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Monday, 17 July 2017

Game of Thrones S7E1: Dragonstone

Game of Thrones
Series 7, Episode 1

So, after a longer wait than usual (for a shorter than usual series, weighing in at seven episodes compared to the usual ten, although the last two will apparently be longer than normal to partly make up for this), Game of Thrones, still far and away one of the most popular shows on television, has returned.

When the last series ended, we were looking at four monarchs due to clash against each other: Cersei, now queen after Tommen's suicide, ruling from King's Landing; Daenerys on her way to Westeros with Tyrion and Varys at her side, Tyrell and Dornish support, and an army of Dothraki; Jon as King in the North, ruling out of Westeros; and the Night King leading the White Walkers and the dead to assault or otherwise cross the wall. This episode is, unsurprisingly, mostly clash-free, being focused more on setting up the world state and setting the stakes for episodes to follow, but it does so with aplomb.

In King's Landing, Cersei, now queen and suffering from an increasingly fraught relationship with Jaime, welcomes Euron Greyjoy to King's Landing, as he comes with an offer of marriage. At Dragonstone, Daenerys and her army arrives, marking their arrival in Westeros and the beginning of their attempt to conquer it. Up in the Riverlands, Arya murders the Freys and sets off for King's Landing, while at the Citadel, Samwell seeks access to the restricted area of the library, hoping to find answers to how to defeat the White Walkers. In the North, Jon and Sansa clash over what to do about the Karstark and Umber castles, with Sansa's pragmatism vexing Jon's sense of honour, while even further North, Bran and Meera arrive at the Wall, with Bran having fully embraced his powers as the Three-Eyed Raven. Elsewhere in the North, Clegane does stuff probably.

Meera just looks so done with everything.

This episode is almost entirely composed of singular scenes focusing on specific characters just to establish where they are, with only Jon and Sansa, Arya, Cersei, and Sam getting more than a scene apiece (all of them have exactly two scenes, although Sam's second scene is tiny and short), which is fine -- while I hope later episodes will narrow their focus onto smaller groups of characters and spend more time with them, having the first episode effectively checking in with everyone to let us know how they're doing is par for the course.

So, we'll start with the bits I liked less about this episode, of which there are three. Firstly, Clegane. Not anything specific about his scene, just that he, Sandor Clegane, whose relevance to the story has never been all that great, got an entire scene to himself and the Brotherhood Without Banners. That's precious minutes that could have been spent on a character I even remotely care about, guys. Poor show.

Secondly, the scene with Arya and Ed Sheeran (and his band of soldiers). I'm not so much thinking about how jarring Ed's little 'it's a new song, available on iTunes' schtick was, although it was, but more that the show's primed me so much for horrible things to happen to Arya by now that I was genuinely unsure what emotion that scene was meant to be making me feel. It seemed like it was trying to be a humanising moment for the Lannister soldiers, but I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for them to try to kill or do something else violent to Arya, and as such I couldn't sympathise with them at all, because all I wanted was for Arya to just get away from them and back on the road.

Cersei/Wine is the truest otp.

Thirdly, the second scene with Jon and Sansa, which basically consists of Jon acting like a massive jerk to Sansa because she's not toeing the make-stupid-decisions-get-killed Stark party line. Like, seriously, she gives good advice and is way gentler about it than most people would have been, and he still treats her like she's a maniacal evil grand vizier with an evil wine glass in one hand and the perfect dagger to compliment his back in the other. It's frustrating

Apart from those three things, though, I really enjoyed this episode. I loved seeing Cersei fulfilling what I'm sure is a longtime dream for all of us and getting a gigantic war map floor to strut around on; I loved seeing Daenerys arrive at Dragonstone; and Sam's scene at the Citadel was both a really effective montage and an excellent use of Jim Broadbent, appearing here as the Grand Maester.

Daenerys and her cool throne.

Overall, this was a really good episode, and an excellent start to the series -- excellent enough that I'm actually sort of sad that there's only six more episodes this year instead of the usual nine, but I suppose I'll cope. Next episode also looks like it'll be jam-packed, with Cersei rallying troops and allies, Jon considering an alliance with Daenerys (much to the chagrin of the other Northern lords) and Daenerys and gang pondering whether to sail over and attack King's Landing immediately (which they probably should, it's not like they're short on strategic advantage). I'm really looking forward to all of that.

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