‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 premiere: Family reunion and reunion and reunion



Season 8 of Game of Thrones premiered on Sunday.

Well, at least Jon Snow is happy again, because I’m not.

Season eight of “Game of Thrones,” the supposed epic close to an epic fantasy series, opens with a kid doing a lame American Ninja Warrior routine through Winterfell. Who is this kid? How is he so nimble hopping stepping stones through a river? Apparently, it doesn’t matter, because Game of Thrones just pans to Arya as soon as the kid arrives at his destination.

This throwaway character, used for the sole purpose of moving the camera through Winterfell, marks the beginning of an overblown season premiere. Through the eyes of Arya, we watch a gloried credits scene in which Game of Thrones parades one group of main characters past another group of main characters. It’s a boring reunion, and unfortunately, it’s only the first of many to come.

About half the premiere is taken up by old friends getting back together. Up until now, Game of Thrones has nailed its reunion scenes. We wait with baited breath as the Starks and Lannisters circle each other, nipping at each others’ heels until they run within striking distance. However, with so many people meeting each other or reuniting at the same time, they all lose impact.

Except for a weird flirtation between Gendry and Arya, basically every reunion goes as expected. Sure, Samwell has a wrench thrown into his narrative that charges his revelation of heritage to John Snow, but who else was going to tell Snow about his heritage besides his best friend book nerd?

Thankfully, the episode does bring in one new element that pays off to great effect: the new, preteen Lord Umber. I’m not one for meta moments, but it’s absolutely hilarious to watch Umber confusedly try to address the leadership of Winterfell, a town with about ten different leaders of questionable hierarchy. In true Game of Thrones fashion, he’s killed off almost immediately in a blaze of glory with one of the show’s most striking visuals ever. There’s no doubt that Umber is one of the best single-episode characters the show has ever brought, temporarily, to light.

The show’s strengths are still in force, too. Tyrion and Tormund remain hilarious, Jon and Danaerys remain ridiculously attractive, and dragons are pretty nifty to look at. Game of Thrones has so much at its fingertips, and hopefully the premiere is simply a demonstration of those hands bringing its pieces back into play.

With the last few seasons prizing style over substance, the series needs to continue the rebound that its last season’s closure signaled. Episode one is not a disaster, but it’s far from the rebound that viewers deserve.