(SOUNDBITE OF TV THEME, "GAME OF THRONES")
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
"Game Of Thrones" is back. Last night saw the first episode of the new season debut on HBO. For the first time though, the plot lines are not based on George R.R. Martin's books because he's taking so long to write new ones. Yes, that's a dig. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans was glued to the tube last night along with many other people. Warning - there will be spoilers in this conversation. Good morning, Eric.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: As you might've been able to tell there, I'm a huge fan.
DEGGANS: Just a little bit.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just a little bit. It's been 10 months - excruciating 10 months since the last episode. There were a lot of cliffhangers at the last season. Did you feel that these got resolved?
DEGGANS: Not exactly. I mean, by now fans should be used to these episodes that critics often call table-setting episodes, where things aren't actually resolved, but they're positioning a bunch of the plot lines that can serve as the spine of the season as it starts to unfold. For example, we got Jon Snow is one of the heroes of the show. And he was stabbed repeatedly last season by the Night's Watch, this group that he led. So of course, everybody's wondering, you know, will he be resurrected? Could he come back? Is he still alive? What's going on with this guy? So last night, we saw Jon Snow's body dragged into a room by his friends.
And in that room also this character named Melisandre, who's this priestess and sorceress who provided the night's really big reveal that she's actually this crone that looks like she's about 200 years old. And she's been disguising herself as a beautiful young woman with magic. So could somebody like that bring Jon Snow back to life?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I hope so. I can already hear the conspiracy theories roiling on the threads. Reddit OK, so each past season of "Game Of Thrones" of has been based on a book by George R.R. Martin. But this season deals with material from a book that Martin hasn't finished writing yet. Did you feel like it was different, the tone was different?
DEGGANS: Well, it may have felt like the stories in last night's episode were more direct. But I really felt like the episode worked a little too hard to catch you up on all these people that were involved in all these cliffhangers from last season. And one of my biggest issues with "Game Of Thrones", I've got to say, is that there are so characters in so many different locations that it's kind of hard for any one plot line to move ahead too much in an episode.
So last night, we saw a lot of this scene setting. For example, Peter Dinklage is Tyrion Lannister. He's stuck trying to keep control of this kingdom that's destabilized by rebels. We've got the mother of dragons who's being held captive by this warrior people called the Dothraki.
And there's a sense that all these characters being moved into positions where they can really deliver some juicy developments later. But that can make the table-setting episodes feel a little static, I think.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I also have to say one of the other big controversies is that last season was brutal, especially to the women on the show. Did you see any signs that they're changing the tone?
DEGGANS: Well, the producers have often said that they were positioning the female characters to take over storylines in more empowering ways. And if people would just hang with the story, they'd see that the female characters actually get to do more and get treated better. And we saw a little bit of that last night.
But again, when we saw the witch Melisandre reveal who she really was, she took off all her clothes as a young woman first before she dropped this illusion and we saw how old she really was. So "Game Of Thrones" still got a little a bit of that gratuitous nudity in there that they're known for.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So thumbs up, thumbs down?
DEGGANS: (Laughter) I give it a thumbs sideways. You know, one of the things I think about this show is it takes a while to see if the storylines kind of play out. So we're going to need to see a few episodes to see if they really got the balance right and they've got the writing in George R.R. Martin's voice nailed. So I'm going to give it a thumbs sideways until I see a few more.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's very controversial. All right, Eric Deggans, thank you so much for joining us.
DEGGANS: Always a pleasure.
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