Back In Style: A Twin Peaks- The Return review.


*ATTENTION* It is advised that you view the entirety of this season before reading the following review, some spoilers will feature as I delve into plot details. You have been warned.

Back in 2014 it was confirmed via Twitter by David Lynch that Twin Peaks would be returning to our screens, a story left on THAT cliffhanger back in 1991 would be continued and the internet rejoiced. We knew this was going to be something special, little did we know just how special it would turn out to be.

To summarise briefly under the assumption that in reading this you are aware of what transpired in prior seasons, Dale Cooper has been trapped in The Black Lodge for some 25 years whilst his doppelgänger, imbued with an evil spirit who goes by the name of BOB, has taken his place in our reality and gone AWOL after the events of the season 2 finale. A series of events lead to Dale coming back to our reality at the cost of his own mind, taking the persona of a lawyer called Dougie Jones who for some reason resembles Cooper. Back in Twin Peaks, Deputy Hawk receives a phone call from The Log Lady that’s sets him on Cooper’s path whilst Gordon & Albert at the FBI pursue their own investigation.

The first thing that struck me with this season of Twin Peaks was just how much influence Lynch has held over the development this time round as opposed to his comparatively meagre input into the prior season. It becomes quite clear in the first handful of episodes, particularly the highly regarded 8th episode, of Lynch’s creative input in full control. This season if anything was a true showcase of Lynch being allowed to create without boundaries, without someone to hold him back through fear of people not understanding or wanting him to dumb down his vision and I would myself regard parts of The Return, particularly that aforementioned 8th episode as some of his best work to date. David Lynch has arguably worked at his best without outside interference, to be allowed to create his art without having to answer for it. When you juxtapose this season against season 2, with Lynch’s minimal input for a large section of the season, the show meandered, it became almost soap-opera-like, banal in its relative normality. Season 3 in comparison is Lynch unleashed and it is glorious.

We were this season given new facets to the Twin Peaks story to wrap our heads around, the otherworldly mother figure, Jowday (The Judy that David Bowie’s Philip Jeffries wasn’t going to talk about in FWWM) that apparently gave birth to BOB, a terrifying apparition that on our first encounter with, literally tore people’s faces off. We also got to see quite lengthy glimpses, particularly in the aforementioned 8th episode, of the various lodge inhabitants or at the very least, denizens of that plane of existence. We saw our first real glimpse of what we can assume to be The White Lodge, inhabited by The Fireman & Seniorita Dido, The Fireman of course resembling The Giant from the original series though not billed as such who appears to be The White Lodge’s equivalent of Jowday, birthing what appears to be Laura Palmer and sending her essence to Earth, Laura possibly being a cosmic counterbalance to BOB of sorts following the cataclysmic atomic detonation that seemly opened the respective gateway’s between worlds. The other perplexing new characters are The Woodsmen, dark skinned apparitions in disheveled clothing that also appeared around the time of the atomic detonation and seem to have some kind of connection to The Black Lodge, heralds if you will who appear to be a reimagining of a character briefly glimpsed in FWWM played by Jurgan Prochnow in Laura’s dream sequence. The Return also brings the use of tulpas into Twin Peaks mythology with the characters of Dougie Jones and the person who everyone believed to be Dianne actually both being tulpas or constructs.

For the most part and it will certainly help if you are familiar with Lynch’s writing style, The Return is, as with a lot of Lynch’s past work, heavily left open to viewer interpretation, there is minimal hand-holding in The Return and the hardcore Lynch faithful wouldn’t have it any other way, though, a number of story strands are left unexplained or up in the air. What happened to Audrey? It isn’t addressed in the finale so we have no idea of her situation. Also, Sarah Palmer rather dramatically removed her face toward the end of the season to reveal a dark void and a rather sinister smile before ripping out a truckers throat in a bar, we do briefly see Sarah Palmer in the finale although her prior conduct was never readdressed. The season was also left on another massive cliffhanger with Coop & Laura/Carrie outside the Palmer/Tremond residence in Twin Peaks as Laura screamed and everything cut to black. It’s already known in Peaks lore that the Tremonds are connected to the Lodges, are the Black Lodge denizens attempting to track Laura? Have they found her? Whether these things have been left in the air deliberately with the intent of another season to answer them remains to be seen, they are rather perplexing questions to leave up in the air with the possibility of never being answered though.

