“We Either Serve And Die Or Fight And Die. I’ve Made My Choice…”
Beginning with perhaps the most obvious rescue in Thrones history, “Eastwatch” was a curiously intriguing episode, one which swapped action set pieces for cleverly maneuvered interactions, resulting in a swiftly paced hour of television which saw the return of long lost characters, the reunion of old friends and enemies and a game-changing couple of narrative tweaks which had fans screaming at the television with frustration the one minute and then applauding with joy the next. With Bronn inevitably the saving grace behind the cliffhanger of last week’s episode, allegiances seem to be at some sort of an end between the two after the latter understandably quipped, “dragons is where our partnership ends”, and whilst Bronn may have lost a selection of fans for his attack on Drogon last week, the comedic chemistry between himself and Jamie is still rife and effective as ever, even after witnessing an abundance of soldiers being shot up in flames. Furthermore, the death of both Tarly father and son raised an interesting predicament for Daenerys’ characterisation, with her villainous streak seeping out once again and arguably becoming more jarring by the second, yet with the vessel of Jon Snow by her side, you would expect each to learn from each other and ultimately level each other out, particularly after Dany’s shocked reaction to Drogon’s response to Jon.
Fitting in as many storyline developments as humanly possible within the second half, “Eastwatch” managed to swing in a glossed over historical game-changer, the long-awaited return of Gendry and the forming of Thrones’ own magnificent seven who ventured out beyond the wall in an attempt to begin preparations for the battle with the dead. Whilst this week’s episode was indeed low on blockbuster action, the low-key smuggling attempts and shadowy meetings in the dark made the episode feel almost Season One-esque, particularly with Littlefinger having the screen time to return to his more dastardly means at Winterfell, and whilst the travelling times for particular characters in Westeros has somewhat been subsided, “Eastwatch” was a thoroughly enjoyable episode, one which crammed in as much information as possible with a sole purpose of setting the ground for the remaining two episodes which are guaranteed to be explosive entertainment. We are ready.
Overall Score: 9/10
“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
“It Begins With The Birth Of A New People, The Choices They’ll Have To Make And The People They Will Decide To Become…”
Wow. What an incredible ending to an absurdly addictive series, a series which although left many shell-shocked at how wildly barmy the many entwining narratives became week after week, was undoubtedly a solid thumbs up from those masters of TV up at HBO headquarters. Whilst the success has brought up a wholly inevitable chance to continue into a second series, Westworld needs to follow the continued quality of previous shows including the likes of Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos etc., in order to become a true exquisite piece of serialised television. What does the future hold for Westworld? Well let’s start with THAT final scene, a concluding set piece which not only allowed the show-runners to show their hands regarding underlying plot threads but a scene which everyone had been wanted for since the start of the show. A host uprising. These violent delights have violent ends indeed.
Where to begin? Obviously the headline resolutions of the final episode was the real nature of Ford’s new host narrative, one which confirmed his true intentions all along, a guilt-inflicted belief that ultimately allowed the hosts to become free from the control of their masters, concluding in the massacre of the top-end controllers of the park including Ford who died at the hands of Delores in a manner which could only be regarded as the final piece in the puzzle for the elderly and guilt-stricken genius. With Ford gone, we unfortunately have to say farewell to the supreme acting talents of Anthony Hopkins whose portrayal of Dr. Ford was one of the best things of the show, a mysteriously and intentionally ambiguous figure who although seemed cold and calculated for one of the humans on park, became a figure of sadness and regret come the concluding realisation of Arnold, a death in which Ford felt partially responsible.
