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Critics, fans blown away by Game of Thrones season opener

“Thrilling”, “dynamic” and a return to what made the series so successful in its infancy — these are some of the reactions to the dramatic season opener of Game of Thrones.

Arguably the most anticipated television drama this year, the first episode of the program’s final season did not disappoint its extensive legion of fans.

It was a near two-year wait for the 54-minute spectacle, which hit WA screens at 9am yesterday.

Los Angeles Times reviewer Lorraine Ali wrote the episode blew apart “carefully laid theories” from fans about who will claim the Iron Throne, “as the paths of key players finally converged, in the most dynamic and eventful season opener in the HBO drama’s nine-year history”. The episode, named Winterfell, resonated with the show’s pilot in 2011, with the Stark family’s reunion an undercurrent.

A spotlight is shone on the relationship between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.A spotlight is shone on the relationship between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.
Camera IconA spotlight is shone on the relationship between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.Picture: HBO

Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk described the season opener as “a self-aware reflection” of where the showbegan. “After eight seasons spread over as many years, it’s a good idea to go back to the start,” she wrote.

A spotlight is shone on the relationship between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen when the power couple travel through mountainous terrain on dragons.

Snow’s realisation that his father is not Ned Stark but Aegon Targaryen, thus making him the heir to the throne, foreshadows a future rift between the couple.

Some critics hit out at the chronology of these events. Nerdist’s Michael Walsh argued the dragon scene could have acted as a powerful way for Snow to find out about his lineage.

He said the show “didn’t treat the moment with the seriousness it deserved”.

Fans and critics have reacted to the first instalment in the final season of Game of Thrones.Fans and critics have reacted to the first instalment in the final season of Game of Thrones.
Camera IconFans and critics have reacted to the first instalment in the final season of Game of Thrones.Picture: HBO

“Only descendants of Valyria can ride a dragon. They are fickle creatures and will only accept a rider … who has the ‘blood of the dragon’,” he wrote.

“Jon riding Rhaegal (could) have been a powerful, revelatory moment confirming the truth of his birth. It should not have preceded Sam telling him about it.”

With only five episodes until viewers find out who will finally occupy the iron throne, Game of Thrones has a lot to reveal in a short space of time.

This sense of urgency is balanced with “sequences of straightforward indulgence” including the dragon flight, wrote Vulture’s VanArendonk

The critic says this combination of plot milestones such as Snow’s revelation and the dragon scene is what makes the premiere a success.

“From the perspective of just needing to end this story, that scene has no reason to exist, or at least, not at the length that it does,” she wrote.

“But the trope works for reasons that go beyond plot. There’s a deep brain-stem-level physical impact in the way earthbound characters are lifted off the ground. It is triumphant and epic, and it’s the rare direct collision between human and fantasy on Game of Thrones that makes the humans seem more human, rather than less.”

The cryptic burning spiral scene near the episode’s end has the internet ablaze with speculation about what it represents.

That it’s a message from the White Walkers is largely undisputed, but what it symbolises is a point of extensive analysis.

Entertainment writer at Thrillist, Esther Zuckerman, said the small boy from the House of Umber, strung up and surrounded by human limbs, was a throwback to earlier episodes.

“The spiral and related shapes have continually popped up in iconography related to the White Walkers,” she wrote.

Fans and critics say the season premiere accelerated the plot of the highly popular series, but still left open an array of possibilities.

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