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Winter has finally arrived. For fans of Game of Thrones, the wait is over at last. It’s been nearly two years since the seventh series of HBO’s epic award-winning fantasy graced our screens. After months of hype, the long-running saga is back for its eighth and final series. It’s almost time to say goodbye as the final moves of the game play out. But first there are dragons, ice zombies and more mayhem to enjoy and endure.
The opening episode is definitely one intended to gratify the fans. Titled ‘Winterfell’, it’s a nostalgic mix that will please many even if it is relatively short on action when compared with its predecessors. If you haven’t watched the episode, this is the obligatory warning about possible plot spoilers that are unavoidable in any review. Click away now if you’ve been trying to avoid them. Seriously.
As an opener, ‘Winterfell’ is essentially a warm up for the rest of the series. There’s a lot of ground to cover and characters to move about in preparation for what’s to come. The pace is brisk as a result. As the episode title suggests, most of the story is set in the Starks’ home as Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) are greeted by a frosty welcoming committee on their arrival at Winterfell. Jon’s choice to pledge allegiance to Daenerys has not been accepted wholeheartedly by his siblings or fellow Northerners.
Best of all, the dragons swoop and soar as one of the great Game of Throne mysteries is answered.
Meanwhile, Cersei (Lena Headley) plots her next move in King’s Landing. The focus on Winterfell leaves the other narrative strands feeling a tad underwhelming. Cersei getting one of the best lines of the episode compensates slightly for her limited screen-time.
Having said that, there are many longed-for reunions as old friends and foes meet once again. However, not every nostalgic touch is welcome with some moments recalling back to the worst sexposition moments of the earlier seasons. Despite this, the episode manages to squeeze in one truly shocking moment, a reminder of how creepy and horrifying George RR Martin’s world can be.
Fans will pour over ‘Winterfell’ for every clue. One of the most fascinating touches is the revamped opening sequence. The clockwork Westeros dives into the crypt of Winterfell before swooping south to the Iron Throne. It reflects the concentrated narrative of the final series as we move towards the climactic final confrontation between the living and the dead.
It’s a satisfying start that suggests the worst is yet to come. But the dragons are soaring across the sky.