Yesterday was epic. At least in my belly. A little known fact: when Easter Sunday and the return of Game of Thrones collide, one thing is certain—there will be pig. Bacon and sausage at brunch. Glazed ham in the afternoon. And Carolina-style pulled pork to kick off the watching party. I felt like the late King Robert, gorged and gored. (Also Yards and Sam Adams, what was everyone else drinking?)
But how far we’ve come since that bloated Jon was sullying up the imperial capital with his majestic improprieties?! It seems like only yesterday I was standing on the subway platform looking at Sean Bean sitting on a giant chair made of sticks laughing quietly to myself about the ridiculous series’ title. A reality TV show about the royal house wives of Wessex could not be better named.
And now look at us? Swept up by the spiritual successor to Harry Potter, a tour de fource in fantastical escapism made all the more compelling by its emphatic gestures toward political realism and unflinching brutality. Also the boobs. And the male nudity (which some are hoping for more of). And the one half-man to rule them all.
So what are people saying about last night’s season opener? An expansive but in no way exhaustive list:
- Spencer Kornhaber still doesn’t care about Stannis Baretheon, and wonders if the show will ever do anything to make him start, while Christopher Orr and Ross Douthat agree that Tywin’s merciless shaming of Tyrion was bang-on (via The Atlantic).
- Erik Kain thirded the episode’s Lostean farther/son squabbling, and was also thrilled to see Ciaran Hinds debut as Mance Rayder, despite having a number of quibbles with some of the show’s recent deviations from their printed counterparts (via Forbes).
- Dan D’Addario and others partake in a Branch conversation (cause new media and such). Which is actually kind of interesting, since D’Addario hadn’t actually seen any Game of Thrones before last night. As a result, Laura Miller, Willa Paskin, and Alex Pareene spend most of the time explaining to him the show’s magical elements and de-romanticized sex before inquiring into the show’s deeper commentary e.g. monarchism, realpolitik, “have your naked cake and eat it too” (via Salon).
- Nina Shen Rastogi hits on all the episode’s most interesting moments. The introduction of a new general and his army (Rayder), a new prospective queen and her ruling style (Margaery Tyrell, “a hammer in a velvet casing”), and the show’s demonstration that Daenerys is gaining power more quickly than actual wisdom (via Vulture).
- David Sims ponders Game of Thrones as a pioneer in a new form of television: “epic serialization.” As Sims notes, we’ve entered the “post-Blackwater” period of King’s Landing, marked most notably by the ascent of Margaery (generic names are so much cooler when a comes before e, no?) and the return of Tywin. The former side-lines both Cersei and Sansa, while the latter marginalizes both Tyrion and Joffrey (via A.V. Club).
- Alyssa Rosenberg focuses on the question of power and legitimacy and how different characters attempt to reckon with them. “Your claim has to be recognized,” she writes, noting that Bron’s knighthood and Rayder’s authority are ultimately non-binding. In the state of nature, power and legitimacy come not through the rule of law or strength alone, but are the result of aristocratic and democratic pluralities of support (via Think Progress).
- Mary McNamara argues the show has redefined “sprawling epic,” and requires the opposite of passive viewing. She even goes so far as to question whether “the writers shouldn’t adopt a bit of their characters’ near-universal brutality and do a little hacking of their own.” (via Los Angeles Times).