Game of Thrones S7 Ep 1: Dragonstone
Well, I’m back. It’s about four years since I last wrote a Game of Thrones episode review and about three years since I last watched the show… but I just can’t resist it. So here we go. Season 7.
Previously on Game of Thrones… there is no previously, so I’m going to have to rely on my memory. Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor, with the Tyrells and a bunch of other people inside, Sansa and Jon formed Team Winterfell, Tyrion and Dany formed Team Dragon, and Dany finally left for Westeros. Oh, and Arya made Frey Pie. What else? I don’t know. Hopefully nothing important.
The new season opens on Walder Frey, presiding over a feast. I actually can’t remember whether Arya murdered Walder Frey at the end of last season, or whether she just appeared before him, all threatening, but either way, he’s clearly dead now. Walder Frey does not throw lots of feasts for his family. He doesn’t speak about how all cool they all are. But the rest of the Frey family aren’t clued up on the whole face-stealing thing, so they’re happy to cheer and drink their wine, laughing about the deaths of the Starks.
As Walder Frey’s speech about the Red Wedding becomes less and less “yay us!” and more and more “dudes wtf,” the Freys around him start to choke. Because they’re dumbasses, and their wine is all poisoned. Once they’re all dead, Arya pulls of Walder Frey’s face. “The North remembers,” she tells Walder Frey’s wife. “Winter came for House Frey.”
But first, that opening. It’s a really strong scene, but it’s also unusual. The show doesn’t do cold opens very often. So I can’t help wondering why they picked it this time, other than perhaps to bring us back into the world of Westeros before hitting us with the excitement of the credits. But if it has a message, or a theme, I think it’s this: Winter is Here. Where Winter is Arya, and Here means “here to kill you.” It’s the season for revenge, and the bit players are all disappearing. It’s the Starks, the Lannisters, and the Targaryans, and the North remembers.
At least, that’s my guess. So far I’ve seen five minutes of this season, so I could be totally wrong. All the Starks could die three minutes into episode 2, although I think, if they did, I’d probably have heard about it.
Anyway, we jump into the credits, and they’re SO GOOD. I’d forgotten how good they are. Yay Game of Thrones, they says. You love this show! Ignore all the bullshit it’s done in the past. Listen to that music! Look at that map! Aren’t you excited??
It’s totally worked on me. Gimme S7 right now.
We open again in the frozen north. The wind howls, and rolling fog approaches. In the centre, we can see a figure emerging. Is it a person? A figure on horseback? It’s impossible to tell. But as it approaches, we realize it isn’t just one figure. It’s a man at the front of an army. And as he comes closer still, we realize it’s not a man at all. It’s the Night King, leading his army south. The shot goes on an on as the army marches slowly, unstoppably forward, filling the screen. The camera pans up to fit more of them in and as they march past, zombie men at first, but then monsters, and giants, a crowd that never seems to end.
Theme two for this season: the North is fucked.
But that’s a threat for another day. First, the Night’s Watch have to deal with Bran, the creepiest and generally worst of the Starks. He’s being dragged to the Wall by Myra Reed. No more Hodor, no more Jojen. Everything else they were travelling with is dead. BECAUSE OF BRAN AND HIS STUPID ARROGANCE AND BRAINWASHING MIND CONTROL AND GAH, BRAN, WHY.
The guys at the Wall are rightfully suspicious that these kids heading south are claiming to be Brandon Stark and Myra Reed, so what does Bran do? Does he tell them things about the Starks that show he’s not a wildling, at least? Speak about Winterfell? Nope. Not Bran. Instead, he decides to go all creepy prophet. “You’ve seen the Night King,” he tells the guard, like that answers his question. “He’s coming for us. All of us.”
Somehow, Brandon, that’s not reassuring. But I guess the guard has heard rumors of Bran’s Stark’s creepiness, because it works, and they let him in.
Jump to Winterfell! Jon is giving a speech to his men, with Davos on his right, and Sansa on his left. I’m not going to lie. Jon’s speech is… pretty uninspiring. He’s talking about the desperate need for dragonglass, but he sounds really bored about the whole thing. Maybe even the Prince that was Promised can’t make finding and mining metal sound exciting.
