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Fantasy-Faction Game of Thrones Discussion: Season 8, Episode 1

*Spoilers*

Watch through Season 8, Episode 1 before reading!

In March I posted a poll in the Fantasy-Faction Facebook group asking people to name their all-time favorite fantasy serial (either TV or streaming). HBO’s Game of Thrones ran away with the number one spot, garnering almost twice as many votes as the number two series, Fox’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Favorite Show Chart - Winning Game of Thrones

That’s not really a surprise, given the show took over for The Sopranos as HBO’s flagship series. Although, for fantasy lovers, it is a pleasant surprise to see a fantasy series replace a contemporary gangster drama as the number one show on a subscription-based TV network. Who knew dragons and blue-eyed ice zombies could become so mainstream? Yet they have. Across the globe, 17.4 million people tuned in or streamed the season eight premiere on Sunday, April 14, and the number of viewers is expected to mount dramatically as everybody who DVRed the episode gets round to watching it.

Season Eight Opening Title

Why is the show so popular? Obviously, it’s due to solid writing and performances, as well as the political and moral complexity of George R.R. Martin’s narrative. It probably helps boost the show’s viewership that many people believe Martin will never finish writing the books, and the only chance we’ll have to see how the story ends is by watching what GOT producers David Benioff and Daniel Weiss choose to show us. As Fantasy-Faction member Lynn Kempner wrote in our Game of Thrones discussion group:

“At this time, the HBO series is all we have to turn to. I have my own theories on The Winds of Winter and why we haven’t seen its publication, but that’s an entirely different discussion. It is true though, that many of us despair of ever seeing the completion of the book series. HBO has moved so far off of the book’s story arc that they’ve written their own version of A Song of Ice and Fire. Millions of viewers are more than happy to take any version at this point. The story basics are compelling, and the characters, those left alive, have their hooks deep under our skin now. Personally, I’ve been enjoying the screen version as much as the books.”

Here, I disagree that the overall story arc between the show and the books is all that different. Sure, the show has conflated some characters and plotlines and introduced completely separate tracks (the Dorne subplot differs wildly between the books and the show, and is much more satisfying in the books), but the show always hits the same major events and turning points as the existing books, so I have confidence that the overall story outcomes will remain the same. In fact, Martin denied that the show and book series will have different endings in a 60 Minutes interview that aired April 14, 2019. Whew!

However it’s going to turn out, Fantasy-Faction has its share of ardent fans who have come together in a Facebook forum dedicated to discussing each episode as it airs. Over the past week we’ve shared memes and videos, jokes, and speculation the way superfans love to do. Our thoughts and discussions are going to be a regular feature here on the Fantasy-Faction website while season eight runs.

Responses to the season eight premiere were enthusiastic, as summed up by these comments:

Lynn Kempner

It is the resolution we crave that is the biggest draw. We’ve been emotionally invested in this for years after all. The reunions were fantastic, and there were some laugh-out-loud moments that I loved. Episode one, season eight was satisfying on so many levels. So much is revealed in answer to all the questions we have been asking ourselves, and the resolution, or the beginning of it, is something we’ve been chasing for ten years. I was very excited about the episode and I wasn’t disappointed. Even the signature CGI lead-in intro has changes that are breathtaking enough to make you watch it twice. If episode one is any indication, it’s going to get more complex than we could’ve hoped for.

Sarah O’Brien

I thought that overall the show was fantastic. I loved all the reunions taking place from Sansa and Tyrion to Jamie and Bran. I can’t wait for next week!

Dana Tasich

I read Game of Thrones in 1996 when it was published. I’m very excited to have an ending after twenty-three years, finally!

What else did members have to say?

Best Line

John Kang: “I’ve always had blue eyes!”

Reunions

John Kang: Arya’s various reunions made the episode worth it.

A.M. Justice: I was hoping SOMEBODY would notice Arya when they were riding past during the opening. But as a bit of storytelling, I loved it…it showed how she’s still a girl, that she’s excited to see all these people she cares about, even while being a ruthless and remorseless murderer.

Dana Tasich: I wanted Jon to see her and jump off his horse! I even told my TV, “Get off your horse Jon!!” That would have been great.

David Charlton: I thought the rescue of Yara Greyjoy was a bit too easy, but I guess while the boss is away dallying with the queen… :/

A.M. Justice: And where did those ships come from? Did they steal some back?

Melissa A Mattes: Theon’s ships for the rescue were the ones from Yara’s fleet that refused to join their uncle when he showed up last season. The same ones whose crews Theon recruited at the end of the last season. Theon’s scene with Jon (You are both a Greyjoy and a Stark!) followed by his fight with the Iron Islanders on the beach just happened to be one of my personal favorites, so it was easy for me to remember even twenty months later!