Of the many other endpoints for the many narratives in the show, The Man in Black was finally confirmed to be the elderly figure of William, a theory which was coined by many weeks ago, and thus complimented the finalising of the Delores arc, one which showed her as the murderous figure of Wyatt as well as the true nature of the maze, a effective macguffin which was revealed simply as the final stage of true consciousness for Delores. The symbolic nature of Ford handing the toy maze to Bernard just before his death was timely in acknowledging Ford’s true ideals as it was lost on The Man in Black/William who simply could not understand its’ meaning after his long search for answers. As for TMIB, a bullet to the arm and a smile on his face was the concluding shot of such a character with the realisation that the game had well and truly been turned up to eleven, fulfilling the wishes of a man who believed Westworld was meant for something more. Westworld has been a riveting success, a confusing, addictive, violent and thought-provoking drama which was as annoying as it was delightful with its’ rafter of intertwining narratives, a normality in the hands of Johnathan Nolan, who has made Westworld his own little baby. Although the wait until more Westworld is excruciating, with 2018 being the set date for the second series premiere, Nolan’s series is one of the rare cases in which you could watch all ten episodes again and take a million different things from it, a blueprint for success if ever there was one.
Episode Score: 10/10
Series Score: 8.45/10
“Never Place Your Trust In Us. We’re Only Human. Inevitably, We’ll Only Disappoint…”
And that’s what you get for asking questions. Sorry Elsie, my constant need to know every loose end has obviously resulted in your demise, a demise orchestrated by the megalomaniacal Dr. Ford yet carried out by the unknowing Bernard, who this week was confirmed as a reincarnation of the infamous unknown entity that is Arnold, a theory which was coined by many early into the series. Although this didn’t come as much of a surprise, what this revelation did ensure was a mind-bending segment in which we witness parallel time structures in which Delores was ever present in her attempt to access the ambiguous maze. Although the Delores scenes this week seemed rather flashy and important, her particular plot line is unashamedly baffling, and in a world where baffling plot lines are more than ripe, it’s hardly surprising. The revelation of the Bernard=Arnold equation ultimately led to the self-inflicted murder of such, a resolution which was either there to save Bernard’s mind from the info dump he had just experienced or to save Dr. Ford’s behind, yet with the murderous rampage our beloved creator is on, it’s hard to sway away from the latter.
As for the real Arnold, the realisation that Delores was responsible for his untimely demise only adds to the series’ confusion. Why and what does this mean? What is the show’s endgame? These are questions that are constantly asked when I sit down and watch the newest entry of Westworld and with only one episode to go, I’m not really any closer to finding out. Like the maze our heroes and villains are attempting to seek out, Westworld is a endless, baffling mystery. But boy is it addictive. Add into the mix some more background regarding The Man in Black, with it being highlighted his influence in the running of the park, as well as Teddy’s storyline slowly falling into its’ inevitable place and next week’s episode has a barrel load to squeeze in. Where Game of Thrones threw spanners in the works primarily in its’ penultimate episode, Westworld is leaving it to the very end to show its’ hand, and whilst the latter is nowhere near the heights of the former, it still is tasty entertainment.
Overall Score: 8/10
“You Speak Like You Own This World…”
So we finally have some sort of answers regarding The Main in Black this week with Ed Harris deciding to blast us with an unexpected exposition dump regarding his rather unfortunate past which included a dead wife, a hateful daughter and the willingness to vent his anger upon the hosts of Westworld. Does this add up to the now anticipated reveal of the Man in Black=William equation? Who freakin’ knows and like many have stated, Westworld is in danger of having more plot lines than Lost and although last week’s twist had repercussions seeping into this week, with Bernard distraught with his violent actions, “Trace Decay” resorted to leading the big reveals until its’ final two episodes. Smart move? Yes and no, with Westworld’s continual baffling nature indeed not for everyone and for those who have stuck by it like some love-struck stalker of an ex-partner, we can only hope the mysteries do eventually pay off.