His plan to protect the North, basically, is make lots of weapons and teach everyone to fight. Everyone. “Not just the boys. We can’t defend the North if only half the population is fighting.” Some dude from Bear Island is really unhappy about the idea of his granddaughter with a weapon, but said granddaughter, Mildred Hubble from the Worst Witch, speaks up to say that actually, she will be fighting, cos she’s awesome.
Yay girl power! Except… aren’t the women from Bear Island warriors anyway? I’m sure that’s very much A Thing in the books. So let’s call this the first strike of Game of Thrones’ new favourite game: shouting “look how feminist we are now!!!” while actually making the show less progressive in order to make the point.
Like, I’m not going to complain too much. That game is way more fun than “look how gross and exploitative we are!” And they tried. At least they tried.
Jon is sending the Wildlings to be the new Night’s Watch, and the Northerners start arguing about what to do with the castles of the traitotous Karstarks and Umbers, who fought for the Boltons. Jon wants to let the castles stay with their families, and Sansa is not having it. “So there’s no punishment for treason and no reward for loyalty?” she says. “Give the castles to the families of the men who died fighting for you.” She looks very much like Catelyn now. Honestly, the harsh way they’ve styled her hair doesn’t suit her at all — girl needs some bangs or something — and I’m not a fan of these weird metal-ring-themed dresses they’ve decided to put her in, but whatever. She’s got more important stuff to deal with than fashion. Plus that wolf collar is on point.
But Jon doesn’t like her interference. “I will not punish a son for his father’s sins,” he says, letting some of his own family angst out, “and I will not take a family home away from a family it has belonged to for centuries. That is my decision, and my decision is final.” Sansa looks pissed, and as soon as they’re outside and alone again, the argument comes out.
He thinks she’s undermining him. “You are my sister but I am king now.” But she’s not having that either: he’ll be king, she says, when he starts wearing a crown. “Joffrey never let anyone question his authority, do you think he was a good king?”
Sansa has learned the power of a sick burn.
I really like Sansa and Jon’s dynamic in this scene, as they challenge and affirm one another, but I can’t stop the voice in the back of my mind that says that she should be in charge. Sansa is the Starks’ oldest legitimate child, and since everyone thinks Bran is dead, that makes her the heir. She should be Lady of Winterfell, and so if there’s going to be a leader in the North, it should be her.
But I guess then Jon couldn’t be so protagonist-y, and they wouldn’t have so much potential tension.
It does make me wonder what’ll happen when Bran shows up again, though. Won’t that cause problems for Jon’s claim, if a legitimate Stark son appears? Maybe his creepiness disqualifies him.
Following the idea of “setting up themes for the season,” Jon muses on what Ned always taught him, and Sansa tells him he needs to be smarter than their father was. Because Jon is kind of like Ned Stark with the whole honor thing, and Ned Stark is super, super dead.
“And how should I be smarter?” he asks. “By listening to you?”
Obviously. The White Walkers aren’t the only threat they face, and Jon has never been south of Winterfell. He doesn’t know anything about the other kingdoms, about Cersei or Tyrion or Olenna Tyrell. He doesn’t know how all that politics works, and Sansa has had a masterclass in it. To underline the point, they’re interrupted by a raven from Cersei, ordering Jon to travel to King’s Landing and bend the knee. Jon thinks Cersei will never bother to attack them in the North now Winter is here, but Sansa is the one who really understands her — “she’ll never stop until she’s destroyed you.” “You almost sound as if you admire her,” he says. “I learned a great deal from her,” she replies.
And jump to Cersei, standing on a huge map of Westeros. She’s wearing a Serious Black Dress too. What happened to the colors in this show??
Jaime enters the room behind her, and together the twins plot their whole “taking all of Westeros” thing. In case anyone’s wondering if Jaime has got any more book-like since last season, he makes sure to tell us that he’s not angry with Cersei for the whole murdering-buttloads-of-people-with-fire thing, even if that’s exactly what he killed Aerys Targaryen to prevent him doing. He’s not afraid of her either. But he does think she’s incapable of basic strategy, as he reminds her that they need allies. “You think I listened to father for 40 years and learned nothing?” she asks.
