TL;DR – This week everyone is moved into position, across all of Westeros, for the dead are on the march
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
So to set the scene of where we start today, at the end of last week’s The Spoils of War (review) the dragons came to Westeros and they were everything we have waited seven seasons for. After losing allies left, right, and centre Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was left with one issue, she had to act, or she will have lost before she started, but what should she do. So she targeted the Lannister food convey taking the plunder of Highgarden to King’s Landing. This created the first moment since maybe Season Two where we had a battle with multiple people on both sides that we didn’t want to see die. The battle was vicious, devastating, and a reminder that war has forever changed in Game of Thrones. This week we find out how Cerise (Lena Headey) responds, but also we are reminded that while people faff around in the South, in the North a greater enemy is coming, and it is not going to wait to find out who wins the game of thrones. As always, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] incoming.
This is a very interesting week because on the one had not a lot happened, but on the other, there will be consequences of this episode that will reach out across the rest of the season, and maybe even beyond. We open in The Reach and in the aftermath of last week’s horrific battle to find that Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Bron (Jerome Flynn), Lord Tarly (James Faulkner) and his son Dickon (Tom Hopper) all survived the carnage. Part of me was a bit disappointed because Game of Thrones almost goes out of its way to limit that feeling of plot armour, but here we are with all the nameless goons dead and the normal cast still alive. Or well they were all alive until the Tarly’s refused to bend the knee to Daenerys, and no amount of council from Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) can stop her executing them with dragon fire. This leads to some of the more interesting themes throughout the rest of the episode. It is a decision that on one hand makes sense, Daenerys needed to set an example, but also for everyone who lived through her father’s reign, well they know this is what the Mad King would have done.
So we get this interesting juxtaposition between Daenerys and Cersei, both of whom feel they are the legitimate ruler, both of whom are out to protect their family, and both who are willing to kill thousands to make that happen. This leads to a beautifully understated exchange between Tyrion and Varys (Conleth Hill) about what their roles are, “I’m not the one doing it” and how Tyrion needs to be able to get through to Daenerys. One of the big questions this season is Daenerys going to be a better leader, or will she surrender to the power of the flames. On the flip side, we have Cersei who is becoming a more and more capable leader as the season goes on, I think in no small part due to the military wisdom of Jaime and the political incite of Qyburn (Anton Lesser). It’s interesting with her chat with Jamie at the end of the episode that I got a reminder of Chinese History and how the Marxists and the Republicans put aside their differences to fight the invaders from the North, of course, it did not work out for them.
This was also an episode of reunions, Jon (Kit Harington) discovers that Ayra (Maisie Williams) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) are still alive, and Drogon discovers Jon knows just where to scratch, and you know maybe there is another reason that he might like The King in the North. Davos (Liam Cunningham) reunites with Gendry (Joe Dempsie) which was such a delight to find he was not still rowing. Jorah (Iain Glen) returns to his queen, and kind of makes everything that little more uncomfortable because everyone knows him from his reputation. But also this is an episode of siblings, Jamie, Cersei, and Tyrion, and Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya. Jamie this season is finding himself more and more in a difficult position because the women he loves is dangerous, vindictive, and is starting to display abusive tendencies towards him. Part of him knows that Cersei is bad, but they have a bond that is hard to break especially now that she is pregnant with his child. However, he has mixed feeling towards Tyrion, he has always loved his brother, but the last time they met Tyrion betrayed Jamie by using his escape to kill their father. The TV show has been hit and miss when it comes to Jamie’s redemption arc, but you can really see it develop this season. In the North, Sansa is trying to rule in Jon’s absence, which is hard because everyone is getting restless with the King of the North in the South and a looming threat in the distance. However, Arya is at odd with how to keep the lords in line, and for the first time, we really get to see that Arya’s past may have liabilities for her in Westeros. We also find out that Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is better at playing the game than Arya is, and that is very problematic for the Starks.
From a production stand point, I have to give full credit to the visual effects team in creating the dragons. We have seen them from a distance, and also with them taking up the entire screen, however, in today’s episode, we got to see them up close and personal. The detail in the skin, the different flecks of red and black, the way their eyes move, it was exquisite. Also from a story perspective, I think we just have to take into account that people are going to be moving all over Westeros in the same episode. For example today we had Daenerys fly from The Reach to Dragonstone, confer with her peeps, then Davos and Tyrion took a boat to King’s Landing, had some meetings, then went back to Dragonstone, and then a bunch of them went all the way to the to the top to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
Before we get to the end, there were a couple of small things that really interested me, first, we have a new place on the world map, hello Eastwatch, here’s hoping we get to see you a bit more. Also, please Samwell (John Bradley), could you stop interrupting Gilly (Hannah Murray) she was about to confirm R+L=J for you. It was also nice to see some Warging again, and never fear we know that Ghost is still chilling in Winterfell, I get the feeling this week’s writer Dave Hill has looked at the internet a bit.
So we get to the end and we have Jon, Jorah, Gendry, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), The Hound (Rory McCann), Lord Beric (Richard Dormer) and Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) ranging north past The Wall to capture a wight to convince Cersei that the Dead are here and they are coming for everyone. This was an interesting scene because you discover everyone has a past connection with each other, but Jon reminds them that they are all on the same side, they are all breathing. So we finish with a large chunk of the named cast venturing forth into the most hostile environment in all of Westeros, oh and walking towards the marching army of the living dead.
In the end, I liked this episode, it was a bit of a reprieve from the intensity from last week but given we only have two more episodes to go this season, I don’t think they have time to waste on any more episodes like this.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Game of Thrones
Directed by – Matt Shakman
Written by – Dave Hill
Based off – A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin
Created for TV by – David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Music by – Ramin Djawadi
Starring in Season 7 – Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Aidan Gillen, Liam Cunningham, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Alfie Allen, John Bradley, Gwendoline Christie, Iain Glen, Nathalie Emmanuel, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Conleth Hill, Jerome Flynn, Kristofer Hivju, Carice van Houten, Pilou Asbæk, Rory McCann, Diana Rigg, Hannah Murray, Indira Varma, Richard Dormer, Joe Dempsie, Gemma Whelan with Anton Lesser, Jacob Anderson, Tobias Menzies, Daniel Portman, Ben Crompton, Ellie Kendrick, Paul Kayne, David Bradley, James Faulkner, Rupert Vansittart, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Jessica Henwick, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Joseph Mawle, Tim McInnerny, Bella Ramsey, Mark Gatiss, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Jim Broadbent, Ben Hawkey, Tom Hopper, and Vladimir Furdik