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TV Review: 'Game Of Thrones' Returns For Its 7th Season


MAISIE WILLIAMS: (As Arya Stark) When people ask you what happened here, tell them winter came for House Frey.


Oh, yes, winter is here, and so is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans to talk about last night's episode of "Game Of Thrones." It was the premiere of the seventh season of HBO's sword-and-sandals saga. Good morning, Eric.


GREENE: Shall we begin?

DEGGANS: We should begin. And we should begin with a spoiler alert...


DEGGANS: ...And let people know we're going to talk in detail about this episode that happened on Sunday night.

GREENE: OK, alert accepted. So what happened?


DEGGANS: Well, I thought this was a great episode. You know, we TV critics - we talk about this concept called table setting, where they have to position a lot of different characters to get them in the right position so the drama really unfolds when the season really gets started. And "Game Of Thrones" has to do this every season. And I thought they really did it well with this episode. It started with this character that we heard at the beginning killing a whole roomful of people with poison (laughter)

GREENE: Oh, nice.

DEGGANS: And then we - yeah, and then we get to the evil Lannister siblings, who control the Iron Throne. And then we have the Stark children, who are focused on the Lannisters because they killed their dad. And we also have the Mother of Dragons out there, who's also - has designs on the Iron Throne. They're all plotting. And they even pulled off a cameo by pop singer Ed Sheeran as a singing foot soldier.

GREENE: (Laughter) That's great.

DEGGANS: So you've got to love that.

GREENE: I love that.

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

GREENE: All right. So all of this table setting - which is why episode one ended with, shall we begin, right?

DEGGANS: Exactly.

GREENE: But there's not a whole lot of time left. This is supposed to be really short season, just seven episodes. Why is that?

DEGGANS: Yeah, it's interesting. So they had 13 episodes that they were going to sort of finish the series with. And they decided to split them in half. So we'll get seven this year, and we'll get six next year. And it makes sense because this is HBO's most popular show. And it's a way to sort of extend the farewell and make it last almost an entire year. And it gives them time to either build up one of another HBO shows to get to that popularity level or find a new show to get that popularity level.

GREENE: I'm going to make a confession. I was watching "Law & Order SVU," a rerun, last night during - when this was on (laughter). I feel terrible admitting that.

DEGGANS: Yeah. What are we going to do with you, man?


GREENE: But, I mean, for people who love "Game Of Thrones," I mean, it - there's so much hype. There were watching parties. I was looking at it on Instagram and seeing photos of them.

DEGGANS: Didn't you feel a little left out?

GREENE: Did it live up to all this? Totally left out, yeah.

DEGGANS: (Laughter) Well, here's the thing. You know, I know there are some people out there - Sam Sanders, I'm talking to you - who feel like there's too much hype on "Game Of Thrones." But either you get it, or you don't. You know, either you like these sand-and-sandal kind of stories, or you don't. And there's a lot of backstory, so it's hard to jump into the show now - even when you hear all this hype, and you read all these things to try and get you up to speed.

But Sunday's episode, I thought, was very well-focused. It was tight storytelling. We had some touches of comedy. We had a lot of foreboding, you know? There's a real sense that these producers have figured out how to tell this story. They're telling a story that's beyond the books that it was based on. They really know what they're doing, and they're powering towards a finale that they seem to really have in their crosshairs. This is epic filmmaking. I mean, they're doing a TV version of "Lord Of The Rings" in a sense. And I really liked it.

GREENE: Epic filmmaking but with larger themes that they often touch on.

DEGGANS: Yeah, this idea that, is heroism a weakness, or is it something that exalts you? We're going to see this play out during the season. Are you made better by a conscience, or are you made weak by one? Look for that theme as the show plays out.

GREENE: You almost make me want to watch this, Eric. I have to tell you this - almost.

DEGGANS: I'm doing my job then (laughter).

GREENE: Thanks, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

GREENE: All right. That is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans talking about "Game Of Thrones," which, apparently, a few of you out there watched last night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.