The Return sees many actors from the original series making an appearance. Kyle MacLachlan is phenomenal this season, predominantly split between the roles of Cooper/Dougie & Cooper’s doppelgänger, Dopple-Coop is all brooding and bass-ass with the constant threat of violence hanging over any scene he is in, Dougie couldn’t be anymore different. A hugely sympathetic and humorous turn, Dougie Jones, a lawyer who resembles Cooper and who’s persona Cooper employs for the majority of the season. A monosyllabic savant guided by the other place to Cooper’s salvation, Dougie has been a constant high point of the season. Lynch’s Gordon Cole has also been a season highlight alongside his note perfect partnership with the late great Miguel Ferrer as Albert Rosenfeld, the two bounce of other perfectly, Gordon’s abject oddness being the perfect foil to Alberts quiet, surrendering incredulity, the sense Albert has had to deal with this kinda shit for years and now he just succumbs to it. Some great guest turns have been thrown out this season also from the likes of Laura Dern as the bristling & acerbic Dianne, finally a psychical presence and not just a name spoken into a dictaphone. Some noteworthy turns are also given by original series OG’s Harry Goaz, David Patrick Kelly, Russ Tamblyn and Dana Ashbrooke alongside new faces such as Jim Belushi, Naomi Watts, Matthew Lillard and Sara Paxton.

As with the prior two seasons, music plays a big part in Twin Peaks so it was with some degree of relief to learn that composer Angelo Badalamenti returns to score this season alongside a ridiculously rich and diverse lineup of musical talent ranging from contemporary acts like Chromatics, Sharon Van Etten and Lissie alongside the more recognisable faces of Eddie Vedder and Nine Inch Nails as artists appearing onstage at The Roadhouse’s ‘Bang, Bang Bar’ music nights. For the most part the musical guests have been great and very well curated, I for one will be picking up a copy of this seasons soundtrack when the record comes out for sure.

Newcomers to Twin Peaks will be thoroughly bewildered by The Return and will have probably given up a few episodes in, for the faithful however, this has been a stunning return to form for the show as The Return took us in surprising & mind-bending directions. With every twist & turn it retained the charm of the first 2 seasons whilst presenting a much darker story that didn’t feel as cosy in its oddness as the Twin Peaks of old. The Return carried a much more sinister atmosphere throughout this entire season and it has been an absolute joy to behold, every barking, mind-boggling, brain-f**king second of it. If Twin Peaks is destined to return yet again for a 4th season, it remains to be seen, both Lynch and Showtime have remained stoically tight lipped on the subject. The fact that we even got The Return remains a miracle in of itself,  I wasn’t really expecting an all story strands resolved conclusion to the story to be forthcoming, if ever. Although I’m sure many people will, I don’t believe It’s really our place to criticise what Lynch has created here because as with most things the man has created, it is art, pure and simple, it’s there to be interpreted, not to spoonfeed you answers and give you exactly what you want, what we did get however, I am more than happy with. 

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The Winds Of Winter: A Game Of Thrones Season 7 review.


**ATTENTION** This is a full review of Season 7 of Game Of Thrones and contains spoilers relating to main plot points. It is advised you watch the Season before reading on.

This penultimate season of GOT has been nothing short of epic for almost its entire duration, from family reunions to dragon based shock & awe assaults to Aunty loving and the prerequisite surprise exits and moving of all the pieces into place for the final season. In just 7 episodes it has ran the gamut of emotions and delivered massively in less than its usual season length, one of the most satisfying seasons of the show so far.

The story this season has predictably moved forward in leaps and bounds to set us up for the end game, all of the respective pieces have been put in place as the show moves with purpose toward its conclusion. As the season commences, Daenerys is now set up in her ancestral home of Dragonstone, wasting no time in moving to secure the Seven Kingdoms through a campaign of attacks that are subsequently thwarted, delivered by a series of humbling defeats courtesy of the Lannister forces. It certainly puts The Mother Of Dragons on the back foot early on, Although Daenerys isn’t beaten at every turn, the absolutely jaw-dropping dragon attack on the Lannister army is a fist-pumping highlight of the season. Perhaps Daenerys most crushing defeat this season however has been the loss of her dragon Viserion in the seasons penultimate episode by the hands of The Night King, or more precisely, stuck with the pointy end of a big frickin ice spear. The real shock however comes when The Night King chillingly, no pun intended, resurrects the beast in the dying moments of that episode, a single blue eye flicking back to life.

