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Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: “Winterfell”

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details you might have missed in Game Of Thrones Season 8 premiere

Spoiler Alert! This review contains details about the season 8 premiere. Please turn back if you want to avoid reading any spoilers.

Fans have waited almost two years for the new season of Game of Thrones, and now our watch has ended. Or rather, now our watch can finally begin!

Clocking in at a disappointing 55 minutes – after waiting so long and with only six episodes in this final season, we frankly deserve more – this episode is all about exposition and nostalgia, tying together the pieces for us to get the ending underway, and to reunite our still-living characters.

Royalty hasn’t visited Winterfell since episode one of the series. We are invited to look back and remember everything that has changed between then and now. Arya, once precocious and innocent, watches with a smirk as an unknown child climbs a tree to get a better look at the marching army. She used to be that. So did Bran.

Ramin Djawadi’s music hearkens back to the series premiere by re-using the “The Kings Arrival,” which we have not heard since. But now it is updated, less fanciful, and overlaid with the regimented and fiery music of the Unsullied. The Northerners watch severely, stoic and judgmental, as the Unsullied march on. They don’t trust outsiders, and Missandei and Greyworm feel tangibly uncomfortable, as exotic to the North as the North is to them.

Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: “Winterfell”

Arya, unnoticed, watches the procession. She is going to be reunited with a lot of people this episode. Some of those reunions will be warmer than others. And one will even be a little hot…

The first lines of dialogue are a touch disappointing – a bland dick joke from Tyrion, at Varys’ expense. Sansa’s later jab at how Tyrion used to be clever really rings true. The writers have not been kind to the once brilliant Tyrion over the past several seasons. The character (and us) deserves better, smarter writing. There are a few delightful zingers throughout the ep – just none from Tyrion.

In come the dragons, and there is nothing like seeing a full-grown dragon for the first time in your life. Arya feels exhilarated. Sansa’s reaction is… strange. I have to blame Sophie Turner’s acting on this one. But yes, the dragons fly in, and mama’s proud. Daenerys may feel uncomfortable in the frigid North, but at least her babies – the ones still with her, anyway – bring her comfort.

Daenerys’ position is interesting, and she must is tow a fine line. She has promised to aid in the fight against the dead of course, and as ever she must assert herself as Queen. However, her attitude is more like that of a girl meeting a boyfriend’s family for the first time. And that family is, well, strange. Emotionless Bran spouts off prophesy, murder-face Arya is nowhere to be found, and the most normal of the three, Sansa, throws shade at Daenerys from the get-go.

Awkward introductions aside, Jon finally reunites with Bran. And with Jon home, we have every person of Stark blood still living in the same place – and in Winterfell — for the first time since the beginning of the series.

Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: “Winterfell”

Inside Winterfell’s Great Hall, the Lords convene. Poor little Lord Umber is trying his best, and he goes to gather more men, an unfortunate mistake. Lyanna Mormont is none too pleased with the presence of the Dragon Queen, and neither are the rest of the Northerners. They feel betrayed. Not only did they name Jon as the King in the North, but Northerners have historically met horrible ends at the hands of both Targaryens and Lannisters. And the North, as they say, remembers.

Sansa, bitchily, brings up a fair point – Winterfell can’t sustain food and shelter for these huge armies, let alone dragons. Sansa attempts to throw shade at Daenerys, but Dany is unphased. “What do dragons eat anyway?

Whatever they want.

Sansa, channeling her late-mother and Queen Cersei with her stubborn mean-girl act, may have been through a lot and grown considerably (although 0x100 still equals 0, but that’s just my opinion of the Stark girl). But imagining she can non-chalantly contend with the Dragon Queen is foolish. With just one line (and a wicked side-eye), Sansa is demolished.

Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: “Winterfell”

Next, Sansa and technically-still-husband Tyrion are reunited. Considering everything Sansa has been through, it makes sense that she has put up an emotional wall, but Tyrion was never anything but good to her, in a world where she can say that about hardly anyone else. But her attitude toward him is harsh and mostly unapologetic.

Bran, meanwhile, creepy-watches from below.

At the Weirwood tree, Jon is busy brooding when Arya sneaks up on him. This is a long-awaited reunion, and the one I was most excited to see. With so much genuine emotion between the two of them, you can see through to their hearts, you can almost see them as kids again. Arya still carries Needle – Jon’s gift to her — with her. But Jon’s gotten an upgrade since last they saw each other. She does not reveal her Valyrian steel to Jon, reluctant to trust even him with most details about her life, as further shown when she severely downplays her history of combat.

Apart from the reunion itself, the scene is most important as it serves to underscore their pack mentality. Arya reminds Jon about the importance of being a Stark, which will be all the more important with the coming revelations regarding his lineage later in the episode.

[Spoiler Ahead] Twitter was amused by Cersei’s demand for elephants

In King’s Landing, Queen Cersei – still looking masterfully sharp and domineering – is feeling pretty damn great with herself. “Good,” she says, in response to Qyburn’s reveal that the dead have broken through the wall to the north. She’s sitting pretty on the Iron Throne, about to be reinforced by the Golden Company, while all of her enemies fight and die, or so she hopes.

Things aren’t quite as swell as she hoped though. Fewer men arrived than she had hoped. An acceptable amount of horses. But no elephants. And now she has to deal with Euron Greyjoy.

Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon,” Cersei preached way back in Episode 9 of Season 2. Although she’s come a long way, and developed a cruel mastery of and taste for all sorts of violence, we see that even now, even as queen she still believes the same: “The best one’s between her legs.

Euron is basically just a horny and impudent boy, swaggering through life to fulfill his whims. Although the allure of bedding the Queen is at least partially informed by the desire for power, it is likely lost on him what a power-play it is that he is able to convince Cersei to sleepwith him.

