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Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 1, “Dragonstone”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “Dragonstone”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “Dragonstone”

Whenever Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the newly minted King of the North, seeks guidance, he thinks back to the words of his deceased father, Ned Stark. When it comes to whether he should punish the disloyal houses of Karstark and Umber, who fought against his rightful rule in last season's Game of Thrones episode “Battle of the Bastards,” he chooses not to hold the children responsible for the mistakes of their parents, and bulldozes his way past the more vengeful desires of his sister, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). Yes, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) has seized control of King's Landing and summons Jon to take a knee before her, and yes, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has finally returned to her ancestral home at Dragonstone, but “Yesterday's wars don't matter anymore,” Jon announces. Winter is here, women and children will learn to fight alongside men—a prospect fully backed by the fiery young Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey)—and gold is irrelevant. Only dragonglass (and Valyrian steel) can slay the marching armies of the dead.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 10, "The Winds of Winter"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 10, “The Winds of Winter”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 10, “The Winds of Winter”

The first three minutes of this week’s season finale of Game of Thrones set a somber mood—and with not a single word uttered, just the ominous tolling of a bell. That’s because words are somewhat beside the point. The trial of Cersei (Lena Headey) and Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) has begun, and if one believes the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), everything about this moment has been predestined. And so director Miguel Sapochnik wisely echoes that sense of fate, orchestrating every shot to the gradual crescendo of a classical choir, and providing hawkeyed viewers with an abundance of foreshadowing.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 8, "No One"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 8, “No One”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 8, “No One”

Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) isn’t a good person, but neither is he the villain that his prisoner, Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), thinks he is. When Edmure asks how Jaime can sleep at night, his answer is simple: He loves his sister, Cersei, and he would do anything to be with her. Though there’s clearly at least one other soft spot in his heart, as he allows Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) to escape from his siege of Riverrun, he claims nothing else matters to him, which means that all of his violence is justified. His terms to Edmure are just as straightforward: If he wants to stop Jaime from taking his infant son and launching him into Riverrun via catapult, he will seize control of the castle as its rightful lord, and force his uncle, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell), and his men to surrender. With such a personal threat, there’s no hesitation from Edmure, though he knows he condemns at least his uncle to death, and this gives truth to Jaime’s worldview: Nobody is evil, they’re just differently intentioned.

Tribeca Review: Slow West

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Tribeca Review: <em>Slow West</em>
Tribeca Review: <em>Slow West</em>

Slow West is a photogenic trifle about a Scottish teen traveling through the rugged, dangerous terrain of frontier America in 1870 looking for his runaway love and her father. It begins with a “once upon a time,” which instantly gives writer-director John Maclean’s western the secret air of a fairy tale. Indeed, as Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lies on his back and stares at the stars, which twinkle as he pretends to shoot them with his gun, there’s a sense of him as a little prince who’s left the safety of some far-off land in search of adventure, or to fulfill some fabulously preordained destiny. Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), who narrates Jay’s conventional story with the sort of regard that suggests he thinks it will be of value to someone in the future other than himself, meets him deep in Colorado and becomes the young man’s protector against the elements and wolves who appear to them in sheep’s clothing—literally so in the case of one particularly colorful bounty hunter, Payne (Ben Mendelsohn). It’s a fable that makes the unexceptional appear slightly off-kilter through fussy artifice, and programmatically marches toward a bloody climax whose only true, if scarcely resplendent, surprise is its denial of a conventional happily ever after.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 10, "The Children"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “The Children”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10, “The Children”

Contrary to the structure of most serial television, Game of Thrones tends to peak with its penultimate episode, leaving finales open to operate as a form of self-summary. They take stock of the dead, consider the implications of arc climaxes, and anticipate how characters will move forward in the subsequent season. This structure fits with the mission statement of George R. R. Martin’s books: to dispel the orthodox narratives and tone of fantasy to consider how magic and dragons might impact something closer to medieval history and anthropology.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 7, "Mockingbird"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Mockingbird”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Mockingbird”

“Brilliant speech,” Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) says with fatalistic sarcasm amid berating Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) for the show-stopping speech he gave at the end of the previous episode. Doubly mad at his brother for spurning the deal he brokered with their father, Tywin (Charles Dance), for Tyrion’s life, and himself for not realizing that the deal is what Tywin wanted all along, Jaime can only begrudgingly accept Tyrion’s line of thinking while throwing up his hands at the hopelessness of any action. As an introduction, it stands out as bleak even for a season that now occurs almost entirely in shadow.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 3, "Breaker of Chains"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Breaker of Chains”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Breaker of Chains”

Joffrey’s death last week on Game of Thrones stood out from the show’s many past fatalities in that it marked the first time a major character’s demise prompted celebration rather than simply shock. So rapturously received was Joffrey’s demise that some even took to finger-wagging over the glee, casting aspersions on those who would revel in the death of a minor, even a fictional one who made a number of Russian tsars look well-balanced in comparison. But as “Breaker of Chains” demonstrates within its first 10 minutes, even Joffrey’s own family cannot muster much bereavement for the departed king. Standing over the boy’s posed corpse in a private chamber, Tywin (Charles Dance) tells the next in line for the throne, Joffrey’s younger brother, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), that Joffrey was not a wise or good king, and that his unfitness for rule contributed to his present state. For his part, Tommen appears far more nervous at being quizzed by his grandfather than he does standing over his brother’s prepared body.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 4, Episode 1, "Two Swords"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Two Swords”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Two Swords”

Game of Thrones has always had a fractured structure, be it the result of having to jump great geographical distances to follow all of its characters, or of cataclysmic, splintering events like the execution of Ned Stark just as he emerged as the show’s seeming focus. Judging from the torpor of “Two Swords,” the fourth-season premiere, the residents of Westeros still haven’t put themselves back together in the wake of the Red Wedding. In a series that regularly undermines the tenets of fantasy, replacing a world of chivalry and duty with one of ceaseless rape and murder, the concept of guest rights may be the last shred of honor to which anyone held, and even those who benefit from Robb Stark’s demise seem to worry over its implications.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 6, "The Old Gods and the New"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “The Old Gods and the New”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 6, “The Old Gods and the New”

After last week’s thematically spastic episode, it’s refreshing to see that a simple and direct, albeit unambitious, theme unites the various plot strands in “The Old Gods and the New.” In this episode, the truly powerful characters are the ones who are best equipped to handle a crisis; the rest are just blustery and uncertain. This becomes apparent when Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is told, “Now you are truly lost,” by a man he executes in the episode’s first few minutes. Theon doesn’t understand that there will be consequences to his half-assed attempt at impressing his family by laying siege to Winterfell, so he kills the insubordinate prisoner and, in so doing, totally disregards the Starks’ eldest advisor, Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter), who suggests that executing a prisoner after storming Winterfell is a bad idea. And he’s right, as is foreshadowed in the episode.