After six seasons of build-up, Daenerys Targaryen is finally in Westeros. It’s fitting that the seventh season premiere of Game of Thrones ends with Daenerys overlooking Dragonstone’s magnificent carved table, since it’s very much a table-setting episode. But, oh, what a table it was, paving the way for Jon and Daenerys to meet in the future, Cersei and Euron Greyjoy to forge an unholy alliance, and Sandor Clegane to become unexpectedly important.
The North Remembers
In the North, Jon advocates for women fighting and a mass cultivation of dragonglass, but he clashes with Sansa over leadership methods. Sansa wants to punish the Umbers and Karstarks for siding with the Boltons and give their castles to loyal families. Jon argues that the traitors died in battle, and punishing the remaining family members is counterproductive. “I will not punish a son for his father’s sins and I will not take a family home away from a family it’s belonged to for centuries,” he says.
Later in private, he scolds Sansa for undermining him. Sansa, in turn, scolds Jon for being too much like Ned and Robb, whose leadership methods ended in death. Sansa, like Cersei, has a knack for a more vengeful leadership style that considers human politics. Jon, meanwhile, is looking at the big picture — much like Jaime does later in the episode. For Jon, though, that bigger picture is the army of the dead.
Jon also makes a call for Dragonglass, which connects to intriguing information Sam finds out about Daenerys’s new home. But more on that in a bit.
The Lannisters Send Their Regards
Cersei and Jaime mirror Sansa and Jon. Cersei is considering vengeance and human politics; Jaime is thinking about the big-picture practicalities of surviving through winter. Disappointingly, Season 7 begins when Cersei already knows that Tyrion is the hand of her rival queen, which robs the audience of her initial reaction.
She reveals to Jaime that she’s chosen the Ironborn as their best allies, since the Freys are dead. Sure enough, Euron Greyjoy comes swaggering in looking like he took a wrong turn on his way to a production of Will, the punk rock Shakespeare show. Jaime is less than impressed but he seems to reach Cersei. Unfortunately for Euron, he overplays his hand when he proposes, but he promises to return with a “priceless gift” to woo her. Since the official synopsis for the third episode of Season 7 mentions Cersei and a gift, we can assume he’ll return then.
Arya’s sections of “Dragonstone” revolve around death of course, though only the first is bloody. Using her Faceless Man skills to pose as Walder Frey, she wipes out the rest of the Freys in one fell swoop.
Later, she encounters surprisingly nice Lannister soldiers, including Ed Sheeran. Perhaps as a sign of Arya’s future, one soldier talks of how he used to want nothing more than to leave home but now wants nothing more than to return. Although it seems like Arya’s seeing a human side to her Lannister enemies, she still brashly tells them she intends to kill the Queen. We’ll have to see if she actually makes it to King’s Landing, or if she takes after her dining companions and gets too homesick.
I would prefer Chicken
Arya’s old frenemy Sandor Clegane gets a surprisingly soulful interval, as he returns to the scene of the crime where he left a farmer and his daugther to die in Season 4. At the time, this caused Arya to pronounce him “the worst shit in the Seven Kingdoms.” To atone for his actions now, he buries them and says a prayer — though in typical Sandor fashion, he gives up halfway through with a “Fuck it,” forgetting how to pray. Still, it shows how deeply his time with Ian McShane’s Brother Ray affected him in Season 6. It’s also nice nod to the books, where he returns not with Brother Ray but rather as a character referred to as “the gravedigger.”
Intriguingly, when Thoros of Myr has him look into the flames, he sees the White Walkers marching past a “castle where the Wall meets the Sea.” This could be setting up a future meeting between the Brotherhood Without Banners and Tormund and the Free Folk, as Jon suggests sending Tormund to castles in the far North.
At the Citadel, Sam gives Arya competition for having the Worst Internship Ever. He cleans bedpans and weighs livers, making her time sweeping floors and cleaning bodies at the House of Black and White look like child’s play. With Jim Broadbent’s new character Archmaester Ebrose, he tries to gain access to the section of the library that is restricted to Maesters only and has a conversation about doomsday thinking.
Ebrose actually believes him about the existence of White Walkers, but he cites previous examples of people thinking the world would end when it remained standing. Sam also encounters a seriously greyscaled-up Jorah in a scary looking cell and learns intriguing information to help Jon…
I will take what’s mine with fire and blood
Thanks to Sam’s research at the Citadel, we know that the Dragonglass Jon is desperate to find is at Dragonstone, where Daenerys Targaryen lands at the end of the episode. Cue the set-up for Jon and Dany to finally meet. Save for the episode’s closing line, “shall we begin?”, Daenerys sequence is otherwise silent, letting the weight of Dragonstone’s history sink in through its splendor.
Game of Thrones Season 7 is currently airing on Sunday nights on HBO.