REVIEW: Game of Thrones S7 E1 ‘Dragonstone’ wastes precious time meandering
Please be aware this post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season seven episode one ‘Dragonstone’, which first aired at 2am in the UK on Sky Atlantic. If you are waiting for the 9pm repeat, please do not read this review.
It has been far too long coming, but Winter is finally here. The new season of Game of Thrones arrives two months later than usual and consists of only seven episodes. However, if you were hoping this might mean it would pick up the pace, you’re going to be disappointed.
Instead of hurtling towards the finish line – which the latter half of season six managed admirably – ‘Dragonstone’ meanders, placing too much time and emphasis on characters we don’t care for and big long monologues that make characters we do care for boring. There’s also an excruciatingly long scene dedicated to the famous guest star, Ed Sheeran, which appears to be mostly fan pandering.
Game of Thrones has form for this, of course, and as far as season openers go it isn’t the worst. It’s a better start than the glacial pace of season six’s ‘The Red Woman’, for instance (did we ever learn why Melisandre’s advanced age was relevant?). In fact, the opening few minutes are glorious. Season seven opens to Arya Stark enjoying another bloody revenge – and that moment of victory is everything we have wanted since the Red Wedding.
Another decent scene is that shared between Jon, the new King of the North, and his believed half-sister Sansa Stark. During a meeting with the Lords of the North, Sansa directly undermines her new King – resulting in an argument between the pair. Both make sensible political points, especially when one remembers their experiences so far. Sansa wants to put out an image of strong and unforgiving leadership, while Jon refuses to punish those he does not feel deserve it. Sansa later reminds him that being noble was what got Ned and Robb killed, and we catch a glimpse at just how deeply her transition to a Southern player of the game has taken hold. This scene is the type of scene that we enjoy about Game of Thrones, contrasting politics and family relationships neatly.
However, it’s easier to list scenes that did not strike the right note. New villain Euron Greyjoy’s appearances in Game of Thrones ought to make an impact, not send the viewer into a dazed, sleepy confusion wherein they wonder what on Earth is his accent and costume. And we’ll just ignore the fact that the series is simplifying the basis of the Iron Islands rebellion to Euron being a tool. Ed Sheeran’s appearance was as hyped as it was unnecessary. While Game of Thrones has in the past employed subtlety in the celebrity cameos, no such luxury was afforded to Sheeran. His scene literally opens with him singing, makes every effort to show him off, and contains no discernible point. It’s all a bit of a shambles.
Even Mad Queen Cersei Lannister’s rant about enemies in every direction wasn’t overly exciting, going on for seemingly ages and too senseless to be interesting. And Daenery’s long-awaited return to Westeros was a slow, silent walk to to throne room. All right, we got some fabulous exterior shots of the filming location, but forgive me for wanting something a little more exciting after waiting more than a year.
Elsewhere, Sam Tarly makes an important discovery about dragonglass (a discovery that, again, takes up an unnecessary amount of screen time) and Sandor Clegane questions Beric’s resurrections. It’s all stuff we probably need to know, but could one of the biggest shows in the world not find a way to wrangle this into something a bit more impressive?
All in all, it’s a disappointing start to the penultimate series. However, Game of Thrones has a habit of saving everything for the final few episodes of the season, so a lack of excitement now is nothing to be overly concerned about (yet). It’s just annoying.