And SHIPS! Really, really cool looking ships, all Kraken-y, with sails that look kind of impractical, but, you know, cool. Jaime and Cersei stand outside, watching them approach. “You invited the Greyjoys to King’s Landing?” Jaime asks. It’s convenient that instead of just telling him about the Greyjoys, she was able to take him outside and show him the ships that just, coincidentally, happened to be approaching at that moment. I guess she saw them out of the window and figured this would be more dramatic.
But guys. GUYS. I’m really distracted in this scene. I can’t stop looking at the lion’s face on Jaime’s shoulders. It’s RIDICULOUS.
LOOK! LOOK AT ITS MOUTH. WHAT IS THIS???
Putting fear into the hearts of men, there, Jaime.
Either way, Euron Greyjoy is here. He strides into the throne room, and… I have absolutely no memory of this guy’s face. None. Has he appeared in the show before? Is he the really religious one from the books? Who is this guy??? I find the Greyjoys and the Iron Fleet boring as a rule, but seriously, I do NOT remember this guy. What about that other guy? Victarion? Is he around? Maybe I should have paid more attention when the Ironborn were on screen…
I’m only half paying attention now. Jaime and Euron seem to be competing to see who’s the coolest and snarkiest, and Euron is winning, but it’s not exactly a hard competition. I remember Jaime being really funny in the books. And maybe in the show too, in earlier seasons?? But here, he’s just annoying. Maybe it’s the fact that I can still see that damn lion on his shoulder. He’s no cool pirate.
But despite Jaime’s annoyingness, Cersei rejects Euron’s proposal, so he offers to fetch her a priceless gift to convince her.
And then we jump… somewhere. A new location. I assume, unlike the last jump, that this isn’t supposed to be connected, and he isn’t offering her the priceless gift of… a library. I mean, it’s a pretty huge library. Belle would be impressed. But I’m not sure it’s what Cersei has in mind.
It’s Oldtown, and here’s Sam, looking bored out of his mind as he does gross, repetitive jobs, day after day, complete with really graphic depictions of chamberpots. Like… I guess this is a positive change from the kind of graphicness the show is known for? Maybe? I don’t know. It’s pretty disgusting. But he empties chamberpot after chamberpot, and stares wistfully at a locked gate in the library.
And just as I think the gross scene is over, we jump to a dissection scene! The Grand Maester pulls a liver out of a guy and hands it to Sam to weigh and I think I’m going to be sick. Are they doing this on purpose?? Making sure they get that adult rating even now they’ve ditched their old nonsense? Someone send help. I can’t cope with this.
As Sam weighs the liver, he reveals his plan. He wants to get into the Restricted Section of the Citadel, and since he doesn’t have an invisibility cloak at his disposal, he needs to ask the Grand Maester for permission. But the Grand Maester simply reminds him that only maesters can use the Restricted Section, and he’s not going to give him a permission slip.
But, the Grand Maester does tell him that he does believe him when he speaks about the White Walkers. He doesn’t believe him enough to be concerned — the Wall has always survived before, and the world has never ended — but you know, it’s something.
So Sam sets out to steal a maester’s keys, and break into the Restricted Section to steal some books too.
Back in Winterfell, Brienne is training Pod in the courtyard, with all the kindness and generosity that show!Brienne is known for. “No,” she says, as Pod attempts to fight. “No. No.” She shoves him to the ground, and Redhaired Wildling Man Whose Name I’ve Forgotten grins. “You’re a lucky man,” he tells Pod, as he lies on the ground, and I’m sure everyone laughs cos lol, shippiness.
Except no, dude. This guy is sketchy as fuuuuck. Brienne is clearly totally exasperated by him at best, and the whole joke is “oh Brienne isn’t attractive or feminine but he’s totally into her ability to kill him anyway.” I hope he’s leaving soon.
Sansa watches from the ramparts, and Littlefinger approaches her. “She’s a very impressive woman,” Littlefinger says, proving his ability to be creepy AF about all women, not just Sansa.
But Sansa is so done with his crap. “What do you want, Lord Baelish?” she says, sounding as bored of him as it’s possible to sound. “I want you to be happy,” he tells her. “I want you to be safe.” Continuing with her totally bored tone, she tells him that she is safe, but like the jerkbag Nice Guy he is, Littlefinger refuses to accept her dismissal. “What about happy?” he asks. “Why aren’t you happy?”
I don’t know, Littlefinger. Maybe because people like you have schemed against her for the past several years, forcing her into horrific and abusive situations, and now you’re still here, haunting her, while an army of zombies starts to make its way to the castle? Just a guess.
