Monday, July 31, 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7 Reviews: Episode 3 - The Queen's Justice (Consequences)

I have to say, I’m dismayed. The episode was a stellar piece of television, full of big moments and masterfully crafted. The dialogue was strong throughout, at times even stellar. The actors delivered them with accustomed skill, and Lena Heady owned this episode with some of the best acting on the whole show. The technical aspects, as always, were superb. Individually, there was not one segment that didn’t provide a nice climax, that didn’t have a clear high. If only they’d combined into a coherent whole.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Game of Thrones Season 7 Reviews: Episode 2: Stormborn (Meetings and Reunions)

The second episode of season 7 is an episode of meetings and reunions. Some of them are happier than others, as lies in the nature of things, and they are all fraught with tension, even when there is hope to be had.

On Dragonstone, the great war meeting is underway. Olenna Tyrell, now the Matriarch of her house officially and not just behind the scenes, is mobilizing her troops, but her bannermen prove restless. Ellaria Sand brought her daughters and the promise of the armies of Dorne to the island. Varys brings his own intellect, and the Greyjoys some sorely needed fleets.

However, the alliance is on edge. Daenerys doesn’t know if she can trust Varys, who has betrayed two kings for a shadowy agenda of his own, and is only won over when he takes a passionate plea for the people, and swears to Dany not to murder her without giving her a chance at reform, which is a big commitment coming from Varys. The Dragon Queen also visibly asserts her independence from her councilors, even of such distinguished ones as Tyrion.

This makes Olenna’s warning and advice a bit superfluous and cryptic: what exactly does she mean by “be a dragon”? It sounds an awful lot like something a Trump advisor would say, and not exactly like sane advice, an uncomfortable callback to Sansa’s adoration of Cersei in the first episode. In its usual way, the show sells it with great committed actors, great lighting and camerawork and stunning visuals, and yet, it leaves me queasy. What exactly is the lesson here that the show seems to give about politics? I sincerely hope this will become clearer as the season progresses.

The battle plan follows the usual logic the show has since deployed for military maneuvers, which is to mean none at all. At this point in its progression, one has to simply accept this. I have to say, the idea that the Dornish and the Ironborn are “the Westerosi” is funny, but apt considering the coalition Dany brought to Westeros.

There are still meetings to be had on Dragonstone, though, because the Lady Melisandre arrives, whipping the command of her native High Valyrian as an instant cudgel to convince Dany that she knows things, informing her that she is the “Prince Who Was Promised”, while being honest enough that she’s not exactly sure what this does mean other than she’s important. It’s a bit of a moot point to make given the dragon-y nature of Dany’s kingship, but her wartime coalition is now largely in place.

However, a meeting in King’s Landing is a bit out of the question, because Dany does not intend on bringing Fire and Blood to the people (taking a cue from Tyrion here, who borrows her old daddy’s line of being a “king of ashes” to great effect) and so needs to use more time-consuming manners of warfare. There, in turn, require more allies. And so Tyrion can meet with his old pal Jon Snow and his ex-wife Sansa, albeit it only as pen-pals at the moment, inviting Jon to Dragonstone and not making too big a fuzz of the whole “bending the knee”-thing that Dany demands. I’m sure that will be absolutely no point of contention going forward.

However, the strategy Tyrion pushed Dany into accepting may backfire spectacularly. While Yara and Theon set sail to ferry the Dornish troops over to King’s Landing, Euron rudely interrupts the sexy-time Yara enjoys with Ellaria and smashed the whole fleet, killing the Sand Snakes and taking Ellaria and Yara in the process. Theon, confronted by his uncle, is enveloped by another old acquittance of his: the PSD given to him by Ramsay comes back with a vengeance, leading him to abandon his sister instead of reciprocating on her rescue attempt, and joining the dead and the wreckage that Euron left behind. With one stroke, Dany’s alliance has lost two of its three members. It may be time for more drastic measures.

One of these might be waiting in the North, where Jon is urged to stay instead of go to Dragonstone, in turns by the memory of old Aerys’ treachery towards Rickard Stark and in turns by the desire to have the king here to take matters in hand. Jon is having none of it, leaving the North to Sansa and departing with his anthropomorphic good sense, Davos. Judging from Littlefinger’s smile, who took up his old hobby of needlessly antagonizing Starks by telling them that, yes, he really wants to fuck Catelyn and Sansa, this is not a stable situation.

The last reunions of the episode are reserved for Arya. She consciously seeks out her old buddy Hot Pie, who is baking the best bread in Westeros, who tells her that Jon is King in the North now. The spark of humanity that she gained by breaking bread (and hare) with the Lannister soldiers in the last episode grips her in this emotional, tear-jerking revelation, as she – equally consciously – either delays or entirely absconds her reunion with Cersei to instead seek the one that matters. Little does she know that Jon will not be there, but at least, Sansa will be.

In Oldtown, Samwell Tarly meets Ser Jorah Mormont, linking his story with Daenerys’ as well as Jorah’s with the Night’s Watch’s tale. The meeting leads Sam to instinctively take high risks to help out the son of his former Lord Commander. We will see if any good comes out of it.

Before Arya can reach the North, though, another rather unexpected reunion happens. Nymeria and her wolf-pack meet her, but they don’t join. It’s not clear why. But the wolves also don’t kill Arya, they simply leave. It is as if the two of them had recognized the change they went through. Is this a departure forever, or is it temporary, until they find each other again? It’s left ambiguous.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Reviews - Episode 1: Dragonstone (Reckonings)

Winter has come for house Frey, Arya informs the sole survivor of said house, Lord Walder’s last plaything and girl-wife, whom she spared. And indeed it has. Since the beginning of season 4, the Freys have been largely removed from the center of events, but they have never been far on anyone’s mind. A reckoning was long in coming, and since Lady Stoneheart never made it to the screen, merging her role with doe-eyed Arya was a logical step that is paying quick dividends. Unlike the Nemesis from the books, Arya is still capable of pulling back from the abyss of blind vengeance, as evidenced when she meets a group of Lannister soldiers that tries to adhere to the norms and ideals in their own way, “keeping the peace”, as it was, and sharing the little they have with a stranger. It takes a while until Arya accepts the hare-formed bread and salt of the soldiers, but when she does, a small existential battle is won.