“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
Fear the Walking Dead was a big concern of mine. I cherish the Walking Dead series through many avenues but a spin-off sounded more like a desperate attempt to generate more and maintain the buzz around zombies in popular culture and milk the cow for a little longer. But honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised.
Entering into LA where the outbreak of the zombie virus is just beginning to take effect, we join our first group comprised of two teachers, Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) and Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her two children Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Here we begin with Nick in some run down church after doing enough meth to kill a horse (perhaps explaining why he looks so much like one). Almost instantly we are thrown into the zombie apocalypse with 3 dead and one psycho women chomping away at their faces. Fleeing from the area, presuming it was all some bad trip, Nick lands himself in hospital after playing Chicken with a sedan. Enter the awkward family love triangle. Typical step father (Travis) not being deemed as good by his new family and rejected by his original. From here on its about Travis understanding what is going on with Nick and throughout we begin to get bigger and bigger hints about the upcoming shit storm about to hit the world. It feels very real. Its not a superhero with the ability to punch through every wall in their way, its a normal person reacting to an extraordinary situation in the ordinary way. Its a very believable collection of reactions and that in itself is very refreshing towards the larger series.
So, its looking promising, but what about acting? In all fairness, I can honestly say I’ve never seen any of the actors before apart from Cliff Curtis and that was for a mildly entertaining ER show called Trauma, but there was a reason that didn’t survive more than 1 series. The acting in general was okay but my biggest bane is once again young actors. Often their scenes felt full of teen angst with lacklustre acting that belongs in crappy teen movies. Nick seems like a giant shit bag with a potentially complex narrative that will hopefully see him develop into an awesome character to follow later down the line.
Is it worth the watch? Hell yes. Even more so if you’re eagerly anticipating season 6 of its parent. The refreshing take on the zombie world has made Fear the Walking Dead a great entry into the lore and environment that separates itself from the activities of its comic book and Telltale variants.