For the first time, I’m going to attempt to complain about Game of Thrones in a timely manner.
This is a momentous occasion. In the past, I’ve griped about things that I had months to process – episodes that I was able to watch at least two times, episodes that I had time to digest afterwards. Now, I’m trying to gripe about something that just happened a few hours ago (as I’m writing this). So it may be a bit sloppy, a bit undercooked. But never let it be said that rudimentary standards of quality got in the way of my can-do spirit. Here goes.
This Is Already So Dumb I Can’t Even
We start at the Twins. Walder Frey (not actually Walder Frey, it’s obviously Arya in disguise) is giving a speech to his assembled family. We can already tell that the murder of the real Walder Frey has gone undetected, as has the murder of two of his sons, as has the act of baking those two sons into a pie for Walder Frey to eat (or possibly just look at) before he died.
So while she wasn’t busy making two different disguises, murdering the Lord of a major house, killing his two sons, butchering them, and baking them into a pie, Arya also managed to find time to poison the wine of what looks to be at least twenty people without anyone noticing.
I’m tempted to ask all sorts of questions, like “how exactly did she pull this off?” and “how exactly DOES this whole face-swapping thing work, since that was never really explained,” and “seriously, how do the faces work, because Arya is clearly physically a much smaller person than Walder Frey,” and “how is she possibly going to get away with this, since presumably House Frey has guards, and she pulled her face-mask-thing off and admitted to her crime in front of a half-dozen (at least) witnesses, and she’s still inside the castle,” and other questions along those lines.
And that’s just the logical stuff! What about the fact that I’m supposed to cheer for an entire banquet full of people choking and vomiting on their own blood, and overlook the act of involuntary cannibalism that preceded it last season, and the fact that the writers attempted to justify all this by having their designated murder victims cackle about the Red Wedding in a way so obvious and on-the-nose that it would make a rookie fanfic writer blush. And then, I wonder why this scene was even included – we already saw Walder Frey and his two sons die, why do we need to spend an extended cold open watching a room full of unnamed Freys get killed? And then, just to rub salt in the wound, they went to the “The North Remembers” well again. But then I realized I couldn’t even.
I tried to even. I tried to divide my own feelings about this scene by two several times, but I only ever ended up with fractions, never with a whole number. So I’m afraid that, despite my best efforts, I literally can’t even. Watch me try to count to ten: one, three, five, seven, nine… dammit! I literally can’t even! I thought I would have some sort of brief respite before the show got so dumb that I couldn’t even. But I didn’t. Let’s just try and move on as quickly as possible.
Let’s Try This Again
I didn’t want to just poop on the show. I wanted to be as fair as I could. And it gave me an opportunity! There’s a very cool shot of a gathering front of clouds, and the White Walkers and the army of the dead emerge from it. Moody, evocative, menacing: visually, this show continues to be very good. I hope I’ve been clear over the course of this series that my problem is specifically with the writing. Almost everything else is good.
It culminates in a shot of what I think is supposed to be ice-zombie Wun Wun. Am I wrong? But isn’t the army of the dead north of the wall still? And Wun Wun, when last seen alive, was south of the wall. So this is already confusing. The wall is supposed to the practical and existential barrier between the White Walkers and Westeros, so whether something is north or south of it is really quite important, both pragmatically and thematically. But whatever. Maybe it’s another giant or something.
In the next shot, we have Meera and Bran arriving at the Wall, and Edd opens the gate for them. At this point, under normal circumstances, I would point out that Edd is apparently the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch despite never having been elected (as far as we know), which is how the Night’s Watch chooses its commanders, which was definitively established in previous seasons. But whatever. On the list of things about Game of Thrones that don’t quite make sense, this doesn’t even make the top twenty, so I’ll just skip it.
Moving on, Jon is making plans for the defense of the north against the White Walkers. Everything the northern lords have said and done prior to this moment indicates that they don’t even believe the White Walkers exist, since they’ve never acknowledged them as a threat before (with the possible exception of Lady Mormont). But now Jon is organizing them to defend against something they never seemed to believe in before. Maybe he convinced them offscreen or something. On the list of things about Game of Thrones that don’t quite make sense, this doesn’t even make the top five, so I’ll just skip it.
It’s time now to figure out what to do with the castles and lands of Houses Karstark and Umber, who fought for Ramsay last season. Lord Royce brings this up (why him? He’s a Vale lord, not a northern Lord). Sansa now publiclyCorrect spelling! contradicts Jon in front of all the northern Lords, which Littlefinger seems to like for some reason, because Littlefinger no doubt has some kind of scheme that involves pitting Jon and Sansa against each other. Littlefinger’s last scheme was completely bonkers and made no sense, so it’s reasonable to expect his current scheme has similar qualities.