I have read some other episode reviews (written by men), and I think the female psychology here might be lost on some male viewers. Sure, it might well be true she is horny, and it might even be true that she is legitimately turned on by Euron’s arrogance (although please take notice of her diversionary response to whether he pleased her), but make no mistake: she did not want to sleep with him. We have always seen that when she is feeling lusty or desirous, she shows it. She did this for power. She did so to maintain his allegiance and his fleet. To me, the most powerful moment in this entire episode is the moment after Euron leaves the room, in which we see the restrained tears in Cersei’s eyes. She’s a queen, and an objectively horrible person, but she is also a woman.

Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: “Winterfell”

Pictured: Euron Greyjoy not reading clear female body language.

Maybe to convince herself that sleeping with Euron was not being unfaithful to Jaime, and maybe using her typical coping mechanism of unbridled anger (coupled with her other notorious coping mechanism: wine), Bronn is interrupted from a classic HBO romp by Qyburn. Bronn honestly seems almost thankful to be rid of the awkward conversation the whores were providing, and Qyburn cuts to the chase. Use this crossbow – kill the “treasonous” Lannister brothers. Not just Tyrion: brothers, plural.

Cersei wasn’t able to follow through with her bluff at the end of last season and do away with Jaime herself. Maybe he’s the one thing in this world she still loves. And perhaps that, to her, is also a weakness. What Bronn will do, who can say? His allegiance is ever-wavering, his own self-interest always at the forefront. But he has a rich history with the Lannister boys, so I am not sure that Cersei could buy these services from him so easily. It’s also hard to look that far ahead when they’re both in the North, and Winter is here.

Back in the North, the dragon babies are barely eating. Daenerys says they don’t like the North. Can you blame these magical fire beasts for disliking a wintery wasteland where their brother died and there’s nothing fun to eat? This seems to be true for Daenerys too. Her fire needs kindling, and here there is mostly a lot of ice and silent Northerners. No open opposition (yet), no slaves to free, no one to worship her.

Except for Jon.

The dragons have taken a liking to Jon (cough, Targaryen blood, cough). Dany follows their cue. They are like puppies who want to be pet.

Daenerys decides to give Jon Snow a gift – or a test – inviting him to ride the dragon. The sequence is fun. Sure, their hair doesn’t really blow in the wind as they’re zipping through the sky, and sure it’s a little bit like watching a Quidditch match in a Harry Potter film, but it’s okay. It’s still totally worth it. Because Jon Snow is riding a dragon, and that is enough.

It’s enough for Daenerys too, and the lady is turned on at his successful flight. Although the scene’s romance is toned down by the awkwardness of Ygritte’s evoked memory – and of puppy-dragons watching them make out – the lady is turned on, and the couple (while related) is just beautiful. “Keep your Queen warm,” she purrs.

Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: “Winterfell”

Game of Thrones: normalizing incest since 2011.

Jon and Dany aren’t the only ones trying to make heat as Gendry is at work in the forge, crafting weapons out of the mined dragonglass to fight the impending undead horde. Arya has a twofer reunion, first with the Hound. Arya has had a slew of mentors throughout the series, and as gruff and unlikable as the Hound could be — both aesthetically and because he did kill Arya’s friend the butcher’s boy at the beginning of the show – Arya did grow to care for him, and learned a lot from him that would prove to be quite formative. The Hound begrudgingly cared for her too, so it is with delicious and subtle subtext that they exchange brief curt remarks to each other. “You’re a cold little bitch, aren’t you. Guess that’s why you’re still alive.” Within that line is anger, hurt, love, amusement, and the fact that he’s even proud of her.

Once the Hound leaves, Arya and Gendry are able to cutely flirt. It’s refreshing to see Arya like a teenage girl, and it’s hopeful to dream that maybe old Robert Baratheon’s dream of uniting his house with the Starks could prove true. At the time in season one he was referring to Sansa and Joffrey, and wasn’t even aware that Gendry was his son, but now this hope, and the longstanding bond between the houses, could be solidified. And it would be adorable.

Back to Sansa’s displeasure with, well, everything, she scolds Jon about his bending the knee to Daenerys. House Glover refuses to ride to support the Starks, and that’s just one symptom of his renouncing his title of King of the North.

Truthfully, Sansa would be unhappy no matter what, and would probably be less uppity if Dany weren’t so beautiful, but she does voice the concern of the entire Kingdom. The trouble is that Jon is actually right – in times of absolute peril, the title of King doesn’t mean much — it’s just that everyone always thinks he knows nothing.

Daenerys decides to thank Sam Tarly – whom she may know is her lover’s best friend. Maybe that’s partially why she is so forthcoming with the honest truth that in one of her Khaleesi moments she burnt Randall and Dickon Tarly to a crisp. John Bradley does a phenomenal job as Sam, trying to restrain all of his opposing emotions in front of the woman who killed her family members, and who is his queen.

Game Of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: “Winterfell”

“Hi, I’m Daenerys. Mother of Dragons. Breaker of Chains. Killer of your family. Nice to meet you.”

Three-Eyed Raven Bran chooses this moment – either strategically or out of a complete lack of emotional understanding – to recruit Sam to tell Jon about his parents. Sam doesn’t really want to do this, but it is important, and it is also retaliation against Daenerys.

He finds Jon in the catacombs, which is a dramatically wonderful place to hold a scene about lineage. Sam drops the L+R=J bomb on Jon, who is not Jon at all but Aegon Targaryen, 6th of his Name, and the rightful heir to the throne.

This is huge news for Jon for about a hundred reasons, and Kit Harrington nicely acts through processing the information. He doesn’t want to be King, but he does want what’s best for the realm, and this is information he cannot ignore. Unfortunately, he won’t have long to process these new facts before more dire events get underway.

