Winter is finally upon us, the bodycount is rising, everyone is wearing goth black, and I am so feeling it. Yes, Game of Thrones is back for a seventh (and penultimate) season, and the competition for the Iron Throne is really hotting up.
We opened with Arya Stark proving revenge really is a dish best served cold as she finally took out everyone involved with the notorious Red Wedding. It was obvious something was afoot when ‘Walder Frey’ announced he was holding a second feast in a short period of time (I mean, seriously, would YOU accept a dinner invitation from that man?!) Having seen his throat cut by Arya last season, it wasn’t massively surprising that we weren’t witnessing a flashback, but rather Arya using magic to take Walder Frey’s form. I’m not entirely clear how it all works, but it seems her time with the Faceless Men will stand the young avenger in good stead. Having dispatched the remaining Frey clan with poisoned wine, Arya headed south towards King’s Landing to ‘kill the queen’. This snippet was revealed via a conversation with Ed Sheeran, who made a slightly bizarre cameo as a soldier, and has since received so much stick for it, he’s deleted his Twitter account! Poor lad.
So it’s going to be a while until Arya is reunited with her siblings by the looks of things. Bran however, has made it to Castle Black, assisted by Meera, and while we didn’t get to see his reunion with Jon and Sansa, we did see him experience a vision of an army of the dead, marching through a blizzard. This might mean trouble for the Watchers of the Wall, as Bran has a connection to the Night King who can seemingly track him anywhere now. It looks likely that Bran finding his family will also mean visiting a cataclysmic zombie nightmare on them! While we’re on the army of the dead, how cool are the reanimated giants?! GIANT ZOMBIES. Amazing.
There was a ripple of tension running through Castle Black as Jon Snow and half sister Sansa quarrelled about politics. Jon seems to have taken to leadership well, but he is coping less well with being undermined by his feisty sister. Sansa is taking absolutely no bullshit this season, and wasted no time telling Littlefinger where to get off. While the character’s attempted grooming of his dead love’s daughter is a little creepy to say the least, Aidan Gillan is very attractive so I’m always slightly puzzled by Sansa’s disgust. But this is my problem.
And sibling angst of the twincestuous kind was order of the day at King’s Landing, where Cersei had put herself on the Iron Throne after bumping off a raft of series regulars with wildfire last season. Jaime’s attempts to discuss why their youngest child killed himself was met with cold disinterest by Cersei, a woman whose survival skills are much better than her parenting ones. Another fly in Jaime’s ointment arrived in the form of Euron Greyjoy, a wonderfully insane addition to the Greyjoy tribe, who swaggered about in eyeliner looking like an extra from a My Chemical Romance video and boasting about his ships. He seems to be hellbent on marrying Cersei, and she might be tempted as Jaime himself pointed out, she doesn’t have many friends left. Perhaps this will be the final straw for Jaime who is becoming less and less enamoured of his Lannister heritage.
Over at the Citadel, Sam met a familiar face as Jim Broadbent joined the cast as mentor, Archmaester Marwyn. And Sam may have stumbled upon a cure for Jorah’s case of greyscale which we got a tantalizing glimpse of when his hand reached through the bars on his door. It seems Dany’s biggest fan might have to eat Dragonglass to return to his queen.
Speaking of the Mother of Dragons, although the episode was titled “Dragonstone”, we had to wait until the closing moments to catch up with her return to her ancestral seat. Which just so happens to be built on a motherlode of Dragonglass, the only thing that can defeat the Night King and his ilk. I feel a Jon Snow/Dany mining party coming on! We did also get to see the Targaryen dragons swooping about the place which was all kinds of wonderful.
While this season is shorter than previous years and promises a higher hit rate of shocks and thrills because of that, this episode was an amuse-bouche. It set a steady pace, re-established where all the key players are, and teased the epic nature of what’s to come by revealing the horror of the White Walker army. A solid start to what promises to be an exceptional season of television.
Final Grade: A
+ Euron’s sass levels were through the roof! Need some lotion for that burn, Jaime?
+ Lyanna F*ckin’ Mormont. I mean, if you don’t think she’s one of the best fictional characters in the history of TV, we can’t be friends.
+ How beautiful did everything look? I spent a lot of time trying to work out what was real scenery and what had been digitally painted in afterwards, and the library in the Citadel is my new happy place.
– Great to see The Hound back, but it would have been nice to see a suggestion of his vision in the flames.
– Sorry Ed, but the jolly singing cameo was a bit jarring.
– Arya’s ability to change face and the discovery of a large cache of Dragonglass suggest we’re straying into potential deus ex machina territory, so will need to be carefully handled.
Sansa’s admiration of Cersei was a little worrying to say the least, and her newfound ruthlessness might be a problem for the remaining Starks…
What did you think? Was “Dragonstone” a triumphant return? Any interesting predictions or theories to share? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter!