[Note: Several brilliant writers will offer their hot takes, recaps and think pieces immediately after the show airs, with me taking more of a long view later in the week, as suits my rapidly dimming and grandfatherly intellect. I have endeavored not to read these early offerings from the Overlords, lest it infect my own take with actual wit and intelligence. Due to that, I may cover things that have been covered, refute things that have been proven and malign things that have been adored. C’est la vie.]
There comes a time in every religion where a leap of faith is required. This week, the religion of Game of Thrones asked us for several.
Are you a Die Hard acolyte? Then you have to believe that in that yippee-ki-yay laugh finale, scotch tape and wrapping paper, hastily affixed to a sweat-and-blood-and-grime covered back has sufficient adhesion to bear the weight of a Beretta M92F.
It just couldn’t possibly.
But, because we are keepers of the faith and fans of the mighty prophet John McClane of the fightin’ New York McClanes? We accept it. We put our faith in the people telling the story and we shrug.
Okay. If you say so. It’s a lot to swallow, but we trust that that’s how it went down.
If you’re anything like me, the return of Game of Thrones was one point of sanity and excellence on the horizon. In a world run by fools, a country as fractured as the Robert’s rebellion days, and the most vile, Joffrey-like politician of the modern era in power, the return of HBO’s powerhouse series couldn’t come soon enough.
This week, as it began its penultimate season, Game of Thrones asked us for a few key leaps of faith.
And if you’re anything like me, where every remaining second of the show feels precious and important, chances are that you willingly acquiesced.
We rolled into this week’s premiere on the jet wash of some mismatched imagery. HBO shunting together its properties under one marketing umbrella:
HBO: it’s all good!
Ahem. Agree to disagree.
As the moment of launch draws closer we sail past The Young Pope and The Night’s King opening their arms in the same way. But we know that they’re not the same thing. Jude Law opening his hands most certainly did not raise five thousand Wildlings from the dead simultaneously. We see the dashing Dwayne Johnson big-smiling on Ballers spliced in before the Knights of the Vale pierce the rear of the Bolton line and we shudder to think what Petyr Baelish would do as a sports agent in our era, preying upon unsuspecting NCAA athletes.
Game of Thrones is another tier altogether, and there are only fourteen precious episodes left.
Where every second counts.
Three dragons flap effortlessly toward Dragonstone.
:05 Theon is wide-eyed as burning embers float about him.
:04 Arya, mounted and cloaked, Needle at her hip, the sky behind her, looks out at the horizon.
:03 Daenerys and Tyrion, backlit, where Stannis once stood at the Dragonstone strategy table
:02 Jon and Tormund, in the snow, running for their lives
:01 Sansa walking with her back to the white tree of Winterfell
:00 Whooosh! The blue cornea of the Night’s King. Beautiful and terrifying.
—-THE NEW SEASON OF GAME OF THRONES STARTS NOW—-
Obviously, your definition of ‘filler’ may differ from mine. I actually like Sam.
We begin with something that says things like “mild violence” and “brief nudity” and for a second I’m not sure I recorded the right show. But a flash later, we’re into the previously ons. My heart is pounding.
I remember how this feels. I love how this feels.
The previously-ons. Not technically part of the show, but your first clue about where the ship is sailing. Are we revisiting the greatest hits? How far back in time are we going? How obscure is the scene? Are our favorite characters in it? The previously-ons are the hors d’oeuvres you get at the beginning of the wedding reception that give you an early look at the caterer. Damn those pigs in a blanket are good. My prime rib is going to be amazing!
At the dawn of season seven, the previously-ons are a motley marathon of scenes:
Cersei from behind, before her trial
The crane shot of the full Sept of Baelor
The High Sparrow
A concerned Queen Margaery comforting a mutilated Loras Tyrell
I’m like “okay, so far so good. That feels like something we had to see.”
The close up of the candle lighting the wyldfire
The green explosion
A one-shot of Tommen, watching it
The wyldfire blows through a stained glass window
Tommen falls to his death
Cersei on the Iron Throne
Jamie entering and looking at her during her coronation
“Yes. That’s how the Westeros was won. Got it.”
The shot of Jon right after we saw the Tower of Joy scene and the baby’s face
Lord Cerwyn saying “the war is over”
Jon saying “the war is not over, the true enemy won’t wait out the storm.”
