Game of Thrones Return Prepares for War, but Arya Steals the Show
It’s been an especially long wait for Game of Thrones’ penultimate season, but it’s finally here. Last season ended with a wonderfully satisfying murder and a sweeping shot of Daenerys’s armada heading toward the Seven Kingdoms. It takes Daenerys most of the season seven premiere to get there, but we get to see the immediate aftermath of that murder right away. Last night’s premiere started the show with a showstopper. After that opening scene, nothing that followed was ever going to be as cool.
Right away, the show threw everyone off balance by showing a seemingly alive Walder Frey addressing his family. At this point, we all knew that Arya was behind it, but we weren’t sure how. It was only when the Freys drank a toast and Walder didn’t that we started to figure it out. Arya had poisoned everyone, gleefully watching them cough up blood and die before removing her Walder mask. Look, I love watching Arya kill people in increasingly elaborate ways. I even like the idea of the face changing. Arya trained in the house of the many-faced god and learned this mystical art of disguise. I get that. I like that. I just wish it looked less like an old Mission: Impossible trick. For a series with such a high effects budget, you’d think they’d be able to come up with something that looks a little less silly. A cut-away to Arya pulling a rubber mask off her head is never as cool as the show needs it to be. But hey, this is how they’ve chosen to represent the ability, and if that’s the price of watching Arya pull off mass murders like this, I’m OK with it.
Arya only gets two scenes in this episode, but they both end spectacularly. (No matter what you think of the masks, the line “The North remembers, and winter came for House Frey” is so badass.) Her second begins with the most obvious Ed Sheeran cameo you could possibly imagine. She passes by a group of soldiers, and one of them is singing a song. Guess who the singer is. I’ve seen subtler guest star introductions on The Muppet Show. Arya joins the soldiers for rabbit and blackberry wine (which sounds really good right now). The scene doesn’t go anywhere until they ask why Arya’s headed to King’s Landing. She just flat-out says “I’m going to kill the queen.” The soldiers laugh her off, and she laughs too. Probably for a different reason. Is it any wonder Arya’s our favorite?
Speaking of Queen Cersei, Arya may be the only threat she’s not aware of. We get a great scene between her and Jaime, who isn’t thrilled about her rise to power. She’s having a servant paint a giant map of Westeros on the floor, from which she plans her war. She stands in the middle of the map at King’s Landing, lamenting how she’s surrounded by enemies. It’s a cool contrast to Daenerys’s position at the end of the episode. The final scene of the premiere is hauntingly silent as Daenerys arrives home for the first time in years. She walks through the empty Dragonstone castle, tears down a Baratheon banner, eyes the throne where her father used to sit, and enters his war room. Daenerys is surrounded by her advisers as she looks over a map on a table. In Cersei’s scene, she walks on top of a map while it’s being painted, like the seven kingdoms belong under her foot. She’s also growing increasingly paranoid by the minute. It’s a fascinating visual indicator as to how Cersei and Daenerys view the kingdoms.
Cersei’s paranoia may be unfounded in the north, as Jon Snow is more concerned about the coming Whitewalkers. (And they are coming. The scene after the credits saw Brandon having a vision. White walkers, with a giant on their side, appearing to march south of the Wall.) He declares that all will be taught to fight, including women and children. They will also start hoarding all the dragonglass they can find. Some unexpected tension arises between Jon and Sansa when Jon refuses to punish the children of the men who fought for Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards. It quickly becomes clear that Sansa and Jon have different ideas of how to rule, and that fight isn’t going anywhere. Jon isn’t entirely out of line when he says Sansa is starting to sound like Cersei. After everything she’s been through, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see Sansa turn totalitarian. Littlefinger continues to be a creep, thinking he can use the family squabble to put the moves on Sansa. Thankfully, she still has no time for his nonsense. “No need to seize the last word Lord Baelish, I’ll assume it was something clever.” Damn.
This season will likely be a lot of setup for the great war to come. Most of its time will probably be spent getting all the pieces in place, but if it’s done as well as it was in the premiere, that’ll be OK by me. The premiere spent a ton of time setting up the conflicts to come, but it did so with beautiful visuals, blood, cinematic flourish and humor. This was probably the funniest episode Game of Thrones has ever had, and it worked. It allowed us to empathize with the characters, and it made all the set-up fun to watch. Especially in the case of Samwell Tarly who has the worst job in all of Westeros (and that’s saying something). After a long day of cleaning out chamberpots, filling bowls with soup that looks like the contents of those chamber pots, and dealing with the sick, he stumbles on some important information. There’s a large store of Dragonglass under Castle Dragonstone. It appears Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen will meet sooner rather than later. Also, we got a brief glimpse of Jorah Mormont. His greyscale appears to have gotten much worse.
While there wasn’t nearly as much violence in this episode as we’ve grown accustomed to, Game of Thrones returned with an episode that reminded us why we love this show. It had political intrigue, gorgeous cinematography, and young Stark women being absolute bosses. It also gave us a lot to chew on until the next episode arrives next week. Keep an eye on the Brotherhood Without Banners. This episode spent a lot of time on their resurrections. The more we learn about them, the more we’ll learn about what Jon Snow is since his return to the living last season. All that should give us enough to think about until the show returns next week.
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July 17, 2017 at 12:34PM