The Great War has come, the Wall has fallen and the Night King’s army of the dead marches towards Westeros. The end is here, but who will take the Iron Throne?
Since the livestream is a less planned-out way of covering the episode than the the more scripted videos, some summarising and additional thoughts can be found below.
Overall, a typical first episode that reminds you of where everyone is and what they are up to. Nothing spectacular, but also fairly inoffensive. It is strange, though, that even the final season (with just 6 episodes in total!) starts with this kind of establishing episode. I would have expected some more immediate urgency to underscore how near the end we are.
There’s a lot of focus on creating tension between various characters, which to me suggests that they either want to delay the final confrontation with the Night King or that there will be other conflicts after that is done. Of course, given their track record, it is always possible that the tension is a school of red herrings. It certainly feels like it is built on several characters all of a sudden acting like petulant teenagers.
Jon is really the only character who is acting sensibly and talking about what is actually important (though Tyrion, Davos and Varys also try, but they think about the future after the war). Sansa complains about not knowing how to feed the allies he’s brought, and while she has a point when it comes to the dragons, I am pretty sure she did expect living allies and they do tend to eat stuff. Even Bran decides that potentially sowing discord between Jon and Daenerys before they confront the Night King is a good idea! I know some will speculate that he does this for a reason, but I honestly doubt it. They just wanted Jon to find out early on, so Bran had to nudge Sam to tell him.
The less that is said about King’s Landing, the better. The almost empty throne room is foreboding and makes Cersei look like a proper evil queen in a fairytale castle, where all the servants have been turned into stone already. But she looks every bit as constipated as before, the only thing that gets her a little excited is the thought of elephants, but then she has to make do with Euron.
I also mention this in the video, but it certainly looks like Chekov’s huge dragonglass axe and Chekov’s dragonglass spear made an appearance in this episode. One of them must be for unViserion. Perhaps it is death by spear twice for him, or perhaps the spear is for the Night King (though if so, I doubt it will kill him as I don’t think that is Arya’s job). If the axe is for unViserion (rather than something other undead, like the Mountain), I expect that the Hound will be sacrificing himself to save someone.
Speaking of the dragonglass, the idea of melting dragonglass to make weapons is probably the stupidest part of the episode, though it gets fierce competition from more improbable dragon riding without a saddle. But given that the episode is, as I said above, largely inoffensive (characters acting stupid/immature to build tension being the main writing issue), I would score it somewhere around 6, maybe 6.5. I like Jon (I usually like Kit Harington’s Jon, though part of it may be that he, too, is inoffensive), the dragons look fantastic (most of the time, a little dodgy when Jon and Daenerys are close to their heads on the ground), the call-back to the first episode with the arrival was a nice touch and the part in Last Hearth does a good job of Martin-style fear/horror until it goes a bit overboard at the end.