January 5, 2018
The continuing saga of Westeros, and finally, what we've all been waiting for, the Winter comes. Cersie is the 1st ever ruling queen, and is making herself one heck of a bed to lie in. Some Greyjoys fall, some Greyjoys rise. Sansa, Arya and Bran Stark are back at Winterfell, Bran being almost not human. Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal, Danerys' dragons, stun and horrify.
Trivia: What happens when Danerys says "Dracarys"?
If you purchase Season 7 on BluRay or DVD discs, you have audio and subtitle choices:
Audio: English, French, Spanish and Portuguese (Brazilian)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazilian). Note, if you have subtitles on while listening to a commentary track, the subtitles are still of the show's dialogue, not the commentary dialogue. In the commentary tracks, most of the people commenting have not seen the episode before they gathered for the recording. I like a good commentary, and thought the commentaries for this season varied in interest.
Bonus Features galore! I highly recommend bonuses J and K, and also some of the Commentary tracks.
...episode 1... "Dragonstone"
Arya comes out swinging.
...episode 2.... "Stormborn"
It's the days before texting. When you don't find out your stepbrother is King except by accident.
...A... Commentary track on episode 1, "Dragonstone", by Jeremy Podeswa (director), Gwendoline Christie (plays Brienne) and John Bradley (plays Samwise Tarly). Gwendoline, who has a wonderful huge laugh, "After that opener, everyone's going to feel like they got hit by a bicycle."
Pretty good commentary.
...B...1st of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 2, "Stormborn", by Gemma Whelan (plays Yara Greyjoy), Jacob Anderson (plays Greyworm) and Nathalie Emmanuel (plays Missandei).
...C...2nd of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 2, by Bryan Cogman (producer/writer), Barrie Gower (prosthetic supervisor), Pilou Asbek (plays Euron Greyjoy) and Rowley Irlam (stunt coordinator).
Cogman, on the scene where Qyburn shows Cersei his scorpion: "Essentially, she [Daenerys] arrived with nukes [her dragons]. So, how do you write a war story when one side seems to really have the upper hand?"
Irlam: "[It's a ] zipper shot – where two armies meet."
...episode 3... "The Queen's Justice"
Favorite quote: Tyrion, "At some point, I want to hear how a Night's Watch recruit became King of the North."
Jon Snow: "As long as you tell me how a Lannister became Hand to Daenerys Targaryen."
Tyrion: "A long and bloody tale. To be honest, I was drunk for most of it."
...episode 4... "The Spoils of War"
The Loot Train Battle is magnificent.
...D... Commentary track on episode 3, "The Queen's Justice", by Bernadette Caulfield (executive producer), Deborah Riley (production designer) and Michele Clapton (costume designer). Caulfield mentions Zumaia beach (see the wonderful Bonus Feature J): "It's very special for the particular strata that the beach features. There's only 8 kilometers worth of it. Geologists from all over the world will travel to see it."
...E... 1st of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 4, "The Spoils of War", by Matt Shakman (director), Rob McLachlan (director of photography), Sam Conway (special effects supervisor) and Chris Plevin (camera operator). McLachlan explains the preparation done for shooting the Loot Train Battle: "We were there several months in advance and used some of the wonderful apps hou can get on your phone that tells you exactly where the sun is going to be months later. We could choose our shooting directions appropriately, and the big reason that we try to do that and keep it as backlit as we can, is Mother Nature supplies you with a really beautiful light, if you look the right direction at the right time of day."
Conway tells how they set a stunt man record. And then there's incredible horsemanship.
...F... 2nd of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 4, by Chris Newman (producer), Joe Bauer (visual effects supervisor) and Steve Kullback (visual effects producer). Listen to this for a full explanation of how they shoot the scenes with Daenerys riding the dragon as it shoots fire. Also, "Every time there's a scene that takes place on a ship in Game of Thrones, it was all happening on the same deck of the same ship that's mocked up in a parking lot in Belfast, Northern Ireland."
...episode 5... "Eastwatch"
Samwell Tarly is a lowly scribe at the Citadel, and it's not quite what he had envisioned. But he is going to save the day.
Just when we think the writers have totally forgotten a character, someone comes bouncing back in a big way.
"Safety is never a permanent state of affairs."
...episode 6... "Beyond the Wall"
The subtitle could be "Needs Must and Strange Bedfellows". Am I the only one rooting for Tormond Giantsbane in his adoration of Brienne of Tarth?
It's an extraordinary twist with Viserian.
