Winter is finally here after a nearly two-year wait, and its signs are plain to see not only in the frozen branches and snow-cloaked roads and castles but also in the icy greetings and frosty reunions that dot Winterfell. The first episode of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones is largely dedicated to creating the groundwork for the upcoming Battle of Winterfell between allied kingdoms and the Army of the Dead, known as White Walkers. The action is crisp and business-like (there are only six episodes in all), and is perfectly summed up by Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright): “We don’t have time for all this.”
Each major character gets a line or two that sums up the thrust of the episode, written by Dave Hill and directed by David Nutter.
‘Winterfell is yours, your grace’
Among the chief characters is Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). She is now Lady of Winterfell, but has to deal with kneeling before a queen she neither knows nor respects just yet.
‘If she can’t respect me…’
The nearly 51-minute episode kicks off right after the events of the seventh season, in which Jon Snow (Kit Harington) abdicated as King of the North in favour of Daenerys Targaryan (Emilia Clarke). They have also fallen in love, without realising that Jon is actually Daenerys’s nephew but, by virtue of being the son of her brother and Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
Daenerys marches into Winterfell with Jon by her side, her head held high and her dragons screeching above in the sky, but the proud Northerners are not going to make it easy for her.
‘We must fight together now, or die’
Also at Winterfell are Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Varys (Conleth Hill) and Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham). Tyrion makes his pitch for unity in the North to take on the White Walkers, who seem closer than ever before.
‘Once or twice’
The long-awaited reunion between Jon Snow and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) siblings brings some much-needed warmth to the tense proceedings. The Northern Lord clearly doesn’t know how far his little sister has come in the six seasons since they last met. Has she ever used her Needle sword? Arya proves that she has mastered survival techniques as well as understatement: “Once or twice.”
‘If I kill you, who can I talk to?’
As Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) stays cooped up at Westeros, coping with the departure of her twin brother and lover Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and scheming to hold on to the Iron Throne, she has to deal with her latest ally, Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk). The latest season sorely needs a flesh-and-blood villain (the undead Night King doesn’t count) and the wild-eyed and lascivious Euron is the man for the job.
‘I know it’s a lot to take in’
Of all the one-liners, perhaps this is the second-best after Bran’s get-on-with-it admonition. For Indian viewers, the HBO series is being streamed on Hotstar and will be aired on Star World, Star World HD and Star World Premiere HD.