Will Palmer ‘21
As I’m sure you’re aware, the final season of everyone’s favorite medieval butchery simulator/incest normalizer, Game of Thrones, premiered on Sunday after a two-year hiatus. My reactions are below.
Spoiler Free Review: It was fine. Why are you reading this if you haven’t seen it yet? If I said it was terrible, would you just give up on a show you’ve been watching for seven seasons? Sheesh. Stand for something, people.
Spoiler Inclusive Review, aka the Good Stuff: The new opening sequence is great—the broken Wall and visual representation of the Army of the Dead marching south was a neat update, and the interior details of the Winterfell Crypts and the throne room in King’s Landing helped to drive home how the story has very much narrowed into those two key locations.
Winterfell: The showrunners are very pleased with themselves for discovering the concept of circular storytelling. Dany and Sansa start off on the wrong foot, as expected (more manufactured Winterfell drama? Fun!). Bran “pulls a Bran” and interrupts to tell Dany that one of her “children” is now a zombie dragon. Jon takes the news that his “little brother” is now a human version of Google (well, probably more like Bing, because he’s only occasionally helpful) quite well, considering. The interplay between Tyrion, Varys, and my man-crush, Davos, is delightful, as always—although Tyrion telling testicle jokes seems like low-hanging fruit (pun semi-intended) and reflects how his character seems to have lost some of his edge over the last few seasons. We used to think he was the cleverest man in the world…but then the show got ahead of the books.
Speaking of the cleverest person in the world, Sansa has been establishing herself as quite the power player. This is a good thing, because otherwise her character arc would have been more of a straight line of horrible suffering, and we don’t watch Thrones to remind ourselves of real life. That said, I was hoping for a better reunion between her and Tyrion; it felt like their conversation was cut short. This is true for a majority of the reunions in the premiere—all are well acted and at least somewhat satisfying, but it feels like the showrunners made them all go by quickly so as to not overstuff the episode. The thing is, we’ve been watching this show for god knows how long now, and we want to see a bunch of super long conversations with characters catching up because we’re invested in those characters. As long as we’re talking reunions, the weapon that Arya requests from Gendry is interesting. I’m sure that “Chekhov’s dragonglass spear” will come into play in a future episode. I’m hoping for more scenes between her and the Hound later on in the season—they’ve always been one of my favorite pairings on the show.
Jon and Dany’s dragon-riding date was cute, but pretty cheesy—although not quite as ham-fisted as Varys saying “nothing lasts” while looking at the two of them. Ominous!
It was good to see Sam again—John Bradley’s acting in his scenes was incredible, especially his distinct reactions to hearing of his father’s and brother’s deaths (RIP Dickon). Because the Winterfell crypts aren’t in compliance with the ADA, Bran makes Sam tell Jon the truth about his parentage. The conversation was actually slightly less awkward than expected, thanks to a convenient opportunity for Sam to segue into a discussion of kingship, and it was amusing that Jon’s first reaction was “Ned wasn’t a liar!” instead of “Wow, we should not have traveled north by boat!” Sam’s question to Jon about whether Dany would give up her crown to save her people was a highlight of the episode—it very effectively set up what is sure to be a difficult conversation, although I suspect that they’ll sidestep the issue with a marriage proposal, which might help to placate the irritatingly flighty northern lords. But we all know how weddings go in Westeros…
Things picked up a bit in the final scenes. Besides Jon learning the truth about his heritage, we got a horrifying scene up at Last Hearth (yeah, I looked up the name of the Umber castle) and a Michael Scott-level awkward moment with Jaime and Bran. Those whacky White Walkers and their craft projects! I’m sure they do well on the Seven Kingdoms’ version of Etsy.
King’s Landing: Ah, this crew of scumbags! And they’re hatching nefarious plots! Color me surprised. Euron is an interesting villain when he’s not being really, really creepy—but I guess that kind of thing sort of plays with Cersei. She’s displeased that he didn’t bring her any elephants, because the whole CGI budget went towards dragons (I wonder how many reviewers are making that joke?). More interestingly, she’s clearly drinking wine after bedding Euron—something she was careful to avoid when talking to Tyrion about her “pregnancy” last season.
Qyburn makes an interesting proposal to Bronn and, because it’s HBO, we get a face full of T&A at the beginning of that scene. Someday the Lannisters will stop cucking Bronn with their schemes, but not today. That said, if you think Bronn is actually going to murder Tyrion with a crossbow, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Oh, and that ginger Lannister soldier that Bronn’s female companions were talking about that got his face burned off and now has no eyelids? Turns out that was Ed Sheeran’s character. I am delighted to say that I’m not kidding about that.
Theon’s rescue of Yara was predictable, but cool. If it hadn’t happened, the only gore we would have gotten this episode is a zombified eight-year-old pinned to a wall, and that’s not HBO. This way we also got a gratuitous closeup of a bisected face! As an aside, Theon looks like he rips top cheddar with the savage lax flow he’s got going on. Lettuce like you read about.
The Verdict: This was a pretty traditional GoT premiere: lots of table-setting, with a couple big moments to hook us for the next episode. Pros: the new credits sequence was great, there were some genuinely funny moments, and the actors all gave great performances during the various reunion sequences/awkward crypt discussions. Cons: some of the scenes felt artificially shortened, and the way Jon and Dany’s relationship is being handled feels a bit clumsy. Tyrion’s newfound gullibility is irritating. And there were only six murders.
7/10 Heads on Pikes (extra .5 for immolating Ed Sheeran)