Review: Like a dragon joyride, 'Game of Thrones' season opener thrills

Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The brief exchange unexpectedly led to the most breathtaking moments of the season opener. The dragons soared and dived at breakneck speeds over frozen peaks and forested valleys. She laughed as he held on for dear life, their capes flapping furiously behind them. The couple appeared victorious before ever stepping on, or flying over, the great battlefield.

But even when riding the low-tech option of horses across the North, the power couple staged a formidable entrance when they first arrived at Winterfell. The Targaryens had a massive army of Unsullied soldiers and Dothraki warriors in tow and were flanked by a cabal of advisers and swordsmen that included the queen's hand Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and The Hound (Rory McCann).

Khaleesi was a vision of chilled beauty in her white tunic and silver hair. Snow, the King in the North, was the perfect swarthy counterpart in his dark leather and furs. Too bad the lovers will probably end up killing each other for the throne.

Bran broke his million-mile stare to greet Snow and his new queen, though it wasn't their arrival he'd been anticipating. He'd been parked by the gates for days awaiting "an old friend." When the visitor did eventually materialize in the last few seconds of the show, it was a signal for "Game of Thrones" fans that this season is going to be an explosive if not vengeance-filled delight, and it promised to avenge or heal wounds inflicted as far back as Season 1.

Even in the course of one episode, the smallest of actions contributed to a butterfly-effect chain of events that kept moving the throne from one character's pocket to the next.

Before the show's halfway mark, an altered Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) finally reclaimed his manhood after years of powerlessness by taking action against those who betrayed him and captured his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan).


And by the 54-minute episode's close, Snow learned what we've known for years -- that he's not Ned Stark's son but Aegon Targaryen, a descendant of the mad king and direct heir to the Iron Throne. It's a lot for Snow to process, especially since it means his lover and queen is also his aunt and direct competitor for the realm's ultimate seat of power.

The common goal of all the characters left standing should be to unite and fight the encroaching Night King and his army of White Walkers before they literally devour mankind. Season 8's action, however, shows how the characters' singular motivations for power may prove a bigger threat to survival than the undead, especially since the throne's current occupant, Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), isn't exactly a team player.

It's also, of course, Westeros' year of the woman since so many of the female characters in the show are poised to seize power. But that doesn't mean they get along in Season 8.

Lady of Winterfell Sansa affected a cold, hard stare when Snow introduced her to Daenerys. She doubts the Dragon Queen's loyalty to the North because the Targaryens are sworn enemies and looks as though she'd rather be in the company of Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), the ex she fed to a pack of starving dogs.


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