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Brace Yourselves, Spoilers are Coming

For avid Game of Thrones fans, the wait for the most epic TV programme ever made (objectively speaking) to return was an excruciating one. After waiting over a year to hear any news from our favourite Westerosi characters, every: trailer, promotional image and meme raised the hype levels among the Thronite masses until they towered, above even the Night King’s zombie giants. Season 7 promises to be the most dramatic and action-packed season yet but it will certainly take a lot to top the spectacle we’ve witnessed in previous seasons. So, when the moment arose and I tuned in to Season 7, Episode 1 on Monday evening, my first thought was… ‘Wait, how is Walder Frey back?’

However, that’s when the cogs inside my head then began to turn. Obviously then, my second thought was: ‘Arya, that is a magnificent Walder Frey impression. Maisie Williams will surely take the BAFTA.’ But my third thought, which was the most worrying of all (and one that you probably all had as well) was ‘By the Seven! She’s not actually going to poison them all, is she?’ At that point, it got ridiculous and I was having far too many thoughts at once, so inside my head it kind of sounded like ‘Aaaaargh!’ which in rational English, translates to ‘OH MY GOD ARYA HAS KILLED EVERYONE!’ And after that spell of utter madness, the opening credits rolled. I was grateful for this interlude between the pre-credits sequence and the rest of the programme because I now had a brief window of opportunity to pick up (most of) the scattered pieces of my exploded brain before more crazy stuff could happen. What a way to kick off the series (I managed to think). Also, I had a little jam to the opening theme – ah, how I’ve missed you Game of Thrones opening theme.

Despite our expectation for the madness to continue throughout, Dragonstone actually turned out to be a slower build-up episode. Although it seemed that we were going to be thrown straight into the action at the end of the last series, the show-runners decided to lay out all the pieces on the board and show us the planned trajectories of all the characters in this season 7 premiere. Whilst many casual fans of the show criticise the lack of action in these less eventful episodes, I have no qualms with them at all. Having been a fan of Game of Thrones from the start, I have come to expect the show to take its time building tension, character relationships and story-lines. Caring about the character dynamics before there is conflict between them is one of the many factors that makes the huge battle scenes and set-pieces so compelling. As a wise man once said: one must appreciate the calm to feel the impact of the storm. Me. I said that. Right now. Eep, I’m probably getting a little too philosophical here, so let’s get to the bit with Samwell tipping poo into the toilet trough thing… A true symphony of sewage. A cacophony of crap. Or just a particularly gross music video which admittedly, felt about five minutes too long.

Unfortunately, now I’m going to have to make another rather clichéd criticism of that last episode. Yes, it’s Ed Sheeran. Whilst I’m not a fan of his music and consider him to be the epitome of overrated mediocrity, I didn’t actually think the scene was as bad as many people say. We will have to wait until the next episode to see if Arya moves on, having relearned ‘humanity’ from that bunch of… well, the nicest Lannister soldiers ever or if she decides to murder them all and steal their faces like a deadly, heartless monster (I’m genuinely hoping for the former. I’m not that terrible, honest). But, that scene definitely had a purpose, no matter what the outcome of it is. We see a character learning a valuable lesson here and that’s what all good scenes do. Nonetheless, it is Ed Sheeran. And he has a speaking role (which is why I’m more opposed to it than when the Coldplay guy and the Snow Patrol guy showed up). I have spoken to many people who really enjoyed his appearance on the show and audibly cheered when they saw his Hobbit-esque mug on the telly. But to me, it was extremely distracting – to the point where he became the main focus of the scene. I like to suspend my disbelief and lose myself in George RR Martin’s world when I tune in to Game of Thrones, but Ed Sheeran just slapped me in the face with reality and sort of destroyed all of my dreams. I mean it’s not that bad, I just have no dreams now.

Besides that though, there was a actually a lot to like about the episode: the funky new outfits, the political intrigue and the White Walker army that is coming to send us all into the endless void (thanks Bran, with your cursed Night King mark of death that is going to bring the Wall down). We saw Jaime and Cersei bickering, desperately trying to cling on to power in the South, we saw Jon and Sansa erm — also bickering, desperately trying to survive the coming zombie onslaught in the North and Daenerys and co. in the East, not really saying much at all. The Hound’s swearing and savage put-downs were also on their A game: ‘You think you’re fooling anyone with that top-knot?’ is probably the most unexpected and hilarious line in the episode. However, I’d say the main highlight here was seeing Daenerys returning to her ancestral home, Dragonstone, after 6 seasons of blood, sweat and flames. It was a glorious, emotional moment, heightened by the lack of dialogue in the scene: a brave move from the writers. Then, the arrival of Euron Greyjoy in King’s Landing was also a nice surprise – rocking his new Jack Sparrow look. The man with ‘a thousand ships and two good hands’ who is ‘going to make Ramsay Bolton look like ‘a little kid’ has certainly made his presence known. I dread to find out what his wedding gift for Cersei might be. Tyrion’s head? A dragon? A pretty friendship bracelet? We can only speculate.

To conclude, despite the lack of action, there was enough here to keep me thoroughly entertained throughout: the production value has been raised (even the exposition scenes look stunning), we have been teased with many great things to come and we have witnessed one of the best opening scenes in the show’s history. However, there was perhaps more self-referential humour than I personally care to see in Game of Thrones and I could have certainly done without that cameo. Overall, Dragonstone may not have been perfect but it left me extremely hyped for the next episode. The next few days will feel like a year all over again.

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Posted by Marco Cardoni

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