Sarah O’Brien: Sure the rescue of Yara was rushed and left with lots of holes but I’m excited to have Theon heading back to Winterfell.

Little Lord Burning Boy and the Night King’s Sigil

David Charlton: That burning boy scene was on a par with some of the scariest horror movies. Very Guillermo del Toro.

John Kang: I totally knew what was coming, and it still made me jump.

A.M. Justice: The pattern of the legs was like a sea creature—some sort of star fish. It was kind of beautiful, while being horrifying of course.

David Charlton: Exactly. It’s what put me in mind of Pan’s Labyrinth.

John Kang: It’s the same pattern the Night King leaves all over the place.

Clélie Rich: It’s the same image they created at the Fist of the First Men. Mormont said something like, “always the artists.” Got to be significant.

White Walker Pattern S3E3

David Charlton: The Starks have wolves, the Lannisters have lions, the Night King has his Lovecraftian snowflake.

LM Towton: Is it just me or is there some similarity between the spiral symbol and the Targaryen sigil? Funny when the Children of the Forest drew the same spirals in the cave at Dragonstone, makes me wonder if the sigil was inspired by it.

A.M. Justice: Looking at the pattern, it’s a GALAXY. GRRM has said that the weird seasons will be explained by the end of the series. I wonder if there is a scifi element here…

John Kang: I’ve suspected that might be the case! Maybe The First Men are aliens.

A.M. Justice: Or the humans are the aliens.

Dragonflight

A.M. Justice: Jon and Dany’s dragon ride reminded me of the film Avatar. “I bank so hard, Jake Sully.”

Cisco Javier Estrada: The How to Train Your Dragon theme immediately played in my head when I watch Dany and Jon riding dragons together.

John Kang: The way the dragons set that up, it makes me wonder if they have grand plans, as well.

Melissa A Mattes: The dragons and Targaryens are magically linked…. I wouldn’t be surprised if the dragons have to lend their magic in order for Daenerys to conceive—to override the Dothraki witch’s curse. I think they approve of Jon/Aegon, and I expect Dani may be expecting soon…

A.M. Justice: That’s a really interesting idea. As for any concerns about madness coming from close relatives—it’s worth noting that the difference between aunt and nephew is the same is first cousins. They’re second degree relatives, not first. It’s close, but it’s not the same as first-degree unions between siblings or parents-children (eww).

Conflicts

David Charlton: I thought Dany was being a bit tough on Sansa’s attitude towards her. She may be queen of a theoretical Seven Kingdoms, but there’s an apocalyptic war on, and Jon (and the North) can’t be the only one making concessions to sensitivity for the sake of unity.

David Zampa: I really can’t figure out if they’re trying to push for conflict or marriage between Jon and Daenerys, all I know is I hope they don’t drag it out too much.

Cersei—Pregnant or Not?

A.M. Justice: I had forgotten Cersei was pregnant (or claims to be pregnant). Whose baby? I don’t think it can be Jamie’s. Is it the Mountain’s?

John Kang: Ewwwww

A.M. Justice: Haha! I have this vague recollection that she made googoo eyes at him after her Walk of Shame. I could be very wrong here…

Melissa A Mattes: It could also be pseudocyesis, or fake/imaginary pregnancy. She wants so hard to be pregnant that her body is producing some of the symptoms, but there’s no baby… Or one of her random lovers is the father, and she just wants so hard to believe it is Jamie’s. I think there is definitely some wishful thinking on her part.

Bran, Bran, the Mystery Man

David Zampa: Bran is really starting to irritate me. My favorite line was when Samwell said, “And Bran has…whatever it is Bran has.” I mean we’ve been following this character since season one, and we have next to nothing about how or why he works.

Outside of our public comments thread, there was a lot of discussion in the group about Bran and his loitering in the courtyard and giving the third stink eye to everybody who stumbled into Winterfell. Most agreed that we’re all getting pretty fed up with Bran’s attitude. Sure, it’s a heavy burden knowing everything, but contain your Holden Caufield routine! The teenage world-weary angst is no less annoying coming from you as it was from Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix.

– – –

That wraps up the first report from the Factioners on the premiere of Game of Thrones. We’re all very excited to see where the dragons fly from here!

Contributors:

David Charlton, Cisco Javier Estrada, John Kang, Lynn Kempner, Melissa A Mattes, Sarah O’Brien, Clélie Rich, Dana Tasich, LM Towton, and David Zampa.

You can join the discussion in our closed group here!

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