It is hard to believe that after 23 years, George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series will soon be concluded. HBO’s pinnacle ratings giant will conclude its juggernaut run when it begins its final three episode run on Sunday, May 5. When “Game of Thrones” began on April 17, 2011, nobody could have possibly anticipated what a giant it would become. There have been critically-acclaimed shows, there have been shows with massive followings, there have been shows that were canceled too soon, but there really have not been any other shows like “Game of Thrones.”
Kicking off with the debut episode “Winterfell,” the eighth and final premiere sees a majority of our heroes gathering in the titular castle for their final showdown with the army of the dead, who were last seen breaking through the Wall with the Night King riding on the resurrected corpse of Daenerys’ dragon Viserion. The episode was meant to invoke spirits of the pilot when Robert Baratheon was introduced to us the first time, riding through the gates of Winterfell. Similar to that, the first meeting between Daenerys Targaryen and Sansa Stark is simmering to say the least, but the amount of character interactions that occur in this episode is legendary to say the least. That being said, there really is not much that happens plot-wise, but that is fine, as it is not needed. “Thrones” premiere episodes usually get hit with a lot of criticism concerning the fact they feel the need to be more expository than plot driven, and while this one may fall into that camp, the character meet-ups and feeling of dread concerning the true endgame is in sight. The cast of “Thrones” has always been spectacular, but the award for acting goes to John Bradley, who as Samwell Tarly had to learn from Daenerys herself about the death of his father and brother at her hands last season before revealing the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage to him. The episode was somber and quiet but also went fast when it needed to, as audiences were also treated to a little bit of King’s Landing, with Cersei Lannister rewarding Euron Greyjoy to the bed he always wanted, while Theon Greyjoy frees Yara before heading north himself.
The second episode, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” does not contain that much substantial material, outside of two major events: the arrival of Jaime Lannister in Winterfell, with the revelation that Cersei is not sending the Lannister army as she promised. After Brienne vouches for him, the two’s ever burgeoning friendship is rewarded when Jaime officially knights Brienne. This episode was also remembered for the controversial scene of Arya Stark losing her virginity to Gendry, drawing criticism from people who apparently forgot that the character of Arya Stark was over 18.
But the major bulk of the discussion returned with the third episode, and arguably the next major battle episode of the season, “The Long Night,” which finally sees the much anticipated White Walker attack on Winterfell. The episode is once again directed by Miguel Sapochnik, the director of such incredible battle episodes as “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards,” and as far as the positives go, it is certainly another incredible feat of filmmaking to be placed on the small screen. Sapochnick arguably outdoes himself, combing the claustrophobic feeling of Jon being crushed during the Battle of the Bastards with the insane terror and non-stop zombie feel of “Hardhome,” with a little traditional horror thrown in for good measure. Surprises came non-stop with dragon fire rage, but the biggest surprise? Apparently, nobody at home could see what was going on.
Despite the intense darkness generated by the episode, the first three episodes of the final season of this epic fantasy has certainly measured up to everything the fans have wanted, and the only reason is the creators are keeping true to the story that best suits these kinds of characters. Stay tuned to see what will happen in the last three episodes in the coming weeks, new episodes are released on Sundays at 9 p.m.
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