After a 2 year wait, Game of Thrones has returned and with it, Winter has Come, and the living Stark children are all together again in Winterfell for the first time since the very first episode.
The first episode of the final season is aptly named ‘Winterfell’, as the majority of our main characters have found themselves there in preparation of the war to come, and most of the episode is spent here. This episode does a great job of referencing the very first episode of the series. It opens with a small boy running round to get a good view of who is arriving in Winterfell, Arya once again spotting people in the procession and the Starks lined up to receive their new Queen. As constantly mentioned throughout the series, Northerns don’t like many outside their own and show this throughout the season premiere, the look on the Northern’s faces seeing the Greyworm and Missandei ride in to Winterfell with dragons flying overhead is hilarious.
We briefly see the tense first meeting of Sansa and Daenerys, though before this gets drawn out, Bran interjects and gets everyone up to date on the current situation being the all-seeing, all knowing narrator. The wall has fallen, Viserion has been raised by the Night King and the dead march south. This sets the tempo for the rest of the episode and possibly the final season, the stakes are high and there isn’t time to drag things out. From here we get to skip to Daenerys’ introduction to the Northern lords, Jon reminding them he never wanted to rule and their suspicion of their new Queen.
This is followed up by a few great reunions scenes, Sansa and her former husband Tyrion, as well as Jon and Arya. Sansa and Tyrion’s scene is a great moment, the once timid and pessimistic Sansa by a more confident and battle-hardened Lady of Winterfell looking down on Tyrion and telling him “you used to be the smartest person I know” after he refuses to believe Cersei is lying.
Down South we see Euron deliver on his promise, sailing the impressive Iron Fleet and Golden Company into King’s Landing, with name Jaime and captive Yara. After rejecting his initial advances Euron’s mix of swashbuckling confidence and arrogance leads him into Cersei’s bed, and he states his intention to breed her up. With Jaime on the road north, and Lansell dead it looks Cersei has found a new play thing. Our favourite cutthroat, Bron is interrupted in the brothel, being offered the chance to make even gold, how does he do it? Killing Jaime and Tyrion if they ever return from their Northern adventure, two of the few people he has bonded with over the course of the show. Ironically, Cersei’s hand places a crossbow in Bron’s hands, the same weapon Tyrion used to kill their father Tywin.
Back in Winterfell we see the three wise men; Tyrion, Ser Davos and Varys watching over Jon and Dany, discussing what comes after the war. It’s moments like this that reminds you the end is nigh, seeing characters that served Kings that went to war against each other, now on the same side discussing a better future for the world. We then see Jon live up to his Targaryen name by riding his first dragon, ironically it turns out to be the same one named after his father. Dany uses this dragon flying lesson to have a date with Jon, flying across the North and making out in front of her watchful dragons.
We also see the Hound, Gendry and Arya reunite, the Hound while never smiles shows he’s happy to see she has survived and is able to take of herself now. While Arya may be a full time faceless man, she’s remained true to her word and retained her sense of self.
Just when you thought Winterfell was full, we find Samwell Tarley in the library, being visited by Dany & Jorah, Dany wanting to meet the man who saved the life of one of her oldest supporters. Unbeknownst to her she Sam is related to the Tarleys she killed in season 7. What makes this scene great is Sam’s ability to always try and find a positive in every situation, even here finding out the father who was embarrassed of him was dead he managed to joke “at least I’ll be able to go home now”, until Dany mentioned she also killed his brother, this was to much for Same to bear and he rushes out.
While dealing with grief of what he just heard he runs into starey starey Bran, who informs him it’s time to tell Jon about his true identity, and that Sam has to be the one to do it, as he is more of a brother. Jon looking at a statue of he who belives to be his father is joined by Sam, who informs him of his true identity much to Jon’s dismay, you can see how much he hates the idea of being the true heir to throne, in this moment Sam steps out of character and attempts to manipulate Jon by suggesting would Daenerys give up her throne for. Sam is out for revenge and it will be interesting to see how things play out over the next 5 episodes.
Even further North, Tormund, The Brotherhood without Banners, Eddison Tollett and the Night’s Watch investigate a deserted Last Hearth, to find the undead young Lord Umber pinned to the wall, used to send a message from the Night King to the living.
What’s a reunion heavy episode without one last reunion between characters who haven’t seen each other since the first episode! Bran told Sam he was waiting for an old friend, it turns out that old friend was none other than the King Slayer himself! The look of shock horror on Jaime’s face as he sees Bran while gazing around Winterfell, it makes you realise how much these characters have changed over the years. Jaime the self-serving douche now a “good guy”, and Bran, now the stoic all seeing, all knowing narrator in place of the once playful kid.
Even though this episode was STACKED, the focus for the most part was on the 4 stark children, as much as they’ve grown and change, they are still the same people they were at the start of the show. Jon wants to serve rather than be a King, Sansa wants to be a Queen, Bran has his head in the clouds and Arya would still rather be a fighter than a Lady.
Anticipation has been at an all-time high, with debates on who lives, who dies raging on for nearly two years. If the expectation was for this episode to be all guns blazing, then understandably it can feel a little flat. That’s a credit to the strength of season 7. What we do get is fantastic writing, satisfying character moments and breath-taking visuals. My only real complaint is that the episode was only 50 minutes long, this made it feel rushed in some parts. But overall it was a great season opener and I’m excited for next week!
This episode comes in at 8.5/10. Valar Morghulis.