As the episode wraps up, we need to prepare ourselves for the impending doom that’s coming in the rest of the brief season.Beric Dondarrion and Tormund Giantsbane enter the creepy snow castle of the Umbers. There are quite a lot of blood-stains, but no bodies. We know what that means.

Inside is little Lord Umber, nailed to the wall with bloody limbs in a spiral. A message from the Night King. As the creature comes to life and is lit ablaze by Beric’s flaming sword, its inhuman screams are truly horrifying. This is what we must now prepare for.

To really finish off the episode, Jaime finally arrives at Winterfell. As he comes face-to-face with Bran, both of them having transformed as characters so utterly, the episode really strongly bookends the mirroring of the first episode. Had Jaime not pushed Bran out of the window, no one would be where they are now.

details you might have missed in Game Of Thrones Season 8 premiere

A few more thoughts:

  • This episode did not have a lot of action, but the rest of the season is sure to be very dense and serious, so this was like the foreplay we all needed.
  • An updated intro focuses on the few places on the map that still matter. We are introduced to the visual of the Last Hearth, as well as the catacombs beneath Winterfell. The opening is intricate and visually impressive, feeling like a theme park ride.
  • I would love for Jorah and Lyanna Mormont to meet.
  • Jon complains that Sansa thinks she’s smarter than everyone. Arya defends her, saying that she is the smartest person Arya knows. I think that Sansa has grown very much as a character, but she started as a weak and whiney, spoiled child and now she thinks she is superior to literally everyone. Of course she would have learned that from Cersei, who mentored her whether she likes it or not. So Jon is correct. In a way, Arya is too, but when you compare Sansa to everyone else Arya has spent a lot of time with – with the exception of Tywin Lannister – she might be right.
  • Theon rescues Yara. Somehow. And easily. In an entire fleet of ships, Theon and some men infiltrate and rescue her without much fuss. What was the point of her getting captured to begin with? Now she wants to take the Iron Islands back. Good. She sends Theon on his way to fight for the Starks. He’ll have some reunions there too. I look forward to his death.
  • The Stark bannermen are piling in. But Davos preaches caution regarding the Northerner’s loyalty. He proposes a proposal: “A just woman and an honorable man.” But Varys is not convinced. “Nothing lasts,” he says. He’s right. The relationship is doomed, and the show itself is coming to an end.
  • The episode is titled “Winterfell,” and not just because that is the convergence of most of the action, but because it is where the show began. Dragons, Targaryen blood, the Iron Throne, and everything else wouldn’t mean as much to we the viewers if we hadn’t followed the journey of the Stark family in the way we have. Certainly there have been seemingly endless other characters and houses to follow, but the Starks were our gateway into the world, and this episode took pains to show how far everyone has come specifically through a Northern lense.
  • Jon Snow has just found out about his Targaryen blood, but that doesn’t make him any less of a Stark in sensibility. In terms of honor, decision making, sense of duty, and emotions, he reminds me of Ned more than ever.





Vanessa Cate is a writer and editor for Stage Raw and @THISSTAGE magazine. She is the founder and artistic director of True Focus Theater and fantasy performance group Cabaret le Fey. She is also a diehard geek and fantasy lover.

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Game of Thrones season 7 finale review: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

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Game of Thrones season 7 finale review

Nearly all of our remaining main characters made their way to King’s Landing for the season finale, and it was spectacular! Every one of them looked magnificent, every one of them having levelled up and looking the part.

Slowing the pace down in the beginning of the episode was a welcome change that allowed us to reacquaint ourselves with the classic character/politics structure that drew us into Game of Thrones in the first place. Tyrion, Bronn, and Podrick reuniting genuinely warmed my heart.

Sure, Bronn had to leave pretty immediately – a move that at first seemed suspicious, until I remembered that the actor Jerome Flynn and Cersei’s Lena Heady refuse to be in any scene together because of their real-life past. Well, off to get drunk and catch up with Podrick, who it’s best to have out of harm’s way anyway.

Brienne and the Hound touching base about not dying and the status of Arya Stark was another nice moment. The Hound’s follow-up with his brother the Mountain teased a Cleaganebowl, but did not deliver. Hopefully next season.

One of the best executed moments of the episode is what I’ll call “Schrödinger’s Wight”. When the Hound sets the crate down and opens the lid, we do not know if the Wight is animated or not. Is it even still in there? Is it just a pile of bones? Was the rag-tag, hackneyed plan to travel beyond the wall and capture an undead exhibit all for nothing?

Luckily, a skeleton on steroids rushes out of the box and lunges at Queen Cersei. The Mountain doesn’t stop it in time (is he afraid?), but luckily the Hound decides to slowly dismember the creature before he has the chance to chomp it to bits.

Jon follows up with a straightforward yet dramatic zombie-killing tutorial. The demonstration couldn’t have been more ideal. So much so that Cersei seems shaken (as much as she could be), and she offers a truce in return for Jon’s neutrality in the wars to come.

However, in true Stark fashion, Jon stays true to his nature and frankly asserts that he will remain loyal to his new Queen, Daenerys. Cersei’s not pleased, and storms off. Daenerys and company are not pleased, and berate Jon. Honesty gets Starks killed; honesty doesn’t win wars.

"The Dragon and the Wolf" becomes the most watched Game of Thrones episode ever jon_snow_and_dany

But Jon Snow doesn’t care about what other people think. He pretty much never has, and especially since he got brought back from the dead. And as much of a Targaryen as he is in his blood, he proved to be the very definition of a Stark. As he told Theon later in the episode, sometimes you don’t have to choose which family you belong to. Jon is both. His sincerity would have made Ned proud.

