They say that sons and daughters should not bare the responsibility of their parents sins. A very liberal, individualist, enlightenment principle. And this is the central theme of the season premiere, and to be honest – I love it.
The last two seasons of the HBO program have been hit and miss in the writing department, it is hard to imagine the nonsensical Sansa Season 5 and 6 arc, the Dornish plot, ‘Hold the Door’, and this episode are all part of the same show. Sometimes I question whether the show runners know the point of this story, sometimes they hit the nail on the head. This episode for me is mixed, but for the most part on the positive side. I’ll start with the negatives and finish with the positives. So spoilers from here on out.
The episode opens with Walder Frey holding a feast at the Twins for the entire Frey family. Now right of the bat you can see the conclusion of this scene coming from a mile away. Of course anyone who saw last years finale knows that Walder Frey is dead and that this is actually Arya with Walder’s face. What follows is something I could have done without, a) because it does not advance the plot in anyway, and b) the shock factor is completely ruined (would have been gratuitous anyway), as we have all seen the previous episode. And c) it contradicts the central theme pushed in all the other scenes. So the question remains, was the theme intentional, am I giving the writers too much credit?
Continuing with negatives (don’t worry the positives are up next), Euron Greyjoy. Now I’m going to start this with that old saying “in the books”. In the books Euron Greyjoy is definitely an antagonist and is probably the closest thing we have to a wholly evil character, yes, worse than Ramsay. He’s utterly insane but has a weird fear factor, a mysterious side, making him somewhat of a devil figure. Euron Greyjoy in the show is almost a parody, it’s that cliched. A boring, two dimensional, “moustache twirler”, nothing more, nothing less. Every scene with him is like a Disney movie.
On to the positives. The individualist theme that children don’t inherit the sins of their parents, is prevelent throughout the episode. Dany is not her father, Tyrion is not his father, Jon Snow is not punishing the descendants of Houses Umber and Karstark for the sins of their fathers in the previous season. Here is where Jon shows some stones, making his stance on this issue clear to Sansa and the court. This one is actually out of Tywin Lannister’s playbook.
Joffrey, when your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you. And any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king at all.
– Tywin Lannister to Joffrey Baratheon, A Storm of Swords. Tyrion IV
Yes, I’m comparing that mopy bastard Jon Snow with the ruthless Tywin Lannister. It’s good to see some moral lessons and politics back in the show. This is continued with a heartwarming scene with some Lannister soldiers. We get our guest star Ed Sheeran singing a new Lannister ballad, less morbid than the Rains of Castamere. They kindly offer Arya some food, hesitant at first, she accepts. They sit around talking about each others lives. How one wants to go home to fish with his father in Lannisport, another’s wife is about to have a baby, and twist he hopes it will be a girl because according to him, a girl looks after he father in old age, a son is likely to die in someone else’s war. Contrast that with a lord who wants a son more because of the line of succession. The family name is survives through the son. This man is not a lord however, he is merely a soldier. He has no famous family name, he has no major holdings, he just wants a family. This scene drives home the importance of family, and by the looks of it convinces Arya to return home to Winterfell instead of going to Kings Landing to kill Cersei. We interestingly also get our first mention of the Dragon Pit. A massive building in Kings Landing where the Targaryens bred and housed their dragons. The pit was stormed by the small folk during the Targaryen civil war, the Dance of Dragons. It will be interesting to see where they take this, could it make its first appearance this season?
This leads me to Kings Landing. Aside from my issues with the Euron character, these scenes were good, they certainly didn’t stand out, these were really just setting the stage. Jaime continues to be the stand out character despite the deviation from the book. The seeds of distrust with Cersei are growing, better late then never. This of course began back at the end of A Storm of Swords and the two continued to grow apart in A Feast for Crows.
All in all, a solid episode. The best premiere in years, miles better than the season six premier “The Red Woman”, which probably takes gold for the worst episode thus far. It’s a great start to the season and makes me hopeful that Dan and Dave have been paying attention to the criticism in the last two years, learning and returning the show to its roots. Things are looking up.
In one word: “Warm”
(Ironic given that Winter has come)