I’m back again with the newest recap of Game of Thrones! It’s season seven – technically the last season, but it’s split into two half-seasons of seven and six episodes each. Even though I accidentally caught some huge (and potentially completely destructive) spoilers on Reddit, which I half-regret, I’m optimistic for this final season. In this first episode, I’m hoping to catch up with all the fun friends who we left off with at the end of the last episode of season six.
Warning: This recap/review is completely filled with spoilers! Read ahead at your own risk.
Let’s talk about that opening sequence first – we’re with Walder Frey and his family. You might be thinking, what? I thought he died? Well. This Walder Frey, mysteriously alive after having his throat cut by little assassin Arya Stark at the end of last season, offers his entire family some delicious wine. All the men drink. And subsequently they die, poisoned. Walder removes his face to reveal that he is none other than Arya Stark! To a young women looking surprised and traumatised, she says to remind those who ask that “the North remembers”, and “Winter came for House Frey”. Arya leaves, the unrepentant badass. This was not only a very well-directed scene, but a great one-two punch for the beginning of what looks to be a very bloody season indeed. Arya seems to be taking on the role of a character in the books known cryptically here as ‘LSH’, which is disappointing for me because I was hoping to ‘LSH’ her on the show. This scene is a huge confirmation of that worry. However, that doesn’t stop this scene from being an amazing beginning.
The opening title sequence rolls. Any new locations on the map? We now have Dragonstone, the traditionally Targaryen-owned castle and this episode’s namesake. We also have Oldtown, home to the Citadel where Samwell Tarly arrived last season. This episode is directed by Jeremy Podeswa, who directed episode one and episode two of season six.
In the North – a storm blows our way, bringing with it the creatures that have haunted my nightmares since I first saw them on screen. The White Walkers, and the Night King, presumably riding South to the Wall. There are a whole lot of wights, and one of them is a giant, which should be interesting. Note: It’s not Wun Wun, who died at Winterfell last season.
Bran, using his psychic greenseer vision as he’s now the Three Eyed Raven, sees the White Walkers marching. Bran awakens, and he and Meera have made it to the Wall. They’re greeted by the Night’s Watch, and prove their identity before making it through the passage in the Wall. I think that’s all we see of them this episode. It’s clear that Bran’s visions will play a key role this season.
In Winterfell, Jon is holding court and informing his people about dragonglass, which kills White Walkers. They need all the dragonglass they can get, to build up their arms to fight. Speaking of which, Jon as King in the North decrees that women and girls can now train to fight and defend the North. Little Lady Mormont of Bear Island wants to fight as well. She is a badass and I love her. Sansa is at Jon’s left hand, Davos at his right. Jon proposes that the wildlings, the free folk, should man the abandoned castles along the Wall, castles which have been left to become dilapidated and unmanned as a result of a weakened Night’s Watch. Sansa and Jon have a little argument about how to do business the Stark way. In a post-Bolton North, matters are relatively split. Jon wants unity and seeks to forgive the Karstark and Umber families who swore allegiance to the Boltons, but Sansa wants revenge and discipline. Littlefinger will surely use this divide in opinion to his advantage.
Later, Jon and Sansa have a chat about how they should rule the North. Sansa seems to have some awareness that their father (Ned Stark) and brother (Robb Stark) made some silly decisions and were murdered as a result. I think she might be forgetting that she actually sold her father out to the Lannisters as well, back in season one. Which reminds me that Sansa has shown some of the best character progression across this show’s seven seasons. Anyway, Jon receives a letter from Queen Cersei Lannister at King’s Landing, who wants Jon to show up and pledge his allegiance and the North to her. Sansa knows Cersei must have some tricks up her sleeve, and admits to Jon that she learned a great deal from Cersei; for example, murdering all your enemies. This was a great scene between Kit Harington and Sophie Turner. Turner in particular has shown some particularly good development as an actress.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Cersei is having a huge, beautiful map of Westeros painted. She’s standing on the portion of the map which represents the Neck region. Jaime arrives. He stands near the Fingers region on the map. Huge, huge foreshadowing to something that book-readers have wondered about since the revelation of Cersei’s prophecy. They’ve received word that Daenerys has chosen Tyrion to be her Hand of the Queen, and that Daenerys and friends are sailing on the way to Westeros. Cersei’s costume design is gorgeous. I think Cersei and Jaime are a little bit intimidated because Tyrion is advising Daenerys on all of her enemies – which includes the Lannisters, and he certainly knows too much about them. Jaime advises that Daenerys and pals will probably land at Dragonstone because it’s her ancestral homeland, where she was born, and also Stannis Baratheon (RIP) somehow left it unoccupied, which I find actually doubtful. Cersei knows that they, as Lannisters, are surrounded by enemies at every point of the compass. Winter also complicates things. Right now they look like they’re already losing because despite having the title of Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, she has the favour of three kingdoms at best. Both Jaime and Cersei are worried that the Lannister dynasty will be lost forever. But they’re the last of the dynasty as all her children are dead; Cersei avoids talking about Tommen’s suicide, which she sees as a betrayal, as he would rather be dead than live in a world without Margaery post-explosion. They need allies – but who?
