Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 1 Review

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The Wall That Martin Built
A review of Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode One.

By Ben Baer

The man who created the narrative should wield the pen. If you would take a man’s story, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear its final arc. And, if you cannot bear to do that well, then perhaps the story does not deserve to be told.
These are the thoughts that come to mind as we see the final season premiere of Game of Thrones. A television show that has become a phenomenon and, like many creative ventures in the fantasy and science fiction realm, has grown to Balerion sized proportions causing its creator to lose control of the reigns. George R.R. Martin wrote a master work of fantasy, but it has yet to be completed. His intricacies of foreshadowing, the appropriation of historic events into his narrative (such as the Black Dinner), and resonating lines such as Ned Stark’s thoughts on execution made a wonderful tale. Then, like a horde of white walkers, the fandom came for it.  They tore through every plot point and scrutinized every novel; they tore through the wall of foreshadowing and predicted, early on and very accurately, who the true heir to the Targaryen line would be. Perhaps it is these acts that have seemingly placed Martin into a writer’s paralysis. Whatever the reason, the show for the past two years has suffered from the absence of Martin’s source material, and the premiere of the final season exemplifies this absence.

Horn Blast One… Brothers Returning to the Watch

Game of Thrones has a complex cast of characters, which is the most compelling part of Season 8, episode 1. Everyone seems to be drawn to Winterfell, where we anticipate a final climactic battle.  It is also very interesting to see how the opening sequence has involved. A vast map that once spanned continents is now focused on the intricacies inside these locations. All of these characters and their story arcs have been building to fewer and fewer places. No one would have dreamt during season one while riding with the khalasar that someday Dany would find her way to Winterfell.

There is also a striking parallel plot structure between this episode and the very first episode.  The episode begins with Daenerys entering Winterfell like King Robert long ago. It also ends with Jaime Lannister interacting with Bran, but in an obviously inverted dynamic.

There is a strong amount of dread and mystery developed in the scene where the young lord is stapled to the wall in a white walker fire swastika of doom. This symbol has been left before, and leaves a solid enigma for the viewers to contemplate. If you wander into the fandom there are a number of theories regarding this, including some who have said it is a recreation of the Targaryen crest; what this could possibly mean has intriguing implications.

Horn Blast Two…. Enemies Approaching

While there are some enigmas to contemplate, this episode also has various obvious moments of pandering to fans. For example, there was the scene where Dany and Jon recreate How to Train Your Dragon by taking a leisurely ride, despite the fact that there is a horde of enemies approaching. Let us also not forget that the Night King has at his disposal surface-to-dragon zombifying spears!

This episode was also filled with inconsistent and irrelevant characters. Everything which occurs at King Landing now seems insubstantial, especially when it contains the scenery-chewing character of Euron Greyjoy. We are left with Cersei’s line about, “ If you want a whore buy her. If you want a queen…,” apparently wait for about 30 seconds. Their whole relationship development has been painful to watch.

Speaking of Greyjoys, who cares about them whatsoever? Go to Winterfell; don’t; set sail for Asshai; let the Iron Islands sink into the sea- this arc is stale. Another superfluous story line for fan service is the dilemma of Bronn. This sellsword has been impishly fun to watch from the days he kicked a knight out the moon door and was promised a castle, but squeezing him into this premier seems like another simple fan service. It was also a cheap excuse to squeeze in nudity, which HBO has had to seemingly had to leave out lately due to the inconveniences of having to cover actual plot.

Horn Blast Three… The Others

The place where a lack of source material becomes most obvious is in the clumsy dialogue upon which the exposition has become so dependent.  As said before, we had lines in the first season which were literature: “He who passes the sentence should swing the sword…,”  as well as, “A mind needs a book like a sword needs a whetstone.”  This episode has not one, but TWO different jokes about people’s balls. In fact, the first testicular crack is delivered by Tyrion himself, and it is almost as if the show has become self-aware of its own inadequacies as Sansa says to him, “I used to believe you were the cleverest man alive.” Perhaps he was more clever when the writers were more capable.  Jokes about gonads aside, the entire episode is filled with other groaner lines.  Whether it be a joke about blue eyes, tongue-in-cheek lines about Bran’s powers, or whining about not having elephants, much of the dialogue comes off like the nineties sitcom version of what is actually a rather gritty narrative.

The Wall Comes Down

Criticism of the dialogue aside, one can take heart that this saga is reaching its end.  It will be captivating if the show finds the shock and tragedy which won over its viewers in the past. Westeros has taught us that it is an unsafe world. Knowing that this is the last season, we may say goodbye to a number of characters before the last episode and that can have the potential to be both captivating and heartbreaking.  One can hope that at some point we will see this band of characters fight a desperate last stand at Winterfell versus the Others.  No matter what happens, night gathers and the end of our Watch begins. We are the watchers. We shall pledge to watch the next episode, and all other episodes to come until our Watch has ended.

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