Six seasons of war, politicking, and suffering sure can give a character in a fantasy world a lot to think about. So instead of marching on with GoT’s continued exploits in these three areas, the producers of the show decided to give characters time to reflect on what’s brought them all to this point.
Reflection was the theme in “Dragonstone,” the premiere episode in Game of Thrones 7th season. Jon and Sansa recalled the mistakes their father and brother (or in Jon’s case, his “father” and “brother”) made that got them killed. Jamie and Cersei reflect on the death of their children and the loss of all their allies. Even the Hound did a rare bit of reflecting as he recalled the horrible treatment he gave to the father and daughter he correctly predicted would die.
And though she doesn’t speak her reflections out loud, I think there is little doubt Daenarys had to be thinking of all the trials she endured to get to the point where she has now returned to her home land to take back the Iron Throne.
But none of these characters were reminiscing for sake of pure nostalgia. Sansa knows Jon must avoid the fatal mistakes of his “father” and “brother.” The “last of the Lannisters” know they need allies going forward. The Hound recalls because he knows he must atone for the horrible things he’s done. All reflect with the future in mind.
And no line in “Dragonstone” summed this up more than the last line spoken by the “Breaker of Chains” as she looked over that old dusty map:
“Shall we begin?”
So let’s begin our recap with a character we were really hopeful we’d seen the last of.
The show opens at the Twins, where Walder Frey is addressing all the “important” members of House Frey.
I was confused at first, debating in my mind when this flashback occurred. But then, I remembered Arya’s whole “I become other people” superpower. Then, Lord Frey doesn’t drink after giving the toast. He keeps the now widow of Lord Frey from drinking as well. And Lord Walder’s condemnation of the Red Wedding assured us all that indeed Arya was under that mask. She poisoned all of House Frey and left, telling the former Mrs. Frey to “tell them Winter came for House Frey.” (Bad Ass!!!!)
But we weren’t done with Arya yet. She comes across a crew of Lannister soldiers on their way to the Twins to “keep the peace” after what Arya did.
One of the soldiers serenaded Arya, saying he would love her until they were 70. He also talked about some “Castle on a Hill” he grew up on (these, of course, are obvious references to Ed Sheeran’s cameo here).
It was a very human moment for Arya getting to hear about the lives of men who are technically here enemies. When the men ask her the purpose she has for traveling, she tells them she’s going to kill the queen. All the soldiers laugh, thinking it’s a joke. But we all know it’s not and are absolutely thrilled with the direction Arya is headed this season.
While Arya was killing Freys and hanging out with celebrities, her “brother” is handling business as King of the North. First, he wants everyone (men and women) digging for dragon glass. Then, he sends the Wildlings to “Eastwatch by the Sea,” an abandoned Night’s Watch castle, to halt the Whitewalker march.
His decision regarding what to do with the lands of House Karstark and House Umber (the two houses who fought for House Bolton last season) gave us our first of what should be many spats between Jon and Sansa this season.
Sansa wants the Karstark and Umber lands given to houses that stayed loyal to House Stark. Jon however, does not want to punish future generations for the treason of their predecessors, who are both now dead.
Jon allows the lands to stay in the hands of the Karstarks and Umbers after the new young lord and lady of the respective houses bend the knee to House Stark.
Jon later expresses his frustration with Sansa for questioning him in front of all his men. Sansa says she just wants Jon to listen to her. Jon and Sansa’s conversation which ends on a reconciliatory note, is interrupted by a note from King’s Landing. New Queen Cersei wants Jon to bend the knee or else.
Queen Cersei is standing, looking over a freshly painted map of Westeros while it’s still being painted when Jamie enters. The two debate their current situation, which is pretty dire. The end of the Freys took out the Lannister’s last ally. They stand alone, but Cersie means to rectify this. She’s summoned Euron Greyjoy and his many Iron Born ships to King’s Landing.
What happens next was a far more proper introduction to Euron’s character than anything we saw last season. In season six, Euron was a cartoon I never took seriously. But everything about this speech (the wardrobe, the insults, the mannerisms) made me believe Euron could be a holy terror to all in Westeros.