Tyrion scrambles to come up with a solution and walks into the lioness’ den.

The Lannister family has always boasted some of the strongest actors in the series, and it is no small delight to watch Lena Heady and Peter Dinklage act across one another. Heady has had a lot to work with in the past few seasons, but Dinklage has had to act across Emilia Clark’s wooden readings for quite some time. So it was refreshing to see the strength of these two performances evenly matched and fueling each other.

As for the characters – yes it was stupid for Tyrion to meet with Cersei one-on-one. He’s been full of stupid ideas all season, and I’m not sure why. The first few seasons expertly set up his brilliance. Now he’s basically a chronic-fumbler. My instinct is that showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are themselves not up to the intellectual challenge of paying the Imp his dues, that without George R. R. Martin’s help they are unable to write for a character is that is, in fact, smarter than they are.

Whatever. Here’s what we know: Cersei has grown significantly, and would have made her father proud (had he not been so sexist, and dead). Her cunning and ruthlessness have skyrocketed. She’s really in top form. But Tyrion doesn’t necessarily know it. Despite having heard rumors of the goings-ons of King’s Landing, he can’t possibly understand how much Cersei has gone through while he was trekking to Meereen and back.

We also know that Cersei’s aesthetic for vengeance has evolved. Viewers who bemoaned the improbability of her letting Tyrion live not only do not have their sights set on her end game, but have forgotten the information she has laid out for us. Her treatment (as well as her epically villainous monologues) of the septa at the end of last season as well as Ellaria Sand and her daughter Tyene show us that she is not content with swift hack-and-slash deaths.

Not for those she truly despises. Instead, she prefers long and drawn out torture. It would not have been satisfying for Cersei to order the Mountain to cut Tyrion down. Surely she has fantasized and planned out just how she would like him to die, and surely it would be very slow and very painful. But that’s not for now.

Vengeance against one little brother is small when compared to ruling over the Seven Kingdoms, protecting what she thinks of as family, and destroying the mass of people who oppose her.

We don’t know how exactly Tyrion and Cersei’s conversation got on after he surmised she was pregnant. We do know that he convinced her to return the Dragon Pit. We know she feigned compromise. And we know that Cersei got exactly what she wanted out of this arrangement and set herself up for success as much as possible.

It’s not for nothing that Brienne of Tarth showed up in King’s Landing. Although her importance in the Dragon Pit negotiations was minimal at best, her brief interaction with Jaime was possibly enough to sway him to do what he needed.

Game of Thrones season 7 finale review

Jaime has been blindly devoted to Cersei for a long time. It was for his love for her that started this whole mess to begin with when he pushed Brann out of the tower in the very first episode of the series. His stint in the custody of Brienne softened his heart, and in conjunction with losing his hand, he became a man who wanted to do better. Cersei has only become viler with time, fermenting like wine, but his love for her has never faltered.

Their relationship has been unhealthy for a long time, if it was ever healthy to begin with. So a big and tearful round of applause for a man who was finally able escape an abusive relationship. You go, Jaime.

I think we were all terrified that Cersei would honestly have the Mountain put an end to him. But it’s beautiful that she didn’t. She must have wanted to. “No one walks away from me.” She must have believed that she was so dead inside that she could have. But it’s a more interesting thing to reveal about her character that she still has a shred of humanity left. Her love for Jaime is what lets him go.

So Jaime rides off toward the impending doom in the North. He has to know that it’s likely he’ll never see Cersei or King’s Landing again. In the most beautiful sequence of the episode, Winter eases into King’s Landing like a lover’s whisper. Jaime rides alone into the darkness. Cue full-body goosebumps.

Meanwhile, the Winterfell storyline wrapped up (thank the gods!). This whole storyline was a mess all season. Real and feigned sibling rivalry. Backdoor meetings that made no sense. Long drawn out scenes that ultimately lead nowhere.

11 details you might have missed in Game of Thrones season 7 finale: The Dragon and the Wolf

So Arya and Sansa were in cahoots all along. But why? Once they had the supposed heart-to-heart that we as audiences never got to see in which they decided to be catty to each other (even in private where it would be irrelevant to whatever plan they hatched) and send Lady Brienne away (for reasons that still evade me, real or feigned), why did they draw out Little Finger’s existence for so long?

It wasn’t to make him suffer. It wasn’t to gain new information. They honestly could have executed him right away. And then we wouldn’t have had to endure what truly felt like filler – which is an insult when the creators are serving up such rushed and stunted material otherwise.

The best we can do is wash our hands of this whole debacle. I really mean it, this was Dorne-level impotence from the writers, which made no sense, wasted our time, and did damage all the characters involved.

The good thing that came from all this: a masterful acting performance from Aiden Gillen. Littlefinger’s final scene showed him vulnerable, pathetic, and scared. As vile of a character as he is, I felt pity for him. Not enough to mind when his own Valyrian steel dagger slashed his throat open, but enough to really take time to appreciate the character, but more than anything the actor.

Now let’s never speak of this Winterfell plot again.

Last but certainly not least, Jon and Daenerys finally gave into their desires. Whether you support the lovers or are weirded out by the incest, you can’t deny how beautiful they looked together, and how fantastic their chemistry is.

Knowledge-keepers Bran Stark and Samwell Tarly have a chit-chat about Jon. It’s strangely timed, as talking about incest certainly takes some of the fun out of the concurrent lovemaking, but it’s an interesting choice made by the writers, and to be honest at this point I’ll take any creative choice they come up with.

So now that the deed has been done, how will Jon and Daenerys react when they finally learn that they are nephew and aunt? Will Targaryen propensity for incest allow them to be okay with it? Will they have Targaryen babies, as seems to have been foreshadowed this season? Will they be at each other’s throats, vying for the right to sit on the Iron Throne? Well, we have a long time before the next season to theorize.