Then Jon asks the son and daughter of houses Umber and Karstark to pledge loyalty to him, and they do, and this is treated as though it’s some kind of inspiring moment even though none of us have ever met either of these characters before. I don’t know, maybe this will pay off later. I’m trying to even here. I swear to the seven gods I am. Another significant glance of significantness passes between Littlefinger and Sansa.
Now there’s a strategy discussion between Sansa and Jon. This is not all bad. It’s nice to see a brother and a sister be supportive of each other even as they disagree. “There’s a wall between us an the Night King,” says Sansa. “There’s nothing between us and Cersei.” Apparently Moat Caelin, the heretofore impregnable chokepoint in between North and South, just doesn’t exist at all anymore. That’s no great loss, it hasn’t followed any consistent rules since season four. Whatever. On the list of things about Game of Thrones that don’t quite make sense, this doesn’t even make the top ten, so I’ll just skip it.
I Didn’t Think It Was Possible For This To Get Even Dumber, But It Did
I feel like I have to backtrack a bit here. I didn’t have time in the last series of articles to get to Euron Greyjoy. But I’m going to try and cover him and his ridiculous existence as quickly as I can.
During season six, Yara and Theon Greyjoy went to the Iron Islands, where a new King or Queen was to be selected via a “Kingsmoot” – elected by the Lords of the Iron Islands. Yara stands for election, but is defeated by Euron Greyjoy. Euron Greyjoy is a guy no one has seen for a decade or so. He even admits to killing the King – his own brother. Then he promises to seduce the dragon queen (Daenerys) and give her his “big cock” (that’s actual show dialogue, by the way).
The Ironborn elect him King, despite the fact that his plan is completely ridiculous and embarrassing to even describe. He’s going to travel to a different continent and seduce a Queen most of them have probably barely even heard of? Whatever, apparently that sounds reasonable to them. They anoint him King by drowning him, dragging him back onto the beach, and hoping he doesn’t die.
Then he says “where are my niece and nephew? Let’s go murder them!” (incidentally, that is also actual show dialogue). But he was too slow! While he’s busy drowning, Theon and Yara sneak away and steal the entire fleet. No, seriously: the entire fleet. We’re told it’s a thousand ships.
How did they do this? Who did the ships belong to before? If it was the Lords at the Kingsmoot, why did none of their captains ask “what happened at the Kingsmoot” or something similar before allowing their ships to be commandeered? If the Lords didn’t own them, who did? And if Theon and Yara have enough people loyal to them to crew a thousand ships, why are they running away from a few dozen yahoos on a beach? None of this is ever explained.
Then Euron, the new King, who has just had his entire fleet stolen, instructs his new subjects to build a NEW fleet. “Build me a thousand ships,” he says, as though he were asking them to pop down to the corner store for eggs and flour. That’s the last we hear of Euron Greyjoy in season six.
Now Euron Greyjoy is back. He has his thousand ships, apparently. They built them, just like that. Who knew it was that easy? On the list of things about Game of Thrones that don’t quite make sense, this… is actually maybe tied for the single biggest one. But whatever. Maybe it’s only second.
He offers his fleet in exchange for Cersei’s hand in marriage. Cersei does something absolutely shocking: she says something reasonable. She refuses his offer, on the grounds that he’s completely untrustworthy, having betrayed and murdered his own King and brother. By god, she’s right! No one should take this ridiculous person seriously! Well, he promises to return with a gift, he doesn’t say what, and leaves the scene. I fully expect to be disappointed.
The Samwell Tarly Section Actually Isn’t Dumb
Samwell Tarly is in Oldtown, at the Citadel, the center of learning in Westeros. Being a new arrival, he has to perform menial tasks, like emptying chamber pots, spooning out soup, and weighing the livers of dead alcoholics. What he wants is to get access to the library’s mysterious secret section, which is behind a locked gate. He asks a Maester about it.
The (unnamed) Maester gives a speech upon learning that Sam has seen the White Walkers. He says that he believes him, but that every winter before this has ended, so Sam doesn’t get access to the secret section of the library. This doesn’t quite make sense, because you’d think the existence of a giant undead army led by powerful supernatural creatures would be of interest to the Citadel. You’d think he’d at least ask some follow-up questions about this existential threat to the entire continent. But he doesn’t.
However, this is not entirely dumb. So I’ll give it credit for that. Sam is not a Maester, so he doesn’t get access to the Maester section of the library. If nothing else, it’s consistent.
