the ensemble as possible in this episode, the show strangely feels padded – the moments when Snow is reunited with Bran after a long absence or when the fabulously gruff Sandor Clegane bumps into Arya deserve more time, but don’t get it. On the other hand Benioff and Weiss manage to subtly signpost Sansa as Cersei’s real nemesis, rather than Snow, Daenerys or Arya – if anyone has learned from experience in this series, it is her.
Nevertheless, this instalment does leave the viewer wanting more – the truly heroic Snow still lights up the screen, while Theon Greyjoy’s (perhaps the show’s most underrated character) arc still has plenty of mileage. And the closing scene, when Jaime Lannister finally comes face to face with the boy he pushed out of the window in the very first episode, is a cleverly understated cliffhanger. As the series progresses, the episodes will get longer, no doubt incorporating fight scenes to rival, or maybe even surpass, the Battle of the Bastards from series six. As a scene-setter, this episode offers little surprises, but like a lot of Game of Thrones, it’s all about the build-up.
Game Of Thrones is on every Sunday on HBO in the US and on Mondays on Sky Atlantic in the UK.