KARACHI : “You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?”
This is what Samwell Tarly asks Jon Snow as he reveals to him his true parentage: that Jon is not Ned Stark’s bastard but the true heir to the Iron Throne on account of being the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.
Where last season’s finale ended on a triumphant note – with a grand alliance coming together to resist the White Walker threat and with even Jaime Lannister, for once in his life, seeing sense and just how cold-hearted his sister/lover is – it appears even at the start of the first episode of season eight that already, everything is ready to come apart at the seams.
As Jon returns to Winterfell in tow with Daenarys Targaryen and her army and dragons, the North wants to know what does this mean for their king and their own much yearned for independence from the Seven Kingdoms. As last season’s breakout character Lyanna Mormont puts it, “You left Winterfell a king and came back a… I’m not sure what you are now.”
Hints of a burgeoning rift between Jon and Sansa Stark also appear to be catching steam.
“She thinks she’s smarter than everyone,” Jon confides in Arya Stark, only to be somewhat rebuffed, much to his own surprise. Sansa, meanwhile, wants to know if Jon bent the knee to save the North or because he’s smitten.
But Jon’s credibility challenges aside, the big question that that the show wants us to ask now, in its last season, is whether Daenarys will live up to the hopes of her supporters and be a just and fair leader or if she will end up going ‘Mad Queen’ like her father.
While there have been hints in previous seasons, it somehow appeared that Daenarys still elicited unquestioning loyalty from her supporters. It is only now that certain characters, like Sam as I mentioned in the start, appear to be calling her out.
On the narrative side, the first episode of this season seems to be much faster paced and covers more ground than, perhaps, any other season opener. So many strands touched upon in the first episode would normally have been left for future episodes, like Jon learning about his own real background. Meanwhile, long awaited character reunions are dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Like Bran Stark himself says, “We don’t have time for this,” the show appears to be getting necessary plot points out of the way, obviously to make space for the actual conflict(s) that lurk not so far. It does appear to be a pleasant change of pace, for now, and one hopes it makes for a more narratively dense and action-packed season.
The only apprehension, at this stage, is that this is taken too far and too many crucial narrative questions are rushed over in favour of grand set pieces.
While the show has displayed more of a spectacle ever since it moved into territory beyond the books written so far, it would do well to remember that Game of Thrones is compelling as much for its political intrigue as it is for its dragons.
Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.