SPOILER ALERT. The world is getting smaller in the fantasy realm of "Game of Thrones."
Just look at the new opening sequence — only Winterfell and King’s Landing are featured in the iconic title scene as blocks of ice slowly work their way through the map.
Reunions abound in the first episode of the final season of the hit series. Coming off an explosive season finale, the premiere opens with Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow’s combined troops heading into Winterfell to a rather chilly welcome.
It seems the Northerners won’t — pardon the pun — warm up too easily to the new queen, even with her two full-grown dragons and impressive armies. Displeasure is evident among those who pledged to Jon Snow as King in the North.
The same could be said for Sansa Stark. Having gone through more than what she bargained for in the entire series, Sansa stands mistrustful of both Jon’s alliance with the Targaryen Queen and the faith that Tyrion, her erstwhile husband, has in the current occupant of the Iron Throne — Cersei Lannister.
Speaking of Cersei— at the end of last season, she was childless (again) and alone in King’s Landing (again) with no one else but her necromancing Hand of the Queen and an undaunted suitor in the person of Euron Greyjoy who, in his words, is one of the last remaining Greyjoys with balls.
In this season opener, Cersei acquires the army of the Golden Company along with Euron’s own forces, albeit a dwindled amount — which, by the end of yet another reunion between siblings Yara and Theon, is now entirely out of his grasp.
And maybe Euron isn’t the last remaining Greyjoy with balls. Theon’s now headed to Winterfell to join the fight. Given his history of running away when he’s needed the most, though, we’ll have to wait and see.
While Cersei’s busy building new alliances in King’s Landing, in Winterfell, meanwhile, former enemies are trying to find common ground amidst tear-jerking family reunions. Jon and Arya come together for the first time since the first season; Arya, The Hound, and Gendry are back in a scene so thick with tension that you can slice it with Valyrian steel; Jon’s meeting with his Brother in Black, Sam, goes awry as certain heritage-related things are revealed.
And yes, Jamie finally arrives in the North, only to be confronted by the all-knowing gaze of the boy he shoved out the window.
Fans will be thrilled to note that, in typical "Game of Thrones" fashion, there’s still scheming (mostly by Tyrion, Varys, and Sir Davos); dragon-riding (in more than one sense of the word— jury’s still out on the Dany-Jon combo); and plot thickening as characters who, by all logic, should be dead, make surprise appearances. (Spoiler alert, it’s Tormund “I’ve Always Had Blue Eyes” Giantsbane.)
As far as the hype goes, this first episode does live up to expectations, if only to serve fans’ thirst for the long-awaited clashing of worlds. There’s no bloodbath (yet) and the writers seem to be taking their sweet time reintroducing characters that may have been forgotten in the two-year hiatus.
However, the premiere has tell-tale signs of ramping up the action to stop it from being too boring and conversation-heavy, and it still has a lot to offer compared to some filler-like episodes in the previous season.
Missed the epic start of the highly-talked about series? Watch the encore telecast at 10 p.m. on HBO (ch 54 SD | 168 HD) in Metro Manila and (ch 402 SD | 710 HD) in regional areas, and on HBO GO.