Which makes me wonder, what exactly is motivating Cersei at this point in time? Previously, we saw her motivation as preserving the Lannister dynasty at any cost – which included ensuring that her children were of pure Lannister blood, and placed on the throne. Now that all her children are dead, what now? Pure revenge, or something else? Cersei is actually one of my favourite characters, and Lena Headey plays her so well.
Miraculously, an armada of Greyjoy ships are on the way, with their sails emblazoned with golden krakens. There’s some nicely improved CGI on the ships this time around, and it doesn’t look as much like a video game cutscene. It turns out that Cersei has invited Euron Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands, to the Red Keep. Jaime doesn’t like the Ironborn because he thinks they’re just plain old thieves. Well, you never know, they could be useful!
Cersei takes Euron’s audience at the Red Keep. He discloses that his siblings Theon and Yara stole his ships and joined forces with Daenerys and friends. As it turns out, all their treasonous siblings are on the same side, so perhaps Cersei and Euron can murder them together? Euron puts on a nice display of swagger and charisma, but Jaime recalls past injustices perpetrated by the Ironborn towards the Lannisters and other land-dwelling folk. There’s some nicely snappy dialogue between the two of them and Euron scores a sick burn against Jaime as he proposes marriage to Cersei, since Cersei wants his ships so badly. Cersei declines because he is very untrustworthy. But Euron says his proposal still stands, and he’ll bring Cersei back a priceless gift to convince her of his trustworthiness. Off he goes.
What do you guys think he’ll bring back? I think he’s going to try to capture Tyrion and bring him back to King’s Landing. I don’t know any spoilers in relation to this plot so it’s a pure guess.
Meanwhile, in the Citadel in Oldtown, we’re back at the amazing looking library where Sam is hopefully training to become a Maester. Unfortunately, this CGI does look like a videogame cutscene again. We’re treated to a nicely edited and somewhat comical scene of Sam going about his days as a trainee Maester – shelving books in the library, cleaning poops, scrubbing bedpans. It’s a quirky little scene. Most notably, we see that Sam is preoccupied by the restricted section in the library (how Harry Potter of him), since he needs to research how to get rid of White Walkers. Whilst conducting an autopsy with Archmaester Marwyn (played by the always excellent Jim Broadbent), he is able to convince him that he’s seen White Walkers before. He also steals some keys to get the books he needs. BAMF.
Back at Winterfell, Brienne is training with Pod and avoidant of the amorous gaze of Tormund Giantsbane, who is clearly in love with her. Sansa and Littlefinger look on. Littlefinger is definitely up to some of his shenanigans, and Sansa puts him in his place because she gives no shits. Brienne and Sansa acknowledge that Littlefinger is mainly still around because they need his army. But Brienne and Sansa are both concerned that he wants something else. #leavesansaalone
Arya is on horseback now, and happens upon the vocal stylings of Ed Sheeran in the forest. Seriously, worst celebrity cameo ever, and most disorienting scene ever as all I can see is Ed Sheeran, since he’s not a very good actor and has no lines except for the song and some sly looks towards Arya.
