The Atlantic

Game of Thrones Makes Time for Love Before War

Three Atlantic staffers discuss “Winterfell,” the first episode of Season 8.
Source: HBO

Every week for the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, three Atlantic staffers will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners were made available to critics in advance this year, we’ll be posting our thoughts in installments.

Spencer Kornhaber: Game of Thrones’ ending has apparently put David Benioff and D. B. Weiss in the wistful mind-set of a high-school-yearbook editor. How else to explain this premiere’s doling out of superlatives? Jon Snow called the late Ned Stark the “most honorable” man he ever met, which is awkward because Sam was telling him that Ned had lied all his life. Euron Greyjoy was named “most arrogant” by Cersei Lannister in the sole compliment she could muster after the Greyjoy pick-up artist asked for postcoital feedback. Arya titled Sansa the “smartest person,” and Sansa in turn said that Tyrion was formerly the cleverest person she ever knew. (He lost his honorific by believing a promise from Cersei, the least trustworthy person in this realm and any other.)

This premiere might not rack up many superlatives when all the episodes are accounted for, though. After a two-year gap and a dragon’s-feast worth of hype, fans probably wanted grand plot movements. Instead, they got a buffet of inevitabilities (Daenerys arriving in Winterfell; Jon learning of his parentage), some spooky but short set pieces (the SEAL Team Six–like rescue of Yara; the pinwheel of severed arms), and one long sequence of lighthearted dragon flying that evoked Harry Potter seeking a Snitch. Yet I’d argue that this was the best episode in a long time. After channel surfed between far-flung battlefields, looks to have re-centered itself in human relationships and a concrete time space.

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