After 595 days audiences around the world were blissfully dropped back into the World of Ice and Fire as the long-awaited premiere of Game of Thrones at last aired on HBO. I attended one of what I am sure were tens of thousands of watch parties organized everywhere Thrones fans can be found. There were high hopes and grand expectations.
The premiere did not disappoint.
*A NEW BEGINNING*
There were screams of excitement and shock and joy from the moment the opening credits began, not just because the show was back, or the emotional resonance we fans feel from the stringed instruments bringing Ramin Djawadi’s theme to life, but because it was different! For the first seven seasons, the opening credits have remained largely the same, the only difference being how certain locations on the map were displayed, but the animation was generally the same. For this episode, we start off at the now-destroyed Wall that had for thousands of years kept the armies of the dead at bay. We see animation reminiscent of tiles flipping from white to blue, indicating the path of the Night King’s army as it advances south towards the characters we’ve come to love and hate for the past eight years. Along this path, we see a new location for the first time- The Last Hearth, home of the Umbers who were loyal bannermen to the Starks for thousands of years.
The point of view streaks past, outpacing the armies of wights and focusing on Winterfell, and instead of simply seeing an overhead view of the castle and its grounds as we have so many times before, we are taken on a journey into the great hall and down into the crypts where the Kings of Winter lie at peace in their tombs…for now.
We then see a new side of the once-familiar astrolabe that graced the credits for so long, usually only showing the sigils of various Houses, but now depicting scenes of violence that are very peculiar. The very first thing we see is, to my eyes anyway, an engraving of an undead dragon wreaking havoc on what can only be the capital, which backs up a theory of mine that the Night King will skip the highly-anticipated Battle of Winterfell and go straight for King’s Landing and the million-plus residents to add to his ever-growing army of the undead, creating an inescapable pincer movement, trapping our characters in the middle of the two invading forces. We also get to see what looks like a dire wolf on one side of the second engraving, with something I think looks like a wolf with a noose around its neck and a body full of arrows, and a figure holding the head of a wolf on the right side. Will a member of House Stark perish in the upcoming episode, or is this a scene long since past?
We are then treated to a view of King’s Landing in a similar way that we got to see Winterfell, as we zoom down into the Tower of the Hand, into the dungeons where the scorpion ballista and the skulls of the Targaryen dragons now reside, up into the throne room where we see the Iron Throne with the familiar Lannister lion behind it in all its glory.
Then we get one last look at the astrolabe, and what we seew is astounding. There are three small dragons flying around a battlefield, and a fourth dragon, equal to the size of the other three combined is in the foreground. Now, we’ve only ever seen three dragons – Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion. There are rumors of a giant ice dragon beneath Winterfell, but no one has ever really given much credence to that. Maybe it’s time we did.