Jon Snow has seen many important developments this Season also. Atop the earth-shattering revelation of Jon’s parentage and true name, Aegon Targaryon, making him the rightful heir to The Iron Throne, we also see the erstwhile bastard who knows nowt move early on to align himself with Daenerys and win her trust only to be met with shade by the Khaleesi, not too surprising when his opening gambit is refusal to bend the knee and stories of ice zombies, you really can’t blame her for being reticent. After much convincing he seeks to head north of The Wall to trap a White Walker to convince Daenerys & Cersei that there are greater and more prominent threats to the world than the war for the throne and sets out past Eastwatch with Westeros’s answer to The Suicide Squad, these literally are the worst heroes ever, a driven Jon, a redemption fueled Jorah, the recently rediscovered Gendry, and the explosive and unpredictable combination of The Brotherhood Without Banners, The Hound & Tormund. It felt as those this team really could do with more screen time as their onscreen chemistry was phenomenal particularly between The Hound & Tormund.

Winterfell has seen its fair share of surprise and intrigue this season with the remaining Stark children reuniting with the return home firstly of the increasingly creepy and detached Bran and secondly by the ever distrusting and vengeful Arya. Sanasa had also been seen slipping a little too comfortably into the role of Lady Of Winterfell in the absence of The King In The North and continues to be manipulated, or so it seemed, by the constantly plotting Littlefinger. 

As with every season of GOT, we saw some much loved/despised characters meet their end. Olena Tyrell, The Queen Of Thorns finally ran out of luck this season when her home of Highgarden was sacked by Lannister forces and Jamie gave Olena the choice of dying by poison rather than Cersei gettng her hands on her. To the end though, Olena gets the better of Cersei yet again by admitting she was the person who poisoned Joffrey and not Tyrion as Cersei believed, a fact Olena knows will drive Cersei mad with rage knowing she won’t get to torture her to death. Dame Diana Rigg has been utterly fantastic as Olena, wise, acerbic and frequently hilarious, a constant high point of any episode she appeared in, kudos also to the person who convinced her to drop a C-bomb. This season also saw the exit of Paul Kay’s Red Priest, Thoros Of Myr. An occasional guest star since the early seasons, Kay’s Thoros had always exuded a likability even if this is a character we’re not necessarily supposed to like or trust, this is hugely down to the magnetism and charm of Kay’s performance which has been nothing short of brilliant for the duration. Last of all, Finally, the arch player of Westeros gets played beautifully by the Stark sisters. Littlefinger finally met his end this series when his latest plan to turn the Starks against one another fails spectacularly. Yup, for all his cunning & conniving machinations, Littlefinger’s wits finally fail him and he meets his snivelling, grovelling and immensely satisfying fate at Arya’s hands, could it have been any more perfect? 

We are left with a pretty damn exciting season close. Cersei’s plan to apparently help and then turn on Jon & Co is shot down by an apparently deserting Jamie, Jon & Aunty D get it on *shudder*, and the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, The Night King riding a newly zombified Viserion, makes Eastwatch his bitch and blasts a massive hole into The Wall allowing the dead to pass into Westeros, what a way to end the season! Given that there are rumours that the final season may be delayed by a year and at the time of writing this review, no official word from HBO, this could be a more tortuous cliffhanger than Jon/Aegon being stabbed. Season 7 as a whole for me has been immensely satisfying viewing. We have had more than the prerequisite amount of murder, intrigue and Ill advised sexual liaisons with newly united aunti..sorry, allies, this truncated season with brand new iconic Thrones moments to keep us chomping at the bit for more, even if the extended wait may drive us over the edge. 

Out there: A look into Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.