Reverse coverage (that we didn’t see last season I don’t think) of the Kingindanorf sword raising
Jon smiling and looking at a seated Sansa, who smiles up at him
A shot of Littlefinger at the moot, in the back, looking at Sansa
Sansa looking back at him, concerned
“I love you so much Jon. Goddamnit. And thank god Sansa didn’t die in that river.”
The drowning/coronation of Euron Greyjoy
Over the shoulder shot of Theon talking to Dany “Our uncle Euron returned after a long absence”
Euron Greyjoy throwing his brother Balon off the rope bridge
Theon and Yara in Daenerys’ court in Mereen where everyone falls in love with Yara’s posture
Euron wearing the pisswater crown and addressing 16 Ironborn (I counted) and saying that if they build him 1000 ships he’ll give them the world
“Ugh. Yuck. I hate that storyline. I hate that character.”
Arya, talking to the nice farmer and his daughter who say there’s a storm coming
The farmer telling The Hound that he has silver hidden
The Hound stealing the silver from the Farmer, who is on the ground being tended to by his young daughter, Arya yells over top “WHAT DID YOU DO?”
The Hound tells Arya “they’ll both be dead come winter.”
“Oh. That doesn’t bode well, but we’ll probably get to see The Hound or Arya, which is a win either way.”
Beric Dondarrion invites The Hound to join the Brotherhood without Banners
Samwell and Gilly approaching Oldtown from the grassy bluffs
Sam saying he’s to be the new maester to the front desk guy at The Citadel
Sam in the library for the first time
The army of the dead
The Night’s King
The protective circle of fire when Bran and Jojen and Meera reached the Three Eyed Raven
Meera screaming to Hodor
Skeletons crawling on the entire surface of the cave
Hodor pulling Bran out the door
Hodor holding the door
Quick flashes of the Night’s king and the Three Eyed Raven
The Night’s King executes the Three Eyed Raven
Meera asking Bran if he’s ready and he responds that he’s the Three Eyed Raven now
Hands placing boats on a table
Stannis, Melisandre and Ser Davos at the planning table. Stannis asks if Davos knows who has this table carved and painted and Davos says Aegon Targaryen.
Shireen Baratheon telling Davos that Aegon used to live here and that the Targaryens build Dragonstone.
A shot under that dialogue of the night Stannis burned all those people alive on the beach at Dragonstone
Viserys Targaryen saying to a younger Daenerys that he wants them both to go home
The shot of Daenerys on the deck of her flagship crossing the narrow sea
Voice-over on that shot is Tyrion’s: “you’re in the great game now and the great game is terrifying. Are you afraid?”
Shot of the bridge at dusk leading to the Tully stronghold at Riverrun.
Shot of Arya saying her name before she carves Walder Frey
She grabs Frey as he tries to rise, puts her blade to his neck
THEN A SUPER DISTURBING SMASH CUT TO CAT STARK AS BLACK WALDER PUTS HIS BLADE TO HER NECK
As he begins to pull it, we cut back to Arya slicing Frey’s neck. He grabs at it as he bleeds out.
We finish on a self-satisfied one-shot of Arya smiling and we whack to black with one plink of a piano key.
“Jesus Christ, how much information am I supposed to be processing here? I feel like Otto in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’. What was the middle one again? Oh and WHY THE FUCK are you punching me in the face with a knife at Cat Stark’s throat? Goddamn sickos. I lived through that once. ONCE. Don’t you dare try to fuck with me like that again. The Starks are getting back together! Don’t bring me down like that. Jesus.”
Here’s an image of Cat Stark in better days. Because the hell with that.
That’s just the previously-ons. There’s a lot of meat on the bone there.
The static-y HBO interstitial hums to place and I’m expecting to hear the telltale opening ba da bum bum ba da bum bum of the theme song, but instead…
The Cold Open
…we open in silence, on the loose-skin of an old man’s hand.
We pan up to see Walder Frey, alive and well, studying the room in front of him.
I like choices like this. It’s an unseen jab from an opponent, that knocks you off center for a second, which is where you should be for artists and pitchers, and makes you think: wait, what’s happening? Walder Frey is dead.
