BEIRUT: The final season of the serialized global phenomenon began earlier this week, and with one episode down, only five remain before the bittersweet conclusion that will surely leave the audience feeling a multitude of emotions.
The first episode, entitled WINTERFELL, offered a brand new opening title sequence that meticulously focused only upon three major locations: the destroyed Wall, the resurrected Winterfell, and King’s Landing.
WINTERFELL Daenarys and Jon arrive on horseback leading the massive army of Unsullied, Dothraki, and two dragons - the third now belonging to the Night King.
The sequence harkens back to the series’s first episode with King Robert arriving in the North, a much younger Bran climbing up to see the guests, and a much younger Arya wearing a helmet with eyes filled with wonder.
Here another young Northerner climbs a tree, as Arya gazes upon Jon, then the Hound, and then Gendry - three men who have had quite an influence on the young assassin. Many much-anticipated reunions occur within the walls of Winterfell, some more pleasant than others, yet all somehow emphasizing the episode’s core theme: identity.
Sansa, now Lady of Winterfell, is fully adjusted to her role, and is doing whatever she can to protect the North and her family with a very loyal Arya by her side. This is a very refreshing narrative line for the Stark sisters, who could barely stand each other in previous seasons. It does seem that the loyalty of the Starks to each other, and to the North will be tested and whether or not all will survive the test has yet to be seen.
Arya’s reunions with Jon, the Hound, and Gendry are brilliantly executed scenes due to the fact that Arya’s person seems to change with each of those men adding further layers to the character audiences have grown to love. Arya requests that Gendry build her a weapon, all the while the flirtation between the two characters is all kinds of cute.
Could audiences see a romantic arc for Arya?
Sansa reunites with her husband, Tyrion - yes, they are technically still married - and their conversation ends with Sansa telling Tyrion that she used think he was one of the cleverest men she’d ever met. This stings Tyrion who deep down still struggles with his own identity and sense of belonging; since last season though Tyrion is Hand of the Queen, he still feels love for his family as well and this may cause trouble down the line.
Jon and Daenarys take a flight on the dragons - yes, Jon Snow on a dragon - their romance in full bloom now, without any realization of Jon’s true identity. Daenarys struggles with the Northerners, as her presence in the North proves to be more complicated than she thought. Jorah accompanies Danny and introduces her to his savior Sam.
This meeting takes a turn, however, when Danny discovers that Sam is the son and brother of the men she had burned, further putting Danny in a place of self-doubt.
All these moving pieces lead to two major moments that change the entirety of Game of Thrones forever.
Bran catches a heartbroken Sam and tells him that he must tell Jon the truth about who he is, and that it must happen now, and though Sam hesitates at first, he ultimately agrees. He heads down to the crypt where Jon is paying his respects to Ned Stark, and after telling him that Danny murdered his father and brother, drops the major bombshell onto the brooding Snow’s shoulder.
Jon turns defensive at first, but a part of him believes that this could be true. In the courtyard at Winterfell, a hooded horseman arrives, and upon taking the hood off, it is revealed to be Jamie Lannister. As he takes in the greatness of Winterfell, his eyes fall upon a young man in a wheelchair who stares back at a very shocked Jamie.
THE NORTH & KING’S LANDING At King’s Landing, Cersei does her Cersei thing, and continues her plan to attack the North while they’re busy fighting the enemy beyond the Wall. Euron Greyjoy returns with the Golden Army, sans elephants, and this disappoints Cersei. Greyjoy finally beds the Queen of the Iron Throne, and vows to put a prince in her - this is another quite dangerous relationship that seems to be more toxic than anything as Cersei continues her downward spiral post-break up with Jamie.
Upon Euron’s ship, Theon and company hop on and save Yara almost too easily to be taken seriously, but let’s forgive this because the moment between Yara and Theon is quite nice. In the North, Tormund and the survivors of the Wall’s desolation reach the Umber’s village, only to find blood and bodies everywhere.
They’re met with Edd who takes them to the Umber’s main hall where young Lord Umber has been dismembered and hung up in one of the spiral symbols - a message from the Night King.
The episode is the exact amount of world re-establishing that the audience needed after almost a full year without Game of Thrones. It focused on the characters and set their inner conflicts on course for the rest of the season, for the danger is not the White Walkers and the Night King, but rather the flaws of humanity, and at the end of the day, that is exactly what Game of Thrones is about.
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