My thoughts on “Winterfell”

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winterfell

After what seems like forever, Game of Thrones has returned for its final season. I have some thoughts on how things played out, and some ideas about where it’s headed, but first, here’s a quick spoiler-filled recap —

Jon, along with Daenerys and her armies, arrive in Winterfell. Jon’s reunion with Bran is cut sort when he learns the White Walkers have broken through the Wall and are marching south.

Sansa’s distrust of Daenerys is echoed by the Northern lords, and they are angry that Jon set aside his crown to bend the knee to the Queen of Dragons.

Despite Tyrion’s protestations, everyone doubts, especially Sansa, that the promised Lannister reinforcements will arrive.

Cersei welcomes Euron back from his clandestine procurement of the Golden Company, rewarding him with a royal tryst. The Queen sends Qyburn to enlist Bronn into her service, tasking the mercenary to assassinate Tyrion and Jaime for their treason.

Theon infiltrates the Iron Fleet and rescues Yara, who heads for the Iron Islands to take them back from Euron, while Theon decides to return to Winterfell.

Jon reunites with Arya at the Winterfell Weirwood.

Sam discusses Jon’s true parentage with Bran. At Bran’s behest, he confronts Jon, telling him he is in fact the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and thus the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Tormund and Beric inspect a ruined castle, encountering Edd and surviving members of the Night’s Watch. The ruin is that of Last Hearth, House Umber’s ancestral home. Earlier, the young Lord of Umber had asked for horses and wagons to bring Umber’s troops and small folk to Winterfell, to which Sansa agreed. Now, all of Umber is found dead and the young lord is undead, spiked to the wall in the center of a White Walker Spiral that Beric puts to flame.

As the episode comes to a close, Jaime arrives at Winterfell. Bran is there waiting in the courtyard. Their eyes lock…

jaime2

Wow. They sure packed a lot into one episode. I left quite a bit out in my recap, like Jon and Dany’s Aladdin-esque dragon flight and Sam’s confrontation with Dany over her execution of his father and brother, to name just a few.

Writer Dan Hill and director David Nutter did an outstanding job of staying on point. There was no filler throughout, and with just six episodes this season, I sincerely hope this is the gameplan for the subsequent episodes as well.

Now, let’s have a bullet list of (mostly) pros and (a few) cons:

  • PRO: New Opening Credits Sequence
    Game of Thrones has always had an impressive credit sequence, but for the final season they’ve really pulled out all the stops. From the gaping maw blasted through the Wall, to the locations and interiors of Westeros, this was an eye-opening, awe-inspiring elevation of the artform.
  • PRO: Dany & Jon’s Arrival
    This was a great mirror of the season one opening scene with King Robert’s arrival at Winterfell. They even used the same music. This was a perfect call back to where it all began. From the young boy fulfilling the role of Bran and Arya in the original, to Jon asking where Arya was, much as Cat had done nine years before, this was an emotional sequence, made even more so by Jon’s reunion with Bran, something tempered by Sansa’s cold shoulder toward Dany, which mirrored Cersei’s greeting with the Starks.
  • CON: The Northern Lords Council
    A lot to like here, but Tyrion’s pleas fell flat. The North would never, under any circumstance, trust a Lannister. This seemed like an attempt to give Peter Dinklage a rousing speech, but it fell flat for me. Ned Stark was killed by a Lannister. The Lannisters orchestrated the Red Wedding. There’s a (very) slim chance the North might warm up to Dany, but a Lannister? Never.
  • PRO: Sansa Reunites with Tyrion / Jon Reunites with Arya
    Two very different reunions that set the stage for things to come.
    —In an awkward conversation, Sansa shows how much she’s grown, how she is a product of her teachers (Tyrion, Cersei, Littlefinger, and Ramsay). Obviously Cersei is going to betray them, and she scolds Tyrion for not being as bright as she had presumed him to be.
    —Jon and Arya’s reunion was sweet and poignant, but there was an underlying threat there. Arya is siding with Sansa, because for her, family comes first, but she sees that Jon may not be on the same page. She worries that Jon might put Dany above them.
  • CON: Euron
    Euron returns with the Golden Company, all full of himself, as he talks his way into Cersei’s bed. The problem here is, Euron on the page is a much more interesting character. While the actor does a fine job with what he’s given, I just haven’t warmed up to the small screen adaptation.
  • CON: Yara’s Rescue
    On the surface, this was a great scene, but, in the end, it was far too convenient. This was the writer’s attempt to quickly get Yara and Theon into positions for forthcoming episodes. They didn’t want to bog things down with a long and drawn out rescue attempt. A case could be made that this showcases Euron’s lack of planning. All in all, an ineffective way to move chess pieces on the board, but at least it got the job done.
  • CON: Dragon Flight
    This was chock full of corny dialogue and dodgy cgi at times. If they’re going to be riding these things, Tyrion needs to design a riding harness akin to the one he made for Bran. Here, we have the writer trying to cement Jon and Dany’s love affair, recapturing he and Ygrette’s cave romance, but it just isn’t working. They have zero chemistry and the sooner we split them apart the better.
  • PRO: Arya’s Reunion with Gendry and the Hound
    — I was really looking forward to Arya and the Hound running into each other and I wasn’t disappointed. Both had barbed tongues, but I got the sense that Sandor Clegane has a respect and admiration for the girl he had taken under his wing.
    — As for Arya and Gendry, this was a playful interaction. You could tell they’re attracted to one another, and why not. Stark and Baratheon blood is a tremendous bond, forged by Ned and Robert during their time with Jon Arryn. It seems young Arya wants Gendry to make her a weapon. Seems to be an odd design:

