For this writer, there’s been a recurring sense of déjà vu during many of the primary dialogue scenes in the last two seasons of Game of Thrones. I felt it again last night during the Season 8 premiere. It seems strange that a show for which the clock is counting down so rapidly, and in which so much is ostensibly happening, would have time to recycle old material. But when Jon Snow and Sansa Stark debated each other by candlelight about why Jon isn’t acting like a King of the North, and Jon reminded Sansa that he’s forfeited his crown and that the living “don’t stand a chance against the army of the Dead” unless friend and foe band together, it’s hard not to wonder how many times we’ve seen essentially this exact same scene before.
There are other familiar topics of conversation throughout the episode. For instance: When Davos Seaworth told Tyrion Lannister and Varys that Northerners are famously stubborn, and that they would only follow Jon Snow, and to not expect this whole Daenerys-being-Queen thing to go over so well, I first thought, Ah, good to see old Davos again. But immediately afterwards I thought, Okay, Captain Obvious! How many times have we been walked through all this? How many scenes did we need in this episode to understand it wasn’t going to be easy for people to band together under one leader? Isn’t that the entire concept of the series?
Despite all the novel interactions that are happening—between people who haven’t been in the same place since the beginning of the show’s first season, especially—it seems like David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and their minions of scribes can think of relatively little new things for these characters to say to each other. When Jon’s done hugging Arya and Bran (another person who says basically the same thing in every scene) and telling them they look bigger now, and reminding his family and their friends why it’s important for everyone in the Seven Kingdoms to unite against the army of the dead, Benioff and Weiss make the wise decision of putting Jon on a dragon for a few minutes so he doesn’t have to speak. Indeed, these days, most of the best parts of Game of Thrones episodes occur when no one is speaking. Take the episode’s opening montage, or silver-dappled Jamie’s pleasantly quiet entrance at the end of the episode. That’s the shit right there: no dead weight, i.e. someone telling someone else about how unprepared Westeros is for the army of the dead.
It’s fitting, then, that writer Dave Hill begin the episode with a nice little balls joke. One imagines him sitting in a dim study with a blank Final Draft doc, racking his brain for a fresh new line anyone could say to get the party started. Something about the army of the dead meaning business, perhaps? Something about this being “final round” in the “game of thrones”? After watching the season premiere, it seems clear he got the balls joke down and then just decided to use some important-sounding lines from last season for the rest of the episode.
It was a canny move. No one cares about the dialogue at this point, or indeed, if Game of Thrones is a good show or not. It’s far too late to worry about details like that–the army of the dead are coming! Everyone loves to get a dramatic reminder that zombies (White Walkers, if you insist) are able to turn everyone they kill into a new zombie. People are watching this thing to see who dies how, who is going finally have richly stylized sex with who, and who is the most unprepared for the army of the D-E-A-D and that craggy old Night King.
So when the “army of the dead” shows up, remember what Jon Snow told us all approximately 500 times: The living “won’t stand a chance” against the dead without unity! In case you’re thinking about forgetting, here are a few gentle reminders: