DId I mention I am the biggest fan of Game Of Thrones possible in a world teaming with biggest fans of Game Of Thrones? No? Well, now you know. It’s the cream of TV shows, what I consider to be my favourite TV show of all time and quite obviously, the defining TV show of our generation, plus it introduced me to the most pleasingly intricate and clever shocking fantasy book series that I had somehow never heard of prior to 2012. I picked up the series right as the lynchpin moment in Season 3 was airing. And thankfully I managed to get to it spoiled. Since then I’ve been part of a Game Of Thrones society, I’ve watched the series religiously, and always been given chills, had my breath taken away and enjoyed it ever more. Except for that clusterfuck in Dorne. So, you know, average Game Of Thrones fan but I have a specific interest in all of the politics as I find that sort of thing very interesting.
Anyway, preamble aside, I can get more into that later, how was the first episode of the returned penultimate season? Most of Game Of Thrones’ first episodes of each season have been notorious for going on a whistle-stop tour of all of the characters for little purpose other than to remind the character where everyone is because the average viewer will have forgotten important details like who the Hound is currently snarking at and which houses helped Jon Snow win the North. I don’t know how you can’t keep those straight myself but I just have a freakishly good memory when it comes to GRRM’s creations. Because I’m a little bit obsessed.
The opening scene was breathtaking. At first, I thought it might have been a flashback, a reminiscence to Frey after the Red Wedding for some reason, as if he were calling all his family to celebrate in their iniquity. But then I noticed that Walder was encouraging his sons to drink very keenly, holding back the wine himself. And then I remembered everything that had happened last season and beautiful, beautiful realisation began setting in as I saw the scene for what it truly was, a vindication of the seasons we saw Arya doing nothing, but now, she is fully formed as the dark angel of death she was always meant to be. And I love it. She’s always been a character I’ve wanted to call the best because, well, she had so much promise at the start, but only now can I finally look and say it was worth it.
Her other scene this episode included a completely not obvious cameo from famous pop singer Ed Sheeran singing a famous Westerosi pop song, for even foreign realms cannot escape his tones anymore. It sounded just like something off the dreary Divide as well, a far cry from The National’s wonderful Rains Of Castamere. Though I guess with I See Fire and now this, he’s living the geek dream so I can’t really blame him. I’m just very jealous. The purpose this scene seemed to serve is to get Arya seeing people on the other side who are just decent people, soldiers, on the side of Lannister but not really caring for the big wars, who would rather just go home to their families. In most scenes, Arya or other main characters would happily kill dozens of soldiers like this without a second thought. You can see that Arya is thinking about it, especially before they give her food, and perhaps wants to give them an excuse to face off against her, but they miss her statement of bloodlust against Cersei as a drunken joke. Drink probably played some part in it. We end the episode not knowing if she does decide to turn on them, but despite the series’ fearsome and brutal reputation, I am going to say that she doesn’t. For one thing, that would break guest right and would put her beyond all saving as a ‘good’ character, which though she’s chaotic neutral at this point, there’s still room for her to move on the good-evil axis. For another, the tone of this episode seems to say that most of the schemers and backstabbers, save for Cersei and Littlefinger, are now gone and humans are working together. You can see that where Thoros starts helping Sandor bury the occupants of the farm, against the biting cold.
Speaking of that, Clegane and the Brotherhood of Banners had unexpectedly one of the most profound scenes. Sandor gets forced to look into the fire, against all of his wishes but sees something incredibly scary, the White Walkers will come at Eastwatch. And when that does happen it will probably be swept aside.
Up in the North, politics. My favourite part. I don’t actually know the answer as to whether Jon was right to give Karstark and Umber their seats and loyalty back or whether fostering loyalty among those who fought for him and eliminating the chance of his once allies turning on him because they see him as weak, as Sansa was thinking, would be better. Time, of course, will tell and it seems that Jon does want to avoid the mistakes of the past but I foresee that this won’t be the last that we hear of it. Northern houses debating and jostling for power is fantastic, largely as I know them all. Especially I loved Lyanna Mormont putting down Lord Glover… again.
Jaime’s speech to Cersei about just how screwed they really are: ‘Three [kingdoms] at best’ is a good reminder of the position that the centre of Westeros is, beset on all sides by the approaching Daenerys, allies are few and far between and having to rely on Euron, a slimy, weathered, rodent-like pirate captain is not the best of times. Incidentally, I thought Euron’s performance was a little stilted, which is a shame as I’ve liked the actor in previous roles but that might have time to grow. The one flaw in an otherwise excellent episode.
Sam’s repetitive life certainly got hammered in this episode, in his attempts to make the Citadel maesters hygienic. But again I was on the edge of my seat for his discussions with the Grandmaester, who sees himself as a prominent medieval physician would, someone who must carry on human knowledge no matter what befalls the world around him, and though he does not give Sam permission to head into the restricted section of the library, his eyes seem to give the all-clear and Sam finds out about Dragonstone, the title of the episode, and of course it has dragonglass in abundance on it, for that is its name. And this leads very nicely into the final act. Daenerys sails in, gets us some beautiful camera shots of the new Dragonstone, never this detailed in Season 2, and says, to the audience as much as her followers: ‘Shall we begin?’
Yes, we shall. Excellent opening, it felt like it moved the plot along a lot more than most opening episodes of Game Of Thrones and the setting and goals for this season now seem clear.