It’s the opening scene.
(Do I have to say spoilers? Spoilers for the first four minutes of the episode.)
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching Arya murder all the Freys as much as the next person. And I’m sure there will be fallout from her actions. But I’ve watched this scene several times now, and I can’t shake this feeling that it’s just… well, not good.
From the very first shot, we know something’s up, as the camera pans up to Walder Frey. But how can this be? We saw him die last season (and, for that matter, fifteen seconds ago, in the “Previously On” segment).
Well, maybe this is a flashback, right? But even then, why are we watching this?
“You’re wondering why I brought you all here,” says Walder Frey, anticipating our question, and breaking the fourth wall MORE THAN THE FREAKING CAMEO.
“After all, we just had a feast,” exposits Walder, letting us know that this is NOT a flashback, and thus, Frey is obviously Arya.
We’re now approximately thirty seconds into a four-minute scene, and we definitely know by this point that this is the present, and we’re here to watch Arya murder Freys. Shortly thereafter, we even know how she’s going to do it, as we’ve prominently been shown
Chekhov’s Gun Arya’s chalice and now here comes the “good” wine, which, if your host ever suddenly brings out for no reason, you should definitely not drink.
“I’ve gathered every Frey who means a damn thing,” growls Arya Frey, “so I can
keep spoon-feeding you tell you my plans for this great house now that Winter has come.”
Then they drink the wine, poison poison, a bit of winking misogyny that saves Walder’s widow, and the dramatic music swells as Arya finishes monologuing and the Freys die.
Fun, right? But we knew all of this was coming. Even with all that dramatic music, the scene had no dramatic tension, because we don’t give a shit about random Freys. There was no threat, implied or otherwise, to Arya, since she’s hypercapable and in disguise. We’re not learning anything new about her, or seeing anything particularly shocking from a visual or emotional standpoint. As a piece of television, this scene has no real punch, and no real point.
Oh, but I left out the best part. At the end, with Arya unmasked and finally letting us know the scene is almost over, she gives us our dessert:
“When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”
Ah yes, the button. I love a good button.
That button was so good, it screams WITNESS ME like a War Boy.
It was so good, I feel like there’s a more-than-zero chance that they had the line and then wrote the scene to get there.
It was so good, it could have smash-cut to:
Look, was it fun? Sure. Cathartic? You bet. A good way to kick off the season? I suppose.
But was it a particularly good scene? I don’t think it was.