THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON 8 EPISODE 1
Reunions, doubts, and despair returned with episode 1 of 'Game of Thrones' Season 8, and as the HBO series begins its journey to its end, there is a lot more at stake in the finale season than just a good storyline. Following the events of season 7, season 8 opens with a subtle reminder of season 1 as everything begins to come to a complete circle as one more Southerner marches North. Only this time, instead of a rebel King, it is a rebel Queen who is striving to take her place on the Iron Throne but, in order to rule her kingdom in peace, she has to accompany the King of the North for their last battle against the Night King.
Season 8 opened with the North preparing for the arrival of a foreigner and as it always happens, we get the glimpse of all that accumulated nervous excitement through the face of a child; a Northern boy who runs through the crowd and climbs a tree to get a look at the new ruler who is entering their land. Not only are we reminded of Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran Stark's (Isaac Hempstead Wright) charged up pursuit to see Robert's army in Season 1, but we are actually assured on the show when the camera slowly grabs Arya's face as she looks at the boy, the first main character to appear on Season 8.
Through Arya's presence in that one scene, our focus gradually shifts to meeting the others including Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who ride side by side followed by the Hound (Rory McCann) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie). Arya's reactions are almost a summarized version of how these foreigners might be treated when they arrive in Winterfell. Arya is pleased to see Gendry well and alive, as much as she is both dissatisfied but relieved to see the Hound riding back to her home. However, she is immediately troubled on seeing Jon Snow with Daenerys but is unable to contain her happiness upon seeing her brother after so long.
What was quite significant in this entire scene was Arya's presence as the silent spectator who merges with the crowd, refusing to play the royal like the rest of her siblings. A lot like Arya, Bran too resumed his role as the silent spectator but this time, he was also playing the role of a soothsayer. Bran knew what would happen once all the foreigners would arrive at Winterfell and he silently watched them seep into their lives and begin to create a turmoil within the Houses, just as expected. The most significant instance of this turmoil was Daenerys' arrival. Moments into it, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is told by the Dragon Queen that the person to whom they have pledged their loyalty is actually the murderer of his father and brother.
This is immediately followed up with another tense moment when Sam reveals to Jon Snow his real identity as Aegon Targaryen. The two brief encounters which Sam had with them was like a clarion call for an upcoming crisis which will surely take a toll upon the budding romance between Daenerys and Jon. The couple remained the center of attention throughout the entire episode, be it the commoners in the North or the Hand of the Queen who tries to perceive the situation as a suitable opportunity to reunite the North and the South. On the other hand, Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) blatant declaration about the Lannisters marching North actually points out his urgency to stand up at the time of emergency and in this case, to regain favor as the Hand of the Queen.
Tyrion's transformation from someone who kept his hands off worldly affairs unless asked for involvement to a man who steps up in the need of the hour is a stark reminder of the former Hand of the King, Ned Stark (Sean Bean), who too had stood up to support the king when all were against him. While episode 1 began to slowly open one chapter after the other, it also gave us a brief prelude to Jon's upcoming transition as a Targaryen when he rode Rhaegal the dragon and that scene almost epitomized the title, 'A Song of Ice and Fire'.
Episode 1 was nothing more than an act of laying down the carpet and pulling up the curtains for the play to take place. While every character took their respective seats in the story, it prepared the audience for the upcoming events which will mark the beginning of the end of 'Game of Thrones'.
'Game of Thrones' Season 8 Episode 2 will air on HBO on April 2.