“Catelyn Stark Would Be Proud. You Kept Your Vow…”
Holy of all moly’s. In an almost prophetic fashion, my outspoken quandry’s with last week’s episode in regards to the fast-paced dissecting of particularly important battle sequences were well and truly rectified this week by a fifty minute episode of Game of Thrones which featured undoubtedly a collection of the most fist-pumping, crowd-pleasing moments in the entire history of the show so far, with the standout concluding act having all the ingredients to emphasise what makes HBO’s television King so darn addictive. Beginning where the episode kicks off however, the ever-graceful fan-appointed ambassador of all things Doctor Who, Mark Gatiss, once again emphasised the ever-increasing debt to the Iron Bank from Queen Cersei, and whilst the raid of Highgarden seemed to put an end to such a predicament, the roundabout narrative of who seems to be winning the war for the Iron Throne ultimately made such a solution non-existent come the end of the episode, and whilst King’s Landing was undoubtedly not the star of the show this week, Season Seven so far has impressively handled the ever-shifting power struggle in such a way that you can never surely say where the overall narrative is heading.
Within the far reaches of the North, the return of all remaining Stark children to Winterfell was a real sight to behold, particularly when admiring how far each has come since their introduction in “Winter Is Coming”, a level of admiration which is effectively shown to be shared by the children themselves towards each other, with Arya particularly showcasing the skills and tricks she has developed during the battle with Brienne which emphasised the notion that size really doesn’t matter. The return of Arya to Winterfell will undoubtedly bring with it it’s own spate of surprises, and after the nervous infliction of Littlefinger’s stare into the eyes of the Stark youngling, you would be safe to assume Lord Baelish might have to start getting used to a timid disposition in the halls of Winterfell, with the Valyrian steel dagger used in Brann’s attempted murder somehow at the heart of such danger. After the concluding battles of last week’s episode, the Dragon Queen turned to Jon Snow for guidance in the art of war after being treated to a step back in time in the undergrounds of Dragonstone, and whilst the inevitable endgame is for both fire and ice to join hands in both battle and in marriage of some sort, it does seem we are quite a while off from the all-sparks chemistry of the show’s leading power couple to be.
Now, on to that concluding battle. As previously mentioned, the quickfire conclusion of both the battle for Casterly Rock and the overthrow of the Tyrell’s at Highgarden last week was disappointing to say the least, yet after watching arguably the most enjoyable, redemptive, action-packed battle sequence of the show to date this week, I can understand completely why the money and the effort was saved for a concluding ten minute sequence which featured everything from a long-awaited Dragon massacre, the Lannister army turning to Ash and a deep sense of conflicted allegiances when seeing both Jamie and Bronn at the heart of the action. With myself mirroring the thoughts of Tyrion when witnessing Jamie ride head-first up to Daenerys and the wounded Drogon, the sight of watching everyone’s favourite one-handed Lannister sink into the depths of the sea was interesting to say the least. On the one hand, (No pun intended) the weight of both his armour and the lack of effective co-ordination when it comes to a swimming ability should in theory result in certain death, but with a character as important as Jamie to be cast off so easily and so anti-climactic would be major false step, particularly when everyone is so eager to see Cersei’s reaction to finding out who the real instigator of Joffrey’s death truly was. “The Spoils of War” is the type of definitive Thrones episode which showcases everything brilliant about the show, and with a effects ridden spectacle to top it off, this season finally has found its’ first masterpiece.
Overall Score: 10/10
“Stark Men Don’t Fare Well When They Travel South…”
It’s almost as if Game of Thrones can’t win at this very moment in time, with my own personal complaint of perhaps the first two episodes taking a while to really get going being completely sucker punched this week with the release of an episode in which arguably too much happens in such a short space of time, and whilst I’m up for the narrative zooming forward when it can, particularly with the remaining episodes decreasing down in number to almost single digits, it was strange to see an episode in which not one, but two dreadfully important battle scenes were skipped over in a heartbeat when in previous seasons, it would have taken each an episode to tell the tale. Of the many positives of the episode however, the long-awaited meeting of Ice and Fire at Dragonstone was impressively handled, with both Daenerys and Jon Snow immediately hitting it off on the charisma scale, with conversations regarding sins of the father and the future of the war for the Seven Kingdoms adding a juicy level of suspense to the interactions between the guiding lights of one possible, optimistic future. As Dany correctly quips;”you better get to work Jon Snow”.
