Dhaka Courier

Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere: setting the stage

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The eighth and the final season of HBO’s pinnacle fantasy TV series Game of Thrones premiered this Monday (Bangladesh Standard Time). With that, it set the stage for bidding adieu to arguably the most loved fantasy saga ever aired. Starting as a word-of-mouth hit to growing into phenomena worldwide, the ace of HBO has kept setting its ambitions higher with the fans indulging deeper into the ground-breaking tale with each installment. Here is to take a look back at the first of six remaining titles to complete the race for the iron throne.

Previous seven seasons saw some bitter and heartbreaking moments shared between siblings which is completely absent in the first episode of the final season. Instead, the audiences are gifted with a chain of reunions and subtle one-liners after the unbearable 20-months-wait following the seventh season. The episode takes place in titular “Winterfell”, where we see reunions like Jon Snow (Kit Harington) with his step-sister Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and brother Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Arya with Robert Baratheon's bastard Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the Hound, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) with his former wife Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) with her healing brother Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen).

The grim and mundane tone of the beginning prevails throughout the episode. We see Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) marching in Winterfell despite a cold reception from Sansa, now the lady of Winterfell. Sansa is also disappointed at Tyrion when he reveals about the meeting with his sister Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and their decision to trust her. The audience should understand her point as she tolerated Cersei’s torture more than anyone else still alive in the show. Also, she expresses her discontent at Jon abandoning his title ‘King in the North’ by ‘bending the knee’ to Daenerys.

However, things were not so rough between Jon and Arya, who share the screen for the first time after the first season. A warm hug and little chitchat regarding her whereabouts during previous seasons were sure to bring joy to the viewers. Arya Stark’s reconciliation with Gendry was as witty as cold it was with the “Hound” Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). Jon’s first ride with the dragon alongside Daenerys surely thrilled the audience.

Two impactful events took place in Winterfell in the first episode.

First was Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), Jon’s best friend, revealing the secret he and Bran Stark figured out the previous season that Jon Snow is in fact not a bastard but the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

The fact that Jon Snow alias Aegon Targaryen is the true heir to the iron throne seemed like ‘too much to take in’ for himself. He looked unsettled and traumatized as the question arises how he would confront his aunt, Daenerys, with the claim for the throne.

And the second bizarre confrontation took place right before the ending part between Bran Stark and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as Jaime sneaks into Winterfell to join the fight against the undead army. The pair met for the first time after the gruesome pilot episode of season one.

Back in Kings Landing, we see Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), Theon and Yara’s treacherous uncle to return with the Golden Company, a band of fierce mercenaries to fight on behalf of notorious Queen Cersei Lannister.  Cersei’s evil plot now has a new motive, killing off her two remaining siblings, Jaime and Tyrion. It was unsettling to see her to approach Bron (Jerome Flynn) of Blackwater with the proposal via Qyburn (Anton Lesser). However, Euron’s desire to mingle with the queen finally materialise in the episode.

Now recovering Theon somewhat heroically rescued his sister Yara from Euron’s grasp in the later part of the episode. They sail with three ships from the iron fleet when Yara pitches the idea of heading back to Iron Islands, reclaiming and preparing it as the last resort for others now in Winterfell. Though we find Theon determined to visit Winterfell for supporting the head-on collision with the Night King’s army alongside Stark family which Yara approves.

The threat of the undead army, the impending doom was not forgotten by the scriptwriters as the Night King’s horrifying deeds were found out by Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and the remnants of the Night’s Watch. The band uncovers the same swirling symbol made with human arms which we first saw in the very first season of Game of Thrones. Poor Ned Umber (Harry Grasby), head of his house is seen pinned in the center of it and rest of Last Hearth being deserted, most probably massacred by the White Walkers, the undead army under the command of mysterious Night King.

Tormund and Beric’s conversation with Eddison Tollett (Ben Crompton) of the Night’s Watch reveals that they have little time before the army reaches Winterfell.

All in all, the entire episode might seem anticlimactic to some because of the absence of any major battle or any major character meeting an untimely death. However, it is a touch of fresh air to some before suffocating tension and chaotic events baffle our minds in the following episodes. After finishing the first episode it is eminent that all the stakeholders and their agendas are converging towards an end nobody can guess. Many noted characters are still absent including Melisandre (Carice van Houten), Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Night King (granted we saw his symbol). The good or bad news is the latter might inevitably appear in the next episode as hinted in the preview attached with the first one.

Spanning some 5o seconds, the preview gives a sneak peek in episode two where Jaime is brought to Daenerys. She expresses her grudge against the ‘Kingslayer’, the man responsible for her father’s death. Later Jon Snow (or Aegon Targaryen) is seen with Tormund who seemingly made it before the undead army. Winterfell prepares for a massive battle seemingly with the Night King and his White Walkers.

The decade defining saga with a mind-boggling mix of politics, betrayal, strategy, love, drama, swordfights, magic and dragons (can’t leave that one out) is nearing its end. Fans all over the world will surely miss and mourn as the final episode will air on May 19, 2019. However, at least one spin-off series is reportedly slated to go in production later this year so yay for that. The characters and their impact on pop-culture will not fade away any time soon.

The second episode of Game Thrones Season Eight will air on April 22.

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