Spoiler Warning for the Season 7 Premiere of “Game of Thrones,” as well as all episodes from previous seasons.
Gather round lords and ladies, because winter is here. After a hiatus that lasted more than a year, “Game of Thrones” has made its highly anticipated return to television…but you already knew that; everyone knows that, even those that don’t watch the show know that. In the penultimate season, the stakes are raised tenfold and there is no going back. War is here and all of the main players are on the board and ready to make their final moves. Who will survive? Who will die? Who will sit on the Iron Throne? These are all questions that have been asked by fans since the start of the series, and now that things are wrapping up, the answers are closer than ever. In the Season Premiere, viewers are taken around Westeros to catch up with each of the characters before the chaos and fighting officially begins. While not perfect, this opener does set the stage for what is sure to be a thrilling chapter in this epic saga. With that, let’s take a trip over to Westeros to see what all the fuss is about!
In order to recap and review this episode as coherently as possible, events will be discussed by location rather than in chronological order.
The Twins/The Riverlands
“Game of Thrones” left off last season with two of the greatest episodes in television history (“Battle of the Bastards” and “The Winds of Winter”), mostly due to the rapid developments in the story and with the characters. A major turning point in the story came via Arya’s (Maisie Williams) well-earned opportunity to avenge her fallen family by killing Walder Frey (David Bradley). However, this episode begins with an unusual cold open prior to the credits with Walder speaking to his men, seemingly congratulating them for their victory in slaughtering the Starks at the Red Wedding. Wine is served to the Frey men, but in an unexpected twist, Walder begins lecturing about the atrocities committed on that fateful night, most notably the killing of Robb (Richard Madden), Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley). The men begin choking, vomiting and ultimately, collapsing to the floor and dying as Walder’s face is pulled away to reveal Arya. Yes…she just did THAT and we shouldn’t be surprised at all. We’ve already seen how badass Arya is, but this might just be her most epic moment in the series thus far. After training with the Faceless Men in Braavos, Arya used her trick to turn the tables and slaughter those that were responsible for killing her family; she even enlists the help of one of Walder’s wives to deliver a message to explain what happened to everyone, “The North Remembers.” Drop the mic and roll the credits. We do see Arya later as she meets up with a traveling band of soldiers that are on their way to The Twins to help Lord Frey; one of these soldiers is none other than Ed Sheeran, who makes a slightly out-of-place cameo to sing a song. Arya “jokingly” tells the group that she is traveling down to King’s Landing to kill Queen Cersei…and seeing as how she just massacred the Freys, I fully believe that she is capable of this.
There is some big time drama happening in the Capital city and I am quite sure that it is the last place that I would want to be. Cersei (Lena Headey) has absolutely LOST IT…if that wasn’t already clear when she blew up the Sept of Baelor. Conflict between the newly-crowned Queen and her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) was teased in the final moments of the Season Finale and we quickly see a divide forming; it’s clear that Jaime knows that his sister isn’t right in the head, but there’s not much that he can do about it right now. While looking at a map of Westeros, Cersei points out that there are enemies in every direction and that they must be prepared to defend their “dynasty,” which Jaime calls nonexistent due to the fact that their children are now dead; Cersei seems pretty much unaffected about Tommen’s (Dean-Charles Chapman) death, but Jaime desperately needs to talk about it. With winter now here, Jaime is also worried about the lack of allies and the possibility that Lannister soldiers will starve without food supplies from House Tyrell. Although, Cersei always has a card hidden and in this case, it is Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) who docks in King’s Landing to propose marriage, but also the entire Iron Fleet, which he states is the largest and most powerful collection of ships in Westeros. Jaime expresses his distrust of Euron, bringing up the fact that he killed his own brother and betrayed others, but Euron defends this and even tells Cersei that she should kill her brother (I hope this isn’t some sick foreshadowing); there is also a mention of Theon (Alfie Allen) and Yara (Gemma Whalen), who Euron clearly wishes dead. Cersei doesn’t accept Euron’s offer, but he doesn’t give up and leaves to retrieve a gift for her…which I’m am predicting will be Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) head. I have to say that the character of Euron is already far more interesting this season than he was previously and I really look forward to his arc moving forward, especially if it involves more scenes with Cersei and Jaime.