Game of Thrones season 7 finale review

Finally, Winter truly has come, and we’re all doomed. I suppose that whatever magic is in the Wall to prevent White Walkers from crossing over is a moot point when the Wall is attacked by a zombie dragon. I’m unsure of the mechanics here – whether zombie-Viserion breathes fire or ice.

If it’s fire, and is one of the things that kills walkers, shouldn’t that very fire destroy Viserion? If it is fire, why is it hotter in death? I’m more forgiving to the logic of it being ice (if we can bring logic into a discussion about dragons), but I’m not sure how that would destroy the Wall.

None the less (and nevermind how he flies with holes in his wings), Wight Viserion is magnificent, and the Night King riding him at the head of the legion of the undead was the perfect way to end the season. We have literally been waiting since the opening scene of season 1 for the White Walkers to breach the Wall. Now they have, and it is game on. First stop: Winterfell.

la-et"The Dragon and the Wolf" becomes the most watched Game of Thrones episode ever viserion night king-st-game-of-thrones-finale-burning-questions-20170827

A few more thoughts:

  • With the death of Littlefinger, the Knights of the Vale are no longer required to fight for the Starks. Not unless Robyn Arryn has grown out of that adorable phase where he just wants to push people out of the Moon Door. A marriage between Sansa and Robyn, while deplorable, would make strategic sense for this reason. My guess is that between time constraints and lazy writing, this issue will be swept under the rug and the Knights of the Vale will tag along in the battle against the dead. It should be noted that the Eyrie would be a fantastic place to fortify against White Walkers.
  • Guys. ARYA HAS LITTLE FINGER’S FACE.
  • With Jaime and Tyrion out of King’s Landing, Bronn should book it. If he stays around with only Cersei to keep him company, he’s just begging for an unhappy death.
  • Finally getting to see Rhaegar Targaryen was exciting in theory. Rhaegar is supposed to be a magnificent and beautiful warrior. He didn’t seem very beautiful, and his resemblance to Viscerys was unpleasant. Still, it was nice to see he and Lyanna at a happy wedding ceremony long ago in the pleasant warmth of Dorne, before all of this mess began.

11 details you might have missed in Game of Thrones season 7 finale: The Dragon and the Wolf

  • Seriously, still no Ghost? We haven’t seen Ghost for an entire season. It’s unforgivable.
  • Speaking of missing: WHERE IS GENDRY AGAIN? Seriously, the writers took all the trouble to bring him back. Once he’s on his mission, he’s immediately sent to the Wall like a kid being sent to his room. And now where is he? He wasn’t with Jon and company in King’s Landing. He wasn’t with Tormund and Beric Dondarrion at the Wall. Why even bring him back at all? We could at least still be enjoying rowboat memes.
  • Speaking of Tormund and Beric, I do not think they are dead. Sure, we don’t know, but they were shown making it to a “safe” part of the Wall, and they were not seen dying. I think that if they had died, we would have seen it.
  • This season was very precious with its characters and only killed off a few. This breaks with the danger and vitality that so defines Game of Thrones. Here’s hoping that the final season returns to its roots in this regard. Because the White Walkers are no joke, and we still have to put someone on the Iron Throne, so All Men – or at least most – Must Die.
  • I don’t have much to say about Theon Greyjoy. Too little, too late. I don’t care that he’s remorseful. He’s been remorseful since before Ramsay even tortured him. He’s still pathetic, and he’s done too much for me to ever forgive or care. His fist-fight with the Iron Islander was improbable. He was beat down, and I’m sorry, but even if you don’t have a penis anymore, a full-bodied knee to the groin will still hurt. There’s no way Theon would have won, and if he had I simply don’t buy that he would have instantly gained the respect of the other men there. As much as I like Yara, I don’t want to waste any more time on Theon and family, and I wish that he had died off long ago.

Game of Thrones season 7 finale review

  • Euron was a delight, though his presence was sparse this season. His contribution to the Dragon Pit negotiation was amusing. We know that there is more to come from this character. However, all the talk about his villainy surpassing Ramsay’s was clearly exaggerated.
  • Seeing that zombie must have been like Christmas for Qyburn. I can’t wait to see what he can do with some careful study of undead anatomy.
  • What was with that weird look Tyrion shot at Daenerys and Jon on the boat? Either he’s jealous because he loves Daenerys (we’ve seen no indication of that), he just got word – perhaps via raven – that the two are related, or he struck some sort of deal with Cersei. We’ll have to wait to see how this plays out.

My final thought: This season has been incredibly divisive. Some fans lamented the loss of the subtlety and nuance that defined Game of Thrones for so long. Some were thrilled with the breath-taking visual effects and action.

Neither opinion is wrong. Game of Thrones is in a category all its own – there is no other television show or work of art that can quite compare to the cultural phenomenon this has become and the sheer magnitude of its production. But it is still art, and art is subjective.

Art is also not immune to criticism, but that criticism should hopefully lead to a fruitful discussion rather than hateful dissension. One thing is for sure, I’ve made it this far, and I am definitely going to see the series through to the end. When the next season will be ready, we don’t know. So now our watch begins.






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Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 6 review: “Beyond the Wall”

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Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 6 review: “Beyond the Wall"

Let’s start with the positives. Game of Thrones continues to raise the bar in excellence when it comes to visuals and effects. Cinematography, costume design, CGI, explosions and battles, when combined with Ramin Djawadi’s top-notch music and the cast’s (mostly) exceptional acting creates a sensory feast, and enough of an anchor to keep us engaged through any rough patches in the show.

