Preamble: The biggest television show in the world returns for a truncated penultimate season. Budgeted at around $100 million Director of Photography Robert McLachlan is on record as saying, “[T]hey only did seven episodes this year, but I think their budget’s probably the same, so I think you’re going to see, whereas before, we’d have one or two showstopping, major episodes per season, this season, probably at least half of them are whoppers. They’re not going to disappoint. We did a showstopping, pretty epic scene in Europe just before I came back, and it’s really going to be great. Season 7 is going to be fantastic.” So there you have it. That’s pretty unbiased. As it stands the math works out to around 14 million per episode but similar to “Battle of the Bastards” producers can shift around their budget from other episodes to pool resources for these whoppers. The premiere ‘Dragonstone’ is not a whopper, but as impossible Game of Thrones standards it’s not a bottle episode either.
People often talk about Game of Thrones as if its impossible not to watch, although the opposite is more accurate. As an exclusive cable series the only way to watch is through a cable tv package or using someone’s HBO Go/Now password (HBO on Apple TV in the U.S. exclusively is $10/month. As such many people opt for piracy which the network has been slow to address considering they are making enough money through cable as is. This year they dropped sending out episodes in advance to critics which puts me on even footing with them, so stay tuned!
Plot: Jon organizes the defense of the North. Cersei tries to even the odds. Daenerys comes home.
Review: Is Ed Sheeran not the most out-of-place person you’ve ever seen in Westeros? His Instagram post referencing the event looks like they photoshopped his head on. Nonetheless his spot serves as a meaningfully softening moment for Arya in the midst of her killing spree, and a highly uncharacteristic moment of grace on the show showing miraculously there still are some kind people left in this world.
Another arriving guest star is Professor Slughorn a.k.a. Academy Award Winner (and in a very tough year) Jim Broadbent as Archmaester Ebrose who tells Sam that since the beginning of time claims of the end of days coming and The Wall falling have existed unfounded and will continue to be so there’s no need to doubt now. Later on, Sam encounters Ser Jorah Mormont in a darkened cell after he reaches out to him arm fully covered in grayscale who asks if The Queen of Dragons has arrived. Well she just set foot on land in Westeros so not quite.
The end scene displaying that arrival reminds you of two things. #1 how boring most table setting season early episodes of this show are in order for a grand payoff and #2 how Emilia Clarke is not a good actress. Leading a whole scene yourself unable to emote anything while having the music, cinematography, production design and other actors do the heavy lifting makes her similar to a slightly improved Kit Harrington in that way and why Daenerys is a perfect fit for Jon Snow. I’m anxious to see what their interaction will be like this season when he visits his aunt to mine the dragon glass underneath her new fortress.
Not that his familial relations are particularly iron clad, as Jon clashes with Sansa over strategy and what kind of ruler to be learning from their family’s mistakes. That Winterfell scene is contrasted with the summery King’s Landing where Cersei and Jamie have a talk about the same thing with much less compassion. Possibly aligning themselves with Euron Greyjoy the last bad guy on the map who promises to return to Cersei with a gift to earn her trust, well going by the released plot descriptions it’ll be an important point.
An unexpectedly important point is Sandor “The Hound” Clegane who relives some old bad memories and gains some new ones as he shelters himself with the Brotherhood Without Banners at the place where him and Arya robbed a family of their chickens and food a few seasons ago. The scene demonstrates how Clegane is no longer The Hound he was and has realized an arc from his days as the King’s protector. Soon it’ll be time for him to face his brother The Zombified ‘Mountain’ only as things turn out on GoT will he survive? And does it even matter in the big picture?
Little Finger is there with little purpose supporting leading Deadpool odds.
Speaking of pointlessness Twitter fans, just because a former character mentions The Restricted Section of a library does not make it a Harry Potter reference.
With only 7 episodes out of the usual 10 and an a final season next year with only 6, that means that there are only 12 episodes of the show left.
There’s a good chance they could all just get killed by the Whitewalkers, uniting or defeating the Lannisters too late as would be George R.R. Martin’s style.
Finale date is August 27th