I’m not sure where to begin with this review. The season is over, and I cannot believe it. It feels like just yesterday that it was Christmastime, and the Game of Thrones teasers were flashing across the HBO airwaves, and I was burying myself in ASOIAF lore in an attempt to sustain my fangirlish hunger until the show debuted.
A few months later HBO announced the premiere date: April 17. But that was still months away, so I had to trudge through internet message boards and Tower of the Hand essays to get my fix. And then the first episode premiered, and nine more episodes came and went. The last ten weeks have flown by, and now we have to suffer through an entire year without any Thrones. As the opening credits played for the Season Finale, I experienced a Pandora’s Box of emotions: anticipation, pride, excitement, fear, grief, despair, and longing. The theme song, which in the very least deserves the over-used adjective “epic,” made me feel like I was finishing the first leg of a terribly fantastic adventure.
I’ve been breaking down my reviews by location/character, but in order to preserve the power of the finale, I have kept this one chronological.
*As usual, this post contains spoilers for the Episode 10 and the ASOIAF books.
Sean Bean as Lord Eddard Stark
*This review contains spoilers for Baelor, Episode 9 of Game of Thrones, as well as the first ASOIAF novel, A Game of Thrones.*
Wow. And there it is, guys. For us book-readers, the one episode we’ve been anticipating all season. The instant we knew would shock, anger, drive away and reign in viewers who had not read the novels. A hallmark moment in A Song of Ice and Fire. Perhaps the most important sword swing in the series, and at least in the first book. The day that changed the course of Westeros forever, and the hour that cemented the fate of a widow, six children and a kingdom’s worth of commonfolk. Okay – you get it by now, right?
I’m writing a little bit late, as life has unfortunately kept me from finishing this review. But it’s been wonderful to see the reaction and be able to incorporate that here. I deeply, thoroughly enjoyed catching every “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” or “HBO didn’t!” or “How COULD they?!” These seem like angry responses. And they are. But they also indicate passion – that people cared enough about Ned, or his children (or that they hated the Lannisters enough) to take to their Twitters or their Facebooks or blogs or Youtube channels and scream out their rage to the seven hells. Anger like that shows a connection. And if that’s the case, then we can say HBO has won. The biggest gamble going into Game of Thrones was whether or not viewers, especially those unaccustomed to fantasy, would care enough about the characters to wade through generation-long winters, packs of direwolves or schools of dragons, and a few ancient spells to keep coming back week after week.
I’m going to get into the actual review soon, but let me start off by saying I don’t know if this is the best episode. That’s a terrible choice to have to make, and I think the episodes from “The Golden Crown” up until now could all be in the running for the title. But in Baelor, there were scenes that clearly rank among the most emotionally poignant of the series to date. Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, this episode was an expression of the spirit behind this production. Although George wrote the story, and the design teams created the world, and the actors bring that world to life, it is the combination of David & Dan (D&D – I feel they must always be combined by an ampersand) that connects all the threads and weaves them into a tapestry. They are the cerebellum of the show – the seat of power that tells the feet where to walk and the hands what to grab and the eyes what to see and the mouth what to say. So, it was insightful and gripping to see what they chose to express on screen in their episode.
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
I’ve written a book about this episode. But I felt like there was so much I wanted to say. I’m not sure if this was my favorite episode of the season (the last few weeks have been fantastic), but there’s no denying the excitement caused by the mere fact that George R.R. Martin himself wrote the screenplay for this hour. I imagine that opportunity was almost like a way to write “alternate scenes” or to change things GRRM may have thought he would have done a different way after having nearly 15 years to ponder his work (A Game of Thrones was first published in August 1996). For that reason, a lot of what I discuss demonstrates the differences between the text and show.
*This review contains spoilers for Episode 8 of Game of Thrones as well as the first four A Song of Ice and Fire books. Please proceed with caution.*
Cersei and Ned in King's Landing
These episodes are only getting better and better. Because we got a large dose of exposition earlier in the season, we are really able to move forward with all the different plot threads that Game of Thrones offers. This episode consisted of little actual action and a lot of “behind-the-scenes” type maneuvers, but it was fantastic. Several moments gripped me emotionally, especially the ending of Robert, Ned and Dany’s storylines for this week. We are in the thrust of Season 1’s crescendo, and I can’t wait for the last three installments. If ASOIAF newcomers think things were intense in Episode 7 they have no idea what’s ahead.
*This post contains spoilers for Episode 7 of Game of Thrones, and one instance of obscene language. Please refrain if either bothers you.