April 15, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Game of Thrones”



Concerns have been as high as expectations for the final season of GAME OF THRONES.  Season 7, the first with little recourse to George R. R. Martin’s novels due to the lagging rate of his writing, was generally considered a warning of trouble ahead, with a pace so accelerated that it seemed series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss couldn’t get out of Westeros fast enough, and more emphasis on spectacle than human drama.  When it was announced that the last season would consist of only 6 episodes (4 of them super-sized to around 80 minutes each), those tendencies seemed to be confirmed.

Tonight’s season 8 premiere, though, written by Co-Producer Dave Hill and directed by David Nutter, was a return to the values that made Thrones great in the first place.  “Return” here was the literal organizing principle of the episode.  The bulk of the action brought most of the major characters back to Winterfell, where the story had originally begun, and it was full of long-awaited reunions:  Jon Snow (Kit Harington) with his siblings–well, cousins, but they don’t know that yet–Sansa (Sophie Turner), Arya (Maisie Williams) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), as well as with his old pal Sam (John Bradley), not to mention Arya with The Hound (Rory McCann), Arya with Gendry (Jon Dempsie), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) with Sansa, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) with his sister Yara (Gemma Whalen), and on and on.  The opening sequence of the episode was even staged to directly recall the start of the pilot, as a young Winterfellian aped little Bran’s attempt to get a good view of the entering army, in this case that of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) rather than Robert Baratheon.

Even more gratifyingly, while there were sequences of vast scale, including Jon’s first dragon ride, the Night King and his White Walkers were off-screen, and the focus was entirely on the complications of the living.  (Although HBO was willing to write big checks for the final hours of its magnum opus, apparently they drew the line at elephant soldiers, a loss that brought meta-complaints from Cersei (Lena Headey)).  A major endgame was brought into play when Sam told Jon that far from being a bastard, Jon was actually the true heir to the Iron Throne, putting him into direct conflict with his Queen and love Daenerys.  Cersei furthered her schemes by permitting Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) to share her bed.  The episode ended with another giant callback to the pilot, as Bran (or whatever’s left of the human inside Bran’s overworldly head) locked eyes with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the man who threw him out of a window and left him paralyzed.

The cast, as great an ensemble as any series has ever had, were locked into their iconic performances, with especially sharp turns from Clark, Turner, Williams and Bradley.  (Isn’t it time, though, for Tyrion to regain his strategic mojo?  He’s been a step behind for seasons now.)  The fact that most of the major characters are now in the same location allowed for a quick pace that didn’t seem rushed.  Nutter also pulled off one of the show’s all-time jump-shocks, when a seemingly dead Night King victim shrieked into sudden undeadness.

With only 5 episodes left to tie up a multitude of stories, it’s far from certain that Game of Thrones will stick the landing.  The premiere, though, suggests that Benioff and Weiss are on the King’s Road, and that they and their creative partners know where they’re heading.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."