Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1: “Dragonstone”


By Zane Bixby

Overall Grade: B+

Welcome back! It’s been a bit over a year since I’ve gotten to write these for you all but I am glad to be back. For those who read my reviews last year, you all know I experimented a bit in how to present the review as a whole but ultimately came to a decision that I think worked best and will continue to use for this season. The reviews will go through the different plot lines in order from weakest of the episode to strongest. This order is based solely on my own opinion of the episodes and thus may differ from your own opinion. Now that we have gotten the boring stuff out of the way let’s talk a bit about the episode before I dive into the plot lines.

As per the usual for a season opener, not a whole lot actually happened in this episode, well not a whole lot of consequence. The purpose of a season opener is almost always to check in with the characters still with us and establish the beginnings of this seasons story arcs for them. With the show now ahead of the books, it’s pretty much impossible to exactly predict these arcs, but we can still get an assumption of what will happen. Unlike last season’s opener, which some of you may remember I didn’t care for, this one felt much better paced and much better in terms of starting the season. With that said, the majority of the plot lines in this episode all come out to equal in terms of how much I enjoyed them with the exception of the strongest and the weakest. So, you can assume the ones in the middle are about equal in quality and the order I place them in could be changed simply by differing opinions. Let’s jump in.

Sam and Oldtown

While the shots of Oldtown and its Citadel are beautiful, this series of scenes felt nothing but out of place to me. Maybe it was seeing him having to do the lowly tasks of a brand new Maester-in-Training, but the whole scene felt like it never really gained any traction. Of course, even when he’s talking to the Arch Maester (Hey look it’s the actor who played Professor Slughorn, that’s another one from Harry Potter showing up in the series!) the entire scene feels like a play of ignorance from both Sam and the people around him. You still have people refusing to believe the army of the dead is coming and that it’s of no consequence, while Sam goes out of his way to risk his opportunity of becoming a Maester just to get earlier access to the restricted area of the library. But this is of course, to point out the mine of Dragonglass that can be found on Dragonstone and give way for the arch to send Jon there to meet with Daenerys.


Daenerys and Dragonstone

Since we are on the subject of Dragonstone, the namesake of this episode also felt like a relatively weak scene, meant once again to give people a “powerful” moment from Dany. Those who followed my reviews last season know that I’m not the biggest fan of Dany and kind of hate how her character is used simply to have “strong female moments.” When you have a cast as large as GoT and a myriad of strong characters, why did this scene feel so shoehorned in? The increased visuals from Dragonstone were incredibly beautiful, and the set design was so spot on. But did we really need to watch her and her advisors walk through the whole thing for five minutes just to hear her say “Shall we begin?” Sure, that line is there to basically put a bookend on what will be the final 13 episodes of the series, but I would have preferred getting a bit more out of the scene as a whole.

That’s not to say the scene was bad, just a bit forced to create an end for the episode and to give Dany a bit of spotlight in this season opener. I almost wish we would have gotten a smaller scene with them before we got the episode closer, something with Tyrion and Varys talking to her about what to expect when they got there, or talking about the weight of returning to an ancestral home. But instead we got this and we have to take what we get.

King’s Landing

It certainly doesn’t look like the place has gone to shit since Cersei was named Queen, but finally we are seeing just a bit of tension between her and Jaime. Those who have read the books know that near the end of the books Jaime is actually becoming very dissuaded and cautious about his sister and her seeming descent into being the Mad Queen. We are finally seeing some of that come back to fruition when Jaime asks her about Tommen. Her reasoning for not being upset about causing his death seemed simple to her, she felt betrayed, but that doesn’t excuse the action and as we see them map out the enemies around them (quite literally in fact), we can see just how hopeless things really seem to be for the two Lannisters left in King’s Landing. I really hope Jaime further distances himself from Cersei, because I don’t want to see him die with her when the time comes.

That being said, we had more to King’s Landing than just them talking and mapping out their enemies. Euron finally made his reappearance with his Iron Fleet. Am I the only one who felt like they just let the actor come on set in his street clothes? Compared to the design and feel of all the other costumes, his was oddly out of place. Additionally, his character felt completely forced, with the writers seemingly trying to give him a bigger ego and “dick” mentality than Ramsay in an attempt to create a someone more hated. If this is the extent of that, I don’t see it as something I’m going to enjoy at all in the coming season and I even anticipate more complaints in reviews to come.


Bran and the White Walkers

For as short of a scene as this was, it was really well made. The slowly approaching White Walkers and their army of wights was a hell of a great visual, with the giants included making for a particularly menacing scene. It did drag on a few seconds to long, simply to build the anticipation of the scene, but other than that I have no real complaints.

Bran seems to be becoming more confident in his newly found title as the Three-Eyed Raven, and now that they are heading south of the wall, here’s to hoping we see a long awaited Stark reunion at Winterfell. The only concern this may raise is if the Night King’s mark is still on him. By crossing that barrier and going south of the wall, Bran may be the cause of bringing the wall down and letting the dead pass.

