I loved it. It seems to me to have a concise complexity of the earlier seasons in a way 5-7 didn’t in ways that also unify the last few seasons in ways I didn’t expect so far. More or less a perfect premiere episode, possibly my favorite after the first.
A good example of what I mean is:
The interplay of Sam’s arc (him meeting his family in S6... & they get executed in S7) with Dany’s issues with conquering vs leadership, and using that to interplay with Bran’s discovery of Jon’s parentage with Sam as a way for Sam to say what he needs to about Dany...it’s all many many shades of gray that say a lot with a lot of elegant foils between character arcs. this is one thing that made me love GOT in the first place I’ve felt the show has lost and leading to the amazing scenes between Sam and Dany (of course he’s heartbroken despite hating his father) and Sam and Jon, the latter being 8 seasons in the making. Huge climax-level stuff.
Honestly, felt like so much more than a "set up" episode. Almost every scene worked unto itself. Much tighter, more elegant writing than season 7, anyway.
This felt much more like an episode from the earlier seasons, simply because of all the focus on character as opposed to plot. I'm grateful for that and I also am happy that this is likely as peaceful a life as these characters are going to get given what awaits them.
I think the scene at
the Last Hearth was where it really hit me how alien the White Walkers are and how terrifying the show has made undead corpses when I was convinced that zombies couldn't send a shiver down my spine but here we are.