Elsewhere in Westeros, Euron finally manages to convince that he is indeed one of the most comedic villains in the GoT repertoire to date, with his woeful sweet talk managing to effectively offend and delight at the same time depending on whether you are indeed Jamie Lannister or every other human being who can’t help but laugh at the discussion of a particularly private query regarding Cersei’s favourite erm, pastime. Whilst murder and bloodshed has never been minimal in a show like GoT, the death, both rapid and slow, of particular major characters this week almost felt surprisingly second-hand, portraying a concoction of character cast-offs in a manner which felt as if the writers seemingly view murder as the only fitting conclusion for particular plot threads, and whilst the show is miles off from the shockingly awful final seasons of particular time-consuming shows (Dexter, I’m looking at you), the fear of closing every narrative line with the finality of death is really just a cop-out, particularly when considering the time spent absorbing yourself into the lives of particular individuals on-screen. Another effectively entertaining episode which once again suffers from middling issues, Season Seven ain’t half consistent so far.
Overall Score: 8/10
“We Must Stand Together, All Of Us, If We Hope To Stop Her…”
If last week’s opening episode of Game of Thrones Season Seven was efficiently catalogued as “much filler, little killer”, this week’s episode, “Stormborn”, is the first real sign of the current season that time is not exactly of the essence when it comes to the concluding strands of the show’s main interwinding narratives, with the episode cramming in character returns, gory medical examinations, a long-awaited romance scene and an epic sea battle all over the course of a swifty edited sixty minutes. Within the midst of an abundance of action, Daenerys and her merry band of Cersei-hating avengers seemed to take centre stage after their middling appearance in the season opener last week, and with treachery being forgiven, the return of Melisandre and the notion of the Dragon Queen finally meeting up with the King in the North, tasty doesn’t exactly cover the ground which was effectively covered within the cold halls of Dragonstone, cold halls which set the battleground alight with Tyrion’s masterplan on how to finally overthrow the rule of his much maligned estranged family.
In the case of John Snow, his out and out reluctance to act in accordance with tradition ultimately benefitted Sansa and the watchful eyes of Littlefinger, whilst Daenerys’ belief that Jon will simply bend the knee is an interesting development when surely the two are the leading lights in taking the Seven Kingdoms into a golden dynasty, particularly when remembering the true familial tree in which the King in the North derives from. The B-Movie, exploitation scene of the week belonged wholeheartedly in the hands of Samwell, whose amateur understandings of deep, deep medicine resulted in the slimy, oozy reduction of Jorah’s greyscale, a scene juxtaposed rather distastefully and suddenly with the image of food, putting the masses off hot, sloppy stews for the forthcoming weeks or so. Concluding with an action-packed, murderous slew which tips the balance in favour of King’s Landing rather too early to comment on its’ effectiveness, “Stormborn” does indeed push the plot threads forward more efficiently than its’ predecessor but with more battles and bloodshed coming next week, the masterpieces of the season still are awaiting to be admired.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Shall We Begin…?”
Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, the single greatest contemporary television show of our time finally returns to the small screen after an agonisingly stagnated wait after HBO decided it was best for the fans to hold out for over a year until we could return into the ways of all things Westeros and finally witness the beginning of the end, with the start of Season Seven counting down a tally of just 13 episodes until the resolution of who will ultimately get to sit on that awfully uncomfortable Iron Throne and rule the entirety of the Seven Kingdoms. Whilst previous season openers have tended to sway more on the recap of particular characters and story-lines instead of meaningfully furthering the overall plot, the seven episode structure of GoT’s latest season arguably offers less time for such meanderings but with the many wars ahead set to come, it comes at no surprise that “Dragonstone” does indeed conform to the usual series premiere standard, offering the chance to revisit the many lives of our leading characters whilst laying out the red carpet for the many stories which lie ahead for the next seven weeks.
With an opening sequence which is as joyous in its’ sense of redemption as it is ultimately violent in its’ devolution of an entire familial tree, Season Seven’s opening episode reminds us why the show is so damn watchable, with each of the many plot threads having the chance to push slowly forward, including the return of Daenerys to her homeland and Cersei’s acknowledgement that King’s Landing is the epicentre of danger from all sides of the Kingdom, with each having their own reasons for overthrowing the dastardly Lannister reign. Whilst Cersei has arguably now taken over the mantle for leading villain of the show, her superb characterisation over the history of the entire show results in a clash of conflicts regarding who will eventually end up on the Iron Throne, and with Jamie himself questioning why the battle continues after the dynasty of their rule has faltered with the death of their children, it is almost inevitable that the fall of the Lannister’s will be a conflicted mix of melancholia and long-awaited fate for a family who have caused so much bloodshed over the show’s entire run.