The Hound and The Brotherhood

Surprisingly, Sandor is still hanging out with the brotherhood and they’ve returned someplace he last visited with Arya. The weight of the memories actually seems to be pulling him down and the growth of his character continues to impress me. Between taking the time to listen to Thoros and looking into the fires and his desire to bury the people he wronged, he’s actually grown past caring only about himself. I’m still hoping for the CleganeBowl, and hoping for a reunion between him and Arya but with the Long Night coming, it seems more likely that the Brotherhood is heading north instead of south.

Winterfell

Jon has taken to being a king quite nicely, even if he isn’t wearing a crown or really admitting to that title just yet. He’s found a way to manage his people well and is looking at the best way to keep everyone happy while also respecting their ancestry. Of course, we are seeing the beginning of some strife between Sansa and him, which is something I expect we will be seeing more of as time goes on. It goes to reason that they would disagree over what to do with the ancestral homes of the Umbers and Karstarks, two groups that sided with Ramsay over them and they both use the memory of Ned Stark to justify their beliefs. For Jon, he is seen as the pinnacle of honor that he aims to emulate, but for Sansa he is, along with her brother Robb, the biggest cautionary tale in bad-decisions that they could have.

It’s interesting to see how their genders affect the argument that takes place here. While Jon shows forward thinking in commanding the northerners to train their women for combat, he gets angry with Sansa for challenging his authority as his younger sister, and even seems offended by how she grabs his arm to get his attention afterwards. The problem here is that there’s no clear-cut answer for who is right and who is wrong. Sansa makes some excellent points about both her father and her brother and the mistakes that the made. But Robb’s attempt to emulate his father by punishing the Karstarks harshly for their betrayal created the very rebellion she is angry about, so Jon’s mercy to the rest of their families actually seemed appropriate to me. But as long as Littlefinger is around, telling Sansa she is the rightful Lady of Winterfell, we can see more conflict down the road and disagreements aplenty.

Getting past that, I did appreciate Sansa’s snarkiness with Littlefinger, her line “I’ll assume it was something Clever” sticks out in my head as one of the best lines of the episode. We also got to see Tormund’s continued interest in Brienne, though without knowing what he said to her we have no idea why she walked off from him. I’m still hoping for them to come together in some way, as Tormund continues to impress me as a character and as being level-headed even in the face of all that has happened.

Overall, the majority of the conflict in the North comes back to which direction they should be looking. Jon has spent the last few years at the Wall and beyond, so he understands the threat that approaches them, but Sansa has spent her last few years in the South, and she understands the threat the Cersei and the Lannisters represent, which creates an interesting parallel for them to bounce off of and if they can bring that knowledge together without additional strife, might create a defensive position with their combined knowledge that will save them in the wars to come.

Arya

I said I was saving the best for last and I mean it. The cold open in this episode had me scratching my head a bit at first, and I was believing that this was a flashback to several days after the Red Wedding, but it became more and more apparent that something was amiss. Once Lord Frey launched into his speech it clicked and a smile quickly was on my face, this was Arya and she was getting her revenge on their family, once and for all. It was a satisfying way to continue her story after she killed Walder Frey last season. That scene alone set the stakes for this season, at least for Arya. She’s ready to strike names from her list, and she’s not pulling any punches.

Her follow up scene was also surprising, but in a completely separate way. I have no doubt that she should have heard by now that the Starks have retaken Winterfell, it just seems likely that the word should have passed somehow. But instead she is heading south, toward King’s Landing. When she comes across the small group of Lannister men, I was actually afraid that it was going to be used to just show again how much of a badass she had become, but the odd sense of camaraderie that they showed, was a refreshing change of pace for the show. Instead of just killing the people who represented her enemy, Arya sat down and talked of home and the future with the group of travelers in a relaxing way we haven’t quite gotten to see in a while. Ed Sheeran’s cameo was light enough that I enjoyed it and made me wonder if we would see his character again, something I wasn’t expecting at all.

The real kicker of this scene that made me enjoy it though, was how casually Arya told them she was heading to kill the Queen. She understands better than anyone what she is, and she uses that to make people underestimate her. I hope she is the one who gets to put the blade in Cersei, but I still partially believe that it will be Jaime who ends up killing her. At this point only time will tell.

Side-Notes

This section of the review, in episodes to come, will be for revelations in regards to past episodes and how they connect to the most recent episode. But for now, I’ll just use it to discuss a few points that didn’t really fit to one spot.

-Given how many cuts we saw in Sam’s scene, it’s hard to tell just how much time has passed for each of the timelines, so that being said, I’m not even going to try and discern when things are happening in relation to each other. We just have to assume they all are happening in a relatively similar timeframe.

-Jon’s direwolf Ghost still hasn’t been seen for a while, and with Nymeria still unseen since season one we are running out of the beasts to see. I’m still hoping for a return of Arya’s companion, but without having any signs of her since that departure in the first season, it’s incredibly unlikely that we will see here again.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ZaneBixby where I tweet inane things about comics and other nerdy stuff about my current writing projects.
Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1: “Dragonstone” Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1: “Dragonstone” Reviewed by Blerds Online on Monday, July 17, 2017 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.