It took me only a second to whisper, half to myself and half to Lady C:
And so we take our first great leap of faith for a show we love. Like children, viewers need discipline. Viewers need rules. Rules of a world give us context and safety. Rules of a world allow us to experience empathy and understanding.
At the same time we need flat-out entertainment, and in this dark political climate, we need schadenfreude.
If you want to know why the opening scene felt SO DAMN GOOD it was because the rule of law was restored in our lives. There were terminal consequences for despicable acts. There were consequences- period.
Yes, she murdered people but she had a damned good reason. And while you and I would never do that, it’s somehow comforting to have an instrument of universal justice in the wind, righting wrongs. It’s a tough time to be an Auror in a world that elected Death Eaters. We hold fast to the rule of law and the belief that we must persist and hold high the banners of civility and justice, and that through some act of the universe, the Ramsay Boltons of the world will meet with justice.
But the Faceless Man(Woman?) of Arya Stark, that imagery of a fuck-you-you-deserve-it murderer calls like a banshee to the darkest parts of our collective subconscious. There is a darkness in everyone, and this opening scene was a ballet of death that thrilled and made me want to light a cigarette to celebrate.
Fuck the Freys, eternally. Goddamn, that felt good.
But did that opening scene make hypocrites of us all? Is there a glaring dalliance here that we’re ignoring because we’re so gung-ho for our side to win? Are we so blinded by a victory that we’re just ignoring the facts that made that victory possible?
That’s how I feel about the Game of Thrones season 7 opening scene. Did it feel amazing? Oh yah, you betcha, yah.
But what did it change? And how could you not see it? And if I point it out to you, can you just choose not to care?
Because the rules of the game have changed for good. Arya Stark can now be anyone, at any time, for any reason. Like three Wednesdays ago she was a happy-go-lucky nitwit lolling around Braavos waiting to be skewered by The Waif. We watched a season-and-a-half Faceless Man training montage where Jaqen and The Waif offered very little training (considering the time passage) outside of how to sponge-clean stiffs like Federico Diaz and how to fight with a stick like Will Scarlet.
But did any of those lessons ever truly rival the early Jaqen days? When he gave Arya three names at Harrenhal? When he cleaned out the midnight watch so Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie could waltz to freedom? When he appeared atop a crag and —magically— reappeared next to her on the canyon floor. One second he was sixty feet above and in the blink of an eye he was next to her. At what point during Arya’s House of Sand and Fog training was the insta-silent rappelling 101?
But whoa! Lord Castleton! What’s your glitch, bruh? Why you gotta get all analytical about a really kick ass revenge scene?
Because in the end, that scene hurts us. It hurts the brand. Because now, there are no limitations on what Arya can do.
I went back this week and personally watched every single episode where a Faceless Man or the like appears and while there are several cases of Jaqen assuming the hands and appearance and even the voice of another person, there is zero time spent teaching any of that to Arya.
So, in our glee, in our glowing, justified Frey-hate, we’re saying “it’s okay for a youngling with no training to become a Master Jedi.”
In that opening scene, not only did Arya take Walder Frey’s face. She took his height, his gnarled hands and most importantly, his VOICE. That’s what’s tough to swallow. The voice.
Now these are facts. Facts. Go watch the show. Her voice, hands and height are not Arya Stark.
But do we choose to care? Because our team won. Because, goddamn, it was nearly sexual the amount of pleasure it gave us.
We might contend that we lost our innocence last season, with the ridiculous series surrounding the death of Jaqen, where he takes the body of The Waif and is somehow alive and then Arya keeps pulling faces until she finds hers in Jaqen’s dead body. That whole sequence is crazy. And we can claim that this scene is the bastard love child of that sequence, but at least there, the rules involved masters of the trade. Full-bird Faceless Men, not just perturbed cuties from the North.
This one scene suggested that Arya’s Faceless Man skills have improved like fiftyfold. And don’t come at me in the comments with ‘false equivalence’ and ‘this is fiction’ and ‘how dare you call me Newt Gingrich when I’m Preet Bharara.’
Of course you’re a Preet Bharara. And so am I.
But let’s just take a second to appreciate how easy it is to excuse and prevaricate and grasp at the orbital tendrils of sense to justify an emotion or desired outcome in the face of an indisputable series of facts.
