And we’re back with the reviews. I will say that it has felt like an eternity since the last season, especially considering how they filmed the new season a little later than usual due to attempting to replicate the wintry conditions. But one thing is for certain: winter is officially here in Westeros!
This season starts off without the usual introductory score but shows us finishing up at the Twins with Walder Frey holding a second banquet with his family members.
Unfortunately for the Freys, the merriment does not last long as Arya has already infiltrated their family and slain their patriarch Walder. Here, Arya pulls off her revenge by assassinating all the key male Frey members through poisoning their wine while disguised as Walder. She leaves the women alone but sends a clear message to the realm that The North Remembers.
After the introduction, we see a quiet yet ominous sight in the army of the dead approaching. Besides, the sheer numbers we also spy giants amongst them. This scene directly connects to what Arya had mentioned to the Frey girls in that “winter came.” Pretty much we should expect the army of the dead to get even closer than before, if not invade at any time.
Still far up north, we arrive at the Wall with Bran Stark and Meera Reed, greeting Dolorous Edd and other men of the Night’s Watch. Edd questions whether or not Reed are Wildlings initially, but Bran shows off some of his vast network of information gleaned from connecting with the Three Eyed Raven in proving to the Night’s Watch men who they are. They are allowed to pass in turn.
We continue heading south as we arrive at Winterfell where the newly appointed King of Da Norf, Jon Snow, briefs the other lords in the northern kingdoms in preparation for the real war to come. Some important notes is Jon informing everyone of Dragonlance and enabling all people, not just men, to be trained in the art of war. In addition, Jon requests the Freefolk, led by Tormund, to help fortify Eastwatch as it’s the closest Night’s Watch fortification to Hardhome where they fought the army of the dead.
In between those scenes, Jon Snow debates with Sansa Stark on dividing up the land from the Karstarks and Umbers, whose recent heads had betrayed the Starks in siding with Ramsay Snow. Jon makes it a point to show mercy towards the newer heirs, children and requests that they swear fealty to him for when the time comes.
In between these arguments, we see Littlefinger standing quietly in a corner, obviously plotting. Thereafter, Sansa and Jon continue privately debating. Jon accuses Sansa of undermining his authority while Sansa points out that despite Jon’s desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, he must be smarter to avoid the same fate.
Soon, the new Maester brings a scroll from a raven sent by Cersei. She, of course, wants Jon to bend the knee. Jon isn’t preoccupied with Cersei, feeling the distance between them and King’s Landing would dissuade the new Queen from assaulting them, especially with winter acting as a natural defense for a people acclimatized to that side of the world. However, Sansa remarks that Cersei is persistent and will attempt to murder anyone who is her enemy. Jon believes that Sansa admires her while Sansa admits to learning a great deal from the Queen.
Next, we are in King’s Landing with Cersei’s newly painted, large scale map of the realm.
Cersei and Jamie Lannister discuss the point of their next moves. Cersei starts off talking about what their father Tywin wanted and what he was preparing them for. Next, she brings up how Tyrion has joined with Daenerys as her Hand. It’s a touchy point especially for Jamie as he still holds some love for his little brother. However, the way Cersei frames the scenario is that Tyrion will aid in bringing their family’s downfall.
Ultimately, they argue over the idea of legacy, which is what Tywin believed was of the highest importance. Jamie starts to notice how Cersei is so far gone mentally, especially with their children being dead. Tommen, in particular, had betrayed her, despite how she says she loved him. Nonetheless, Jamie remains loyal as he still is a Lannister and realizes that for them to survive at all, they need allies. Unfortunately, that brings a haphazard ally to the table in Euron.
Euron Greyjoy appears and parlays with the Lannisters. Essentially, he admits his desire which is to marry the most beautiful woman in the world, which is why he wants to join with Cersei. However, Cersei denies the union as she needs to earn his trust. In turn, Euron swears that he will bring a gift of great value to Cersei to prove his loyalty and word.
Next is a MONTAGE of Samwell Tarly at the Citadel. I don’t want to put up any images but I have to say that the showrunners really ran with the Toilet Humor this season. Bwhaahahahaha. You could say that Samwell’s existence at the Citadel is quite SHITTY.
However, the important thing to note is that off limit section in the library. The entire time he becomes more infatuated with the area, figuring it probably has some of the most critical tomes.
After that, Samwell is with the Archmaester having a discussion to gain access to the restricted part of the library. This scene is definitely not my favorite as it shows a dissection of another maester who fell by alcohol. The Archmaester denies Samwell’s request to gain access though but he does believe Samwell’s story. The Archmaesters mentions how the Maesters are a special people that act as the memories of the world. He attempts to reassure Samwell (and perhaps the audience that the catastrophes of the past such as Aegon’s dragons and the other long winters eventually came to an end. Thereafter, Samwell steals the keys from another Maester and procures a few of the books in the restricted area.
