It’s remarkable how even five episodes out that same commitment to world-building and character dynamics still shines bright.
WARNING: This post is dark and full of spoilers
What could (almost) forgivingly have pleasingly passed with a series of ever-escalating payoffs (and admittedly did), the season premiere for Game of Thrones’ final hurrah paced itself with those moments that have endeared fans for near a decade.
Daenery’s army slowly traipsing into Winterfell, itself among several instances recalling the very first episode and fittingly viewed through a child’s transfixed eyes, speaks volumes to a steady and ever-growing fascination with the series that is willing to spend time and on that grand and else.
Above and beyond this, even steadily-delivered vignettes of seeming irreverence, whether it be the re-introduction of Lord Umber or a not so casual dragon ride, manage to tie into Winterfell’s two most significant later revelations in not insignificant ways.
Dedicating stretches to evolving character-interactions – long-awaited reunions harking back to the first season are hugely warming, foremost among them Jon and Arya and indeed Jon and Bran. The most enjoyable above all being Arya’s confrontation with Sandor Clegane, the show’s creators have teasingly saved the most significant for next week in one of Game of Thrones’ most searing cliffhangers.
The nature of the limited introduction of new characters however here serves little purpose and impact. The presence of the Golden Company’s Lord Strickland at this stage, granted a necessity given the mercenaries’ foreshadowed role in proceedings, given his fleeting and for lack of a better term normal characterisation is somewhat bemusing.
There’s very little place in a few hundred minutes left of screen-time for anything that doesn’t befit both a third act and the tone of this world and the addition, if purposeful, is as rendered in Winterfell singularly awkward. Compare this to Euron’s introduction in that same room and imagine, even with the briefest of changes, the myriad of directions this could have taken.
Daenery’s meeting with Sam emerging as a highlight together with Theon’s advents, Winterfell could unfairly be viewed as verging on dialogue-heavy. For having featured very little action and the death of only one named (and largely unknown) figure, the depth and breadth of character on display, indeed the lifeblood of the show, remains abundantly rewarding. Still committed to developing this world and it’s inhabitants amidst the drip-feeding of several heavily-anticipated relationship arcs, the show’s creators have had us hooked for years and the next seven days will be little different.