After near-manic anticipation, which included truly horrifying cross promotion on Fox Footy last week, the final season of Game of Thrones loped on to our screens like a dire wolf on Monday.
But winter came to Australian fans of the hit season trying to watch the first episode throughout the night when Foxtel’s streaming service went into meltdown.
It was most-hyped event to come to Foxtel Now, but the service could not cope with the extra demand it had courted, drawing frustration and downright panic in some disappointed fans.
— Jamie Q Roberts (@Jamieqroberts) April 15, 2019
Trying to subscribe to watch GOT but ur registration landing page URL is broken 😡😡😡
I am getting "service is not available"❌❌
The foxtel now app is also down❗❗❗❗ pic.twitter.com/HeOWXwBzhJ
— ⚒ القبطان فلوكي ⚓ (@lebanesefloki) April 15, 2019
The frosty reception by some had begun earlier in the day when viewers across the globe logged in to watch. HBO was under siege after two services crashed just as the premiere screened at 11am Monday.
For those who did get to watch, the season opener gave us ample indication of how much we are going to miss it.
As the preceding episode concluded, Sansa (Sophie Turner) stared out over the Winterfell battlements with Arya (Maisie Williams) and recalled her father’s credo: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf falls but the pack survives”.
The opening scenes of the series debut provide a vivid reminder of how ferocious the reduced Stark pack remains, as the armies assemble in Sansa’s wintry kingdom.
But it isn’t the positioning of the various regiments that is the focus of the episode, but the repositioning of the characters’ relationships.
Most central to this is Sansa, who has transformed utterly from perpetual victim to a watchful alpha-wolf, asserting her authority through quiet, but deliberate growling. This, of course, puts her on a collision course with a certain dragon queen.
Other highlights included:
- Sansa’s reunion with her ex-husband Tyrion (Peter Dinklage):
Tyrion: “Last time we spoke was at Joffrey’s wedding. Miserable affair.”
Sansa: “It had its moments.”
- The depth and warmth on Arya’s and Jon’s (Kit Harrington) love for each other spilling over as they reunite. Arya’s new status as an ice-cold assassin has some limits, it would appear. Strangely enough, her first meeting with ‘The Hound’, Sandor Clegane, since she tried to kill him was almost as warm and respectful (in its own way) as Sandor (Rory McCann) noted: “You’re a cold little bitch, aren’t you? I guess that’s why you’re still alive.”
- At King’s Landing, Cersei’s (Lena Headey) cynical coupling with Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) was even more disturbing than her sex scenes with her brother Jaime last season.
- Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) comically transactional four-way orgy, interrupted by Qyburn (Anton Lesser) in order to commission him for another murder at Cersei’s behest – this one unthinkable.
- The airborne excursion of Jon and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) to exercise a pair of homesick dragons. As the couple prepared for some frolicking, Rhaegal and Drogon glared at Jon as if summoning flames in their throats. If Jon can succeed past that bit of performance anxiety, he deserves the seven kingdoms and more.
- The horrific image of young Lord Ned Umber, pinned to the wall of Last Hearth, surrounded by a ghastly spiral of amputated arms. The scene provided the jump scare we had been waiting for, presaging further horrors to come as the Night King’s army slaughters its way south.
- Jaime’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) absence from the episode was itself a factor, delayed as it was until his arrival at Winterfell in the final scene. Throwing back his hood Jaime found himself face to face with Bran, and another long-overdue showdown looms. But for once Jaime was secondary to the political machinations, as was Tyrion for that matter. The real political moving and shaking was exercised by Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Samwell (John Bradley).
- Sam weaponising the revelation to Jon about his true lineage (to turn him against Daenerys, executioner of his father and brother) provides a foretaste of the influence he and Bran will wield throughout this season.
- And if further clues were needed, this exchange brilliantly captures the rivalry between Sansa and Daenerys as the key factor directing the action of Season 8:
Sansa: “When I ensured our stores would last through winter, I didn’t account for Dothraki, Unsullied and two full-grown dragons. What do dragons eat anyway?”
Daenerys: “Whatever they want.”
Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy few nights.
Dr Paul Salmond has lectured and published on popular film