Let’s move on. You won’t see me shedding a tear for any Freys. Though I will miss those devilishly quaint caps they wear and how their candles are made of pig dung. You have to miss the persistent, mucky darkness they live in. You get the sense that wherever a Frey goes, the lights dim a bit, the stench rises a bit and none of them were ever taught how to aim their pee inside the actual toilet.
“Great, someone just Frey’d the bathroom. Looks like a colostomy bag exploded in there.”
Back in season five, when Arya was sitting in the rain outside the House of Black and White, she kept saying four names over and over again:
Now two of those names have been deep sixed by the avenging Stark midge. I’d say we’re in an interesting race to the last two.
Because it seems to me that the prime candidates to off Cersie are Jaime and Tyrion. 1a and 1b, respectively. There was a bit of prophecy in the books (not used to date in the show) which suggested that Cersei would be killed by her little brother:
“And when your tears have drowned you, the Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
Valonquar apparently means “little brother” in Old Valyrian. But it means assassin in Klingon.
The point is, all these years, Cersei has been worried about Tyrion, and tried to kill him off on several occasions because she thinks he might be the key to her demise. But for my money,
it’s not as far of a stretch for our resident Kingslayer to become a Queenslayer as well.
It has a nice ring to it.
“Burn in hell, Queenslayer!”
Yeah, that rolls off the tongue.
Where does that leave Arya? With only pauvre pauvre The Mountain on her kill list.
But again, I don’t think Arya is the best candidate for that. You don’t bring back The Hound from the dead without cause, and the Lord of Light wants The Hound to kill The Mountain.
Maybe, and I’m just spitballin’ here, The Hound and Jaime rush into the Red Keep with Arya in tow and they each run a sword through their respective target, but then Arya comes sailing in like a spider monkey and finishes both of them off.
Yeah, that’s probably what will happen.
The difference between them may be Arya’s humanity. Tywin killed every member, man woman and child of House Reyne. Similarly, Arya razed House Frey to the ground, but did it without the mass slaughter of ‘innocents.’ It’s inside of that distinction where Arya may someday find salvation.
March of the Dead
I have no idea where these assholes are walking to. They walk like I sit. They’ve been walking in circles since season one. GET SOMEWHERE ALREADY YOU GPS-LESS FUCKS!
The interesting note: the army of the dead has zombie Wun-Wuns.
I don’t think that’s actual Wun Wun because no way Jon forgot to burn the dead after the Battle of the Illegitimate Children, but the Night’s King has more than a few dead giants at his disposal.
This is the most important scene in the history of Westeros if you believe the rampant fan theories.
Basically, Dolorous Edd, the new Lord Commander, opens up the gate and is like Who dis? You wildlings?
Meera speaks in the Queen’s English and she’s like I’m the daughter of Howland Reed and this is Ned Stark’s boy. And Edd is like:
“Um, how do I know that?”
Because she doesn’t sound like Ygritte, eating fookin street meat at Aberghdeen fookin harbor now doos sheh?
But Bran is kind.
“You shit your pants at the Fist of the First Men. You also shit your pants at Hardhome.”
Edd thought that no one would ever know. He had burned those undergarments and trousers a mile and a half south of Castle Black, but somehow this sled-creature knew that. Was he born half sled or did he become half-sled? Edd didn’t know. But he certainly didn’t want Bran telling any more of his secrets because on the totem of worst to best, burning his shitpants was pretty tame.
“Okay. Let them in.”
And that’s it. Wash your hands, friends. It’s over.
Bran has been touched by the Night’s King. But powerful magic protects the Wall. The army of the dead can’t pass because the Three Eyed Raven always stayed North of the Wall. Now that Bran has taken the mark of the Night King south? The Wall is just a Wall.
The Second Moot
Here’s a new pattern:
1) White male 60+ Lord of a Northern Family says something.
2) Lady Lyanna Mormont stands up and crushes him in ten words or less.
3) Male Lord nods with reverence and sits.
4) Lady Mormont nods back at him because he knows his place. Now sit there and keep your yap closed.
The big takeaway from this scene is how will Jon adjust to Sansa questioning him in front of the Houses of the North. Baelish, of course, is delighted. Davos is less so. I don’t think Ser Davos said three words in this episode and yet being around him felt great again.