Whilst there are particular elements which don’t entirely work, including the cringe-inducing and grating inclusion of a particular famous songwriter and too many contemporary in-jokes which clash with the overall tone of the series, the premiere’s most effective scenes are still the secluded and dramatic conversations between characters who are destined to be at the centre of the overall narrative moving forward, with the conflict between John and Sansa at Winterfell being of particular interest considering the latter’s penchant for independence and authority even when the symbol of her half-brother (Or Not) is the leading figure of rule within the North. One of the more interesting developments too was the acknowledgement from Sansa of her subverted respect for Cersei, with those earlier season scenes of Cersei attempting to reason her villainous ways now catching up with the narrative, creating a sub-plot which will no doubt continue to be at the heart of the underlying conflict from the ruling command at the North. Suitably entertaining and fist-pumping in places, “Dragonstone” is a more than fulfilling opener for a series which is guaranteed to have an array of twist and turns in the coming weeks.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Winter Is Here…”
What. An. Episode. If last week propelled Game of Thrones into a cataclysmic state of amazingness with “The Battle of the Bastards”, then this week’s finale proved to be not only a continuation of the top-notch quality we have got to know and love but also a finale which put year-long plot points to rest amongst vengeance, lots of vengeance in which a wide range of key characters in the Seven Kingdoms got their comeuppance, no more so than Walder Frey, the architect of the Red Wedding, who after enjoying a nice slice of child-infested pie greeted the sharp edge of Arya Stark’s knife who finally managed to put a huge, bold cross through one of the names on her hit list. Talk about satisfaction, yet the real shock of the week came within the episodes’ brilliant first fifteen minutes in which Cersei went the way of the Mad King and coldly dispatched all her enemies in one swift wildfire-ridden act of cruelness. Goodbye High Sparrow. Goodbye Queen Marge. It’s been emotional. Seeing now that the prophecy has become reality, with each of her children now in the grave, the newly crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms is one cold bitch with a thirst for blood. With Jamie returning from his ordeal with the Blackfish just in time to witness his sisters’ coronation and thus losing yet another of his children, where will his allegiances lie now? With Cersei or elsewhere? How long until season seven?
Judging the season as a whole, season six no doubt began with a slump, a slump that although gave us an elderly Melisandre and the much anticipated return of Jon Snow, did not exactly reach the heights you would expect from a show of such magnitude when dealing with such an important story point such as the resurrection of Westeros’ favourite bastard. Yes, everyone expected Jon Snow to return but was the climax to the second episode as amazing as it possibly could have been? Perhaps not. Come episode five and we finally had the episode we had all been waited for in which we witnessed the death no-one had been waiting for. Oh Hodor, you gentle giant you. It’s been a fun ride and an emotional one too, a ride which ended with the real reason behind Hodor’s well, hodoring. Screw you Bran, screw you! With episode five being the cornerstone of the season riding into episode nine, a lot was riding on the much anticipated “Battle of the Bastards” and boy was it emotional. Still riding high with a perfect rating of 10 on IMDB, the penultimate episode was a masterclass in small-screen entertainment, one that will be remembered for seasons to come and one that allowed our favourite northerners to return to Winterfell. Season Six continued Game of Thrones’ excellence and popularity within the masses, and although not reaching the heights of quality seen in Season 3 and 4, was still a solid continuation of HBO’s flagship television show. Don’t worry guys, just another year until we return.
Episode Score: 10/10
Season Score: 8.8
“Let’s End This The Old Way. You Against Me…”
Remember last week when I queried why on earth the death of the Blackfish was captured off-screen, away from the viewer and whether such a decision was all down to the notion of a tight budget? Well, my query has been answered with this week’s venture into the land of Westeros with “The Battle of the Bastards” being a visceral, blockbuster of an episode in which satisfaction was the overriding feeling come the end after an hour of utter nail-biting tension and spectacle which ranks as the best Game of Thrones has had to offer this far. If notions of a depleted budget were high in my mind last week, the same cannot be said for the titular battle between the armies of Jon Snow and Ramsey Bolton, the bastards of the North, each with their own agendas and each with thriving hatred towards one another which culminated in the most extreme sense of justice the show has given us so far with Ramsey finally meeting his demise come the end of an episode in which we not only lost yet another Stark, (Goodbye Rickon) but an episode in which for the second time in the space of a year, we may have lost Jon Snow. Oh HBO, you do spoil us.
