To say that the season premiere of Game of Thrones was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Lesser shows would have been content to coast on their popularity, but the producers of Game of Thrones took bold creative risks, and I believe they paid off. Many of you will disagree, and I understand where you’re coming from. Some of the changes don’t sit well with me, either. But in the end I think they’re building a formula that will make this show even stronger than it already was, and once the kinks get worked out we’ll have a true television classic on our hands. With that in mind, let’s delve into some specifics.
Obviously our discussion has to start with the musical numbers. Joffrey’s opening number, “It’s Nice to be King,” sharply divided viewers. I can’t say I was a fan of it—it started off fine, but the two and a half minute beatboxing solo really strained the limits of credibility, as Joffrey is clearly too sheltered to be aware of street culture and its methods of expression. But the episode redeemed itself with “What Do You Do with a Problem like White Walkers?” The choreography was simply brilliant—seeing dozens and dozens of wildlings spinning in unison from high above more than justified the cost of a helicopter crew. And I believe “We’re Dragons, Yo” spoke for itself.
Next, the new characters. This season, like the last, has promised a constantly expanding cast, and the debut gave us a good taste of what’s to come. Fan favourites the Reeds finally made their appearance, as did the Stones, the Smiths and the Smuffleufuguses. More controversial is the inclusion of Allen Snow, the wandering Beat Bard. Some people love him and his poetic reflections on the confusion and terror of his generation, while others feel he slows down the pacing. I’m generally not a fan, but “Direwolf’s Howl” is a thing of beauty, and I can’t wait for it to be read in full in a future two part episode.
Speaking of direwolves, let’s talk about what the established characters were up to. Ghost, of course, is as badass as ever, but let’s not forget about Detective McGruff, The Talking Direwolf that Solves Mysteries. I know McGruff is unpopular among viewers who haven’t read the books, and I don’t blame them—his story starts slow. But it finally picks up this season, as McGruff confronts the elusive Hexagon Killer and discovers that Old Man Lannister knows more about the haunted mill than he claims. So look forward to that.
The other major characters, however, were a bit of a let down. Daenerys was as boring as ever, Tyrion’s screen time was limited and Prince Augustine had to do yet another wacky task to prove his worth to the King’s Landing branch of Kappa Kappa Phi. Not only is this plot point getting repetitive, it’s out of character—would a man who wants to finish at the top of his medical class be that concerned with what a frat thought of him?
But with this many characters being juggled, it’s inevitable that not every story will work. Let’s just hope that next episode, where most of the cast will convene at the 197th Annual Westeros’ Fashion Show and Gala, will give everyone a chance to shine.
Now if I can get serious for a moment, I’d like to discuss gender politics. Game of Thrones has had an uneasy relationship with gender—it has strong, well written female characters, but it also has a tendency to give us gratuitous sex scenes that are just embarrassing to watch. The “sexposition” is especially painful, as it’s insulting for HBO to think that we won’t pay attention to important plot details unless they’re delivered with a backdrop of lesbian sex.
That’s why I have mixed emotions about this season’s sexposition. I’m glad the show finally took a break from unnecessary female nudity, but I’m not sure if replacing it with a man explaining the socioeconomic ramifications of the war on the lower class while committing bestiality was the way to go. Yes, I’m aware that a fantasy world set in a more primitive time would have different social standards than us, but I still think this would be frowned upon. Although I do have to admit that I shed a few tears when the horse died.
But these are minor quibbles in what was otherwise an excellent start to what should be an excellent season. I hope you’re as excited as I am to witness Tyrion deal with his fall from power, the Lannister/Stark conflict reach its climax and Jon attempt to win the big game so the Night’s Watch can keep their community centre. The only part of this episode that I didn’t understand was the replacement of the credits with news footage of 9/11, but I’m sure that will be explained in due time. Winter is coming, folks, so get like Zombie Ned Stark did in the preview for next week and dance the cold away!