Monday, July 24, 2017


Last week's episode of Game of Thrones was solid and entertaining, so it's a mischaracterization to say of this week: "that's more like it." Still, this was more like what I was expecting of each episode in this shortened season -- crammed to bursting with Momentous Stuff. When I say that, I'm not just referring to the high octane action at the end of the hour. Even more momentous, for those of us who have been on this ride for years, was seeing characters begin to interact who have been separated for seasons -- or in many cases, who have never met at all.

The scenes at Dragonstone, for instance, were all planning and dialogue, but they contained a number of important meetings. Varys had to use his silver tongue to explain his shifting loyalties to Daenerys, and acquitted himself (literally) in charming fashion. Then Melisandre made her introduction to Dany (and her return to Dragonstone). Next came a big war council that put all her allies together in a room for the first time, and served us another of wonderful confections that is a scene with Lady Olenna.

Jon Snow and Littlefinger also had their first real conversation. I've heard it said that the real "game of thrones" in this story is a big proxy war between Littlefinger and Varys. If so, it certainly seemed after this scene that Littlefinger is going to come out the loser in that war. Not that Jon came out looking great either. He continues to be easily baited, not only in this scene, but in his insistence on traveling to Dragonstone despite all his advisors telling him not to go. We know that Dany likely doesn't mean him harm... but that all depends on how stubborn Jon ends up being. (And we all know how stubborn he usually is.)

I appreciated that time was found in the midst of everything to give us a long scene between Missandei and Grey Worm. As a character, Daenerys casts a long shadow, and those two have always been hidden in it. On some level, this scene really drove home that Missandei and Grey Worm have been freed of slavery and now have agency of their own. They deserve long scene on screen, just the two of them, that has nothing to do with the queen they both serve.

Lest we think that Cersei is surrounded and screwed at this point, we got a dramatic display of potential dragon-killing tech. I still wouldn't bet on her in the long run, but it's nice to see the sides evened up a bit.

Samwell seems to be the vehicle this season for the most unsettling scenes on the show -- and the most disgusting edits. His greyscale "surgery" on Jorah was appropriately squirm-inducing, and capped off with more visceral editing in the style of last week's montage. Jorah still has a role to play in this story, we're being told. (And if George R.R. Martin ever manages to finish the tale his way in his books, it will potentially be a quite different role, as "show Jorah" has by this point become a fusion of two different book characters.)

Speaking of the books, a few long lost threads from those pages were picked up this week. The prophecy of the "Prince Who Was Promised" has been mentioned without much emphasis in the show. Meanwhile, it has come across in the book as very portentous, with a few competing theories bandied about by the fans. The show brought one of those into play this week, by suggesting that poor translation could mean it's Daenerys. The show may not be called "A Song of Ice and Fire" like the books, but it's hard to imagine it could actually conclude the story without getting into that title and what it means; this week seemed to be a first step in that.

The return of Nymeria also felt to me like something more meaningful for readers than viewers. Arya's direwolf hasn't been seen since season one, but mentions of her crop up in every book. George R.R. Martin has been teasing a link between Arya and Nymeria, suggesting a lesser version of what Bran had with Summer. The show has (wisely, I think) lifted that out and made Bran more special and unique in doing so, but the fact remains that Nymeria is still out there running wild and presumably serving some narrative purpose. Here, it was an important reunion with Arya, serving as an omen to steer her onto the right path. (That reunion came, of course, after an earlier and purely fun reunion with Hot Pie).

The episode concluded in a massive action sequence sure to be a highlight of watercooler discussion: Greyjoy vs. Greyjoy. The thinning of the Sand Snakes from the story. The capture of Ellaria (and presumably, Yara). Burning ships lighting up the night. Huge explosions. And PTSD-addled Theon, unable to deal with any of it, abandoning ship and his sister both. I thought it appropriate for his character that the ounce of courage he found in helping Sansa escape Ramsay Bolton was not long-lasting. And yet, one would expect that somewhere down the road, he'll have a chance to find courage again.

Another great episode. I'd mark it an A-.

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