Euron offers marriage in exchange for the Iron Born fleet. Cersei refuses, rightly refusing to trust “the Crow’s Eye” (I know it’s only his book nickname so far. But I don’t care. I’m using it anyway). So Euron promises a “pricelss gift” to prove his loyalty. (more on the horrifying possibilities of this “gift” later).
The Brotherhood Without Banners and The Hound
Meanwhile, Winter has reached the Riverlands as the Brotherhood and the Hound approach a familiar location.
The Hound and Arya stayed here one night back in Season 4. But the Hound ultimately robbed the man (who lived alone with his daughter) and told Arya they would be dead soon anyway.
Well, he was right. Thoros of Myr believes the man killed himself and his daughter so they wouldn’t die of starvation. I think this might be the first time the Hound has expressed guilt. He gives a proper burial to the kind father and daughter and wonders why he’s been spared while they died.
The flames may have given a hint to that purpose. The Hound looks into the flames from the fire started in the house and sees the part of the Wall by the sea (in other words, “Eastwatch by the Sea”). He also sees a mountain shaped like an arrowhead (Hardhomme?) And for the first time, the Hound sees the Army of the Dead marching. I think we know where the Hound and the Brotherhood are heading. And I expect they’ll be meeting Tormund and the Wildlings on their way.
Making its debut in the opening credits Sunday night was Oldtown, the home of the Citadel, where Sam is playing orderly for the Maesters. A very effective montage shows Sam collecting chamber pots and cleaning them out, serving soup, and collecting leftover books in the library. But all Sam can think of while doing all these menial tasks is what books are behind a gate only a Maester can use.
Professor Slughorn, following a meeting with Tom Riddle, tells Sam he cannot have access until he becomes a Maester. But Sam sneaks in and grabs a book anyway. That book had a map that showed the existence of dragon glass on Dragonstone. He prepares a note to send to Jon, giving “the White Wolf” a reason to meet the Mother of Dragons.
But Sam in not the only character residing in Oldtown.
Last season, Daenarys sent Jorah Mormont to find healing for his greyscale. We don’t see Friend Zone’s face, but we know from the voice and the arm now completely covered in greyscale that Jorah sought out the Citadel for that healing. After scaring Sam, Jorah asks if the Dragon Queen has arrived.
Why yes she has, Jorah. Yes she has. Little is said or revealed when Daenarys steps foot on the shores of Dragonstone. She takes in all the dragon images, beholds the chair made of Dragonglass, and pulls down an old Stannis banner still hanging in the halls.
Then, Dany approaches an old dusty table with a map of Westeros on it (the one Stannis did all his planning on). With Tyrion close by, Daenarys stares at the table and asks “Shall we begin?”
-Tonight’s premiere introduced three new characters:
Alys Karstark-A teenage girl and sister of the Karstark who sided with Ramsey Bolton last season. She’s now head of House Karstark.
Ned Umber- An young boy who was the son of the now deceased Smalljon Umber. He’s now head of House Umber.
Archmaester Marwyn- Yes, that was Jim Broadbent, aka Professor Horace Slughorn from the Harry Potter moveis, talking to Sam over that dead body. But the name of his character is Archmaester Marwyn, the head of all Maesters. And it appears the archmaester will be a very supportive figure to Sam.
-Ned, Alice, and Lady Lyanna Mormont show one of the effects of all the fighting the north has endured: really young heads of houses.
-The face of feminism in Winterfell is Lyanna Mormont as she dares Robett Glover to keep her and the women of Bear Island from working and fighting.
-Dragonstone was the Island House Targaryen kept their heirs on to keep them safe until it was their time to rule. When Robert took the throne, Stannis was granted Dragonstone and spent of most of the first four seasons there.
-Bran and Meera are finally back south of the Wall as Dolorous Edd and the Night’s Watch opened the gate for them. He tells Edd something about his past, which I’m sure all the people who interact with Bran will never get tired of.
-“Everything before the word but is horse shit.” Great quote from Ned Stark, as told to us by Jon Snow.
-What will Euron’s “priceless gift” be? Unfortunately, I can only think of one thing Cersei would consider priceless: Tyrion’s head.
A really great, character centric premiere should give way to complete chaos in the weeks to come. See you next week.