In 2004, Channel 4 in the U.K. Broadcast a new comedy series from the writing partnership of the then relatively unknown comedians, Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness. It was an absurd homage to badly conceived horror fiction, TV and films, particularly of the 70’s & 80’s delivered with it tongue firmly in its cheek, that show was Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was a show within a show concerning fictional horror novelist Garth Marenghi, played by Holness, who in the 1980’s decided to make the leap from the page to the screen and develop his own TV show with his publicist Dean Learner, played by Ayoade. In ‘Darkplace’ Marenghi cast himself as the shows lead, Dr Rick Dagless, a Doctor at Darkplace Hospital which just so happens to be situated “over the very gates of hell, in Romford, Essex” and his constant fight in repelling the forces of evil whilst coping with the “burden of day to day admin”. He is joined by his administrator Thornton Reed played by Learner, best friend Dr Lucian Sanchez played by ‘Todd Rivers’ who is in turn played by actor/musician Matt Berry and Liz Asher played by ‘Madeline Wool’ who is played by the fantastic Alice Lowe. 

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was presented as a retrospective of the making of and reaction to this fictional show, a superbly crafted meta-comedy if you will. Presented as being rescued from the vaults of Channel 4 by Marenghi and presented to a willing new audience, Maregenhi, Learner & Shanchez intersect the show with talking-heads of their memories of it’s production, It really is an fantastically realised and original idea for a comedy. The 80’s Darkplace is spot on its playful swiping at bad TV of the era, from the original Channel 4 ident at the start, the muffled analogue synth score, bad editing, fitfully funny dialogue overdubs, ropey sets and even more ropey acting, it is an absolute joy for fans of intelligently written, witty and original comedy and a lot of fun for fans of the horror literature, film & TV genres that it sends up. 

The cast of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace reads today like a who’s who of British comedy, Holness, Ayoade, Berry and Lowe all deliver note perfect performances of bad actors, a feat that isn’t as easy as it sounds when you are in fact a really good comedic actor trying to achieve gut laughs at the same time. From Holness’s deluded, pretentious and egocentric turn as Marenghi/Dagless and the comedy that lies in the fact they are both exactly the same in personality sending up Marenghi’s out of whack ego even more, Berry’s Sanchez is full of macho bravado and he has an innate ability to deliver a comedic line like no other in my opinion and Lowes simpering send up of outdated gender stereotypes really do make this show something special. Aside from the principle cast there are also wonderful cameos from the like of Steven Merchant, Noel Feilding, Julian Barrett and Graham Linehan.

Relatively unnoticed on its initial broadcast and obtaining a cult following in the proceeding year, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is a show that will appeal to fans of the horror genre and though looking for daft yet expertly crafted comedy. If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend a visit to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is currently available to stream via All4.

A Mr Mid Announcement.

I have been writing as a pop culture blogger now for over a year and have enjoyed it immensely so it was only inevitable that I would eventually feel the need to branch out further. With that in mind I am moving into the realm of podcasting with Five By Five Reviews. 

Five By Five is a pop culture podcast predominantly covering film but also touching on Tv, Gaming, comics and all in between. Joining me on this venture is my good friend Chris Jones who is just as enthusiastic about discussing and debating films and will no doubt make each episode of Five By Five an interesting & engaging experience for our listeners.

There is a Facebook page which can be found at..

https://m.facebook.com/fivebyfivepod/

A Twitter feed at..

http://www.twitter.com/@fivebyfivepod

Via Talkshoe at..

http://www.talkshoe.com/talkshoe/web/talkCast.jsp?masterId=144713&cmd=tc#.WYJDiIFl6nQ.facebook

You can contact us via our email address at..

Fivebyfivepod@yahoo.com

And lastly and most importantly, on iTunes..

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/five-by-five-reviews/id1267533963?mt=2

The opening gambit on Five By Five will be a series of podcasts on the Alien series, running from the Ridley Scott original up to Alien: Covenant over the course of the first 6 episodes, each being released bi-weekly on a Wednesday. Past the Alien series we have an exciting and varied lineup in store for you all that I think a lot of you will really dig.

So, give us a listen, drop us some feedback and maybe even a review if you are so inclined and most of all, Enjoy.