Scene of the week was handed to Maeve who with her newly found powers in the land of Westworld pretty much reenacted that scene from Bruce Almighty when Jim Carey walks around and flashes his newly acquired god-like abilities. Instead of blowing up water mains and putting the wind up skirts however, Maeve completely changed the design of her commune by that of language alone, altering the programming of the hosts around her to do whatever she desired. Uprising? You said it and with hosts going seemingly against protocol across the park (Teddy’s capture of TMIB, Delores’s extreme visions and of course, Maeve herself) the beginning of the end is nigh for those unfortunate to be at the wrong end of the hosts’ anger. After two episodes of no info whatsoever also, what on earth has happened to Elsie? At the end of episode six we saw her being attacked by an unknown assailant which in the time of Westworld must be a week or so at least which enhances the notion of a hole in the overarching plot. Will she reappear? One would hope so. Solid this week once again with more questions that answers; that’s right guys, it’s Westworld.
Overall Score: 8/10
“We Need To Demonstrate Just How Dangerous Ford’s Creations Can Be…”
And boy did we get a demonstration. Alas, this week’s episode of Westworld was undoubtedly the best of the bunch so far with a twist ending that not only confirmed many’s suspicions regarding the presence of Bernard but also highlighted that Dr. Ford himself adheres to the belief that the world in which he has created has violent delights which ultimately lead to violent ends, with Theresa being the subject of the “blood sacrifice” that, ironically, herself and Charlotte attempted to create in order to overthrow Ford yet this was indeed not the sacrifice she had in mind. As soon as Bernard stated the unwary words of “what door?” we knew something big was set to occur and although the big reveal had been coming for a while now, not many would have predicted these exact events. Not only does this seemingly seem like the beginning of something rather nihilistic, Ford’s decision to murder his competition as well as revealing his control over Bernard begs a wide range of new questions regarding events that we have witnessed so far.
With Bernard being under the control of Ford from the offset, this not only settles the whole Bernard-child loss plot but also the mysterious presence behind Delores’ secret talks with Bernard. Surely Bernard’s questioning of Delores was orchestrated by Ford in order to reveal certain things regarding Arnold but it doesn’t exactly clear up the real burning questions at the centre of the show that have been there since the start. What the twist at the end of this week’s episode does cement is the murderous and power hungry mind of Dr. Ford, who may even have been behind the disappearance of the infamous Arnold in an attempt to take full control, and whilst we have only three episodes left, all these indecisive plot strands and loose ends surely can’t be solved in just under three hours? Alas, with the news that Westworld has been renewed for a second season this week, I highly doubt it will be. Still, for now, revel in the show’s best episode to date with the immortal words of “what door?” set to haunt the minds of fans for weeks to come.
Overall Score: 9/10
“If You Could Only See Your Son Again, Bernard, Would You Want To…?
Plunging the perils of that thing called the internet this week, I came to an agreement with the most plausible fan theory regarding Westworld, in that there seems to more than just one time structure occurring throughout the series with its’ main focus on that of Delores and the path laid out for her so far. Ironically, this weeks’ episode was the first which decided to not include her character at all, a decision which may have been regarded as wrong at the start of the episode yet come the end, allowed the more mediocre plot lines of Westworld to expand and deliver perhaps the meatiest movement of the series so far. Whilst Teddy and The Man in Black continued their journey into the mysterious maze, all the while taking the time to destroy half a settlement with a Gatling gun, the key areas of the episode all took place back at Westworld HQ where our beloved theme park controllers began to experience a changing level of artificial intelligence.
Unbeknown to Bernard, his search into Section 17 prompted him to find more than a couple of rogue hosts with him instead finding an entire family, a family designed by the mysterious Arnold for Dr. Ford who has continued to keep them in pristine condition in secret away from the rest of the park in order to preserve their, and presumably his own, memories. Discovering such can only resort in Bernard attempting to do something similar regarding the loss of his child, yet with Dr. Ford discovering the murderous and treacherous desires of Arnold’s hosts, such an outcome can only lead to an unexpected sticky end. Perhaps the most interesting development of the episode came with Thandie Newton’s Maeve, who upon realising the outcome of death leads back to the control room, decided to have a peek around her constructed life, resulting in forcing her creators to improve her capped level of intelligence. Revolution away? One would have thought and after a couple of weeks of slacking in terms of plot development, this week’s episode of Westworld was a much needed return to the top form the series began with.