Game of Thrones
It’s finally time – winter is here!” said the announcer on Sky Atlantic, counter-seasonally, given that viewers north of the equator are in the middle of summer. But, as fans of Game of Thrones are well aware, the show is in the worst cold snap Westeros has ever known.
They had been feverishly awaiting the seventh and penultimate season, having been frozen out of the series for 11 months, but, as any canny franchise does, the opener made it easy for new or casual viewers to catch up.
The scriptwriters have become adept at hiding the “Previously On” recap within their dialogue. “That is the man who helped us slaughter the Starks at the Red Wedding,” someone will say. Or: “The one who murdered our father and our first-born son – he’s been seen at the head of an armada.” For anyone still confused, Cersei Lannister even painted a map of the competing territories on the floor, using her foot to identify key areas as she mentioned them.
Once it had brought the audience up to speed, this 61st episode held all the virtues that have made the series so feted. George RR Martin’s novels offer a one-stop shop for myth and legend – Greek drama, Shakespeare, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien are all there somewhere – but the TV version merges ancient narratives with the newest digital imagery, imposing plausible cities, castles and towers on the stunning natural settings the locations in Northern Ireland provide.
And, while it contains traditional elements of escapist entertainment – dragons, dungeons, dwarves and monsters – the story reflects the darkness and divisions of the real world. Its political imagery, of walls and wars and rifts between North and South, applies in almost any territory to which the series is shown, and the language – frequent uses of the c-word – and fight scenes are brutally real.
Game of Thrones’ other great asset is the strength of its casting. David Bradley, as Lord Walder Frey, cheerfully kicks off the seventh season with a mass poisoning. But in a show so starry that even a campfire sing-song features Ed Sheeran, below, there is still a thrill in the introduction of Jim Broadbent, a world-class performer, as an Archmaester, removing a diseased liver in an autopsy,p y, and making the most of one of the best lines in the script:scrip “We are the world’s memory – without us, m men would be little more than dogs.”
As the landmark series near nears the end, it is increasingly dominated b by strong female characters: Lena Head Headey’s Cersei, Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Ta Targaryen, Bella Ramsey’s Lyanna Mo Mormont, Maisie Williams’s Arya Sta Stark and Sophie Turner’s Sansa Sta Stark. Following the announceme announcement of Jodie Whittaker as th the first female lead in Doctor W Who, television is strikingly fem feminising a genre of battles and monstersm that has historicall historically been lad-led. It makes sens sense. As Jon Snow argued, anno announcing that women will n now become warriors: “We“W cannot defend the North if only half the population i is fighting.”