M

Reach Out And Touch Faith: An American Gods Season 1 review.


Developed by: Brian Fuller & Michael Green.

Starring: Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Ian McShane, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Gillian Anderson, Pablo Schreiber, Yetide Badaki.

Plot: Repentant convict Shadow Moon has been released from prison to find his wife dead and his prospects on the outside world severely limited, that is until he happens upon the enigmatic Mr Wednesday who offers Shadow employment. Soon Shadow is thrust into an America where gods old & new engage in a conflict for supremacy.

I haven’t read American Gods, there, I’ve said it and as a consequence went into the first Season of the Brian Fuller led American Gods TV show pretty much blind. I knew some things, that is was written by the incomparable talent that is Neil Gaiman, that it told a story of gods living amongst men in modern America and that I was immediately enticed by this prospect along with the sterling word of mouth from friends of mine that were fans of the book and had already seen the show, they weren’t exaggerating. 

Weaving an intricately mapped story of conflict between old & new gods in contemporary America, American Gods is a concept tailor made for a structured TV serialisation. Take one look at the thick tome it is adapted from and you’ll see there was no other way to go in respect to format without dropping facets of the story and risking narrative cohesion. People I know who have read the book have corroborated that American Gods is a story so richly and intricately woven that to weed away the story to suit a framework that didn’t fit it would have been a huge disservice, so to see it get the full Brian Fuller backed TV treatment is a move that long term fans and like me, the erstwhile newcomer with no prior knowledge, will certainly appreciate. American Gods is certainly a show that respects its audiences intelligence, it doesn’t pander to them or dumb down its source material to make it more palatable. Neil Gaiman is a verbose writer of great imagination & intellect which reflects in his work, the brilliant Neverwhere was a book that placed an entire world beneath the streets of London, fully realised and full of complex characters and narrative, American Gods even more so from what I am reliably told and it certainly translated that way in the TV show. 

In American Gods the audience has to do a lot of the groundwork to get the truest sense of what’s gong on in the narrative of the show, who the old gods are and what the new gods represent. The new gods I feel are slightly less ambiguous, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the goddess Media only appears as in the guise of icons of stage & screen, that Mr World is an allegory for globalisation or why Technical Boy resides in a matrix-like cyberworld, locking down the old gods however certainly requires a bit more knowledge on the viewers part. I had heard the name Mad Sweeney before, I knew that Bilquis was the Queen Of Sheba and I think most people will have cottoned on as to who Mr Wednesday actually is before the reveal, a modicum of prior knowledge of certain folklores and mythologies will help you pick out a few but certainly not all of them but if you can, have a cream bun and a gold star on me.

American Gods is yet another show with an incredibly strong ensemble cast. People this side of the pond may recognise Ricky Whittle who plays Shadow Moon from godawful UK soap opera Hollyoaks, he certainly has traded up here delivering a strong and likeable lead performance despite the characters many flaws, the same can be said of Emily Browning as his wife Laura, a sympathetic portrayal of a depressed and alienated spouse and later dead pan delivery of an increasingly absurd and amusing situation after her resurrection. Ian McShane brings his usual magnetic charm and acerbic delivery to the role of Mr Wednesday and some fun support from his fellow gods, Pablo Schreiber seemingly having a ball as Mad Sweeney, Gillian Anderson playing dress up and giving a scarily good Bowie impression as Media and the gloriously oddball Crispin Glover chews the scenery with gusto as Mr World.

American Gods is high on my list of must see TV shows this year. It was original, captivating, funny, unabashedly provocative, not afraid to take creative gambits such as an animated introduction in one episode and a luscious episode long period backstory in another. It doesn’t pander to it viewers and relies on them joining the dots so to speak but is in all a massively addictive watch. With just 8 episodes in this first season it’s highly likely you will binge watch once you start it and with the knowledge that Season 2 has just been greenlit, you’ll be chomping at the bit for more.

American Gods Season 1 is currently available to stream via Amazon.

(Don’t) Look Away!: A Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events Season 1 review.


Developed by: Barry Sonnenfeld.

Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, K. Todd Freeman, Presley Smith, Joan Cusack, Alfre Woodard, Catherine O’Hara, Rhys Darby, Will Arnet, Cobie Smulders.

