Game Of Thrones is back. And not just back, as in back on TV (which it also is), but back as in this season premiere felt like a return to days of old, both in terms of quality of dialogue and storytelling and how it harkened back to the first season. There are still some of the same old grumbles, mainly some of the younger cast-members inability to properly sell the clunkier expositional dialogue, but otherwise, this was a tense, exciting and surprisingly funny episode that made place-setting feel compelling.
Basically, this episode served one function: getting everyone to Winterfell and dealing with the inevitable bad blood that has accumulated over the last seven kingdoms, sorry, seasons. And there is a lot of bad blood, so much so that it’s easy to forget exactly who’s been wronged by whom and when and how. I knew Bran would be less than happy to see Jaime (although he knew he would see him because he’s now a sees-it-all know-it-all), especially as the last major gathering in Winterfell resulted in his defenestration at the Kingslayer’s hands. But I’d forgotten the potential for awkwardness between Sam and the father-brother-executing Daenerys.
Under normal circumstances, Sam would be one of the easiest converts to Daenerys’s cause, but the awkward revelation that she torched his family members means Bran doesn’t need to even try to convince Sam that Jon needs to know the truth of his parentage. Daenerys has done a lot of good on her journey to the Iron Throne but there’s a telling arrogance in her complaint to Jon that Sansa doesn’t respect her. Jon has earned everyone’s respect that hard way, through sacrifice and loyalty; Daenerys expects it because of who she is. That’s a tiny crack but one that could very quickly spread. Jon’s reaction is surprising. Rather than dismiss this new information and swear fealty to Daenerys, he seems on board with the idea of the Iron Throne being his.
This idea gets a lot of air time this week. Lyanna Mormont says it outright in her defiance of Daenerys and her offence at Jon giving up the crown the Northern families had bestowed on him. The North chose Jon, not who Jon chose to kneel to. It’s hard not to look at this squabbling as a slight analogy for our times. We’re busy bickering over Brexit and political allegiances while an implacable force (in our case, climate change) is preparing to wipe everything out. For all our good intentions, we can’t get our shit together enough to save ourselves.
- Qybrn hires Bronn – on Cersei’s orders – to murder Jaime and Tyrion if they survive the fight with the dead. Game Of Thrones being Game Of Thrones, this only happens after extreme gratuitous nudity.
- Jon tries out dragon riding and finds he likes it. “You’ve ruined horses for me,” he tells Daenerys, followed by some snowy snogging.
- Euron returns with an army of mercenaries (but no elephants) and has a bit of sexy time with Cersei and then tried to get her to compare his prowess to her dead husband and dead-to-her brother. He’s an absolute bell-end but a very entertaining one.
- It’s been so long since Arya robbed The Hound and left him for dead that I’d almost forgotten they parted on bad terms. Still, he respects that kind of bastardy behaviour so I guess that counts as forgiveness.
- Another awkward reunion: Theon rescues Yara and gets a deserved headbutt followed by a deserved hug. He’s been the most fascinating character over the show’s run and Alfie Allen doesn’t get nearly enough praise.
- Was it just me or was there some serious flirting going on between Gendry and Arya?
- Speaking of Arya, anyone else get a bit teary at her reunion with Jon? Maisie Williams and Kit Harington played the whole thing beautifully.
- The Night’s King is already between Tormund, Edd and Beric and Winterfell, as evidenced by the tense scene in the Last Hearth. I sense an action-packed ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ style adventure coming up.