To speak only about the 30 minute thrill ride that encompassed the main bulk of the episode however completely dismisses goings-on in Meereen where finally Daenerys took back the power from the murderous masters and allowed all three of her dragons to rain down fiery chaos upon the seas of her enemies whilst the Dothraki hoard chopped down the remaining numbers of the Sons of the Harpy. Add into the mix the opportunity of two strong female characters holding the reigns of Westeros, with Yara and Theon finally being granted an opportunity to proclaim their allegiance to Daenerys, and “The Battle of the Bastards” may indeed be not only the most thrilling and action packed Game of Thrones episode to date, but the most optimistic and rewarding one also. Gone is the reign of Ramsey and here stands Lord Snow, the bastard of Winterfell who is now back where he belongs alongside his sister and the power of not only his own army but Littlefinger’s too alongside him. Pure cinematic brilliance upon the small screen, this weeks’ episode was one to remember and one that will send shock-waves across the seas of the Seven Kingdoms. Just one more left. ONE MORE.
Overall Score: 10/10
“I Choose Violence…”
Who’d thunk it? After nearly two seasons of Arya’s story-line going up. down, back around and coming full circle again right into the path of ambiguity, the House of Black and White is no longer a place of lodging for little Arya Stark, the baby-faced assassin who, after everything, decided it was best to continue her legacy as a Stark rather than a Faceless Man, a decision that ultimately brought to an end not only the life of the Waife, but to all those brilliantly barmy fan theories which suggested a bit more was behind the actions of one of the last remaining Stark’s in Westeros. What now for Arya? A return to either the North or King’s Landing is not exactly out of the question but her own wish to visit lands yet explored seems a more pressing concern for our beloved Arya, yet the real question remains, after all the dedication to the Faceless Men previously, was it the right decision to end it so quickly? From a writing point of view, probably not, with Arya’s story in particular needing a particular level of dedication in hope of a epic payoff. Was this the right way to go therefore? Was the time spent in Braavos really worth it for such a conclusion? I’m not too sure.
Away from Stark’s and creepy assassins, King’s Landing held ground for some meaty head yanking action, with the High Sparrow’s minions getting a pretty clear taste of what happens when you mess with Cersei Lannister and her deranged Frankenstein of a bodyguard. A.K.A,the zombified Mountain. On the other side of Westeros, the Hound provided light black comedy in his quest for vengeance, with quips about being awful at dying being followed by acts of sheer brutality. I mean come one, that head being chopped off was pure B-Movie brilliance. Weak point of this week’s episode came when the beloved Blackfish was seemingly killed off off-screen without the chance to witness his famous ability of swordsmanship. I mean come on HBO, there can’t be a budget issue! In fact, yes there might have been, with Meereen holding siege against the bloodthirsty masters just in time for Dany to return and witness what happens when she flies off gets captured. “No One” proved to be somewhat the weakest of Season Six so far, providing a questionable end to Arya’s story-line and killing off a certain character without to no satisfactory end. But hey, who cares when we have the aptly titled “The Battle of the Bastards” next week.
Overall Score: 7/10
“You’ve Lost, Cersei. It’s The Only Joy I Can Find In All This Misery…”
Oh, hello Mr. McShane. And goodbye. Carrying on the surprise list of guests appearing within the realms of Westeros this week was Lovejoy himself, acting as a rather efficient and likeable conduit for the welcome return of Sandor Clegane AKA The Hound, and although one up on screen-time in comparison to Richard E. Grant, Ian McShane was swiftly hung out to dry, resulting in the return of the unparalleled quest for violence our beloved Hound infamously thrives on. Speaking of violence, poor old Arya once again. Whipped, smacked around the face, and now stabbed. What more does the young girl deserve? Not everything is what it seems within the House of Black and White and Arya’s future is still yet to be determined, with next week’s aptly titled episode “No One” perhaps finally setting in stone the course in which our beloved Stark is yet to embark on. Maybe a reunion with the Hound? We shall see.
Sassy Northerner of the week belongs to Lady Mormont of Bear Island, with her no-nonsense attitude on the situations at hand gave credence to a notion that if she was Queen, Game of Thrones would have been sorted out by now and whilst she only allowed 82 of her soldiers to join Jon Snow in his quest to take back Winterfell, it was a fleeting success in comparison to other houses who completely disregarded any chance of support for taking down Westeros’ number one psycho in Ramsey Bolton. As for events elsewhere, the Blackfish and Jamie Lannister had the stand-off of the season, with it hard to point out who out of the two viewers are really rooting for. Sure, the Blackfish is bad-ass and was screwed over by the Lannister’s but you just can’t beat the banter of the bromance between Jamie and Bronn. Remember when we all hated Jamie? Seems so long ago now. Another strong, solid episode this week, but not one of major significance, “The Broken Man” continued the success of Season Six by the introduction of new characters whilst reconnecting with those thought lost. Three episodes left people. THREE…
Overall Score: 8/10
“Are You With Me, Now And Always?”