Plot: The Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus & Sunny are orphaned and left open to the machinations of their relative, Count Olaf, a terrible actor with an eye on their family fortune. The Baudelaire’s seek to unravel the mystery surrounding what happened to their parents and the secret organisation they were involved with.

Mention Daniel Handler and people will most likely shrug, mention his more commonly known moniker of Lemony Snicket and people will recognise the name for differing reasons. From the series of macabre children’s novels from the late 90’s but most likely from the 2004 Jim Carrey film of the same name which covered the events of the first 3 novels of the 13 novel series. The Netflix Lemony Snicket series intends to bring all the novels to our TV screens and season 1 gets things off to a very strong start. The stories contained in the Lemony Snicket novels certainly benefit from the format of an 8 part episodic season, this first season containing the narrative of the first 4 novels, rather than the strictures of a near 2 hour film trying to cram in as much of that narrative as it can. The stories are allowed to have more context, greater emphasis is allowed to be applied to sub-plots and a much greater degree of character development is allowed to evolve over the course of a season run. Production values on this series are high, the show is gorgeous to look it, nailing the aesthetic of Snickets world, a slightly off kilter Gothic ambience hangs over the proceedings in a world with an ambiguous location & place in time.

The casting for the show is expansive and pretty much spot on. As much as I loved Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Count Olaf, Neil Patrick Harris over the course of this first season makes the character his own, it isn’t him trying to do his best Jim Carrey impression, Harris’s Olaf is much more subdued and nuanced than Carrey’s comparatively one note mugging and is a move that pays off big for the Broadway stalwart, a side he also gets to show off in his performance of the shows brilliantly infectious theme tune. The actors playing the Baudelaire orphans are great, there is no cliched, irritating child acting here, Malina Weissman & Louis Hynes are excellent choices as Violet & Klaus respectively and carry their roles with a deft touch that defys their youth. There is also a scene stealing turn from the impossibility cute Presley Smith as Sunny who never fails to raise a smile when onscreen and is voiced by voice artist extraordinaire Tara Strong, adding the prerequisite coo’s & gurgles. The role of Lemony Snicket is embodied by the ever brilliant Patrick Warburton who’s deadpan delivery of the author is a constant joy to behold as the series goes on, who’d think an in depth explanation of the definitions of literally & figuratively could be so entertaining? The show also boasts a ridiculously varied and talented support cast. Deep breath, Joan Cusack, Alfre Woodard, Will Arnet, Cobie Smulders, Don Johnson, Rhys Darby even Catherine O’Hara who starred in the film makes a return appearance, all giving note perfect performances in their episodes.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events is a joy from start to finish, a darkly comic, richly and impeccably delivered take on its source material giving the Daniel Handler stories wonderfully realised life. There have been 2 more seasons of this show commissioned by Netflix to cover the remaining 9 stories in the series and if they are anything like what has been accomplished in season 1, we are in for a real macabre treat in the years to come.

Season 1 of Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events is currently available to view on Netflix.

Winter Is Here: My thoughts on the first episode of Game Of Thrones Season 7.

*ATTENTION* This is a post regarding the events of the first episode of the seventh season of Game Of Thrones and as such will contain plot points. You have been warned.

It’s been a long wait but it’s finally here, Game Of Thrones Season 7 has begun and I thought I’d take some time to give my feelings on the episode and also where I think that this season will take us, but first a recap may be needed. At the end of Season 6 we had Jon Snow defeat Ramsey Bolton at The Battle Of The Bastards and become King In The North, Cersei in one fell swoop taking out The High Sparrow, faith militant, prominent members of the Tyrell family and demolishes the Sept by igniting Wildfire caches beneath it resulting in King Tommen’s suicide and her assent as Queen and most importantly, Daenerys makes her move to cross the narrow sea with her army and heads for Westeros. With The Nights King and the army of the dead marching for The Wall also, this upcoming Season is going to be nerve shredding.

