Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Game On

The first episode of the seventh season of Game Of Thrones, "Dragonstone," puts us right in the thick of things.  There was a lot of downsizing, as it were, last season, and now we've got a clear group of characters circling each other, all based in Westeros.  Some complained there wasn't enough action, but I've always felt the best scenes tend to be a few characters just talking, not necessarily cutting off heads.

We start with old business.  In a pre-credits scene that could have been the ending of last season (but was probably too much for it), we get Arya, disguised as Walder Frey, killing off the entire House.  That's what he deserves for murdering people he invited in (though Arya is probably offended not due to his lack of hospitality, but for the fact he did it to his mother and brother, and she was there when it happened).  We didn't quite know that Arya was so good at changing faces--she can look exactly like anyone, and even do vocal impressions.

Anyway, the new Arya is at large in Westeros, and anything is possible.  Note she doesn't have the methods of the other killers from the House of Black--she doesn't do assignments, she's free lance.  You'd think she might want to meet her family, though it's not clear if she knows any of them are still alive.

After the credits, we get a vision of White Walkers on the march.  And now Meera (tough gal) has brought Bran to the gate of the Wall.  Edd let's him in.  Where will Bran go next?  Boy does he have a lot to say--especially to Jon Snow.

Speaking of whom, we watch Jon--the new King in the North--running a meeting at Winterfell.  Quite an interesting group collected there.  Not only all the heads of Northern families (including everyone's favorite, Lyanna Mormont), but also Sansa, Brienne, Pod, Tormund, Littlefinger and Davos.  A fun group, though I doubt they'll all be together for much longer.

Snow will allow the families who turned against the Starks to keep their ancestral homes, against the importuning of Sansa.  Snow learned his tactics fighting in the north, where being merciful to the wildlings was a good idea.  Sansa learned her tactics in King's Landing, where being merciless was more common, and being too honorable gets you killed.

Later, along with Sansa, Snow asks her not to undermine him in public.  A sensible request, though it's clear Sansa isn't quite happy with the power arrangements.  Will they end up completely at odds?  Will one of the leave to make room for the other.  (Cersei has asked Snow to come to King's Landing, but would he be so stupid?)

Anyway, Snow knows the real problem is in the North, but we can see there are plenty of problems down South.  And down South, in King's Landing, the finishing touches are being put on a floor map of Westeros, so Cersei can keep track of things more easily.  She and Jaime have a conversation about where they stand.  (Why is Jaime still there, you may ask, though he seems to have nowhere else to go.)

They are the last of the Lannisters (so have some more babies, then).  They've seen all their kids die, though Cersei doesn't really want to talk about it.  Cersei is too consumed with the enemies in every direction.  To the east, Daenery's sails to take over.  To the south are the Dornish, who want revenge.  To the west are the Tyrells, who also want revenge (and have all the food).  To the north is Snow and snow.

They need allies, who are in short supply.  Even the rotten Frey's are gone.  Which is why Cersei has invited Euron Greyjoy, who looks to play a large role this season.  The Iron Islanders don't impress anyone--certainly not the Lannisters.  They rebelled, which is bad enough, but they also were put down easily.  Who can trust them.  But they've got a lot of ships and Euron has a lot of practice on the seas.

He comes in to meet with Cersei (though can't get too close, thanks to the Mountain), and would like to join up with her.  While it's clear there's plenty of mistrust, he says he'll prove himself and bring her something.  Dany's head?  Tyrion?  The Sand Snakes? Guess we'll find out.

Now we go to the Citadel, where Samwell is in training, if training means doing nothing but scut work.  In a montage that lasts maybe a bit too long, we see him perform his duties, which includes a lot of cleaning out bedpans.  But he was sent there for a mission--to learn about the White Walkers and help Jon Snow. Though at this rate they'll all be engulfed before he even gets to read one of the books locked up in the special area.

For his eagerness and presumption he gets a speech from an Archmaester, played by Jim Broadbent, about how there are always problems, but the maesters work apart from that, guiding mankind. Broadbent is sure the wall will always be standing, but will it?

So Samwell, who has learned to steal things he think he's owed, gets the keys to get to the books he needs.

Back at Winterfell, Pod is in training with Brienne, while Tormund pants at the thought.  Watching them is Littlefinger and Sansa. Sansa is quite dismissive, as is Brienne, of Baelish. I don't like this diminished Littlefinger, who seems to be so in love with Sansa that he's lost his senses.  This is the man, don't forget, who plunged the Seven Kingdoms into chaos, and saw to it that Joffrey was assassinated.  And now Sansa easily bests him in repartee?  Perhaps he's biding his time, and perhaps Sansa will come around, though. (But let's get to it--this is fan service and not much else.  So Sansa had a rough wedding night.  Theon Greyjoy had his penis cut off and he's stopped whining about it.)

Now Arya is riding through the Riverlands.  It's a new Arya.  Up till now, she's always had a mentor, teaching her things.  Now she knows what she needs to know (she thinks).  When she rode through this area earlier, she couldn't have survived without the Hound.  Now she's the master killer.

She meets up with some soldiers, and while there is some tension, they tend to be good sorts, and she enjoys their hospitality.  She even tells them she's going to Kings Landing to kill the queen, though they take it as a joke.  I think Arya has the ability to get to Cersei, though will something get in her way?  Will she meet up with some family members?  With the Hound?  There are a lot of reunions in her future.

Speaking of the Hound, he's marching with the Brotherhood Without Banners.  Just like Arya, we've got a new Hound.  He's still got a smart mouth, but is more easily moved--he's been hanging out with religious people for a while now.  The group comes upon the farm where he hurt the farmer and stole his silver.  The Hound finds two corpses--the father realized they were going to starve and killed his daughter and himself.  That night the Hound digs them a grave, which is the best he can do at this point.  Earlier, he looks into the fire and sees a vision of Whit Walkers coming around the Wall by the sea. Is this where he'll be heading?

At the Citadel, with his stolen books, Samwell makes a discovery. (Pretty easily.  All those nasty maesters were sure slowing him down.)  You can get all the dragon glass you need at Dragonstone. Makes sense, I guess.  He'll inform Jon.  We'll this lead to some confrontations?

Meanwhile, Samwell, on his duties, is feeding the quarantined.  An arm comes out to him, full of greyscale.  It's Jorah, of course.  Jorah was ordered by Daenerys to cure himself, so it would make sense he came to the seat of learning to see if there was a way.  He's not looking too well, but he wants to know if Dany has landed.

We cut to Dany's fleet, and they sail smoothly into her ancestral home of Dragonstone.  Too smoothly.  Cersei and Aegon know she's coming here--why don't they try to cut her off at the pass (even with her dragons about)?

Dany and her retinue, including Tyrion, Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm, don't do much more than open the gates and walk in.  This is the moment she's been waiting for all her life--her return to Westeros. But it's just the beginning.  Now that she's here, she's got to move on King's Landing to the real throne she wants.  But they're going to need a strategy, presumably.  The former occupant of Dragonstone tried a full assault and it didn't go well.

So that's where we stand.  We get to see most of the characters, and they've all got clear goals.  There are only so many episode left, so the clashes, and the reunions, are going to start piling up pretty fast.


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