Game of Thrones: Dragonstone Review

IT’S BACK!!!!

Dragonstone by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Warning: SPOILERS!

Thrones’ premieres tend to be the weakest episodes of the season, normally because they’re focused on set up rather than payoff – I’d only give 1 premiere more than 4/5 (Season 3’s excellent Valar Dohaeris). This one is pretty standard, but a kick-ass opening scene, a sense of momentum and a divisive cameo make this more memorable than some opening instalments have been. The increased budget was apparent in a few scenes (Dany’s dragons soaring over Dragonstone, the White Walker’s army in Bran’s vision) but I’m sure we’ll see it to greater effect later on this season.

This was the first ‘cold open’ (i.e. pre-credits scene) a premiere’s had since season 4. And boy, was it a great one. A superb final performance from David Bradley (playing Arya pretending to be Walder) caps off a wonderful punch the air moment as Arya singlehandedly massacres what’s left of House Frey by a mass poisoning. The Red Wedding didn’t work out so well in the end, did it?

Things in the North were fun (Brienne and Tormund is still hilarious, Lyanna Mormont still one of the best characters) while the beginnings of a Sansa-Jon split were sowed nicely. Jon is a decent ruler (his decision to arm and train all Northerners, of both genders, was very practical) but is focused solely on the White Walkers, which doesn’t sit well with Sansa, who (understandably) wants revenge on the houses who sided with Ramsay and is wary of the unpredictable Queen Cersei. You can see both sides, along with the possibility that this rift between them isn’t going to end well…

One of the more surprising sequences involved the Hound and the Brotherhood. Thoros and Beric’s importance is being emphasised a lot for two characters who’ve been missing for 3 seasons, but Beric’s frequent resurrections coupled with Thoros’ apparently genuine ability to produce visions suggest they might be pretty integral to fighting the White Walkers. The Hound’s growth as a character was nice as well – he’s still damaged from the events of ‘The Broken Man’ last season and here he was forced to confront the consequences of old sins, as the Brotherhood stayed the night at the farmhouse where the Hound stole silver from a helpless farmer back in Season 4 (who has since killed himself and his daughter rather than starve). The scene where he buries the bodies and struggles to find the right words for them was probably the most moving part of the episode.

While the sequence with Sam at Oldtown was fairly long, his lack of screentime in season 6 made it a refreshing change, and Jim Broadbent’s role as the Archmaester added some gravitas to proceedings. The revelation that Jorah is now in the citadel’s holding cells (presumably awaiting treatment for his greyscale) was also a nice cameo.

Speaking of cameos: Ed Sheeran. Normally when thrones does cameos the musician is firmly in the background (like Coldplay’s Will Champion at the Red Wedding) but this one stuck out a bit more. But it was relatively harmless, and Arya realising that not all Lannister soldiers are bastards was an interesting character moment as she shared their food and seemed to enjoy herself for the first time in a while. How long this lasts with her apparent mission to kill Cersei is debatable…

Cersei and Euron’s parlay was interesting if unexpected, though Euron’s proposal was a bit of a surprise (though it gave Nikolaj Coster-Waldau aka Jaime some nice material to work with). Theories on what Euron’s gift will be? I can only think of two possibilities – he’s about to (try to) inflict a sizeable defeat on Dany’s fleet or bring Cersei someone she hates (Tyrion, Varys etc.). Should be interesting, because Euron really needs something to make him into a Ramsay or Joffrey worthy villain. Right now he’s a cool-looking support player, but that’s about it!

The final sequence with Dany and Tyrion was cool, hopefully foreshadowing a bit more screentime for them in episode 2. Was half expecting Melisandre to emerge from hiding somewhere, but I’m sure she’ll reappear later in the season. Sam’s discovery about Dragonglass in Daenerys new stronghold seems to point to Jon (or more likely Davos) heading south sometime in the near future too…

Overall, the direction, soundtrack and production standards are as good as ever and while its mostly moving the pieces into place, the episode sets the stage the rest of the season beautifully. Hopefully episode 2 can now bring the action and get things moving…

Rating: 4 out of 5

Next Time: Jon faces trouble in the North as Daenerys, Tyrion and her allies plan the invasion of Westeros…

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