So, the first episode of the new season is as to be expected, setting all the pieces into motion on their respective courses. In a fist pumping pre-credits sequence we see Arya finally getting revenge against the Frey’s by masquerading as the deceased Walder Fray at a banquet and poisoning every male in the room with a toast in a class moment of ruthless vengeance for the murder of her mother & brother at the red wedding. This act sets Arya in motion toward the capital and Cersei, briefly stopping to dine and converse with Lannister soldiers in a frankly throwaway scene featuring a cringing guest appearance by serial ear botherer Ed Sheeran, one can only hope this doesn’t herald a move toward acting because it is excruciatingly forced viewing with very little purpose. 

In the North we see King Jon holding court and pardoning the Karstarks & Umbers for their role in their betrayal of House Stark by fighting for the Boltons during the battle of the bastards, needing as many hands to fight knowing what is approaching from the North of the wall. There is some butting of heads with Sansa over this decision, Jon angry with Sansa for essentially undermining him in front of his people, possibly heralding more tension between the two siblings in the future also but with Sansa also rightly pointing out a summons from the Queen asking Jon to Kings Landing to bend the knee, an instruction that ignored would almost certainly Illicit even greater animosity between the two houses. It’s all about to kick off!

Meanwhile in Kings Landing, Cersei & Jamie discuss the very real predicament of being quite literally surrounded by enemies with a distinct lack of allies. Cue the arrival of Euron Greyjoy and his armada offering his support in exchange for marrying Cersei. She may be desperate for support but doesn’t trust him so he vows to win that trust with “a gift”, a remark that feel unsettlingly portentous considering his previous form. Quite what Euron has in mind remains to be seen but it certainly doesn’t bode well and quite how well his armada will stand up against Daenerys’s dragons remains to be seen.

Sam Tarly is now set up in Oldtown at the citadel basically operating as a lackey, cleaning bedpans, serving food, being a general dogsbody all the while keeping his eye on a locked restricted section of the citadels library like a rotund Harry Potter, an area he is forbidden to enter by the archmaester who believes Sam’s warnings of the White Walkers but feels the Wall is more than enough protection from the onslaught. After stealing his way into the restricted section and a selection of its wears, he discovers that Dragonstone, the Targaryen ancestral seat is home to a stockpile of dragonglass, a priceless commodity in the fight against the Night King due to its lethality to White Walkers. Factor in a surprise appearance by a decidedly scaly Jorah Mormont and our visit with Sam has been a pretty damn important and interesting jaunt.

In the Riverlands, The Brotherhood Without Banners and Sandor Clegane hold up in the home of a farmer The Hound had robbed in a previous season, the bodies of him and his daughter still present adding to Clegane’s growing conscience of his past wrongdoings so much so that he burst the bodies, not an act The Hound of a few short seasons ago would have carried out. With the guidance of Thoros Of Myr, Clegane also witnesses a vision in the flames of the fireplace of the advancing White Walker army marching on the Wall. It looks as though The Hounds story arch this season is going to be a very interesting one, a more human side to the character is emerging and the fact he is experiencing visions makes for a fascinating turn of events.

Finally we stop by Dragonstone and the arrival of Daenerys and her army, arriving back on Westeros soil and at her ancestral seat no less. It’s not a particularly long scene but a portentous weight hangs over it. The castle is deserted and has remained so since Stanis Baratheon made his ill fated journey north. Daenerys connection to the place doesn’t feel sentimental though, rather than sit in the throne of her castle she makes her way to the war room instead to get down to business, kingdoms don’t reclaim themselves you know?

Ones to watch this season? Sansa is acting very cagey in my option, I feel a betrayal coming on. Arya is ticking more names off her list and heading to Kings Landing for a biggie in Cersei who is in quite the predicament of desperately needing support and having to trust a decidedly untrustworthy Euron Greyjoy albeit with a proving of that trust to be delivered on his part firstly, don’t think his armada is going to stand up to three angry dragons though. The Hound is undergoing a dark night of the soul, almost showing signs of a conscience, it’s going to be a really interesting season for him I think. With the knowledge of Daenerys essentially sitting on a giant stockpile of dragonglass, it won’t be long before she crosses paths with her relative Jon Snow. A lot occurs in this first episode, some blood is spilt, some interesting information comes to light, some even greater questions are left unanswered, tentative alliances are being made and relationships called into question. Basically, Game Of Throne is back baby!