Following the loud and proud proclamation of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) as “The King in the North,” as well as the reveal that Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, the real work begins. Jon has seen the Army of the Dead and he knows that it is the greatest threat currently at play. With this, he speaks to the Northern lords and ladies to prepare their defenses. He appoints Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and the rest of the Free Folk to serve as the new Night’s Watch and defend the Wall against the White Walkers. He is also placed in a difficult predicament when questions are raised about Houses Karstark and Umber, both of which fought for Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) in the Battle of the Bastards even though they previously swore allegiance to House Stark. Sansa openly opposes Jon’s desire to forgive the betrayals, allowing the two houses to remain in their castles and defend the Wall; she believes that loyal families should be allowed to replace the Karstarks and the Umbers to assure absolute cooperation. This creates a bit of tension between Sansa and Jon, but I have to say that I’m on Sansa’s side when it comes to this dilemma even though I admire that Jon’s leadership style is clearly modeled after that of Ned (Sean Bean). In the meeting, we see Lady Lyanna (Bella Ramsey) putting Lord Glover (Tim McInnerny) and all of the other men in their place as she staunchly proclaims that she doesn’t need the permission of any man to defend the North and that all girls shall be trained to fight alongside the boys; this powerful speech is met with a smile by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and I seriously hope we get some scenes between these two powerhouses. I could honestly watch Lyanna lecture doubting men all day…can this please be one of the spinoffs that HBO is developing?
After the meeting, Brienne is shown to be training Podrick (Daniel Portman) and there is more hilariously awkward flirting from Tormund; whether their relationship goes anywhere or not, I hope they keep up this odd sexual/romantic tension between the two. This episode does paint Sansa in a bit of an annoying way, similar to how her character was in Season 1. After calling Jon out in front of his people, she continues to berate him for disregarding her advice, even bringing up Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) unwillingness to listen to others. Still, it’s clear that Sansa loves and respects her brother, but I do worry that Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) may be sinking his claws into her; I really don’t want to see the Starks torn apart, but it really does seem to be going in that direction. Jon and Sansa are made aware of the fact that Cersei has become Queen, but Jon is far more concerned with the White Walkers, explaining that the Lannister soldiers don’t have experience fighting in the snow. Sansa tells Jon that she learned a lot from Cersei, a worrying tidbit of information, but I definitely don’t think she would ever go so far as to betray her own house, especially after everything she has been through. Sansa really is a wildcard this season and I’m not exactly sure what her arc will be this season, but I am thrilled that we are getting more scenes between her and Jon.
For the past six seasons, Sam (John Bradley) has been a character that has mostly sat on the sidelines, tossing in a cheery punchline and occasionally getting in on the action, but it seems as though he is being set up to be a major player as the story wraps up. Last season, he was shown venturing to the Citadel in Oldtown to become Castle Black’s new maester, but he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. After his arrival, Sam is immediately put to work and his responsibilities are shown in an extremely out of place montage; most of his jobs include taking care of the maesters and it is quite disgusting. He also gets to help the Archmaester in his research, but what Sam is really interested in is the restricted section of the library that apparently contains information about the White Walkers. After swiping some keys, Sam enters the restricted section and collects several books to take home; Gilly (Hannah Murray) plays with Little Sam, but also urges Big Sam to get some sleep, obviously concerned for his health after a long day of scrubbing bed pans. In one of the book’s that he took, Sam discovers a map with the location of a large supply of dragonglass, which can be used to kill White Walkers; the location is Dragonstone and Sam realizes that Jon must be made aware of this information. Later, there is a shocking reveal when Sam is shown tending to the sick, one of which is Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), who’s body is becoming overtaken by Grayscale. Jorah asks Sam if Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has arrived in Westeros, but he isn’t sure. How Jorah came to be in Oldtown is still unknown, but we do know that Dany ordered him to travel to the ends of the world to find a cure for his Grayscale; could that cure be at the Citadel?
