Game of Thrones – The North Remebers
…but do you? It’s been an age since we last saw the show and we were only just starting to get a grip on its girthy universe when we hit the finale back then, so surely there are wrongs and wrongdoers from Westeros that slipped your mind entire betwixt seasons. No matter though as this premiere episode is essentially an hour long “Previously On…” those purpose is to catch us up on all action and affairs and it does this by shuffling them slightly, stirring the pot but falling short of truly shaking it up like every hour of first seasons latter half did. This episode is not all that entertaining on its own merit; if seen in a vacuum it would surely seem both muddled and mundane but seen in the context of the series as a whole it is both an understandable and surprisingly engrossing one. This kind of setting of the board isn’t what the show does best – there are plenty of shows that better handle their expositionary elements, The Vampire Diaries among the more prominent – nor is it why we watch it – that would be for the pay-offs of which there are surely plenty still to come – but it is a necessary evil for a show as utterly complex as this one. To the credit of its creators the shows class also renders the act a painless one, as even the blandest hour spent in this world is one over too soon. The closing credits come up though it seems like only seconds have passed since the opening ones ended; it’s seasons may be strangely long but time certainly travels quickly in Westeros.
It’s not unusual these days for shows to be heavily serialised, their stories carrying over from episode to episode, but Game of Thrones takes this to a new level and this is both a boon and a breaking point. Last season taught us that while the LOST-set standard of combining contained episodes with a larger story was a breakable rule, this time the show goes one further. Even the strongest of serialized shows, Game‘s HBO brethren, allow themselves season specific arcs that can be closed in a finale, but that is not to be the case here; instead we pick up right where we left off, like we had simply turned a page and not closed a cover. Allowing events to simply continue is both an admirable and a terribly risky choice for the show to make, it’s doubling down on the stakes as it were; for while the standard set-up of stopping at the break allows the audience to slowly file in to the ride on flat ground, be they first-timers or veteran followers, here though the roller coaster is still in motion and we are simply expected to jump in while it is at the bottom of its descent. A dangerous proposition to be sure and many may die doing it, but for those that do get on it ensures that we will be at a peak much more promptly, allowing more time for the rush of the drop when it all comes together.
Winter is not coming for us, it is here now and we must brace for it by remembering the heat of the sun that shined last summer; those highs will certainly come again if we survive the cold to see them. So don’t give up now; just enjoy the little things like Tyrion Lannister’s one-liners, the puerile poetics of the language and yes the sex and violence, these things will get you through. Not much of a review, but then this isn’t much of an episode, substantively speaking; it’s hard to criticise what is effectively a prologue. Come the power plays of latter episodes i’ll surely have more to say.