The fact is that Jon isn’t a kid anymore. Like Maester Aemon suggested, he has killed the boy, and the man is all that’s left. Jon has been through the ringer. He knows the value of decisiveness. He also understands the old ways, and while Sansa’s suggestion certainly makes sense, after you see young Ned Umber and young Alys Karstark re-affirm their allegiance? There’s little feeling that the new King had chosen the best course.
Even Littlefinger admired Jon’s resolve.
And if you ever need a reason to feel happy, just remember how Brienne looked at Lady Mormont. My god. I could live a thousand years in that gaze.
Outside, on the ramparts, we get a conversation between brother and sister and it’s refreshing. Sansa has grown a forked tongue over the years and she’s still simmering with resentment from the Ramsay affliction. She’s also possibly incubating a small Ramsay. She initially lashes out at Jon, comparing him unfairly to Joffrey and when he asks her, honestly, if that’s what she thinks of him, she realizes that Jon is nothing like Joffrey at all.
There are so many boundary issues between these two. They’ve both been burnt so badly by people they were supposed to trust.
Jon really does need to listen to Sansa about politics. He’s in danger of being just like Robb and his father, not seeing the big picture and as Sansa says “making dumb mistakes.”
Sansa has to get over the fact that she didn’t come away with much of the credit from the B.O.T.B. and realize that Jon is different from any person she’s ever been close to before. He is a true leader: an Aesir god still approaching his zenith. She has to keep advising him and re-remembering the ways of the North that she longed so hard to abandon and forget.
But lets be honest: women can see things and feel things that men can’t. Jon needs trusted advisors, and Sansa was in the very belly of the beast for all of her formative years.
Also: Everything before the “but” is horseshit. — words to live by.
As Sansa and Jon look south toward the Lannister threat, Sansa admits that she learned a great deal from Cersei. Does she actually admire her? In a world where women are trodden on and left for dead, Cersei has carved out quite a legacy for herself. You almost wouldn’t fault Sansa, a horse-traded deed to Winterfell for the last half-decade, for admiring that.
I have a friend who loves Game of Thrones, but he’s always like “wait — who’s that again?”
That’s why Cersei is standing on a goddamn map in the scene. For people who are helped by a little visual cue. And while that scene reeked of exposition, I was all for it. And for looking at the map. I love maps. For example, here’s a map that really helped me this episode:
It’s Dany’s journey from Meereen. For some reason I had begun to think that The Bay of Dragons, formerly Slaver’s Bay, was somehow close to Westeros. But no. It’s not like Dany and her goon squad are just hopscotching over the Narrow Sea from Braavos. That’s a sea journey. That’s a voyage across a quarter of the world’s surface. See? Maps are helpful.
So Cersie is pointing out all of her enemies. They’re all ‘traitors.’ Even her dead son. Yeesh. So fucking insane. Traitors as far as the eye can see.
Especially The Queen of Thorns. Cersei has the verbal grace of a nun at a finishing school.
What a delight she is!
Jaime plays the part of the Greek Chorus here, just pointing out the obvious. Reflecting back to her how we feel. You have no allies. You are surrounded.
When you kill everyone, then everyone is your enemy.
I went over this in another post, but how does Jaime not immediately back away and draw his sword when Cersei asks if he’s afraid of her.
That’s terrifying. As is the bizarro time-cut that puts them in full regalia and armor, watching the approach of the Iron Fleet.
I also wrote about this storyline. It is truly not believable and generally awful. Because Dragons can burn fleets in 4.2 seconds. What am I missing here?
Also, come on. Just come on with your 1000 ships. Come on.
There are no trees on the Iron Islands. Pyke looks like the rock face of a granite moon.
In 483 BC Themistocles begged the Athenians, the epicenter of classical culture and design, to build 200 triremes. It took them three years. And they were phenomenal artisans.
By comparison, the Ironborn are an inbred smattering of halfwits, centered around the propagation of the “theft” and “difficult bowel movements” genetic lines. They are artless. And they build a thousand ships for Euron in what, three years? Four? And did you see the amazing sails on those ships? Do you have any idea how much just one of those would cost on ETSY?