Back at Wintefell, we see Brienne training Podrick with Tormund watching. Podrick does not fair that well against the sword mistress but that simply brings more admiration from Giantsbane. From above them, Littlefinger and Sansa observe Brienne with Littlefinger remarking about her accomplishments in beating the Hound in singles combat.
Sansa appears irritated though as Littlefinger continues to pester her. However, he does recognize that something deeply disturbs Sansa but cannot get her to admit it before Brienne appears. Brienne questions why Sansa allows Littlefinger to remain and Sansa brushes off the true answer in that she feels they need to be grateful of his aid in defeating the Boltons. Yet Sansa’s true feelings are hidden, although she does tell Brienne she knows exactly what Littlefinger wants.
A little further south we return to Arya’s story as she encounters Lannister soldiers. Arya appears quite paranoid as these are Lannister men. However, unlike other Lannister men that she has encountered, these men appear to be “normal” people with normal desires. They treat her kindly, giving her a place by the side of their fire and even allowing her proper treatment as a guest by giving her first dibs on their food.
In some ways, this scene is a bit reminiscent of the play in Bravos where Arya sees Cersei and the other world in a different light. Even when Arya admits that her destiny is to kill the queen, the soldiers do not buy her story and chuckle with her. This side of the situation counterbalances all the cruelty Arya has witnessed from the Lannisters up until now, which may impact her decision on continuing to cross out others on her list.
From there, we see the Brotherhood Without Banners in a heavily snowed area. The Hound has appropriated not just the boots from Lemoncloak but his cloak as well.
The group stumbles across a sight familiar to the Hound: the farmer he and Arya discovered a few seasons ago. The pair are discovered in a corner as skeletal remains with the father clutching the daughter. They believe the pair starved to death with the father doing a mercy killing. The scene was as The Hound had harshly predicted.
The Hound and Beric then ponder why Beric was kept around, even though the Hound describes him as not being special. “Better men” were put to death and remained so while Beric came back a few times. Beric equally questions the Lord of Light’s will in choosing him to resurrect as opposed to better men.
As if to persuade the Hound, Thoros gets the Hound to look into a fire that he starts. At first, the Hound naturally is hesitant but as he stares into the flames, he begins to see where their destiny is taking them: The Wall.
Afterwards, the Hound buries the pair with the aid of Thoros of Myr. He attempts to say a prayer, mimicking the prayer the farmer had done during the supper he provided the Hound and Arya. Although he forgets the words, the intention is heartfelt and he says that in the end both deserved better.
We return to the Citadel where Samwell Tarly is with Gilly and Baby Sam (who finally isn’t a baby) as Samwell studies various books. He learns of the mounds of Dragonglass at Dragonstone and decides to inform Jon Snow.
Thereafter, we find Samwell attending various ill people in cells, including Mr Stoney himself. Stone Cold…..Jorah Mormont!
Evidently, he’s not looking too hot (or maybe all that sun in the mountains gave him some nasty burns :p) but he’s concerned whether Daenerys has invaded yet.
The last few scenes are all about Daenerys returning to Dragonstone. It’s an emotional display for her as it was where she was born and her ancestral home. The entire last portion is nearly without dialogue as the group enter the castle and show the grandeur of the place. There have been a few shots with Stannis Baratheon beforehand but it’s the first time we see the throne room. The last scene has Daenerys and Tyrion entering the map room where Daenerys rhetorically asks, “Shall we begin?”
The episode is a good starter and moved with reasonable pace that allowed almost all of the major characters to get a significant amount of time in. Pretty much it sets the mood for the rest of the season being focused on the war with the three last major Houses focused on the end game.
I didn’t feel as emotionally attached to this episode as say The Door where Hodor meets his end. But you can see how the last major pieces are starting to move towards finishing up the series. We still see that the major threat of the army of the dead conflicts in priority with the petty politics of the living. With the giants being part of the army now, one can assume that the army of the dead will continue to grow and use up all of the resources from past battles. Perhaps, those giants came from the battle at the Wall from Season 4. If that’s the case, then every single battle is merely a potential gain for the White Walkers.
I think one of the most interesting parts of the show is the chilling snow. Scenes with the Brotherhood Without Banners and the Hound show the winter atmosphere that is overtaking the land. It pretty much makes that side of the world far more interesting than anything else just because of the critical nature of the enemy.
I’m still not keen yet on Daenerys’ story but it will become relevant with her finally reaching the shore of Westeros. One of the things that the cast have discussed is how many stories begin to converge. We already have seen Euron meet with the Lannisters while Ser Jorah has encountered Samwell Tarly. Undoubtedly, Daenerys will finally meet with others as the season progresses.
Overall, this was a great introduction. It didn’t feel rushed nor did it feel too plodding. It did manage to advance some stories a little faster such as Sam’s progression as a Maester, the Brotherhood Without Banners trekking northrward and Euron joining forces with the Lannisters. Somethings were a bit gruesome for my taste (namely the dissection scene) but I’m anticipating the rest of this season.