Winterfell (Game of Thrones episode)
|Game of Thrones episode|
|Episode no.||Season 8|
|Directed by||David Nutter|
|Written by||Dave Hill|
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Original air date||April 14, 2019|
|Running time||54 minutes|
"Winterfell" is the eighth season premiere episode of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 68th overall. It was written by Dave Hill and directed by David Nutter. It aired on April 14, 2019.
The episode centers around Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow arriving in Winterfell with Unsullied and Dothraki forces, after Jon Snow has pledged his allegiance to her. It also reunites Jon with his Stark siblings Bran and Arya for the first time since the first season's second episode.
"Winterfell" received positive reception from critics, who listed Jon Snow and Daenerys's arrival at Winterfell, Jon's long-awaited reunion with Arya, the destruction of Last Hearth, Sam's revelation to Jon Snow about his true lineage, Jaime and Bran's tense encounter, and the performances of Sophie Turner and John Bradley as highlights of the episode.
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In King's Landing
Qyburn informs Cersei Lannister that the White Walkers have breached the Wall, which pleases Cersei. Euron Greyjoy arrives with Yara Greyjoy as his prisoner and with the Golden Company. Euron uses his deeds to convince Cersei to start their relationship, and the pair have sex. Euron insists that he will impregnate Cersei, who appears to be visibly upset when he leaves the room.
In the Narrow Sea
Theon Greyjoy secretly boards Euron's flagship in the night and frees his sister Yara. Yara decides to retake the Iron Islands while Euron is distracted by matters in King's Landing, while Theon decides to journey to Winterfell to fight the undead with Daenerys and the Starks.
At Last Hearth
Tormund Giantsbane and Beric Dondarrion, having survived the fall of Eastwatch, lead their party into House Umber's seat of Last Hearth, already sacked by the dead. They encounter Eddison Tollett, who had evacuated the Night's Watch from Castle Black. They find young Lord Ned Umber, who had been evacuating Last Hearth's inhabitants, dead and impaled to a wall. Tormund declares that they must reach Winterfell before the Night King. Ned reanimates as a wight, and Beric burns him with his flaming sword.
Daenerys Targaryen arrives at Winterfell alongside Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Jorah Mormont, Varys and Missandei, with Grey Worm leading her Unsullied and Dothraki armies. Jon reunites with Bran and Daenerys is greeted by Sansa Stark, the townspeople, and the Northern lords, though the pleasantries are cut short when Bran Stark reveals to Daenerys and Jon that the Night King has reanimated Viserion and breached the Wall. Sansa has ordered the Northern lords to retreat to Winterfell to make the stand against the undead, but at council, Lyanna Mormont and the other lords express displeasure towards Jon for abandoning his position as King in the North by swearing fealty to a Targaryen. This tension is magnified when Tyrion declares that the Lannister army will soon march north too; Sansa fears that the combined forces might overstretch their supplies, but in private implies to Tyrion that she does not believe Cersei will send her army.
Arya reunites with Jon, Gendry (who is working in Winterfell's forges crafting dragonglass weapons), and the Hound. Davos Seaworth suggests to Tyrion and Varys that the Northerners could be won over by betrothing Jon and Daenerys. Jon and Daenerys ride the dragons, deepening their bond. Later, Sansa accuses Jon of bending the knee out of love for Daenerys.
Samwell Tarly meets Daenerys, who thanks him for curing Jorah of his greyscale, but after discovering his identity admits that she executed his father, Randyll, and his brother, Dickon. Bran instructs a heartbroken Samwell to tell Jon about his true Targaryen heritage, the news of which leaves Jon stunned.
Jaime Lannister arrives at Winterfell and is shocked when he encounters Bran in the courtyard, waiting for him.
The episode was written by Dave Hill, his final script of the series. The episode adapts material from the unpublished novels The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, among them the released sample chapter "The Forsaken", in which Euron Greyjoy converses with a captive member of his family aboard his ship.
The episode saw the introduction of Marc Rissmann as Harry Strickland, the commander of the Golden Company. On preparing for his role in the season, Rissmann said, "I did some research into who this person was, where he comes from, and the books are quite precise. And then you see in the scripts what is there, what are the similarities, what are the differences. So I did a bit of research on that, especially since this world was so properly thought through. It's a functioning world, and that's why it's actually so appealing."
Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm) is listed as a series regular in the opening credits for the first time in this episode; he has previously appeared as a supporting/guest actor. Actors Rob McElhenney and Martin Starr and writer Dave Hill made cameo appearances as Ironborn soldiers killed when Theon rescues Yara.
The episode was directed by David Nutter who had previously directed two episodes each in the second, third and fifth season. The outdoor Winterfell scenes were filmed at sets in Moneyglass and Magheramorne in Northern Ireland, with indoor scenes filmed at Paint Hall studios in Belfast.
"Winterfell" was viewed by 11.76 million viewers on its initial live broadcast on HBO, and an additional 5.6 million viewers on streaming platforms, for a total 17.4 million viewers.
The episode received largely positive reviews from critics. It has a 92% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 106 reviews with an average score of 7.88 out of 10. The site's consensus reads, "Though surprisingly bloodless, hard-fought reunions, bone-chilling surprises, and a welcome dose of humor help "Winterfell" set the stage for what should be an epic final season."
Sarah Hughes of The Guardian wrote, "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 (hurrah for Jon and Arya's tenderly scripted meeting)". Todd VanDerWiff of Vox praised the episode's visual quality, stating, "For as much as I grouse about Game of Thrones, it's often casually stunning in a way that no other TV show comes close to pulling off". Ron Hogan of Den of Geek similarly highlighted the episode's pacing, while also praising John Bradley who "runs through the entire gamut of emotions in a very short time on screen".
Among the negative reviews, Willa Paskin of Slate criticized the show's pace, stating "Momentum, the idea that we are hurtling toward some conclusion that will explain it all, has been so encoded into the Game of Thrones experience that in the absence of any forward motion, the show is ... kind of dull."
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