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HBO Airs First Episode Of 'Game Of Thrones' Final Season


Winter is here - at least on HBO's "Game Of Thrones."


GREENE: The hit series aired the first of its six remaining episodes last night. And as NPR TV critic Eric Deggans reports, the highly anticipated season premiere was packed with uncomfortable reunions with massive implications for the story to come. And just a spoiler alert, this review is going to discuss many revelations from yesterday's episode.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: "Game Of Thrones" producers rewarded fans Sunday by reuniting characters they've waited many seasons to see together again in a story that mimicked the show's very first episode in lots of telling ways. In one scene, when Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister approaches his ex-wife, Sophie Turner's Sansa Stark, we saw two characters meet who hadn't been together since the show's fourth season in 2014.

Back then, Sansa was a naive, young girl, and Tyrion was trying to raise her spirits. Now, long after she ran away from him, Sansa feels wiser, sharper and smarter than both Tyrion and his sister/enemy Cersei, who's promised to send troops to aid them in a coming war.


SOPHIE TURNER: (As Sansa Stark) Apologies for leaving like that.

PETER DINKLAGE: (As Tyrion Lannister) Yes. It was a bit hard to explain why my wife fled moments after the king's murder.

TURNER: (As Sansa Stark) We both survived.

DIINKLAGE: (As Tyrion Lannister) Many underestimated you. Most of them are dead now. You have every right to be fearful of my sister. No one fears her more than I do, but I promise you'll be safe.

TURNER: (As Sansa Stark) Cersei told you her army was coming north. You believed her.

DIINKLAGE: (As Tyrion Lannister) I believe she wants to survive.

TURNER: (As Sansa Stark) I used to think you were the cleverest man alive.

DEGGANS: I'm thinking she doesn't believe that anymore. The first half of Sunday's episode is filled with well-crafted, uneasy moments like this. Characters split apart in the show's early seasons come together again in scenes filled with tension and emotion. Their relationships have changed because the characters have changed, tempered by time and often by tragedy.

Newer fans convinced to check out the show by all the pre-finale hype might feel a little lost. It's tough to see characters having an emotional moment but not know entirely why it's happening. But for those who know "Game Of Thrones'" sprawling story, these were excellent moments conveyed with a minimum of dialogue and maximum of acting.

The other big story here is the romance between the show's hero, Jon Snow, and the Queen of the Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen. When Jon brings Daenerys to his northern stronghold of Winterfell with her army and two dragons to help fight a zombie army, his sister Sansa has one question that Daenerys answers pretty quickly.


TURNER: (As Sansa Stark) May I ask, how are we meant to feed the greatest army the world has ever seen? What do dragons eat, anyway?

EMILIA CLARKE: (As Daenerys Targaryen) Whatever they want.

DEGGANS: The show's producers can be sneaky. In an episode that does a lot of table-setting, positioning characters and plots that will pay off later, we see Jon and Daenerys riding dragons together, falling in love. They seem the perfect power couple for this medieval fantasy world, with Daenerys poised to become queen of the realm with Jon's help. But there are hints that the Queen of the Dragons may be a little too ruthless a leader.

Then John's closest friend Samwell drops news that viewers learned last season. Jon's actually the son of Daenerys' older brother, giving him a stronger claim to the Iron Throne that she has spent the entire series chasing.


JOHN BRADLEY: (As Samwell Tarly) You're the true king - Aegon Targaryen, Sixth of His Name, Protector of the Realm, all of it.

KIT HARINGTON: (As Jon Snow) Daenerys is our queen.

BRADLEY: (As Samwell Tarly) She shouldn't be.

HARINGTON: (As Jon Snow) That's treason.

BRADLEY: (As Samwell Tarly) It's the truth. You gave up your crown to save your people. Would she do the same?

DEGGANS: Lovers may become rivals. Siblings have become enemies. And a gigantic zombie army is marching south to kill everyone. Seems as if this final "Game Of Thrones" is off to an exciting and well-crafted start. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF "LOVE IN THE EYES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.