At long last, we were welcomed back into the world of Westeros last night as ‘Game of Thrones’ made its triumphant return for the penultimate 7th season. And what a welcome we got! The first episode of this season, which we had to wait an extra three months for this year, began as the premieres usually do with an epic cold open, and then focused on establishing where most of the characters are and what their goals will be this season, and made sure to include some dragons, some magic, and lot of talk about Winter, which has finally come to ‘Game of Thrones.’
The epic cold open featured “Walder Frey” welcoming almost all of his kinsman back to his great hall, the very same hall where the Red Wedding took place a few seasons ago, and since last season ended with Arya killing Walder Frey, you know another momentous event was about to happen there. The “Walder Frey” toasting his kinsmen was clearly anything but, and it was amazing watching the actor portray Frey as Arya in disguise, and the tension in the scene was a lot of fun, because we all knew that the toast he was proposing was not going to end well for his family. As the men around toppled from the poison wine, Arya ripped off her Walder Frey mask and exited the room, satisfied she had exacted her revenge on the Freys, and telling the women left behind to share the story that Winter came for the Freys.
Aside from that murderous session though, the premiere pretty much did what it does every season, which is very little. Which I know is disappointing to a lot of fans, but hey, they have to get the exposition out there so they can have the big battles and the dragons later, so people need to calm down before they start the standard “‘Game of Thrones’ sucks this year” rant that inevitably follows every premiere. To catch up briefly on our primary characters, Cersei and Jaime are in King’s Landing preparing for the worst as the armies of Jon Snow gather in the North and Daenerys lands at Dragonstone with her army to the east, with Jamie concerned his sister is ignoring her grief over all her lost children. Cersei, meanwhile, has invited Euron Greyjoy and his new massive 1,000 ship navy to King’s Landing, and the man promises a “little gift” for the queen to earn her hand in marriage, a gift many suspect will be Tyrion himself, especially after Euron and Cersei banter about the betrayal of relatives, and how much Euron enjoyed killing his own brother.
Samwise Tarley is in the “shit” at the Citadel (the only new location in the opening credits), where he is literally putting away books, serving food, and cleaning up the bowel movements of the older Maesters, desperate to get into the forbidden section of the library so he can make some polyjuice potion… oops, wrong fantasy series. But I know I was not the only one enjoying those similarities. Eventually he breaks in and steals some of the books dealing with the legends of the Long Winter, and learns about a cache of Dragon glass on Dragonstone island, right before he crosses paths with Jorah Mormont in the Citadel prison area, who looks to be succumbing entirely to the greyscale and demands to know if Dany has arrived in Westeros yet.
Meanwhile, The Hound is still hanging out with Beric Donadarrion and his merry band, and they just so happen to stop for refuge from the Winter cold at the very same house that the Hound and Arya stopped at 3 or 4 seasons ago, and the bodies of the inhabitants are still right where the Hound left them after he murdered them. After a disturbing look into the flames where he sees an army of the dead marching on the part of the Wall closest to the sea, the Hound reveals how far his humanity has progressed by succumbing to his guilt and burying the dead bodies and then giving them somewhat proper funeral rites, something he would not have done back when Arya knew him.
Jon and Sansa meanwhile are at Winterfell preparing for the march of the Night King and the White Walkers, though Sansa is clearly chafing under Jon’s newfound role as King, especially when he ignores her advice about punishing the heirs to the families who betrayed Rob Stark in the most recent war. Littlefinger does not help matters with his dark and knowing looks to Sansa and pointed remarks, but it is also clear that Sansa respects Jon as a leader and admires his compassion, she just worries he may be a bit naive, and she wants him to listen to her on some matters as she has learned much of the great game in her time abroad, and has knowledge Jon can use, especially about Cersei, who is still a real threat, despite Jon’s confidence that Cersei would not come north with Winter on.
Farther north, Bran Stark and Meera Reed arrive at the wall, skipping over how exactly they managed to escape the hordes of White Walkers who were chasing them after Hodor held the door for the them. Bran has been warging and has seen the massive White Walker army approaching, though what his plan is after getting to the Wall we will not know till next week, as his story cuts off shortly after the Night’s Watch grants him passage through the Wall.
After her victory at the Twins over the Freys, Arya heads south and comes across a small group of Lannister soldiers sent to keep order in the Riverlands now that the Freys have been disposed of, and though it seems very likely that she plans on murdering them all (especially since Ed Sheeran is inexplicably amongst their ranks, which for this viewer almost certainly means they’re all going to die because ‘Thrones’ does not seem the kind of show to keep a cameo appearance like that going for long), their kindness (sharing food, stories, and song) seems to have softened her feelings toward them. The scene ends with them asking what business brings her south, alone, with her bluntly informing them that she is heading to King’s Landing to kill the Queen. They laugh, thinking she is joking, but we will see what fate befalls this odd band when the show returns next week.
And lastly, Daenerys and her forces arrive at Dragonstone, a momentous event for her and the show as she returns to her ancestral home, and one done almost entirely without dialogue, as her allies follow behind her as she takes the long path to the castle, taking in all the sights in silence along the way. Finally, at the end of the episode, as Dany walks around the massive map/ model of Westeros where Stannis Barathon once planned his own conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, Dany turns to her friends and allies, and says “Shall we begin?” and the episode concludes, letting us know the real fun will start next week.
GAME OF THEORIES:
- I think that Sam will free Jorah Mormont and use his relationship with Dany to get access to Dragonstone, where he will request an audience with Dany to explain the situation with the White Walkers and the importance of the cache of Dragon glass on the island.
- I’m also pushing a new theory, since we know Arya is most likely getting her direwolf back this season, that the only Starks that will be alive at the end of the series will be the Starks who still have living direwolves, namely Jon Snow and Arya. Sorry Bran and Sansa, you’re important, but we know that characters are going to be dropping like flies between now and the end, and you are very likely top candidates.
- Speaking of Sansa, I think it is only a matter of time before she starts making her own moves to “help” Jon out behind his back, and this will be the cause of the inevitable argument and major rift between the two that seems all too likely. Expect Littlefinger to be right there stoking the fires of their feud the whole time as well.
- Will Bran stay at the Wall or is he on his way back to Winterfell as well to unite with his siblings? While part of me does want to see all the remaining Starks back together, I cannot help but want to see him remain at the Wall so we can see when the White Walker army arrives there, and get a narrative that is separate from the big reunion at Winterfell.
The episode had it flaws, chief among them for me was the fact that Tyrion did not have a word of dialogue, but it can be forgiven since no one in Dany’s party really said anything this episode. There also was not much action, as even Arya’s Frey Massacre was done with poison, but I know they will get there soon enough so I can be patient. The whole poop montage with Sam in the Citadel was extremely over the top for me, and very hard to watch, and it did not help that they followed it up with an autopsy that held nothing back, making me wonder if the whole thing had a purpose or was done just to mess with the audience. End of the day though, these were pretty minor gripes and I thought it was a pretty solid season opener otherwise, and I am very happy to have the show back, especially now that we are so close to the end game, and have so many big events finally happening.
Check back here next week for the review of the second episode of Season 7!