Game of Thrones made its long-awaited return Sunday night—and if you don't want to see spoilers for the first episode of Season 8, do not read on. As the epic returned after almost two years, secrets were revealed and reunions occurred at Winterfell, with the undead army moving closer, the BBC reports. It was heavy on exposition and light on bloodshed, reviewers say, but there was a glimpse of the "carnage to come." More:
- "Constrained and claustrophobic." With "charged reunions, new conflicts, and old grudges" playing out at a fraught Winterfell, the start of the new season strongly resembled Downton Abbey, writes Jeremy Egner at the New York Times. A show long defined "by bigness and a far-flung story structure" now feels "constrained and claustrophobic, as people hash out their differences and drop revelation bombs within tight shadowy shots," he writes.
- "The end is now." With the end of the series in sight, this episode makes it clear that there won't be any "messing around," writes Sarah Hughes at the Guardian. "This was a thrilling episode with its pedal to the floor, in which new alliances were made, old ones tested and long-awaited reunions occurred," she writes. This episode, she writes, was all about the need for family. "As far back as the first series we learned that the pack survives but the lone wolf struggles. Now the Stark family are together and should be stronger for it, as, at least temporarily, are the Greyjoys."
- A "glut of reunions." Drew Goines at the Washington Post had been "hankering for a really, good, gruesome death," but the season opener was, unusually, a mostly blood-free affair. What we did get, however, was a "glut of reunions" as Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen arrived at Winterfell. "Each is exciting in its way, and many of them are uncharacteristically funny," Goines writes.
- The moment fans had been waiting for. Some fans were underwhelmed by the long-awaited reunion of Jon Snow and Arya Stark, but the fact that he trusted her with his "darkest secret"—that he came back from the dead—gave the reunion far more depth, Joanna Robinson writes at Vanity Fair. "That kind of raw honesty in a world where the Starks have learned to distrust everyone—including each other—is, truly, more emotionally profound than any teary-eyed hug might be."
- A new Dragonrider. In another long-anticipated moment, Jon Snow rode a dragon for the first time. "It happened somewhat casually," notes Matt Miller at Esquire, who looks at what Jon Snow riding a dragon could mean, besides "giving him serious firepower in the war to come." Alex Abad-Santos at Vox says the scene leaves unanswered questions, including: "Why isn’t Daenerys a little more aware of what it means that Jon is able to ride a dragon? And will she allow him to ride the dragon after he tells her he’s actually Targaryen and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne?"
- A "slow burn." This wasn't the most action-packed episode, writes Erik Kain at Forbes. "But remember this: Game of Thrones season premieres are almost always slow burns. They set the stage. They position the chess pieces," he writes. "I'm pretty sure next week will up the ante, and by Episode 3 we'll have some truly crazy stuff going on. Buckle your dragon-saddle-seat-belts people."
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