...G... 1st of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 5, "Eastwatch", by Dave Hill (writer), Matt Shakman and Rob McLachlan. McLacklan, on the scene of Jon Snow, Daenerys and the dragon at the cliff edge: "We had to have a safety cable on Kit [Harington, who plays Snow], here, because his cloak was blowing so much we were afraid he was gonna be swept off the cliff."
Shakman has a terse comment on the scenes of Bran's 'seeing': "This raven, very hard to work with."
Recommended commentary track.
...H... 2nd of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 5, with Liam Cunningham (plays Davos Seaworth) and Iain Glen (plays Jorah Mormont). Glen asks Cunningham, "What are you going to feel like when it's all over?"
Cunningham, "I've been trying to prepare myself for the last year.... Off you're going, back to obscurity."
Cunningham: "Yeah. It's all right for anybody listening to this, it's all right for you. When this is over, you'll find something else to fall in love with. Our lives are essentially over. Yes. My bank manager's crapping himself."
Good commentary track, though these two old pros do get caught up in just watching the show.
...I... Commentary track on episode 6, "Beyond the Wall", with Alan Taylor (director), Jonathan Freemen (director of photography) and Sean Savage and David Morgan (camera operators). Taylor, on the rigors of the schedule: "I remember coming back [he hadn't directed an episode of GOT for a few years], I guess I'd gotten soft in my other jobs. We're going out and it was pouring rain and I kept looking around waiting for someone to say, 'OK, let's pack it in.' Nobody said anthing.... Finally, I went up to Toby and said, 'What if it keeps pouring, what do we do?' And he said, 'Oh, we keep shooting.' "
Good commentary track.
...episode 7, season finale... "The Dragon and the Wolf"
We say goodbye to another character, and I'm not sure if I'm sorry to see him leave or not. Sensa Stark: "I'm a slow learner. It's true. But I learn."
And a whole family dynasty is rewritten.
...J... "From Imagination to Reality: Inside the Art Department" (Part 1: 24 minutes, Part 2: 22 minutes) A full list of the 40 commentators is added as a note to this review.
Deborah Riley, on working on "Game Of Thrones": "Working in the art department is like an extreme sport." In this 2-part Bonus, among many other things, we're taken through decisions made on the creation of Dragonstone (castle on the island), Skull Room (in the basement of King's Landing), Dragon Pit (outside of King's Landing), Highgarden (base of the Tyrells), Map Rooms (at Dragonstone and the new floor at King's Landing) and the Citadel (Westeros' version of the Alexandria Library). All of these locations are new, except for the Dragonstone Map Room which was revamped for Season 7.
And WHAT locations! Daenerys' beach landing below Dragonstone castle is Zumaia Beach in Spain. It's rock formations echo dragon's teeth. And the long stairway wending up from the beach to Dragonstone are real, the stair and causeway leading to the island chapel of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
Also real is the Italica Coliseum, built by the Romans and used for the Dragon Pit. They CGI'd in the tall walls, and covered over the rectangular hole in the middle. But they used the long pit extending to the coliseum entrance as the underground ramp up which the Hound carries the crate with the wight.
Highgarden Castle scenes (and what a scene between Jaime and Lady Olenna Tyrell) were filmed at Almodovar Castle, again in Spain. It has turrets galore and sits high on a hill overlooking the valley and a river.
...K... "Fire and Steel: Creating the Invasion of Westeros" (30 minutes) Commentators include Bryan Cogman, Emilia Clarke (plays Daenerys), Dave Hill (story editor), Peter Dinklage (plays Tyrion), Nikolai Coster Waldail (plays Jaime), Keisha Castle-Hughes (plays Obara Sand), Rowley Irlam, Eric Carney (VFX), Frank Doelger (producer), Joe Bauer and Jerome Flynn (plays Bronn).
Joe Bauer says: "In season 6 we had 11 shots that featured Emilia riding the dragon. This year, we have over 80."
...L... 1st of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 7, "The Dragon and the Wolf", by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (both producers/writers), Lena Headey (plays Cersei) and Kit Harington.
...M... 2nd of 2 Commentary tracks on episode 7, with Jeremy Podesta (director) and Greg Middleton (director photography).
In a separate disc holder is "Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion, An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms." I found this delightful. Produced in 2017, this starts with the city of Valyria across the sea, "through magic or sheer will, they mastered the greatest creatures in history." That is, they had dragons. In 10 chapters, this 45 minute featurette takes you from Valyeria to Dragonstone and right up to the beginning of the first episode of Season 1. You'll recognize the various narrators, all characters in the TV series. This disc has audio options of English, French and Chinese language. And subtitle options of English SDH, French, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and two others.
With "Game of Thrones", I'm not just a Happy Reader, I'm a Happy Watcher. Now we're all on tenterhooks waiting for the last season.