So the next scene, Sam steals the keys for the secret section of the library and relieves it of a few books. On what, we don’t know yet. Presumably something to do with the White Walkers. He later mentions obsidian deposits under Dragonstone. He also meets briefly meets Jorah Mormont, who is not exactly in great shape if his infected arm is anything to go by.
There Is A Celebrity Called Ed Sheeran
He’s a singer and a songwriter. Apparently Maisie Williams (Arya) is a fan, so he got a cameo in this episode, which the Independent has already described as “painfully unsubtle.” I’m not sure what the point of this whole scene was, other than to get a non-actor celebrity onto the show. If so, then mission accomplished, I guess.
What Am I Even Using These Titles For At This Point?
There’s a scene with the Hound, Thoros, and Beric Dondarrian. They’re traveling north, and the Hound sees a vision in the flames, the significance of which is not clear yet. The scene ends with the Hound burying two people, which I’m pretty sure are the same people he robbed while traveling with Arya in a previous season. He buries them, and gives them the best epitaph he can manage. “I’m sorry you’re dead. You deserved better.”
This is… not bad. It’s like a much better show suddenly invaded Game of Thrones and stole a scene away. It’s human, it’s low-key, it’s affecting. Okay, credit where it’s due, this part I actually liked.
Now it’s time for Team Dany.
This is what we’ve been waiting for for several seasons. Team Dany has arrived in Westeros! It features Daenerys Targaryen (quarterback), Tyrion Lannister (slot receiver), Grey Worm (best boy grip), Missandei (assistant proofreader), and Varys (special teams coach). Not pictured are Ellaria Sand (goalkeeper), Yara (assistant to the regional manager), and Olenna Tyrell (house minority whip).
Dragonstone is… deserted. Which is a little strange, considering it’s a major fortress whose strategic value was aptly described by Jaime earlier in this very same episode, and was considered the most likely target for a Targaryen invasion. But House Lannister never tried to secure it. Perhaps they were too busy painting maps on the floor and designing this fall season’s evil shoulderpads.
Two separate dramatic door-opening scenes later, they’re in the throne room, and then in this episode’s second “giant map of Westeros” room. The music swells. “Shall we begin?” Dany asks.
I’m not sure what exactly happened this episode. Several people prepared to do things, or moved in the direction of doing things, or signaled their intentions of doing things, but for all of that, nothing much happened. The closest thing to something actually happening was the almost-alliance between Cersei and Euron. But they punted on that, too, for who knows how long. Dany hasn’t actually invaded anything but an empty castle yet, but is planning to, the White Walkers haven’t done anything but walk ominously towards the camera, and the Hound and co. are going north to do something or other, but we don’t know what.
I know it’s just the first episode. But last season half the storylines spent eight episodes doing little more than wheel-spinning, so now when I see an episode of wheel-spinning I brace myself for seven more.
That’s it for this week – however, I’m going to leave you with several unresolved questions from previous seasons, and we’ll see if they’re resolved this season or not.
1: Jon Snow died and was resurrected from the dead. For the entire last season, it was left ambiguous whether Sansa, Littlefinger, or any of the northern Lords knew about this. Will we learn whether Jon Snow’s death and resurrection is considered important enough to be mentioned by someone – anyone – this season?
2: Melisandre was banished to the south for burning Shireen. She had the ability to raise people from the dead (see Jon Snow, above). This would seem to be a useful ability, either in peacetime or wartime. Will we ever hear from her again, or will anyone mention the fact that she can raise people from the dead? Even if the limits of this power of hers aren’t clear, you’d think someone would want to work out exactly what those limits are. The ability to raise people from the dead is quite significant.
3: Cersei is a mass murderer who exploded the most sacred site in Westeros, killing multiple nobles and members of the royal family, as well as a major religious figure. Does anyone care? For instance, does her own brother care? He never mentions it in their only scene together. It seems like someone should care about this.
4: This is a relatively small point, but Jaime seems to be still quite devoted to Cersei. Does he know that she slept with his cousin, Lancel Lannister? That was one of things she was on trial for – the trial that her entire season six storyline built towards. That was an act of brazen infidelity. Do Cersei and Jaime have an open relationship or something? If so, that’s fine, but it seems like something that one or the other of them should have mentioned by now.
5: Keeping on the Lannister subject, Tyrion was shown in earlier seasons to be quite fond of his niece and nephew, Myrcella and Tommen Baratheon/Lannister. Later, Ellaria Sand murdered Myrcella with poison. Does Tyrion know or care about this? Will it ever be mentioned again?
Just keep the above questions in the back of your heads. This may or may not have been obvious from everything I just wrote above, but I don’t exactly have high hopes for season seven at this point. But maybe things will improve from here. Until then, I’ll see you next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel.
 Correct spelling!
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