“We don’t have time for all of this,” says Bran, but au contraire, mon frère, we apparently do, as GOT‘s end starts by going back to its beginning: another monarch marching blithely, confidently into Winterfell, bringing with her reunions, recriminations and really big trouble for the remaining Starks.
For an episode which seems relatively sedate (I appreciate that GOT is the only show where an episode featuring a child-zombie flesh fire-wheel and a dragon glaring at some dude snogging his aunt can be described as “sedate”), this one is not only quietly momentous, but full of rewards for the massive, massively loyal audience who’ve weathered a lot to get this far. Especially if they’re Team Stark.
Sansa – my Queen, if we’re choosing – is clearly pleased to see Jon again, but less than impressed with his abdication of the throne/ his patronising new girlfriend. She’s not alone, as Lyanna Mormont – my Hand, let me have this – pretty much speaks for the entire North, when she says (I’m paraphrasing): “We named you King in the North, who dis?”
Never mind the dragons and their riders, then, it’s the sheer amount of attitude flying about in this ep that’s enough to burn down several kingdoms and I am loving it. As well as old hands like Tyrion, Ser Davos and Varys happily needling each other, Sansa’s scene with Tyrion is short but joyously barbed, and it’s one of a number of long-awaited reunions which maybe shouldn’t mean much plot-wise, but mean a huge amount to at least some parts of the audience, depending on who your own personal faves are. Since I’ve been over Arya and the Hound for a very long time, and he should have been deader than that poor Umber kid years ago, I’m not too excited by them, but Arya “Badass Assassin” Stark shyly sort-of-flirting with Gendry is cute, and Arya “Baby Sister” Stark getting her big brother Jon back is lovely.
Jon, bless him, is overjoyed to see baby bro Bran too, before noticing that the no-longer-wee man is incredibly weird. Oddly, though, Bran’s weirdness is no longer annoying me – possibly because we’ve had time to get used to it, possibly because he seems to be having the time of his life, dishing out a fair amount of attitude of his own all of a sudden – and he’s now quite ruthlessly, almost cheerfully using his powers for advancing the plot, instead of all that unnecessary creepiness he was up to before. (Remember him reminding his sister of her rape last year? Ugh.) Sending Sam to tell an initially incredulous (but not for that long, I note) Jon the Big News is the right call, and if Bran seems to enjoy a little too much the awkwardness of doing it immediately after Sam finds out Daenerys barbecued the rest of the Tarly men, I suppose we have to let Raven boy get his kicks where he can. Especially if it means we get the punch-to-the-gut that is Jaime Lannister’s face when he sees the living, breathing reminder of all his sins sitting right there in the courtyard of Winterfell waiting for him. Wow.
As reminders of season one go, though, I’m less impressed by Bronn’s brothel scene. I’d thought the show had grown out of the casual misogyny of using naked women’s bodies as sexual scenery but apparently not, and having three of them jiggling around like it’s HBO’s X-rated answer to Carry On movies just so we have something to look at while we find out what happened to Ed Sheeran (as if anyone was asking) isn’t anywhere near as funny as the show seems to think, but it is unnecessary, sexist and jarringly out of place in a narrative which has been shifting towards the female characters taking power for some time now.
If that scene isn’t funny, however, there are plenty which are. Even Kings Landing has its moments. I remain completely uninterested in the ridiculous Euron, or indeed anyone else named Greyjoy – too little too late, Theon, dude – but his preening is worth it purely so we find out about Cersei’s mild obsession with elephants, or the lack thereof. And back in the North, Edd’s “Stay Back, he’s got blue eyes!” followed by “Tormund’s indignant “I’ve always had blue eyes!” is hilarious, if slightly confusing for me, watching through a bit of a flu fog – when did we find out Tormund was alive?!
Ach, no matter. I know the last we saw him he was in the middle of an apocalypse and he probably shouldn’t have made it out, but nobody really wanted Tormund dead, did they? It’s the final season, we’ve earned some fun before the Night King lays waste to everyone, and this first episode certainly gave us that. It was a blast.