July 17, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Game of Thrones”



With tonight’s Season 7 premiere, the endgame of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES has begun, kicking off the final 13 episodes (which will be divided 7/6 over 2 seasons).  It might be called the “Don’t Screw This Up” run, as series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, now operating with a minimum of guidance from novelist George R. R. Martin (since the series has stretched past the books he’s written so far), will try to bring the saga’s multiple, intricate storylines in for a landing that satisfies the show’s tens of millions of anxious fans.  So far so good.

One hallmark of Game of Thrones has been the incredible patience of its storytelling.  It’s developed scores of characters in locations thousands of miles apart from each other–many of the show’s protagonists haven’t even met–and nudged each of them episode by episode over 60 hours, until they’re finally ready to collide.  That foreplay–well, it’s done what foreplay is supposed to do.  In tonight’s premiere, Benioff and Weiss (who wrote the episode) bookended the hour with huge crowd-pleasing payoffs, starting with Arya Stark’s (Maisie Williams) vengeance for the Red Wedding that took her mother and brother, as she followed her Season 6 finale murder of Walder Frey with a mass poisoning of the entire Frey clan.  The episode’s finale, while lower-key, was an even more delayed iconic moment:  Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) arrival in Westereos, at the Dragonstone castle her own ancestors had built, a dialogue-free sequence until her crisp “Shall we begin?”

Honestly, an episode that delivers a pair of moments like that doesn’t need to do much else, but the rest of the hour provided plenty of compelling forward movement on other fronts.  Morality has always been a fluid notion on Game of Thrones, and that will continue to be a major theme of the story, as newly-crowned Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) debated strategy with her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and up in Winterfell, newly-crowned Jon Snow (Kit Harington) did the same with his sister Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner).  And, of course, as the Westeros kingdoms continue to war with each other, Winter Has Come, and the Army of the Dead approaches (Jeremy Podeswa, who’s directed half a dozen Thrones episodes, provided a gripping early image of the Army making its way south).  Alliances will form, major characters will die, and Dany has brought her dragons.

We won’t know until the final 12 episodes air whether Benioff and Weiss have brought Game of Thrones perfectly into port, but for 61 hours it’s been a triumph of great storytelling, superb acting by an army of performers, and massive network resources, with the kind of ratings in the HBO universe that exist nowhere else in scripted television–The Walking Dead needs 3x the number of available households to score similar viewership.  (Tonight’s season premiere of Thrones crashed HBO’s website.)  We may never see anything quite like it again (it certainly won’t be Westworld), so for now we should just enjoy watching it unfold.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."