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Game Of Thrones Just Got Back Its Beating Heart

Spoilers for Game Of Thrones S08E02 follow.

A few hot-take artists have been complaining that the six-episode final season of Game Of Thrones has been spinning its wheels. The ultimate battle against the White Walkers at Winterfell is yet to begin and this chunk of the audience are baying for blood. To be fair, they’ve put up with long stretches of recent seasons doing exactly that; but when it comes to Season 8, they’re totally wrong. Because last night’s GoT is an incredible return to form that reminds us why we fell in love with this series in the first place.

With no side trips to Kings Landing (and the current throne-sitter, Cersei) to distract us, we have the privilege of spending an hour with the few surviving main characters, sharing in their triumph and their terror as the inevitable end looms on the horizon.

As the ice-zombie horde (and their pet dragon) make their way to the castle, we sit by the fire with our friends of eight long years and share stories, song and drink. We get bangin’ tunes, bangin’ dialogue, literal bangin’ and so much GD character development that our eyes brim with tears. (Pre-emptive tears, obviously, cos they’re all gonna beef it.) Oh, and some memeworthy moments that have us racing to Twitter.

Guess Arya’s bucket list has more than just murder victims on it, huh?

Stark Contrasts

What is it that makes Game Of Thrones generation-defining as a series? It’s not the jaw-dropping violence, the constant shedding of clothes, the liberal use of swear words and the possibility that anyone could drop dead at a moment’s notice. (Well, it’s not just those things.) It’s the connection we share with these people — the huge curves of their character arcs and the unbelievable hardships they’ve overcome to reach the last season. The history of Westeros and the history we have with its inhabitants.

We all assumed the Starks would triumph — that assumption was rudely toppled in S1, along with Ned Stark’s head. Since then, the family numbers have been halved and some of their sworn enemies are now their only allies. The eve of Winterfell’s defining battle sees Lannisters, wildlings, the last guy to capture Winterfell and even the fucking Hound standing together. This is genuinely brilliant storytelling.

The last few seasons kinda forgot this connection to family that we have. They maximised the amount of blood, boobs and bad words on screen and focusing on folks we didn’t really give a shit about. Now we’re back to sharp exchanges, tense stand-offs and poetic statements to back up all that good, gooey spectacle.

Death Is Forgetting

We finally know the purpose of the Night King and all his nasty bois: he intends to bring on “endless night” by killing Bran, the Three-Eyed Raven. “He wants to erase this world and I am its memory,” says Bran (humble brag, much?). This leads Samwell Tarly to muse, “That’s what death is, isn’t it? Forgetting and being forgotten.”

Boom. Thank you. There’s the thesis of the show in a sentence. In a story where death has been omnipresent — but also overcome — the dead have never been forgotten. Every character has been deeply marked by death and it’s changed them into the people we now see at Winterfell.

The three women who’ve arguably suffered most in the series — Sansa, Cersei and Daenerys — are now running this bitch. Arya went from the street urchin watching her dad die to the assassin avenging her mother and brother. Wheelchair-bound Bran basically became a time-travelling wizard. And Jaime Lannister, with the widest arc of them all, went from smug, child-crippling bastard to the wounded warrior we all know and love. (With the exception of that one heavily debated scene in S4.)

Podrick sings a haunting song echoed by Florence + The Machine (!!!) in the credits focused entirely on memory. The subject of the song, Jenny of Oldstones, is surrounded by ghosts and never wants to leave.

Me neither, Jenny. Me neither.

HBO are banking on your memory, too. In one of the ep’s most powerful moments, Davos Seaworth is handing out soup when a young girl with a facial scar demands to fight with the soldiers. If you remember Davos’ relationship with Shireen, then you (like me) were probs bawling.

There must be soup in my eyes they are hot and stingy

It’s also a not-so-subtle plea from the creators (and the characters) to stay in your memory once the show is finally over. They haven’t forgotten and they’re working hard to ensure that we won’t either.

Fuck Tradition

Game Of Thrones has always bucked the trend of predictable fantasy narratives — destiny is so much horseshit, titles mean nothing and anyone can die. Whether or not the ending lives up to that promise is yet to be seen. But thankfully, GoT‘s shoving aside other traditions as well.

Brienne’s knighthood is an incredible moment that’s so much more satisfying than her and Jaime hooking up. And not just because it leaves us the possibility of fan ship Briemund — two giants made for each other.

“Is the big woman still here?”

When I say “fuck tradition”, there’s also a different emphasis you could put on that phrase. And GoT embraced their fuck tradition by initiating Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) into Gendrya. Quick PSA to everyone flipping out — Maisie’s 22 and Arya’s 18, so chill. But also, no one asked how old Joe was — his character is 23 at this point, but he’s 31. Double standaaaaaaard.

GET. IT. GURL.

Winter Is Here

Eight years ago, I started watching Season 1 of Game Of Thrones on a friend’s recommendation. By the time S2 came out, I was halfway through A Storm Of Swords — the book that would inspire Seasons 3 and 4. I had fully succumbed to Westeros’ thrall and George R.R. Martin’s vast cast of characters were deep in my bones. They were like family.

Next week, I’m probs gonna watch that whole family get ripped to tiny bits in the biggest battle ever committed to television. And honestly I can’t wait. Finally, the show I fell in love with is back. There is absolutely nothing like Game Of Thrones and I’m ready to cosy up and see it all come to a bloody end.

Don’t miss this. Be here with us at the end of all things. The journey has been worth it.

Images: HBO, Giphy

Written by David Molloy

David Molloy is 5Why's Managing Editor, a writer for stage and screen, critic, videographer and all-round cool boi. Regular contributor and current friend of yours, maybe?

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