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Game Of Thrones – Season 8, Episode 1: Winterfell Review

Contains major spoilers for episode one! Only read on if you're ready to hear this breakdown.

★★★★
Beware! The night is dark and full of terrors, and this review will have spoilers. Which could be a scarier prospect.
This week: It's the reunion special!
Reviewed by: James White
If you thought last season's finale, which feels like it was years ago, was packed full of reunions, Winterfell, for so was the episode named, doubled down on that as family reconnected in ways both sweet and awkward, revelations spilled out (poor old Sam learning of his family's crispy demise) and Jon and Dany took a few moments out of important battle preparations to go fly dragons and make out near a waterfall.
Because that's Jon Snow for you, he never listened to TLC on that front.
In many ways, Dany is his waterfall, the thing he shouldn't be chasing (especially since we now know she's his aunt), but since when did Jon Snow make smart choices?
Image: HBO
Aside from the various meetings and joke lines (and a lot of chatter about eunuchs), tension was fully at the heart of the episode, as the various forces of the North welcomed Dany and her armies with all the warmth and trust of a teenager meeting their step mother for the first time.
They're only right to distrust this powerful Targaryen, given what they know of her father, even if she's going out of her way to play nice.
After all, she has dragons and as Sansa rightfully points out, how are they supposed to feed the influx of new arrivals, not to mention two giant scaly beasts?
Indeed, Sansa comes out of this episode a lot better than she has in the past. Years of betrayal and brutality have sharpened her edge and made her less a whiny girl and more a thoughtful, tactical woman.
And now, with just a short while to enjoy her wintry inheritance, here comes some blonde, with her brother's (or not) er, loyalty wrapped around her little finger. But as Tyrion says, "many have underestimated you. Most are dead now." You've come a long way, Sansa.
Image: HBO
Talking of powerful women, we checked in with Cersei, who might soon regret betraying everyone else and making her own plan, though she's committed, we'll give her that.
From appearing happy that the dead have breached the wall to her gruesome twosome with Euron (still absolutely the worst, but given how he reminds us of Joffrey's scummy behaviour, probably appeals to her), Cersei is doing what she thinks is right.
We'd have to question her dispatching Bronn, of all people (in a call back to the show's old habit of sexposition, he's interrupted while about to enjoy himself with three prostitutes) to make sure Jaime and Tyrion perish, though.
For all the gold she's offering, she must realise his established friendship with the brothers? Still, if it means more Bronn, we're happy.
Though Jeremy The Night King didn't make a personal appearance here, his horrendous plans cast a pall over everything.
The dead are coming, and poor old Ned Umber paid the price for not getting his forces to Winterfell quick. And also for being called Ned on this show.
For all its horror movie conventions, the scene with Tormund and the gang discovering the Ned wight was a chillingly effective one, made more impressive by the production design.
Image: HBO
Elsewhere in the North, there were pleasures to be had in various characters getting to interact again (or meeting for the first time), with few more potentially awkward than Jaime rocking up at the frosty fort right at the end and spotting Bran.
Yup, the person he pushed out of a window and doomed to spend the rest of his life being dragged/wheeled around.
Could Bran actually thank him for setting him on his journey to be the Three-Eyed Raven? Unlikely, but possible...
If what you wanted from the first episode of the final season was a lot of scene-setting and piece-shuffling ready for the clashes and fallout to come, then Winterfell more than delivered.
It's the true strength of a layered, character stuffed saga like this that so many scenes can be given over to conversations between people that haven't seen each other in a while and it can still work. Credit the creative team and the cast with putting real life into the reunions and making them more than simply fan service.
If we have a criticism, it's that the dragon-riding still suffers slightly from that green screen feel, but it was all in service of an emotional moment for Jon and Dany. The Cersei stuff suffered a little by comparison, but it'll all come into play down the road. Welcome back, Thrones! We've missed you.
Watch this show clip from season 8. Story continues after video.

In summary
Highlight:
Everything in Winterfell, but mostly Sansa.
Lowlight: Euron. Slimeball and hopefully future corpse.
Kill of the week: Ned's dead, baby, Ned's dead.
Quote of the week: "Miserable affair"
"Had its moments" - Tyrion and Sansa disagree about her wedding to Joffrey.
MVP: Sam.
Random thought: Arya and Gendry: Still got it with the chemistry.
Big Questions
Jon and Dany: What will the revelations do to their union?

Now that Jon - whether he believes it or not – knows the awkward truth of his parentage and what it means for his relationship with Dany, will it tear them apart at a crucial moment?
What does Cersei truly hope to achieve?
Though she's choosing to wait out the fight between Dany, the North's forces and the Night King, does Cersei really believe that the Golden Company – who are reportedly amazing mercenaries and warriors but couldn't stop a sneak prison break by Theon, rescuing Yara on their own ship – can stand against the forces of the Dead? She's smarter than that, surely?
Cersei's baby status
She's claimed to both of her brothers that she's carrying Jaime's child, but Cersei's look when Euron – again, ugh – makes mention of putting a prince in her belly really does have us thinking that she's not just lying about the kid. She should probably knock off the vino, though.
Each episode will premiere on Foxtel Now on Mondays between now and May 20.
The premiere episode each week will air at the following times:
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobat: 09:00am AEST
Adelaide and Darwin: 10:30am ACST
Perth: 09:00am AWST
And the encore broadcast will stream at these times:
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobat: 08:30pm AEST
Adelaide and Darwin: 08:00pm ACST
Perth: 06:30pm AWST

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