Game of Thrones recap: season seven, episode one – Dragonstone


Spoiler alert: this blog is published after Game of Thrones airs on HBO in the US on Sunday night and on Foxtel in Australia on Monday. Do not read unless you have watched season seven, episode one, which airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm, and is repeated in Australia on Showcase on Monday at 7.30pm AEST.
‘When I was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch I executed men who betrayed me. But I will not punish men for their father’s sins and I will not take a family’s home from them.’
Hello and welcome back everyone. How you felt about tonight’s opening episode, which was largely concerned with power and how to wield it, will probably depend on your tolerance for large chunks of exposition. Overall, I was OK with the odd clunky scene: at this stage in the game, there are a lot of pieces to manoeuvre into place and, by episode’s end, things were nicely set up for the season.
In Winterfell, Jon and Sansa clashed over their very different notions of how to deal with the former treachery of the Karstarks and Umbers. Jon’s case – that you do not punish the sons and daughters for the sins of the father – was the more obviously relatable, and he was right too that the North needs to stand firm together in the face of a far greater enemy than the Lannisters. Yet Sansa, schooled by a harsher teacher, also had a point, difficult though it perhaps is to acknowledge: if you do not cut the root out then the branch will again flourish – and what happens when the buds of that branch arrive, as Arya Stark did with the Freys, to choke your life away?
It’s worth noting, however, that Cersei hasn’t quite managed to put the lessons she so assiduously taught Sansa into practice. Yes, she’s wiped out most of the Tyrells but Olenna, the most dangerous, is still standing. In the south the Sand Snakes lurk, no doubt practising their sub-Lorca incantations, while Sansa and Jon are building an army in the North, and Dany and co have landed on Dragonstone. Has Cersei won the battle but not the war? Or will a potential alliance with the distinctly untrustworthy Euron be enough to save the day?
As for Dany, who has so far governed with a mixture of Jon’s compassion and Cersei’s ruthlessness – a third way, if you will (sorry) – she landed on Dragonstone for an emotional homecoming, having also taken the time to kit out her invading army in some rather swish new clothes. Anyone who’s anyone in Westeros is wearing black this season.
‘Do you believe me now Clegane? Do you believe that we’re here for a reason?’
For all the power of its more epic moments, Game of Thrones is generally at its best when it takes time with its characters, allowing us to see them in new ways. Thus the evening’s best scene came between three of the characters we know least: Sandor Clegane, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, as they sat in the ruined house of the now dead farmer who the Hound and Arya encountered back in season four.
Switching between dark humour – “It’s just my fucking luck I end up with a bunch of fire worshippers” – and touching moments (Sandor’s decision to bury the man and his daughter), the scene also gave us some interesting new information: Sandor, the man scarred by and terrified of fire, can read the patterns in it.
The moment when he described the Night King’s army marching from the North was a genuinely spooky one, and Rory McCann sold it well. Here’s hoping he and the Brotherhood without Banners meet up with Jon in the North soon.
‘In the Citadel we live different lives for different reasons. We are this life’s memory.’
If Sandor was busy discovering that sometimes the most unlikely things turn out to be true, poor Sam was undergoing one of those “my dream job v the reality” moments. Oh Sam, I understand: there you were dreaming of waltzing into the Citadel like a conquering hero, gaining access to all the books you might need, and instead you find yourself working in a particularly unpleasant care home with the odd autopsy thrown in. We’ve all been there.
After spending far too long shifting shit and stew in some terrible movie I’m tempted to call Bedpans and Soup-sick, Sam finally cracked and stole the keys to the forbidden library. To which I say, hurrah – it’s all very well to have Jim Broadbent’s Archmaester correctly stressing the importance of history, learning and memory, but what good is remembering the past if you don’t use it to avert danger in the future?
It’s a measure of how very creepy Arya has become that I genuinely expected her to kill all the soldiers, even after they’d kindly shared their meat and blackberry wine.
That said, I wasn’t entirely sure about that scene – and not just because it featured Ed Sheeran, who I have yet to forgive for inflicting Galway Girl on my household. While I liked the reminder that many soldiers are just ordinary men far from home, the dialogue was at its most heavy-handed.
The line about stealing a family home from Jon had a lovely echo in the scene with Sandor – it was The Hound’s theft of the farmer’s money, over Arya’s protestations, that led to their cruel deaths. A fact he acknowledged in digging the grave.
Did David Benioff and DB Weiss have some sort of bet with each other about how many times they could squeeze the word “cunt” into an hour?
Speaking of dialogue, this was a particularly quip-heavy episode, from Sandor’s comments on Thoros’s top knot to Sansa’s enjoyably sharp putdown of Littlefinger (“No need to have the last word Lord Baelish, I’ll assume it was something clever.”)
What do we think Euron’s promised gift is? There is an interesting possibility from the books (see here, for those who don’t mind spoilers), but it’s equally possible that he intends to bring her Dany’s head.
I can’t be the only one who was sad that Arya was heading to King’s Landing to kill Cersei, rather than Winterfell for a reunion.
Also please tell me I wasn’t the only person thinking “I wouldn’t run my fingers along that, Dany”, about Stannis’s table of former invasion plans and wild enchantress sex.
I love Brienne’s face of great disdain whenever Tormund is in the vicinity.
I’m glad Edd took Bran and Meera in to Castle Black, although also a little worried for the Night’s Watch given that Bran is basically a human tracking device for the Night King.
The brief cut to Davos’s face when Sansa and Jon were arguing said everything. Listen to Davos, people – he’s probably the only person on this entire show with any sense.
Was that Jorah’s creepy grey scale arm at the end scaring Sam?
A surprisingly unbloody start to the season saw only one real act of violence (two if you count Brienne’s knocking of Pod into the snow). That said it was a particularly good one, as Arya donned Walder Frey’s face to ensure that every single member of the Frey family was wiped out root and branch. I somehow think that she and Sansa might have rather a lot of common ground, when (if) they finally reunite.
Random Brit of the week
Sorry Ed Sheeran, but this can only go to the wonderful Jim Broadbent who turned up to dispense wisdo
m to Sam before frustratingly refusing to accept that The Wall could actually fall.
So what did you think? Will Jon and Sansa manage to compromise? Can Cersei possibly stay on the Iron Throne? And have you ever had a job as bad as Sam’s?
As ever, all speculation and no spoilers are welcome below …

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