**Spoiler alert: Obviously, this post contains spoilers for the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones**
The season premiere, "Winterfell," reintroduced viewers to Westeros, and it reintroduced many characters to one another, including several pairings who hadn't seen one another since early in Season 1, more than 60 episodes and eight real-life years ago. While Samwell Tarly was telling Jon Snow about his true parentage and Sansa Stark was calling Tyrion Lannister a dummy for ever believing that Cersei would do the right thing, here are some of the most important things that critics and fans were talking about.
NEW SEASON, NEW CREDITS
For the past seven seasons, Game of Thrones has always begun with Ramin Djawadi's stirring theme and a clockwork overview of Westeros and Essos. That changed with Season 8, as rather than getting a world-tour, a totally redone entrance took viewers from the destroyed Wall, to Last Hearth, and then inside the halls of Winterfell and King's Landing.
Vulture, BuzzFeed, and The Ringer all scored interviews with the people behind the title sequence, which was was a hit with fans. The new title sequence contains several nods to the show's history — the murals on the astrolabe have changed from depicting Robert's Rebellion to instead showing the Wall falling, the Red Wedding, and the birth of Daenerys' dragons — as well as potential hints at the future. For instance, blue titles cascade from the gap in the Wall down to Last Hearth, representing the path of the Night King's army and suggesting that we'll see his progress as the season continues.
"I'll say that there are differences in every single episode," Kirk Shintani, the art director for the Season 8 credits, told BuzzFeed. "From episode to episode, pay attention, because there's lots of hints scattered around."
IT'S LIKE POETRY, IT RHYMES
Premieres tend not to be the most eventful episodes in a season of Game of Thrones, and Sunday's episode was no different. Typically, premieres have a lot of table-setting they need to do, bringing characters together, refreshing the audience on what's up, and laying the groundwork for the action to follow. The Season 8 premiere did this, but it also was, as pretty much everybody noticed, a direct homage to the series premiere.
One of the most popular posts on the main Game of Thrones subreddit was an image laying out many of the parallels between the first episode and the most recent one. In both instances, a king and queen came to Winterfell, two old friends discussed Lyanna Stark in the crypts, and it ended with a moment between Bran Stark and Jaime Lannister.
"The episode very deliberately rhymed with the series' very first episode, which aired all the way back in 2011," noted Vox's Todd VenDerWerff From the central premise of a large retinue arriving at Winterfell to individual shots, the whole episode gave the series a distinct feeling of coming full circle, something that will hopefully continue throughout this final season.
While most viewers alike appreciated the thematic parallels and enjoyed spotting Easter eggs and potential callbacks, there was some concern that it was all a little too much.
"I was literally fangasming when I noticed King's Arrival and mirroring but tbh it felt more like 'look at how GoT used to be, aren't you nostalgic' than 'they mirrored the [first episode], how nice and cool of them,'" wrote one Redditor.
THE SHOW IS TOO DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS
Looking through the comments on that big Reddit thread comparing the Season 1 and Season 8 premieres, and you'll find that many fans noted one thing that certainly has changed: Everything is a whole lot darker.
"I don't know but why does everything from Season 1 looks better visually," one Redditor wrote. "Last Hearth was really hard to watch. Because I couldn't see any of it lol."
"Because everything's darker now," another answered, echoing a common complaint about Thrones recently, and one we heard when the first trailer came out.
On Twitter, many fans were lamenting that they couldn't really see what was going on either.
WAS THE EPISODE ANY GOOD THOUGH?
Rotten Tomatoes rates the premieres as 94 percent fresh on their aggregated scale, but there's much more nuisance if you actually read into the meat of the various reviews. (Especially since Rotten Tomatoes included some straightforward recaps which didn't really have a critical take as part of the score.)
Both The Ringer's Alison Herman and Vulture's Kathryn VanArendonk called the episode the show's best season premiere, with VanArendonk writing that "it works because the episode relies on a grab bag of familiar tropes from fantasy epics and some tried-and-true devices to signal that this story is approaching an end. But it also works because the episode is a self-aware reflection of where Game of Thrones began. After eight seasons spread over as many years, it's a good idea to go back to the start."
But, over at io9, Rob Bricken was dissatisfied with the pace of the premiere, writing that it "was so packed full of important moments but was done so workman-like, it felt like the show was trying to get all of these scenes done and out of the way as quickly as possible."
"The kickoff for the show's eighth and final season brings long-estranged characters together at an unprecedented pace, like it's checking off items on a shopping list for a fan-service speed run," writes Rolling Stone's Sean T. Collins. "It's great fun. But is it, you know, great?"
The AV Club's Myles McNutt didn't mind as much, writing that the episode's brisk and efficient pace "does ultimately result in a lot of piece-moving, it serves as a reminder that I like (most of) these pieces, and enjoy seeing them interact, and felt that bit of electricity the show was looking to achieve by letting us spend time with them before chaos reigns."
Perhaps Variety's Daniel D'Addario had the best take on the episode, and how it relates both to the early seasons that the premiere tried hard to invoke and the simplified spectacle that Season 7 opted for.
"Thrones is doing absolutely stellar work within the bounds set around its current era: Highly burnished entertainment that lingers on no story point a beat more than strictly necessary to communicate the idea," he writes. "Dwelling on the shows it once was and no longer is seems perhaps beyond the point. After all, this is a drama that, since those early days when episodes stretched out leisurely and when an end was not in sight, has always been about seismic change."