It’s finally here. After years of anticipation, hundreds of plot twists, and more character deaths than anyone can reasonably be expected to remember; the final season of Game of Thrones is upon us at last.
The first two episodes kicked off with a distinct lack of the violent action that the show has become synonymous with. But despite this, they haven’t failed to whip fans into a frenzy.
Game of Thrones is no stranger to a slow burn, but getting through two episodes with only a single named character death is new territory for the show, especially with the death in question taking place off screen. For those who may have missed it, Ned Umber (the child lord who bent the knee to Jon after the battle of the bastards) was found pinned to a wall by the Night King as part of an elaborate art project to send a message of hopelessness to the other characters.
Even though the first third of the final season has come and gone with no real action. The writers supplemented this lull with crowd-pleasing interactions between fan favourite characters and pay offs on character arcs that have been in the making since the show’s debut in 2011.
Keeping these slower episodes engaging might have seemed a challenging task for a show whose audience are both bloodthirsty and masochistic, but show runners David Benioff and Dan Weiss pulled it off with ease through writing a strong narrative that has almost swung round full circle as it has grown with its characters.
Many of the characters who gather in Winterfell to fight the Night King in the final season were there at the show’s opening in the same place. Every one of them has changed along the way and these early episodes showcase not only the combined experience these characters have gained in the journey to bring to this fight, but also how the show has matured along the way.
The show’s opening seasons are gratuitous, full of violence and nudity, and undoubtedly a lot of fun. But the episodes that open its final season are mature, and know when to hold off on nudity and bloodshed.
Episode one peaked not when the undead Ned Umber came back but when Jon Bradley delivered an outstanding performance as Samwell Tarly, finding out his father and brother were killed by fan favourite Daenerys. Episode two, on the other hand, saw its shining moment in the long overdue knighting of Brienne.
Both these moments show how far the show has come, but none as much as Arya’s sex scene. Arya who was just a little girl at the start of the first season has endured just as much as her older peers and has emerged on the other side, a hardened woman. In this tastefully shot scene, Arya takes full agency and control as she seduces Gendry and the camera focuses not on her chest as it had in the past, but instead on the scars at her side that mark the journey she’s overcome.
The first opening episodes of season eight may have been measured and mature, but it doesn’t look like the show will stay that way for long. With the undead finally at the doorstep, the final four episodes may all shape up to be some of the show’s bloodiest. After all, the pieces have finally fallen into place for a struggle that has been on the way since the wights ripped apart a group of men in the show’s very first scene. The story’s outcome might still be up in the air, but one thing is certain. A lot of beloved characters are about to die and we’re going to enjoy every second of it.
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