Warning: There are SPOILERS ahead for the first episode of season 8 of Game Of Thrones. So please only read ahead once you have watched Winterfell.
Nearly 20 months after its last episode, which saw walls fall and incest committed, Game Of Thrones finally returned to our screens early on Monday morning. But, in the immediate aftermath of its airing, it is hard to tell whether it did so with a whimper or a roar.
Of course there was so much anticipation surrounding its return that the only chance of it satisfying everyone would have been if it had started off mid-battle.
Instead, there was a leisurely pace to its first episode that felt at odds with the end of the cataclysmic events of season 7, especially since there are only 5 more episodes left and there’s so much ground to cover.
Let’s face it, Winterfell didn’t have any memorable moments. But it did make important progress and include moments that are certain to have huge consequences. The biggest of which is that Jon Snow finally found out that he is actually the son of Daenerys Targaryen’s brother Rhaeger and Lyanna Stark, the sister of Ned, and was born Aegon Targaryen.
The decision for Sam to learn that Daenerys had ordered the death of his father and brother before he told Jon this news added an extra edge and pace to the sequence, as a clearly incensed Sam pushed Jon to step up, confront the Dragon queen and take his place as the true heir to the Iron Throne.
Other than that the rest of Winterfell was actually lacking much urgency. Which was particularly surprising as Bran greeted the ceremonial arrival of Daenerys and return of Jon at the start of the episode by telling the duo, “We don’t have time for this.”
Bran then sat in the corner for the rest of it, dishing out prompts to people when required, all while waiting for Jaime Lannister to return to Winterfell. At the same time, Jon and Daenerys found a spare afternoon to go and recreate A Whole New World with dragons and snow.
However, while Winterfell was more about moving chess pieces into place, the history of Game Of Thrones had never been more present. The scenes where beloved characters were reunited or introduced to each other were all teeming with a weight and drama that was practically Shakespearean, and it was riveting to watch conflicts and friendships instantly arise.
What’s going to happen between Sansa and Daenerys? Will Theon be brave enough to fight Euron? What did Gendry make for Arya? Will Bronn actually kill Tyrion and Jaime? Is Sam over the death of his father and brother? Where the hell is the Night King and his army of the undead? What is going to happen between Jaime and Bran?
Winterfell did a good job of setting up these questions, but didn’t provide sufficient answers. And with only 5 episodes now left, that just didn’t feel like enough.