The North/The Wall
Since the beginning of the series, we have known about the threat posed by the White Walkers, but this Season Premiere does a great job at making you all the more fearful with a single shot; The Army of the Dead is growing and they have giants now…yes, you heard that right. Just north of the Wall, Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) wait outside of the entrance to Castle Black before they are met by Edd (Ben Crompton) and some other brothers of the Night’s Watch. Using his crazy power of knowledge, Bran proves himself to be who he says he is and Ed allows the two to enter. Hopefully, we get to see a Bran/Sansa/Jon reunion soon, but this is “Game of Thrones” and happy moments are far and few between. I just have to point out how Meera is the real MVP for taking care of Bran and protecting him through the harshness of the North.
Elsewhere, we pick back up with the Hound (Rory McCann) and Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) as they spend the night in an abandoned cabin with the rest of the Brotherhood Without Banners. This night proves to be incredibly difficult for the Hound as he quickly realizes that the cabin belonged to a father and daughter that he crossed paths with back in Season 4, when he stole silver from them. In this episode, the skeletons of the family are found, apparently dead from suicide; in the middle of the night, the Hound is shown burying the bodies and apologizes for what happened to them. There is also a chilling scene where some of the Brothers urge the Hound to stare into the fire and see a message from the Lord of Light; he complies after some hilarious complaining and he describes in detail a White Walker siege at the coastal edge of the Wall. Whether he was lying about seeing something in the fire or not, it is clear that the Hound is not the same person we met back in Season 1; this episode is proof that he has had some of the best character development in the series. Not only is the Hound more emotional, but he really shows some humanity and regret, quickly pushing him up the list of my favorite characters. With the apparent message from the Lord of Light, will the Hound lead the Brotherhood Without Banners up to the Wall?
The most recent episodes of “Game of Thrones” have been showing some of the payoff to years of buildup. The clearest case of this is the long-anticipated arrival of Daenerys and her dragons in Westeros. After sailing across the Narrow Sea, Dany and her fleet dock and make their way to shore, allowing the Dragon Queen to set foot on the sands of her birthplace for the first time in years. This powerful moment is made even more special as she slowly makes her way to the castle, once controlled by Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), allowing herself to live in the moment and appreciate the fact that she is finally home. After entering the castle, Dany immediately tears down the Baratheon flags and makes her way into the Throne room, an awe-inspiring palace that may be more beautiful than the Iron Throne itself. The importance of the moment is clearly understood by Dany’s council, especially Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), who holds Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) back to allow the Queen to experience the occasion alone. Tyrion and Dany enter the strategy room with the large stone table map of Westeros and waste no time, getting straight to work; “shall we begin?” Dany asks, showing that six seasons of waiting has paid off and that she is ready to fight for what is hers.
The Season 7 Premiere of “Game of Thrones” may not be the spectacle of the previous two episodes, but it does serve as a necessary transition between seasons and sets up the various storylines. With all of the major players now in Westeros, the wars will surely begin, but one can’t forget that a major part of war is the strategic planning; this is something that was very much present in this episode, mostly with Jon and Cersei. With just six episodes left this season, the story will likely be far more fast-paced than before, but I do hope that the characters remain at the center of everything. Ramin Djawadi continues with his epic musical score, with Dany’s theme playing as she enters Dragonstone being a major highlight. While the developments with the characters are fascinating to watch, some of the interactions this episode do feel a bit heavy-handed and somewhat like fan-service, but maybe I’ve just read a few too many Internet theories; while the characters do have means of long-distance communication, it was rather odd to hear some of them discussing events happening thousands of miles away (ex. Cersei discussing Arya’s massacre, Euron talking about Theon and Yara aligning with Dany, etc.). Still, this is a strong episode and I wholly believe that the next six episodes have the potential to be the best of the series.
Be sure to tune into “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.