I have a confession and apology to make to everyone I know: I have not been as excited about the return of Game of Thrones as I’ve let on. I know, I know. If I felt that way why didn’t I just say so? Why did I pretend like I’d watched the latest season 7 trailer just as many times as you? Why did I rattle off various internet theories about what might happen this season to complement your “I think Sansa’s going to betray Jon” theory? Why did I smile, laugh and nod in approval every time you randomly announced, “Game of Thrones season premiere: July 16th!” as if you were literally counting the days until Westeros re-entered your life?
Why did I do all of that? Mostly because I didn’t want to bring you down, man. Such pure joy and gleeful geekery is too beautiful a thing to bring down with, “Yeah, that’s great, but did you hear about the latest thing Trump did?” (as has often been my state of mind since November) or talk about how I was actually more excited about Twin Peaks coming back.
But now the cat is out of the bag. In the year since Game of Thrones went away I have spent precious little time thinking about it, particularly the further removed we’ve become from the season 6 finale. I am an obsessive about many things in pop culture, but Game of Thrones just isn’t one of them. I haven’t read the books. I don’t have the history of Westeros memorized. I don’t even know all of the character’s names on the show. For example, that one guy who keeps dying only to be revived thanks to the Lord of the Light? Has a name. I know he does, but I just think of him as “Eye Patch Guy” (because I’m clever like that).
That doesn’t mean I don’t love the show, though. I absolutely do. I passed up an opportunity to see War of the Planet of the Apes for free last night because the timing overlapped with the live broadcast of GoT’s season 7 premiere. However, my fandom and viewing is a more passive experience than it is for others. I am invested, but not so much that I will be seriously gutted if one of my favorite characters on the show ends up getting literally gutted at some point over the remaining 12 episode, which would be in keeping with how shit goes down on this show.
Actually, scratch that. Tyrion can’t die. That’s just, like, the law, right? They wouldn’t violate that, would they? Cause if they kill him off I’ll…I’ll…oh, you don’t even want to know what I’d do. Spoiler: I have no idea what I’d do, but I’d be mighty pissed. Also, Dany has to survive. That’s also the law.
Huh. I guess I care a bit more than I realized.
SPOILERS FOR “DRAGONSTONE” BEGIN NOW
Now, the entire internet is talking about the season 7 premiere, “Dragonstone,” and with good reason: It’s the first new episode of the biggest show on TV in over a year. Beyond that, the cold open with Arya and the Freys paid off the Red Wedding revenge we’d been promised or at least highly hoped would happen.
My problem, though, is the Red Wedding episode (“The Rains of Castamere”) aired over 4 years ago at this point, and the season 6 finale already gave us Arya murdering Walder Frey. As such, this opening moment of Arya poisoning the rest of the Freys was undeniably well-done (props to David Bradley’s wonderfully clever performance), but it felt like it was simply wrapping up something from the season 6 finale. Plus, we’re so far removed from the Red Wedding that its impact was somewhat muted. So much has happened on the show in the interim that there’s almost a Trump rage fatigue factor where you have to stop to remind yourself of the details of the Red Wedding and how outraged you were 4 years ago when it happened on the show (and/or whenever you read it in the books). Plus, I still struggle to look at another actor reaching to their neck to pull off a mask only to reveal little Maisie Williams underneath and not giggle a little at the Scooby Doo nature of it all. Granted, that’s a strange thing to nitpick on a show full of magical creatures, but here we are.
This is exactly why I held off raining on everyone’s parade when they would excitedly tell me about their season 7 trailer viewing. I don’t feel this show as intensely as others, and based upon early online reactions my “meh” reaction to Arya’s cold open massacre is, well, them’s fightin’ words.
And perhaps the same is true of my reaction to the season 7 premiere as a whole because I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. Much like most Game of Thrones season premieres, it was pure table-setting, enjoyable for the door it re-opens into this fantastical world but somewhat mundane in that it’s mostly a series of check-ins with all of the characters to re-establish exactly where they are in the titular game. Heck, Cersei and Jamie stood on top of a literal map for one long scene to give those of us visual learners a reminder of where everyone is geographically located at this point:
- King’s Landing: Cersei and Jamie are fucked, and they both know it, though the former is more willing to form any necessary alliance to survive than the latter (such as maybe marrying the douchebag king of the Iron Islands to secure his ships). Also, the moment Cersei stops to let herself feel the pain of the loss of her children is the moment she falls part forever. So, she’s avoiding that at all costs.
- Winterfell and the Wall: Jon and Sansa are already dividing because Jon has too much of Ned Stark in him (even though we now know he’s not even Ned’s son) and Sansa has been too seasoned by her travels and brushes with Cersei, Joffrey and Littlefinger to be as naive as her brother. In a just world, she would be the Queen of the North, and he would be her military commander focusing on preparing for the White Walkers. Instead, he’s king, and she doesn’t seem prepared to sit idly by and let him repeat old Stark mistakes. A conflict is a coming’. One wonders when they’ll learn that their sole surviving brother is now safely behind the wall.
- Dragonstone: Dany has returned to the Targaryen castle with her fleet, which is where she shall plan her assault on Westeros and King’s Landing.
Beyond that, we checked in with some side characters who will have some role to play in the looming battles, giving us a wonderful Edgar Wright-esque montage of Sam’s dreadfully dull life at the Citadel as well as a genuinely touching glimpse of The Hound’s slowly developing conscience and sense of purpose in the larger good vs. evil story being played out.
And so it begins. The brilliance of this show is that even in a table-setting season premiere there was time for surprisingly powerful moments like the nearly wordless ending with Daenerys letting the experience of returning to her home at Dragonstone slowly wash over her or The Hound attempting and failing to say a prayer for the deceased. Now it’s a matter of hoping that unlike other shows which have split their final seasons in half that the remainder of this truncated seventh season doesn’t waste any time or build up to a half-hearted cliffhanger. The trailer for next week looks promising, and in time I’m sure I’ll fall right back into this world and re-find my fandom. Maybe my “I don’t love love this show, y’know” rhetoric is simply the defense mechanism of a man who realizes the end is near for all of these characters.
OMG, you guys. Game of Thrones is almost over!
Whatever. I don’t even like that show anyway. I just watch it because everyone else does.
Oh, who am I kidding? When this show goes away this wll be me:
DISPATCHES FROM THE WALL
- Yes, that was Ed Sheeran. Cue unnecessary distraction. Turns out, Maisie Williams is a huge fan, and the showrunners had been trying to book him for a cameo as a surprise to her for years.
- Did Arya also kill the band who played at the Red Wedding? Because then she would have knocked off that one member of Coldplay. If so, might she soon add Sheerhand to that list? Arya Stark, killer of pasty white British rockers/popstars.
- Brienne still has no idea how to react to Tormund’s advances, and it’s still a joy to behold.
- Best line goes to Sansa for torpedoing Littlefinger’s attempt to get in the last line during their conversation. “Something clever, no doubt.” Here’s hoping Sophie Turner brings some of that energy to the Dark Phoenix.