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TRACY: ‘Game of Thrones’ sets table for war to come

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Table-setting episodes of television are unavoidable. Sometimes you get an episode like “Blood Money” from “Breaking Bad,” when Walter White warns Hank Schrader to not go after him for all the horrible crimes Walt has committed throughout the show, or else consequences will follow. Other times you get something like “Our Father” from Dexter, a terrible opener after an exciting second season. These episodes set up the dominos to fall for the episodes to come.

Table-setting episodes may not be the show’s best hour, but if viewers really like the show they stick with it in hopes that the payoff is great.  With the clock running on a show as big as “Game of Thrones,” the groundwork needed to be laid out for what will happen in these final hours of the show, and that’s what “Dragonstone” is all about. Lots of good bits here, but not the show’s best hour.

It’s been over a year since we saw our favorite characters gearing up for the big war for who will take the Iron Throne (go Starks), and everybody is planning their line of attack. Jon Snow is now the commander and King in the North back in Winterfell. Cersei meets up back with Jaime as they discuss how to take over the seven kingdoms. Jaime doubts Cersei has she “(doesn’t) have any allies,” but Cersei surprises her brother by meeting up with Euron Greyjoy, who’s become even more deranged. “You should try it. Feels wonderful,” Greyjoy says about the killing of his own brother in order to impress Cersei. Then there’s Sandor with the great dark comedy hiding up in the North with the rest of the Brotherhood wondering how he got stuck here in the first place.

Again, table-setting scenes, and it was going well until Ed Sheeran showed up.

The Ed Sheeran cameo was dumb. Sheeran’s music itself isn’t as terrible (or wildly insufferable as say, The Chainsmokers), but it felt so pointless. He plays music, and that’s about it. The rest of the time he’s just sitting there grinning like an idiot with the rest of the Lannister clan, and the whole scene felt irrelevant. Even Ian McShane of “Deadwood” and “American Gods” was given something to do, like chopping down trees, before he was killed off quickly last season. Even a comedic line would have helped with his existence. Instead, it’s just dull.

Poor Sam, he’s trying so hard to figure out how to beat the White Walkers and instead he’s putting away books in the library, scrubbing out bowls, and cleaning up bodily waste from the old folks. He looks so defeated, and the montage of him dumping waste out is vomit-inducing. It’s made to make you feel bad for the guy, but do we really need to see multiple images of dysentery? The montage of Sam cleaning up gets old fast and goes on way longer than it should have.

The best part of this entire sequence was when he meets Jorah, who is still sick with greyscale and currently in a chamber for the diseased. Seeing Jorah’s arm come through the window cell with disgusting looking skin was every bit as horrifying as it was delightful. Glad to see he’s not dead for now, but we’ve still got 12 episodes to go through, so anything’s possible. If greyscale doesn’t kill him, something else just might.

Still, the highs, on the other hand, were as close to as great as the show has ever been. The cold opening was one of the best the show has done. Arya wears the face of Walder Frey, throws a feast for all the members of Frey’s army, and poisons them all as revenge for killing her mother. The cold openings haven’t appeared all that often in the show, and the co-show runner, David Benioff, said they were not even planning to do one, but loved David Bradley’s performance in that scene so much they left it to get the season rolling. It was a good editing choice, and after last season’s explosive finale, a match needed to be sparked to bring this show to the finish line. That was the best possible way to get people excited about its return.

Speaking of excitement, Daenerys’ homecoming to Dragonstone was bittersweet. There’s almost no dialogue — it’s just her and Tyrion walking through the remains of what used the Baratheons’, and it’s a mess. The throne room is in shambles, the war table has been torn apart, and the scene is carried through with little music or background noise.  It’s beautiful looking footage, too, reminiscent of Northern Island and abandoned castles. The whole scene works to build tension, and then Daenerys says, “Shall we begin?” over the war table, lighting another match for the show.

Buckle up folks, because winter is here. Who knows what’s in store for the next six episodes this year, but they’re off to a good start.

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1 Comment

One Response to “TRACY: ‘Game of Thrones’ sets table for war to come”

  1. Lyle Kent on September 22nd, 2017 2:09 am

    She’s still failing to use her dragons for the one thing they’re really good at: scouting. Like you said, her side is critically lacking in intelligence (Varys either sucks at his job or is working for someone else), but dragons offer unmatched mobility and sight lines, and Daenerys needs to take advantage of this.

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