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After over a year and a half away, Game of Thrones — the most-watched show to ever air on HBO — returned last night to immense fanfare. According to some reports, as many as one billion people tuned in to last night’s season eight premiere, titled “Winterfell.” As is par for the course, critics have reacted with universal acclaim to the show’s newest episode. Here are some trends among the countless critic reviews that have already poured in. Of course, major plot spoilers lie ahead.
The plethora of reunions didn’t go to waste
As many of Game of Thrones’ long-running heroes gathered at Winterfell — the episode’s titular location — a genuine sense of thrill and fulfillment could be felt. Critics have pointed to the reunion of all the living Stark siblings as a high point of the episode, especially the scene in which Arya gleefully greets Jon Snow (and actually smiles while doing so). Among the other characters reunited were Sansa and Tyrion, Sam and Jon, and, at the very end, Jaime Lannister and Bran Stark, a boy he long ago attempted to murder. Critics have said that these plot points successfully avoided coming off as filler and added major depth to a return seen ‘round the world.
The Greyjoys were a joy
Last season, Yara Greyjoy was captured, and some fans and critics didn’t take nicely to this plot point. In “Winterfell,” Yara is rescued by her brother, Theon, himself following his own redemption arc. Some critics have cited this development as a welcome reversal of a season seven element that need never have happened.
Yara’s captor, her uncle Euron Greyjoy, also provided a well-received bit of the season eight premiere’s plot. Although Euron is thoroughly villainous, his ill will is often delivered with a wink at the audience, as it is during this episode as he attempts to sleep with Cersei. He ultimately succeeds, and some critics said his journey was enticing. Others brushed it off as insignificant.
“Winterfell” is deceptively full of plot
Some critics saw “Winterfell” as a necessary reminder that Game of Thrones often waits until later in its lengthy seasons to lay out key plot points. Others pointed to the relative lack of brutality and battles not as a reminder of this tendency, but as the only way in which the showrunners could properly focus on actual, major plot points delivered to Jon Snow.
In “Winterfell,” Samwell Tarly learns that Daenerys killed his father and brother. Samwell also tells Jon — in a development that many say a long time coming — that he is a Targaryen and the rightful heir to the iron throne. Of course, since Jon and Daenerys are in love, this news traps Jon in a cycle of incest and royal birthright, themes that are far from new to Game of Thrones. Critics have praised how subtly but vitally this development was deployed.
Unknown whereabouts were revealed, to much delight
In the midst of the many reunions that took place during “Winterfell,” the previously murky locations of many characters were established, and critics were happy to see the episode devote time to these revelations. Theon, Yara, Tormund, and Beric are all seen, along with many of the characters whose fate remained unclear at the end of last season when an undead dragon caused general chaos.
What did you like about last night’s Game of Thrones premiere? Let us know in the comments!