Come on. Come. On.
But fine. Fine. Leap of faith. Exercise of religious belief. I get it.
But in roars the King of the Iron Isles. This is one of those things I know many of you will disagree with me about, but this feels like a casting misstep. Very rare on GOT, I know. This actor just is not cutting it for me at all. Or maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe it’s how they’ve written him. Maybe in the books he’s this way and it works, but this is a man playing a pirate the way Johnny Depp plays a pirate and I don’t love it. I don’t even like it. And worse: I don’t buy it.
This arrogant troll doesn’t have the gravitas to be a leader who could marry a Lannister. I know that when your back is against the wall sometimes even a noble house has to throw a daughter at a nomadic Horse-Lord from time to time, but this dude? This 80’s teen movie bad guy in Chess King clothing?
I will say that he looks great, and super-fit this season. But man, I don’t know what I’m watching here.
And I don’t know how Jaime can stomach it.
And I don’t understand how Jaime can stand at the side of the Iron Throne, emasculated.
And I don’t understand where he thinks his relationship is when Cersei is entertaining suitors who mock him a lance-length away from him.
But okay. Euron gets it. He’s going to go and come back with a priceless gift. Hmm what might that be?
I seriously don’t know. I was asking you. The rules don’t make sense to me anymore? Olenna Tyrell’s head? What could a pirate get her that she couldn’t get herself? I always come back to this thing:
Not the glass, the horn.
When Sam and Edd and Grenn dug up this stash of Dragonglass, absolutely ZERO time was paid on the horn. That Horn must have a purpose. But it’s never been mentioned on the show. Still, it could come back as a sort of legendarily-well-buried deus ex machina. Maybe that Horn scares away dragons? Maybe it calls a leviathan from the sea? Maybe it scares off white walkers?
If you look online, there’s nada. (Image below from the Game of Thrones Wiki)
Is it the ancient Horn of Winter? A horn that can WAKE GIANTS FROM THE EARTH? Who knows. That would be a pretty kick ass gift.
The Sam Chronicles
Here’s another place where we’ll agree to disagree, probably. I loved the montage of Sam retching. I thought it was expertly acted and directed and shot and edited and sound edited. It made me laugh out loud. Do I want to see anyone else’s yule log? No, no I don’t.
But neither does Sam, and he has to see them over and over and over again.
It’s a wonderful development in the travails of Samwell Tarly. I relate to it in a way. Haven’t you ever gotten a new job thinking it was one thing and finding out it was far, far less? Remember Sam arriving at the Citadel at the close of last season? And he walks up with a HUGE smile and says:
“I’m to be a maester!”
And he’s admitted into the library. By god, he was in heaven. He was already mentally measuring himself for a monocle and elbow patches.
And now this. This. This base, janitorial existence. The absolute absence of intellect. All hard labor. All physical labor. It’s not like he’s taking courses at the Citadel while he works. Even Plebs in the service academies get to study while they’re abused.
This, of course, culminates with three key points:
1) Little Sam is like three or four. So that’s how much time has passed.
2) Sam steals from the restricted section and finds the ultra-secret stash of Dragonglass under Dragonstone.
3) Ser Jorah is alive. Turning to stone, but alive.
You can almost hear the whispers on the Oldtown winds: Khaleeeeeeeeeesiiiiiiii! Khaleeeeeeeeeesssssssiiiiiii!
Also, Jim Broadbent. I love him. And now he has something he’s never had before. What’s that you ask?
Pod is getting schooled by Brienne in the courtyard where Jon learned from Ned as a boy. It was a nice callback. Of course, you know who’s watching.
One sad beat about Tormund. He’s being sent off to Eastmarch by the Sea and I just don’t know how he lives through that. Also, he made a joke in the moot about how he’s the Night’s Watch now and got scant response. Tough room. That’s why its nice to have your friends around who ‘get you.’ More people to laugh at your jokes.
Unfortunately, they moved the camera to Sansa and Littlefinger just as Tormund was walking up to Brienne. I would have much rather have heard that conversation.
Arya and the Lannisters and Ed Sheeran
This is only a leap of faith if you know who Ed Sheeran is. And then it’s just something you kind of shake your head about. Must be nice, having your own show.