Ed Sheeran and friends are Lannister soldiers, and Arya sits with them to eat some roasted rabbit and drink some wine. Arya admits that she’s heading south to King’s Landing, and there is mention of the Sept of Baelor exploding, and some mention of dragon pits, about which I am intrigued. It turns out that these Lannister soldiers were sent to keep the peace post-Frey family massacre. Arya has a drink and lets her guard down, telling the soldier’s she’s going to murder the Queen. Ha ha, what a great joke! Except she is deadly serious.
Somewhere up North where it’s snowing heavily, the Hound, Thoros of Myr, and Beric Dondarrion are riding towards a small house which you might remember from season three or four or thereabouts. The Hound guesses that the people inside are likely dead, given the intense winter weather. As expected, the house is empty and the people inside are dead – father and daughter, likely having committed suicide as a result of starvation in the frost. The Hound and Beric Dondarrion have a very meaningful conversation about how Beric keeps getting brought back from the dead and what his purpose is. After looking into the fire with Thoros of Myr (a frightening prospect for a man whose face was burnt off by his brother in childhood), the Hound sees some important matters in the flames – a wall of ice, the Wall, where the Wall meets the sea, a castle (likely Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, an abandoned Night’s Watch castle), a mountain, and thousands of the dead marching. The Hound is clearly disturbed by this vision. Later, he buries the bodies of the man and daughter found in the house – a surprisingly tender moment with interesting parallels to where we see the Hound ending up in the books.
Back at Oldtown, Sam lives with Gilly and Little Sam outside of the Citadel walls since women aren’t allowed to stay in there. Gilly looks great. Sam is doing some research on White Walkers and hence doesn’t have time to sleep. As if by chance, the two spy a page which shows a map of a mountain of dragonglass located underneath Dragonstone. Sam needs to let Jon know about this important piece of information, since that’s what Jon was talking about earlier in the episode as being key to their defeating the White Walkers. Also, Sam killed a White Walker himself with a dragonglass dagger back in the day (season two? I can’t remember).
And finally, back in the Citadel, Sam is going about his business again, this time collecting food bowls from what looks like some jail cells. At the door of one cell, a gnarled, rocky, greyscale-infected arm shoots out of the opening. It turns out it’s Lord of the Friendzone, Ser Jorah Mormont, living in isolation in one of the cells at the Citadel. Remember how Daenerys sent Jorah off on a quest to find out how to cure his greyscale at the end of last season? Well, this is where he ended up – locked up in a cell, locked away from those who can help him. Jorah wants to know if Daenerys has arrived in Westeros yet, but Sam doesn’t know.
And in the final segment of the episode, we finally catch up with Daenerys and friends. Daenerys, Tyrion Lannister, Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm, as well as their armada of ships consisting of many different House allegiances, are arriving at Dragonstone. Daenerys’ three dragons fly free, straight to their new home. It’s shot at a beautiful location, particularly the beach scene, with the multilayered and multicoloured rocks which you could believe were at one point fried by dragon’s fire. Daenerys has finally arrived in Westeros, caressing the land which she believes is truly hers. Daenerys and friends enter Dragonstone, and we’re treated to some lovely exterior and interior shots as they arrive at front doors which are adorned by dragons. She and her court walk in, and she pulls down the Baratheon banner which greets her (RIP Stannis the Mannis). Entering the throne room, rather than sitting down on her throne, she enters the strategy room which is home to the beautiful, ornate Westeros table map. Where will they begin? We’ll just have to find out next week.
All in all, I’m pleased with this episode. Whilst it contained the worst and most distracting celebrity cameo of all time (shout out to you, Ed Sheeran), the episode flowed nicely. Although there weren’t any bombshell revelations, there were enough little exciting moments to keep the momentum going. I am hoping that, since this first half of season seven is only seven episodes long, that the writers pick up the pace a little bit. But, that’s quite early for me to be worrying about since this is literally the first episode of the season. Writers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff tend to ruin most things I enjoy about this show and the books, so we’ll see how we go with this season which will wrap the entire saga up in hopefully a neat little package.
What’s happening in the next episode? According to the trailer, we’re in for some fun treats. For example, we’re going to see some more Northern shenanigans, Cersei and the Lannisters, Yara assisting Daenerys and friends to plan their next steps, Arya and a certain direwolf we haven’t seen for a long time, some kissing action between Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand, and apparently someone is choking Littlefinger! I can’t wait.
What did you guys think of this first episode? Let me know in the comments below!