Game of Thrones

The Guardian Weekly - - Culture - Mark Law­son Lawso

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.”

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