The Final Chapter: Winterfell

Zachary Bahar, Assistant News Editor

For the last decade, fans around the world have watched the plotting, betrayal, loves and deaths of the Starks, Lannisters, Targaryens and many, many others. After debuting in 2011, Game of Thrones won both popular and critical acclaim, earning itself countless awards. The adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has rightfully earned its position as one of the best television series of all time.

But, as we know, all good things must come to an end and, sadly, Game of Thrones is no different.

In honor of the conclusion of this television powerhouse, I will be diving into the last six-episodes of Game of Thrones, analyzing them, offering my thoughts and rating each episode on a 10-point scale.

Spoilers are coming; you have been warned.

Season 8, Episode 1: Winterfell

To be blunt, this episode is lacking.

To live up to the massive amount of hype and promotion before its release, the payoff would have had to be enormous, something that the episode comes far from doing.

While it does have some spectacular aerial shots and awe-inspiring CGI dragons, it lacks the story needed to make these visual points valuable.

The episode begins with Queen Danaerys Targaryen and Lord Jon Snow entering the gates of Winterfell — the army of Unsullied and Dothraki that they bring stretching for miles as the central characters end up within the castle’s courtyard.

Jon reunites with a family he hasn’t seen in nine years and the audience can see pain on the faces of the surviving Starks after all the horror and death they have experienced. The long-awaited reunion between Arya Stark and Jon is well worth the wait.

As the episode continues, the Golden Company, an infamous army of sellswords, arrives in King’s Landing, Arya has reunions of her own, tensions between Sansa Stark and Jon over the loyalty each one has to Danaerys and to the North, Jon learning the truth of his royal parentage and the destruction left behind by the White Walkers and their Army of the Dead.

The episode had a lot to live up to as after waiting 575 days since the season 7 finale, fans were eagerly expecting news from Westeros. Who will take the Iron Throne? Who will live and who will die? Theories have circulated for years, and with only six episodes in the season, surely each one must be packed in order to wrap up the web of stories Martin and the showrunners have created.

But despite that, literally nothing happens in this episode.

The entire hour consisted of awkward reunions, bizarre, poorly timed dialogue and recaps of things the audience already knew or didn’t care to see more of.

Could you claim that it does its job and sets up for the season? It does lay the groundwork for the rest of the season, but compared to other episodes with the same purpose, it is weak.

Watch this episode alongside one alluded to multiple times, Season 1, Episode 1: Winter is Coming. Despite the similar structure of the episodes, the entrance of a southern court to Winterfell and the amount of story and character foundations laid in the pilot makes this episode look empty by comparison. The first episode introduces the characters that remain central 8 seasons later; nothing in this episode comes anywhere close.

The two redeeming scenes are the three of the final ones in which the few remaining members of the Night’s Watch meet at the Last Hearth, the seat of House Umber, to find every man in the castle dead and the body of the young Lord Umber dead on the wall.

The scene builds tension and shows the danger that the North will soon face; it shows the death and terror that the White Walkers bring and the threat that they pose.

The stare between Jaime Lannister and Bran Stark that closes the episode is also a great scene. The impact that these characters had on each other, despite not seeing each other since the pilot, is massive.  The look on their faces said it all. The amount of pure emotion shown on Samwell Tarly’s face when he learns about his father’s death also steals the show.

Despite this, the amount of wasted time in the episode is enough to make me angry. The showrunners have five episodes to finish a story 20 years in the making (granted one they already messed up in past seasons). Do they not owe it to their audience to finish the show as strong as it started? I think they do, and while the “largest battle in cinematic history” may be exciting, it shouldn’t be the resolution to a story about so much human drama and emotion.

According to Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire is about “the human heart in conflict with itself,” something that has been lost with the simplistic and abridged versions of events the show presents.

I hope that the show can give us a satisfying ending, but I fear that it will not.

I give Winterfell 5.5 Missing Elephants out of 10.