Game of Thrones Review: Dragonstone

The wait is over. After 385 days of mental torture the HBO powerhouse has returned and the great game has finally continued. As with every off season of Game of Thrones there were all kinds of leaks. This off season there were more than ever. Unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough to ignore them. The showrunners are claiming that they have shot hours of fake footage as misdirection but I find that hard to believe. The trick they did with having Sibel Kekili visit the set in Spain was a clever one but that is a very low cost thing to do. Shooting hours of fake footage is very expensive and no matter how much the Lords and Ladies of Westeros are making HBO I don’t believe they would find that worth it. Nevertheless everyone’s favourite show is finally back and that’s all that matters.

One of the things that has plagued Game of Thrones is the insane size of the cast. Because of this season premieres always feel like an episode just checking in with everyone instead of actually moving things forward. Since last season main characters have been dying faster than new ones have been introduced, especially since Cersei decided to take out half of the main and supporting cast by shoving them in the Sept of Baelor and blowing them all up. That meant that the premiere of this penultimate season felt less like a check in with all the main characters just to remind us where they were. Does that mean that Dragonstone was flawless? Far from it. It still felt a bit like setting the table. Thankfully the table was set gorgeously and season 7 promises to be nothing short of delicious and beyond!

What happened

Arya puts on Walder Frey’s face and wipes out his entire house. Later she stumbles upon a small group of Lannister soldiers who treat her kindly and she shares food and wine with them. Jon forgives the new leader of Houses Karstark and Umber to the chagrin of Sansa, who challenges him, and some of the other Lords and Ladies. He sends the wildlings to man Eastwatch by the Sea. Sam is still in training at the Citadel. No one believes his white walker stories except for Archmaester Ebrose but he is not worried. Sam steals books from the restricted part of the library and finds out that Dragonstone is built on a mountain of Dragonglass.

Cersei gets a visit from Euron who has sailed his Armada to Kings Landing. He proposes to giver Cersei his fleet and wants her hand in return. When she declines Euron promises to return with a priceless gift as a sign of good faith. Bran and Meera finally arrive at the Wall.

The Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners happen upon the farmer’s house which gold Sandor had taken in the recent past. They stay the night and find the farmer and his daughter dead. Sandor questions why the Lord of Lights keeps bringing Beric back. After not getting any answers Thoros invites the Hound to take a look into the flames. He does so reluctantly and has a vision.

What I liked

The cold open was totally unexpected and I liked it. Even with all the leaks the showrunners managed to start the season with someone literally no one expected and I commend them for that. The scenes with Sandor Clegane were very strong. Rory McCann is an underrated actor. Both Sandor and Beric were phenomenal.

I thought the scene with Sam and his monotonous life was hilarious. Great editing and timing. I also like the improved Euron. He bothered me a bit last season but this was much better. And Dragonstone is absolutely gorgeous!

What I didn’t like

I’m totally not hating on the Ed Sheeran cameo. The scene was fine and it was nice to see that not all Lannister soldiers are monsters. In previous scenes we had already seen horrible Stark soldiers as a contrast and now this. Despite there being a clear difference between Cersei and Jon, both have good and bad soldiers. That’s how it would be in real life. On the other hand I don’t think the cameo was necessary.

Dragonstone was a bit of a setup episode. It was solid and I was so damn happy for the show to be back. But I wasn’t overwhelmed. It was good but not great. It wasn’t just checking in with all the characters but it did feel like a way to set up the table. A great show like this should have stronger premieres. I understand why that is difficult and maybe even impossible but it is what Game of Thrones deserves.

What I’m looking forward to

Shall we begin? is what Dany asked. Hell yes! Battles are going to happen and I can’t wait to see them. Lots of characters will meet this season and now that the table is set, I just want the feast! Now! I am also interested in finding out with Euron’s gift is going to be. Many people think it’s going to be Tyrion but I can’t imagine that happening. Not this season anyway.

 

Observations

I understand that the showrunners have a bigger budget now and when you look at the differences between Dragonstone then and now it is very visible.

I was actually rooting for the Lannister soldiers not being killed by Arya. That is by no means a small feat!

Game of Thrones keeps on smashing ratings records. It’s no wonder HBO is developing multiple spin offs. They have never find true replacements for shows like The Sopranos so they will keep banking on the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.

So Arya is heading south and not north? It’s understandable but I still hope she will make it north eventually.

 

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