With the death of Hodor well and truly lodged into the feels of our minds, this week’s episode of Game of Thrones continued the radical decision of the show-runners to actually start moving forward within the realm of Westeros, with certain plot strands taking major leaps after weeks, and in some cases, seasons of sluggish stopping and starting. Take Arya for example; weeks of endless beatings and Westerosian playwrights finally took a toll on the poor lass after deciding maybe it wasn’t best to end the fading career of her acting target via poison and instead regain her Stark ways, leaving behind the disappointed yet murderous Faceless Men behind in her wake. The return of Needle surely brings about the return of her vengeance list, much to the delight of fans across the globe and whose to say that her vicious young trainer The Waif won’t be swiftly added to that list after weeks of utter bitchness. Oh, and Richard E. Grant got some awesome screen time this week. Big up the Doctor Who connections! Big up too the most obvious return of a long-lost character since well, someone with Benjen Stark being heart and centre in the rescue of Bran whilst Westeros’ most evil OAP graced our screens once again with Red Wedding orchestrator Walder Fray showing the world he is still alive.
On the other side of the continent, Daenerys was reunited with her beast-mode dragon Drogon which did nothing but to emphasise the effects budget available to the show whilst the Westerosian equivalent of Dorset laid bare to the return of Sam to his homeland, much to the respite of his bad and bitter father who went completely ape shit after learning his beloved son had returned with a Wildling for a wife. Quite rightly, Sam decided the best option was to leave ASAP, yet not empty handed, with the Tarly heirloom in the form of a Valyrian steeled sword being swiftly stolen. Finally, within the soap-opera fantasia of King’s Landing, Jamie and Lord Tyrell both attempted to put a permanent end to the teachings of the High Sparrow but instead were greeted to the rather bonkers realisation that not only had Margery fully embraced the ways of the Sparrow but King Tommen too. If ever there were a picture to sum up a situation, Jamie’s face was it. A bold move or one too immature? We shall see won’t we. Once again, Game of Thrones chose to take a bold step forward in its’ storytelling and made the set-up for the last remaining episodes a real treat to look forward to.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Hold The Door…”
Oh my. If previous events on Game of Thrones had the power and the gusto to make the hardest of people break down and cry, then this week’s episode more than deserves its’ place in the Game of Thrones hall of fame for a final scene which ranks up with the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire history of the show so far. The Red Wedding? Intense and shocking. The fall of the Viper? Left me shaking for days on end. The revelation of Hodor? Genuinely sob-inducing, a scene which brought all the ambiguity regarding the origin of Hodor to a close whilst letting go one of the shows’ most beloved characters in the most heroic way possible; holding off a wave of white walkers in order to protect Bran who finally realised his part in a Doctor Who-esque bootstrap paradox which was to blame for Hodor’s minimalistic range of speech. Powerful to say the least, “The Door” proved to be the best episode of Season Six so far, with its’ final scene ranking up there with the best of them over the course of the shows’ run whilst continuing to highlight why we just can’t stop watching. Hodor is gone, yet the force and origin of the White Walkers was both reminded and explained this week, with the most patient army in existence still warning the audience that they are there to stay. And oh yeah, another direwolf is gone too. Damn.
Elsewhere, Braavos proved their own evening entertainment was the best place to go to for a quick recap of events which occurred in Season One, much to the despair of Arya whose newest assassination target was at the centre of the acting circle responsible which also included a rather strange cameo from Richard E. Grant, a cameo immediately recognised after hearing his distinct and overly British, lavish voice. Awkward scene of the week was seen within the North when the reunion between Sansa and Littlefinger was greeted with a less than warm response, whilst the Iron Islands gave way to a new King, one with blood lust for both remaining direct Greyjoy siblings. In Meereen, Tyrion was greeted by the areas’s own version of Melisandre, one who obviously shops in the same aisle as her Northern familiar, and one who decided it was best to remind Varys of his early experience of becoming a eunuch. Nice. Finally, Dany was at last grateful for the heroic attempts of Ser Jorah, who in return produced the ever-growing rate to which the greyscale is taking over, something of which a tearful Dany orders him to fix before it finally takes over and becomes too late. “The Door” proved to be a excellent episode of Game of Thrones, one that most definitely proves to be the high watermark for the season so far and ultimately one that concluded with perhaps the saddest event in Game of Thrones thus far. So long Hodor, it’s been emotional.