Monday, July 17, 2017

Dragonstone

There was a lot of geek news over the weekend, but of course, everyone's tongues will be wagging this morning over the premiere of season seven of Game of Thrones. As usual with the series' season openers, it was a mostly low-key affair, all about setting up the episodes to come. But it was neither boring nor uneventful.

Things started off by putting the "cold" in "cold open," as we saw Arya polish off her business with the Freys from the end of last season. The placement of this scene right at the top served a few purposes, I imagine. First, it was pure fun, fan service to draw the audience in immediately. Second, by positioning it before the credits, they might have briefly deceived a few viewers into thinking it a flashback to times before Walder's death.

I do wonder if the scene serves a larger role in the plot to come. Before now, the idea that Face Changing allows one to become an actual, known person hasn't come up (HBO marketing campaigns not withstanding). We've seen the power used to assume random, unknown identities. This new wrinkle suggests a path by which Arya might actually accomplish the goal she shared with Ed Sheeran's not-so-merry men: to kill Queen Cersei. (That said, the foreshadowing in the books has been pretty clear on how Cersei will meet her end. Though I suppose the notion of "familiar face changing" throws a wrinkle in that too.)

Up at Winterfell, we got a little political friction between Sansa and Jon, though the conflict for the moment has reached an amicable resolution. We also got the most spectacular telling-off of Littlefinger (saving the writers of actually having to think of another clever line for him), and more of many people's favorite new character in the entire show: Lyanna Mormont. (We also got a brief check-in with Bran farther North still, but nothing more than his arrival at Castle Black.)

In King's Landing, scenes pointedly laid out how vulnerable a position Cersei now finds herself in. She's most dangerous when cornered, though, and her tenuous alliance with Euron Greyjoy could prove interesting. Euron will certainly be a force purely as a character this season, as his one scene this week said more about who he is than anything we've seen so far. (Sorry, but murdering family members just isn't enough on its own to establish an identity in this show.)

The Hound had a few heavy scenes in which he was forced to reckon with his own actions from earlier days. He came upon the farmer and daughter he left for dead after taking their silver (back during the Hound/Arya road trip), to find that death had indeed claimed them. With so many larger stakes in the story now, it was nice that the show found a moment to show that even smaller choices have consequences. Of course, there was also the larger revelation that the Hound is able to perceive quite detailed visions in the flames from the Lord of Light.

We got the most ghastly montage in the history of the show, courtesy of the prop department and the editors. The juxtaposition of brimming bedpans and unappetizing stew was enough to send stock in Campbell's diving for weeks. It also demonstrated that Sam's dream of studying in Oldtown was nothing like what he'd hoped for. But through a little disobedience, he did find one bit of valuable information to send back to Jon -- there's glass in them there hills. Dragonglass, under Dragonstone, to be exact.

But for now, that means it'll be in the hands of Daenerys, who at the conclusion of the episode had arrived at her family home for the first time. It was a quiet sequence (with almost no dialogue), but the deliberate pace of it all was appropriate, given how long this moment has been in the making -- seven years on television, more than 20 in the books: Dany's arrival in Westeros.

Game of Thrones may only be back for 7 episodes this time, but we'll all savor every one. I give this first episode an A-.

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