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With a blistering opening salvo, Game of Thrones charts an assured path for its anxiously-anticipated final stretch.
One might wonder whether the biggest, bloodiest, most Dragon-heavy show on television would still have the ability to shock and surprise. The answer, happily, is yes.
Now that winter is officially here, the map has gotten smaller and, more importantly, the players smarter.
"Dragonstone" was the kind of table-setter Game of Thrones always prefers for its season premiere, promising carnage to come but mostly using the first hour to push the pieces into place. And, in this case, to give us a good old-fashioned bedpan montage.
In my Game of Thrones fantasy league, Arya's worth at least two dragons. Maybe two-and-a-half. And she's headed like a heat-seeking missile toward Queen Cersei, if, you know, heat-seeking missiles stopped off to listen to Ed Sheeran sing.
"Dragonstone" did move a lot of pieces into place, re-establishing our memory of various alliances and giving a few key characters some show-stealing moments.
You'd be forgiven for expecting a season premiere that would concern itself with placing Game of Thrones' scattered, wildfire-singed gamepieces back on the board, methodically and meticulously. And yet: Things are ostensibly speeding up, right?
The whole episode is filled with a sense of things to come, and it's testament to the quality writing that the feeling of dread appears natural and not forced.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the wearing people's faces effect Game of Thrones tries to pull off. It's a little bit too Classic Doctor Who for my liking.
Who run the world? The ladies of Game of Thrones, duh.
Appropriately for a season premiere, last night's "Dragonstone" was all about preparation - of both the literal and the metaphorical variety.