The bigger question here is what Arya will do. She sees Golden Lions and decides to wreck some shit. She studies their body position. Makes an order of attack in her mind. Talks nicely.
But here’s the thing: Even The Hound had trouble with five Lannister thugs.
These are fully-armed Lannister soldiers in hard plate. You need a machine gun to get through plate like that. And Arya is actually thinking about it?
So just how badass IS Arya?
Don’t get me wrong. If you tell me she’s now the best killer in Essos and Westeros I’ll go with it. Hell, I’ll even be actively excited about it. But it’ll be a tough pill to swallow. Because we just didn’t see the beats take place. Or anything remotely like it.
To be honest, when Arya got off her horse I’m like what the hell are you doing?” This show sometimes uses rape as a plot device! Ride, little peanut! Ride!
I thought the first dude there, across from her and Ed Sheeran with the dark hair. This guy?
I thought he was going to be trouble. Just looked like a real Dickon Tarly to me.
But he was fine. They were all fine. The winemaker with the googly eyes and a dad in a fishin’ boat somewhere was sweet as pie. How could Arya kill them? They’re so…regular and decent?
How would you feel if we opened next week with Arya cleaning Needle and all those boys dead around her?
And why is Arya riding SOUTH from the Twins? Would seeing her family dull her edge? Would being back in Winterfell make her more of Arya Stark and less of No one?
The Hound and the Dead Family
So we finally get to the scene that was nodded at in the previously-ons. The Hound has to come face to face with his humanity.
Let’s just establish one thing here: Rory McCann is no longer a supporting actor. He’s a lead. His performance is so honest and compelling and skilled that the show wouldn’t let him die. He’s amazing to watch. And his disdain for religious fanatics is always hysterical. Him mocking Thoros about it being a cold night ahead is pure gold. “Did your god tell you that?”
Why are you always in such a foul mood? Experience.
So it’s doubly important that this man who has been disfigured by flame, made to abandon his post by the fear of flame and dueled by flame with Beric’s blood-flamed fire sword, would now see images in the flame.
I’m not sure I loved the choice. I don’t want The Hound to find religion. I liked him salty and wandering.
It says a great deal that the guilt he felt about having robbed that father and daughter led to their demise. This is new for him and it’s interesting to see him struggling with it. Perhaps he took more from his time with Arya than we imagined. And perhaps his near-death experience made him relate to other, less menacing people more. It’s only more depth for this talented actor to mine.
The last twenty-seven minutes of the episode were dedicated to watching Daenerys return home very very slowly after stopping off at the coolest leather store in Paris. The walk from the beach to the war room was almost as long as her name.
Part of the reason this was endurable at all was that Team Daenerys looked absolutely fantastic.
He ringlets of hair? Perfectly framing a face that, this season has grown to look more womanly and less girlish. And her leather ensemble is fucking out of this world.
Actually that sentence works both ways. Her (personal) leather ensemble.
And her leather ensemble.
Now that’s how you want to arrive at the Emmy’s. Whoooo weee. Tyrion looks amazing. Grey Worm looks svelte. Missandei is beautiful. She can make any outfit work. This is a handsome damn crew.
Varys is the only one that didn’t get a new outfit on the voyage, which is sad, because he’s probably the one that wanted one the most. But at least he gets to be all passive aggressive about it now. That’s almost better for him.
The cinematography of this approach to Dragonstone was breathtaking.
I mean, if it’s me, and I’m on that team, my queen doesn’t lead the way. Y’know? Fire can’t kill a dragon, but an arrow can. And so can a kid with a rock from that height. I kept having anxiety that they hadn’t sent an advance guard. But I’m glad it turned out to be an uneventful walk for them.
And do you buy that no one was there? You’re telling me Sallador Sahn or someone like him wouldn’t have used an empty Dragonstone as a base of operations? I mean, okay.
Another leap of faith, but okay. Okay.
As we operate off book from this point forward, we may have to adjust to these leaps of faith. It may be the new normal. In the interest of speed and tying up loose ends and a general sense of completion, how many times over the next thirteen episodes will we have to shrug and say:
Still, it’s Game of Thrones. It’s a cut above. It has characters that feel like family and at some point, we’ll probably get to see Euron die.
I’m okay with all of it.
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