But Sansa is so fucking done with him, and I love it. “No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish,” she says, as she turns away. “I’ll assume it was something clever.”
Brienne climbs the ramparts to ask Sansa the question we’re all screaming: why is he still here?? But Sansa’s reply sadly makes too much sense. This is war, and they need his men.
Meanwhile, Arya rides along the road on her horse, and hears Ed Sheeran singing in the distance. It’s the song that Tyrion is obsessed with in A Dance With Dragons, about how hands of gold are cold etc etc, and I’m totally distracted trying to remember where it comes from in the books. But Ed Sheeran Lannister just says it’s a new song, and offers Arya some food.
And thus begins the world’s most boring scene. It’s not pointless, exactly. You see, these guys are Lannisters soldiers, Arya’s enemies, but they’re also nice. They have families and dreams and make their own blackberry wine. It’s a scene that says, “Hey, Arya, maybe don’t be such a murdering psycho, like, all the time?” But it just drags on and on. We don’t know these people. We don’t care about their dads and their homes. The only interesting moments comes from Arya herself, when they ask her what she’s going to do in King’s Landing, and she tells them she’s going to kill the queen. They all laugh at this great joke, and so the scene ends, having gone literally nowhere. Especially as we’ve already seen that Arya doesn’t hate and kill completely indiscriminately, because she saved the Frey woman in the very first scene of this episode!
Farther north, Sandor Clegane is wandering with the Brotherhood, and I really can’t remember what they’re supposed to be doing, but the show doesn’t see fit to remind me. Maybe they’re just wandering. Sandor looks like he regrets not bringing gloves.
They find a house with the bodies of a man and his daughter, and Sandor seems to recognize them. Like Gandalf, I have no memory of this place, and again, the show isn’t about to enlighten me further right now. Beric encourages Sandor to look into the flames and see the Lord of Light. For some reason, Sandor does, and he sees the army of the dead we saw at the beginning, thousands of them, marching south.
Later, Sandor is outside, burying the bodies they found in the house. That seems like a big mistake when the dead have a tendency to walk around and murder people, but what do I know? I don’t even remember where these guys are or what they’re trying to do. Maybe they don’t actually know about the zombies properly yet.
Beric notes that Sandor knew the people he’s burying, and I spend the rest of the scene desperately trying to remember who the hell they might be. It’s been a really long time, guys. I can’t tell what’s a call-back and what’s foreshadowing any more. According to Google, they’re a family that he stole from while travelling with Arya back in S4. But yeah… even reading the summary, I don’t really remember it. Either way, Beric helps him to dig, and the two of them bond. Yay.
Back in Oldtown, Sam reads a book called the Legends of the Long Night, and discovers that Dragonstone is built on a mountain of dragonglass. He writes a quick letter to Jon, and then returns to his gross routine. Except this time, as he passes some strange prison doors, a hand reaches out, giving me the jumpscare of my goddamn life. “Has she come yet?” he asks. “The dragon queen. Daenerys Stormborn.” It’s Ser Jorah, and his hand is totally wrecked by greyscale.
I’m assuming he didn’t actually touch Sam, but… that wouldn’t be so good for him if he did.
And now, finally, we have our first shot of Daenerys herself, breathing in the sea air, with Tyrion and Varys beside her. She’s also wearing a black battle-like dress that doesn’t really suit her, because Winter is here and all colors are gone from fashion now, I guess, and her three dragons are flying behind her. They screech and swoop around Dragonstone, while Daenerys watches, seeing her homeland for the very first hand. When they reach the beach, Daenerys gets to her knees to touch the sand.
She’s finally done it. After six seasons, she’s made it to Westeros. She’s home.
Sweeping music plays as they all enter Dragonstone, and I have to admit, for all the jokes people make about how Dany is never actually going to leave for Westeros in the books… this scene is epic. It hits me right in the heart. She actually made it! She’s ready to plan her conquest. She’s ready to take her home. She stands in front of the painted table with her advisors, firm in her Targaryan castle, looking over the map of the land she was destined to rule. “Shall we begin?”
Yes. Please, let’s. Despite my initial misgivings, I am HOOKED. NEXT EPISODE. RIGHT NOW.