The bad news is that the writing has officially fallen off. Unreasonably fast pace, convenience, and plot holes have been a problem for a while now (notably since the show has caught up to the source material), but the sheer amount of dei ex machina in this episode alone are pretty much the nail in the coffin.

"I used to like polar bears, but not anymore!" says Paul Kaye on his character's death in the latest episode

First off, traveling beyond the Wall to capture a Wight was NEVER a good idea. The sheer stupidity of the plan, as well as the execution, was worthy of a monumental face-palm.

Once the plan was set into motion, the writers seemed confused how to carry it off. What’s worse – they were unable to take the time or dole out the consequences that such a blunder deserved.

Once the group of warriors holed up on the little snow island, Daenerys and dragons had to come to the rescue, that much was clear. Because what other option could there have been? The seven main and near-main characters dying and joining the legions of the dead? (Well, that actually would have been a much more interesting choice.) No, the only thing we know of that could have saved our heroes was the same dragon fire we were intentionally shown recently in the loot train battle during “The Spoils of War”.

Major death in 'Beyond the Wall' leaves fans in shock

The characters narrowly escaped once again, except of course for Thoros of Myr (who was one of the lowest tier characters of the group, and who was the dramatically correct choice out of anyone to die since taking out the group’s healer means no resurrections) and some Westerosi Red-Shirts.

But the consequence is part of what made Game of Thrones so great to begin with. Everything has a consequence, and mistakes are punished. Daenerys and Tyrion even talk about this earlier in the episode.

Don’t think I’m ignoring the elephant – or dragon – in the room. Viserion paid for the human’s blunders here when the Night King expertly hurled an ice javelin at him mid-flight. If you get upset when a Direwolf dies, watching the death of a dragon is even more devastating. A truly mythical and glorious beast – and now there are only two left in the entire world.

What’s worse: now the Night King has an ice dragon to add to his legion of the undead, giants, and polar bears. THIS IS NOT OKAY.

Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 6 review: “Beyond the Wall"

Side note: some people criticize that the Night King missed Drogon while being able to hit Viserion, who was farther away. This is one of the few things in the episode that did not bother me because we saw Drogon hit by a very similar projectile a few episodes back. There was a reason for that: dragons are intelligent and he learned. So when Drogon saw a bolt fly at him he was able to dodge it because he had that experience to draw on. Did plot armor help? Of course! But there’s at least a plausible explanation underneath as well.

Benjen Stark / Coldhands rushes in to save Jon Snow in an offensively opportune moment, and after seeing him for about 30 seconds in this episode and season – and only briefly throughout the show – he sacrifices himself.

Meanwhile, we cut back and forth to Winterfell, where some confusing family drama is slowly playing out.

Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 6 review: “Beyond the Wall"

 

I understand that Arya and Sansa have been through so many experiences that are as varied as they are traumatic. They have come out the other side of many challenges and become hardened in the process. I get it, but why does it have to be a weird competition? Why do they refuse to see eye to eye? Why are they so defensive that they have been through the worst things? Why don’t they just sit down with each other and talk about what they’ve been through? Even if Arya’s too pissed off, and even if Sansa is too freaked out by her psycho siblings – why in the world would she send Brienne of Tarth away? And why in the seven hells would she confide in Littlefinger!?

The writing in this season makes it impossible to empathize or understand the motivations of these characters. As a result, their sibling rivalry just comes off as annoying. Littlefinger is playing the game in Winterfell, because for some reason no one has ever learned that you can’t trust him – even Sansa despite her own warnings. But that’s all that we know.

Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 6 review: “Beyond the Wall"

I can’t wait for this story line to wrap up. I just hope that Arya doesn’t come out the wrong end of it.

Back Jon and co: the brief and fool-hardy expedition did yield some pleasant and necessary interaction between the warriors. Tormund gushing about Brienne to the Hound was certainly a highlight. Jon offering Longclaw to Jorah and Jorah refusing the sword showed how noble both men were. And the group did snag a wight. Let’s just hope that it was worth it.

The most poignant scene in the entire episode was Jon and Dany on the boat. I have been known to criticize Emilia Clarke’s acting ability, but I also have noted how she and Kit Harrington really make each other shine. It’s true here. I honestly believe – even despite the scattershot writing of the season – that the two characters have fallen in love. I believe that (with a nudge from Tormund reminding him of the mistakes Mance Rayder made in the past) Jon finally submitted to Daenerys’ rule. And I applaud the show for holding onto their romantic and sexual tension rather than diving straight in for a kiss. We got to see these two characters truly vulnerable with each other, and regarding each other as equals.

Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 6 review: “Beyond the Wall"

I never thought I would be rooting for two family members to get together so badly, but boy do I want Daenerys and Jon to be together.

My final thought: Considering this was the penultimate episode of the season, it was particularly disappointing. Such episodes in the past have included epic battles (Blackwater, Bastards, the Wall). While we did watch a small group of men fight off some ice zombies for a while, the Loot Train Battle dwarfed this one. Past penultimate episodes have also had shocking deaths – Ned Stark’s beheading and the Red Wedding to name a few. Certainly, the dragon’s death was serious, but this season has not had any main character die.

Only one episode of the season remains, and everything is coming to a head. We will see whether some heads will roll, or if the writers have some more easy outs in store for our characters.

Draconic prediction: The book prophesy regarding the three-headed dragon did make some people believe that Daenerys, Jon, and perhaps Tyrion would all ultimately ride one each. That option is obviously off the table now. I believe that one more dragon – Rhaegal more likely than not – will have to die. Then Daenerys and Jon will ride Drogon together: the three heads of the dragon.

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Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 5 review: “Eastwatch”

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Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 5 review: “Eastwatch"

First thing’s first. If you’re not caught up with the current season of Game of Thrones and its most recent episode “Eastwatch” you should stop reading right now because we are getting into heavy spoiler territory. Consider yourself fairly warned.

