You can relax now.
Few pop-culture events have been as anticipated as much as the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The hype for Sunday’s season premiere was astronomical, and the possibility that the fantasy series would letdown its legions of fans very real.
Many of those fans likely expected fire, death and destruction from the first moments, and those who did might be disappointed by the gentle and typical opener that accomplished what nearly every season premiere in “Thrones” history has done: Re-established characters, locations and relationships, and set the table for greater things to come.
Listen to this week’s episode of USA Today’s podcast, The Mothership, on all things “Game of Thrones” in the player below.
We last visited Westeros in the disappointing and illogical Season 7 finale, which aired Aug. 27, 2017. And while it’s hard to lose the bad taste from that season’s misguided final episodes, the premiere took a deep breath and focused on the characters rather than the spectacle, a necessary change.
The pacing was too fast at some points and too slow at others, but it sets up the season for success, if writers can squeeze everything into those five remaining episodes without making them seem overstuffed (no big deal).
As the episode concluded with a pitch-perfect callback to the series’ 2011 premiere, we are no closer to discerning what “Thrones” is really about. We don’t yet know which war is really the most important. No one (major) died; no one was resurrected. We’re left with the same stomach-churning anticipation and tension, desperate for more.
Let’s see how long the series can sustain it.