New Delhi, April 15
A reunion, a revelation, a love affair and a gruesome killing -- the final season of the hugely popular show "Game of Thrones" kicked off, setting the tone for a berserk finale with big twists, sinister plotting, backstabbing and a lot of blood.
It was a moment fans had been waiting for since 2017 after the seventh season left many questions unanswered. The GoT mania took Indian fans by storm in the days leading to its final season opener, as pointed out by internal data at Instagram, India.
India emerged as the fourth country globally where users are most excited about the fantasy series and it is the only Asian country to feature in the top five. As per Taboola, Daenerys and Jon Snow are the most read characters with 843,600 and 705,000 readers respectively.
According to a Myntra spokesperson, fans in India are "seizing every token that is symbolic of their favourite show especially through dedicated merchandise".
The show, based on George R.R. Martin's novels, and created by David Benioff and Dan Weiss, began in 2011.
The last seasons left fans guessing; How will Jon Snow find out that he is not the bastard son of Ned Stark? What turn will Jon and his aunt Daenerys' relationship take? Where will Jaime Lannister go next? What's Cersei's next move? Who will kill the Night King? Who will die? And who will sit on the Iron Throne?
The first episode of season 8, which premiered internationally on April 14 and was brought to India along with the US through Hotstar Premium on Monday morning, tries to answer some of the questions that have lingered on. Titled "Winterfell", the pilot is written by Dave Hill and directed by David Nutter, who brought the infamous "Red Wedding" alive on the screen.
After a revised opening title sequence -- with the spotlight on Winterfell, King's Landing and the influence of White Walkers in the narrative, the show which made its debut with sprawling complicated issues, narrowed down to two main spots and the 'great war' against the 'undead'.
But the makers don't seem to be in the mood to be prude on those myriad affairs as Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) says, "We don't have time for this. The Night King has your dragon. The Wall has fallen. The dead march south."
The episode kicks off with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) marching into Winterfell with her army and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) by her side.
The emotional quotient was high with reunions of many characters seeing each other for the first time in years -- Jon Snow and Arya/Bran Stark, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Gendry, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Arya Stark and The Hound, and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bran Stark.
The show has stepped up its pace to end the story -- be it through Cersei (Lena Headey) plotting to kill her brothers after the war, the army of undead White Walkers bringing destruction, Jaime turning his back on his love and his sister Cersei, Jon Snow finding the truth about his true lineage and claim to the Iron Throne by his best friend Samwell Tarly.
The makers have also hinted that Jon Snow is already on the path to embrace his truth when he rides one of the dragons.
It seems the story of "Game of Thrones" has come a full circle, especially the moment Jaime meets Bran.
There were moments of embrace in the winter love land as well, thanks to Daenerys and Snow.
Amid the alliances, plenty of suspicion and getting ready to go to war, Tyrion sums up the message of the final season -- "We must fight together now, or die."
In the end, one gets a sense that the creative forces behind the series have started to piece together the puzzle, but also gives out a message that it won't be a happy ending after all. How? Because the first episode ends with one death. Oops! But don't worry, it isn't any of the main characters.
The show will find its way on Star World on Tuesday.
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)