Okay, so yeah, Jaime is NOT dead. Bronn pulls him up from the depths of the strangely deep waters and Daenerys does not think to give chase and capture the King Slayer. She could have easily made him a valuable political prisoner, or exacted vengeance (since he did stab her father the Mad King).

Game of Thrones writer Dave Hill talks about the top 5 moments from the latest episode "Eastwatch" - Jaime Bronn

This is a missed opportunity. Why did “The Spoils of War” even end in a cliff-hanger if it was going to be immediately resolved so anti-climactically? Even forgiving the breach in logistics regarding Bronn pulling a heavy-army wearing Jaime a mile upstream from the brink of death, this creative decision robbed us of any strategic or emotional use for Jamie’s near-death experience.

But Dany’s got bigger fish to fry right now. Making the remaining Lannister and Tarly army soldiers bend the knee is priority number one. She is SUPER into making people bend the knee right now, even though she did not force, say, Yara Greyjoy or the Martel women to do the same last season.

However, Randyll Tarly does not comply with Daenerys’ demand. His refusal to bow down to yet another fire-happy, power-hungry queen is his last chance to basically flip the bird to the powers that be, and also to serve as an example so that his soldiers don’t have to suffer the same draconic fate.

Funny enough, Tyrion kindly suggests the same ultimatum that horrible-father Randyll Tarly presented to his own son Samwell years ago when he demanded he either go to the Wall and Take the Black, or die. Randyll refuses this offer, and we can all remember that he was never a nice guy to begin with.

But poor Dickon – who really stepped up to the plate last episode when he saved Jaime from a Dothraki fighter and won over our malleable hearts – decided to do the honorable thing and stood by his father’s side. Poor, stupid Dickon. For what it’s worth, Randyll and son die hand-in-hand, which is as heartwarming as it gets (literally).

Once again we are presented with the moral quandaries surrounding Daenerys’ leadership style. Tyrion and Varys examine these together in the Dragonstone throne room. Taking his first swig of wine in the entire show, Varys laments having served the Mad King too well, and cautions Tyrion take necessary steps to put Daenerys’ Targaryen tendencies in check.

True, it would be brutal to watch anyone being burned alive. But Daenerys did give the beaten soldiers a choice, and an explicitly clear choice at that. And when she asks Jon Snow why it bothers him so much when he himself caused thousands of men to die in the Battle of the Bastards, it reminds us of the late Tywin Lannister’s pragmatic logic. When Tyrion was upset about the Red Wedding, Tywin asked why it was preferable to kill more people in a drawn-out war than putting an end to the conflict in one horrible blow. The sad thing is that these rulers are not wrong, nor is Daenerys wrong when she says, “We both want to help people. We can only help them from a position of strength. Sometimes strength is terrible.

Jamie returns to King’s Landing with the news of the catastrophic defeat. Cersei’s pissed, Jaime’s in shock, and it’s nice to see the Lannister smugness rocked, if even for a moment, as they take in the reality of fighting against an army powered in part by Dothraki and dragons. Additionally, the truth is revealed that Lady Olenna killed Joffrey – not Tyrion after all. We should have expected that Cersei would not immediately believe it, as dead-set as she’s been to exact vengeance upon her younger brother. Her slow understanding of the situation unnerves her, and us.

Okay, but we need to talk about the big Targaryen moment between Drogon and Jon.

Jon Snow finally met Drogon, and the fans lost it!

We all know, via Bran’s vision of the Tower of Joy last season, that Jon is not the bastard of some lowborn who shacked up with Ned Stark. He is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, though this truth is still unknown to him. Dragons, however, are magical beings, and Drogon senses something different about the King in the North. Daenerys is visibly shocked, and moved, as her favorite child and newest crush connect on the windswept cliffs of Dragonstone. (Can Jon and Dany just get together already? Even Drogon seems to like the idea. Daenerys has come down with a serious case of Jon Snow fever, and I know what the cure is.)

That isn’t the only revelation concerning Jon we had this episode. Irritated Sam – who has not heard the news of his recently deceased father and brother – interrupts one of the most important discoveries in the entire show as Gilly proudly recites a little-known fact she read about Rhaegar Targaryen. Rhaegar had his marriage to Elia Martel annulled and married someone else – Lyanna Stark! This means that Jon Snow is not a bastard afterall, but in fact the rightful heir to the throne. Or one of them anyway.

Because we are rejoined with yet another character who has a right to the Iron Throne this episode: that’s right, Gendry! It’s about damn time that Robert Baratheon’s bastard made it back onto the screen. He’s older now, but he is ready to wail on enemies with the use of an epic Warhammer.

The realities surrounding royal legitimacy are now incredibly complicated, as Cersei, Daenerys, Jon, and Gendry all have a right to sit on the Iron Throne. Luckily the two “bastards” are new BFFs, and don’t care much about power, while Cersei and Daenerys are going to declare an armistice.

The reason for the truce is the matter of highest importance: the impending ice-zombie apocalypse. Bran has levelled up his warging abilities and is now able to transfer into the minds of an entire flock of ravens. Sure enough, he sees the army of the dead, and it has grown immensely.

That’s why Jon has to leave Dragonstone, and he has to do it now. There’s no more time to waste. Jorah, who pitifully returns to Daenerys, does not get much opportunity to make love-sick eyes at her before he leaves her again, to help Jon (and Daenerys) north of the Wall.

This entire season – and this episode in general – is crammed full of reunions. The last few scenes are so bursting with meetings that it’s comical. It might be carelessly rushed writing that brings seven diverse characters so quickly into each other’s company at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, but the final shot redeems the convenience.

Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 5 review: “Eastwatch"

One of my favorite things about the last few seasons is the feminist elevation of women into positions of power, including autonomy within their own lives. The final scene of “Eastwatch”, however, is a classicmoment in which a rag-tag team of misfit warriors join together to fight impossible odds. We’ve seen this trope in action films, Westerns, fantasies, and legends, ranging from “The Magnificent Seven” to “300”, from “The Seven Samurai” to “The Fellowship of the Ring”. As Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, Jorah Mormont, Gendry, and the Hound venture beyond the gates of the wall, we have to celebrate a moment of masculine badassery. And celebration is welcome considering the odds, as it is unlikely that everyone will return from this mission alive.

Still in the North, just not as far, Arya and Sansa are chafing at each other. Arya is understandably irritated at the spoiled brat in Lady’s clothing that is her older sister. At the same time, Arya underestimates what Sansa has learned about politics in her years with the Lannisters and Littlefinger. Still, she is right about Sansa’s motives for power, even if Sansa has not fully embraced those desires yet.

Game Of Thrones season 7 episode 5 review: “Eastwatch"

Arya can see through Sansa well enough, as well as Littlefinger. But where Arya fails is in her arrogance. She’s used to being the craftiest person in the room. Littlefinger uses this weakness against her, and allows Arya to discover a scroll that Sansa wrote all the way back in season one, when she implored their brother Robb to bend the knee to Joffrey.

The Starks’ greatest strength is in their roots, and through all of the trauma Sansa and Arya have forgotten where they come from. If they can look past their predispositions against each other, and put some faith in their familial bond, they may be able to prevail. Still, Littlefinger is still in the game for a reason, and the shot of him peeking at Arya from the shadows is the best of the episode. Something serious is about to go down in Winterfell – especially considering there are only two episodes left of the season, and only eight left of the entire series.

Other thoughts:

It’s still a weird secret that Jon Snow died and came back to life. I’m not quite sure why. His resurrection is hardly less believable than an army of the undead. Especially when you’re talking to a woman who walked into a funeral pyre and walked out with baby dragons. Is this “secret” going to come back to haunt him? I’m not sure how.

Jorah returns once again, but I’m so over his story line. He’d better make himself highly useful up North. Although, to be honest, I’d prefer Jorah never make it back alive.

The latest Game Of Thrones episode, Eastwatch revealed a massive detail about Jon Snow

Equally boring is Sam Tarly. I’ve reached my limit for easy poop jokes at the Citadel, and I’m ready to move on. I guess Sam is too, but frankly I don’t care what he or Gilly do next. His importance to the story was one of knowledge, and now he’s leaving the place where he could do the most good because he is impatient and frustrated. He’s so impatient he couldn’t even hear the important information Gilly had to impart. And, more importantly on a relationship level, he couldn’t even be proud of her for coming so far in her ability to read and learn. She’s grown so much as a person, but now he seems to take her for granted. He will probably head far North, and we’ll also have to spend time learning about his reaction to the news of his father and brother’s deaths. But with so much to do in the show, and such little time left, we can’t afford many more Samwell detours.

Congratulations to the happy couple, Cersei and Jaime. Some viewers may believe that she is lying about being pregnant, but I don’t buy that. The argument is that she wants to control Jaime, and she would claim to be pregnant in order to manipulate him. But anyone can see that Jamie is already wrapped around her finger. Additionally, even regarding a lie that would be found out within a matter of months, Cersei has always loved her family first, and I don’t think that even in her jaded state she would make light of bringing a new child into the world.

Cersei Lannister gave the fans a big surprise in the latest Game of Thrones episode!

After so many houses have been wiped off the map (Boltons, Tyrells, Freys, etc.), it never sat with me that the Baratheons were extinct. Gendry is a welcome return. The costume designers of the scene summoned the house sigil in our subconscious even before we saw him. And I couldn’t be happier that he wields a Warhammer just as his father did. And with an engraved Stag to boot!

In an episode all about reunions, we were robbed of one of the more enticing ones: Tyrion and Bronn. The last we saw them was when Bronn refused to be Tyrion’s champion against the Mountain in season 4. They used to be thick as thieves. But their initial meeting was glossed over entirely.

Almost as disappointing was Tyrion and Jaime. Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are both fine actors, but Tyrion and Jaime’s reunion was sterile and subpar.

Similarly, Jon receives the news that Arya and Bran are both alive. This would have some effect on most other characters, but in his typically grim manner he remains unphased. I understand that fighting White Walkers takes priority, but it doesn’t make sense that he doesn’t seem to feel any joy at all that two siblings he had thought were dead are actually still breathing.

As full of reunions and missed opportunities as this episode was, it was almost as full of fan-service. Ser Davos telling Gendry, “I thought you might still be rowing”, referencing the memes of impatient fans since season 3. Tormund asking after “the big woman” Brienne up at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Even the convenience of putting the Brotherhood Without Banners in the same place as Jon and crew.

My final thought:

The season has gone at break-neck speed. At the expense of subtlety. At the expense of secrecy. At the expense of… reasonable time it takes to travel anywhere. Seriously, the writers do not care AT ALL about traveling across the continent any longer. In season one it took a month in show time to travel from King’s Landing to Winterfell, and several episodes to travel back again. Now everyone seems to apparate wherever they please in a moment’s time.

Game of Thrones was built around its clever complexity, its human interactions, its strategic unfoldings. The show has now given away to climactic action and easy culminations. Part of that is truly breath-taking, as we witnessed in last week’s Loot Train Attack. But in slower episodes like these, many moments between characters, even if they seem exciting in the moment, appear lazy in retrospect. The show seems to be inadvertently begging for more breathing room, which would allow true artistry occur. If David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had let the pace breathe, we probably could have gotten an entire extra season of content, and all around higher quality.

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