    weapon
    I can make out the word bludgeon on the section that inserts into the other piece, but I’m curious as to how it will be used.

  • PRO: Samwell Tarly
    Sam has a rough go of it. First he is confronted by Dany and Jorah, the intent to thank him for curing Mormont, but he quickly learns that Dany had executed his father and brother and excuses himself. Next he runs into Bran in the courtyard. Bran states he is waiting for an old friend (more on that later), adding that it is time for Sam to reveal Jon’s true parentage to his Night’s Watch brother. The scene is the Stark Crypt is powerful. The camera focuses on Jon’s face as we read his expressions as Sam delivers the news. Jon doesn’t want to accept it. As a shied, he invokes his “father’s lie”, but Sm sets him straight. I had wondered how this would play out, and I am so glad the scene was set in the Crypt, amongst the honored dead of Winterfell, and that it was Sam that delivered the news, and privately.
  • PRO: Lord Umber
    When the young boy addressed Sansa at Winterfell, I had a bad feeling. Well, that bad feeling was Game of Thrones doing what it does best — mixing horror and fantasy into a delicious cocktail of dread. So very much to love about this. The comical dialogue between Edd and Tormund lightened the tone so that the horror of discovering Lord Umber’s body, as the centerpiece to the White Walker spiral, was all the more impactful. Couple that with Umber being undead and Beric putting it to light made it even more exhilarating.

    spiral
    The image obviously invokes symbols we’ve seen before, in the cave outside Dragonstone, in the rocks spiraling out from the Weirwoods, and particularly in Bran’s vision of the Night King’s creation. But, there’s something else I see in it. Something that might be a foreshadowing — the House Targaryen sigil.

  • PRO: Jamie Arrives in Winterfell
    Season One’s premiere ended with Jaime Lannister pushing Bran from a tower window. It seems more than fitting that we end Season Eight’s premiere with the two figures that demanded that we tuned into the next episode. That look between them spoke volumes and it sets the stage perfectly for what is to come.

jaime

So, what lies ahead? We see tensions brewing between Dany and the Northerners. Sansa despises her. Arya has Sansa’s back. And Jon? He rules with an interest in justice, in doing what is right, in the moment. Dany is more dogmatic. We have already seen her not seeing things as Jon does. This is going to come to a head. I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that Jon Snow aka Aegon Targaryen will kill Daenerys.

As for the rest, in a stream of consciousness, I see Gendry and Arya becoming the Lord and Lady of Winterfell. The Hound and Mountain will kill each other gloriously. Jon will turn his back on the Iron Throne and Sansa will claim it, with Tyrion as her Hand. Jaime will be redeemed when he kills Cersei, but not before Brienne dies in his arms. Davos will kill Melisandre.

And as for the Night King? He’ll deal some damage, to be sure, but he will ultimately fall thanks to Bran’s machinations. Jon will deal the final blow, destroying both Bran and the Night King, and we learn they were one and the same.

Okay, that’s all for now. More next week when I review the second episode.

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