Just like Winter, Game of Thrones is back with a nice pinch of harsh reality. It’s unsurprising that the show should come in swords blazing, but I doubt that any of us had this season opener in mind.
And Season 7, beginning with “Dragonstone,” really does start out with a bang when we enter Walder Frey’s dining hall. We ended last season to his satisfying death, so we’re wondering what kind of flashback of this dusty old hag we could find important until we realize that flashback schmashback, this is real time and it’s about to go down.
As he addresses his full court of soldiers and family, giving a toast to their successes past and future, you might realize that there’s no way in hell (aka Westeros, let’s call it like it is) that this kind of eloquence could come from someone who both looks and sounds like he fostered the first ever case of tuberculosis.
And a large “Amen” to whatever gods we’re choosing to worship this season, because it turns out that Ol’ Walder Frey is just Arya pulling some gypsy skin face magic to remind the Frey’s, whom are all now choking and dying on their final words, that the north freakin’ REMEMBERS.
They don’t call it a “cold open” for nothin’, folks.
Is it weird that Arya kills people and then skins their dead corpses like she’s going to be featured in the next unnecessary installment of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Yes. Do I care? Nope. If it were up to me, the rest of the show would be Arya wearing the faces of her deceased relatives and haunting the rest of the characters into subdued, fearful deaths. It’s only fair.
Arya’s next task: to kill the Queen. Ed Sheeran, this week’s celebrity guest, doesn’t seem to take her seriously, but in the choice between siding with someone who wears other people’s skin as a hobby and someone who once gave up social media for a year, who are we really picking?
Elsewhere in Westeros, Arya’s former companion Sandor Clegane and his new “friend” Beric Dondarrion carry on their quest, stopping for the night for a little fire worshipping. Sandor, who, despite seeing a number of questionable things still remains doubtful in Westerosi magic nonsense, changes his tune when he sees a vision of the Wall in a fire. In the vision, white walkers are marching beyond the wall at a point where a castle set by an arrowhead-shaped mountain that meets the sea. Just lovely this time of year for a winter vacation!
Bran, of course, has seen this vision as well and has made his way to the Wall to prepare. I’m trying really hard here to ignore the fact that the creators of this show had the AUDACITY to show Wun Wun as a wight, but everything is fine here. Move along.
And speaking of the inevitable war against the dead, up north Jon wrestles with a number of things but the main being his sister Sansa’s inability to know when and when not to make a fool out of both of them. Though I truly do promote the idea of Sansa challenging Jon to not only show her prowess as a leader, but to also keep him fresh with perspective, it’s probably best to do that behind closed doors. But who are we to judge? Most of us exert the most leadership we’re capable of by leading the way to the nearest bottomless mimosa brunch.
As Jon struggles to reconnect with allies and betrayers from the Battle of the Bastards, he gets a raven from Cersei, who is asking his people to bend the knee or die. We are all left incredibly shocked.
And when she’s not threatening the people of the land that she’s trying to rule (a choice strategy) or *werking this season’s fiercest fashions, what else is there to do but paint a map of the entire continent on your floor for more efficient dictatorship. And while Jaime is trying to be – plot twist – of sound mind for the battles ahead, Cersei decides to take the more spontaneous route by inviting Euron Greyjoy and his fleet of just awful people to the Red Keep. Euron proposes to her, but Cersei demands proof of his trust and devotion to her house first. He promises to return with a worthy gift, which, as you know, means a dead person.
We next head to the only place with a semblance of worth, the Citadel. Sam has been working tirelessly as the new intern, cleaning bedpans and organizing the library. Maybe this is the part where we’re supposed to feel bad for our poor Samwell, but need I remind you that all millennials must pay their dues if they’d like to somehow gain the 5+ years experience they need to get an entry level job that will give them the 5+ years of experience they actually need.
In between poop scooping, Sam works with Archmaester Insert Real Name Here But I Still Prefer Horace Slughorn where he begs for access to the restricted scrolls on the Long Night. True to his Harry Potter character, Slughorn (Ebrose, his name is Ebrose) is unwilling to give up any information that will make him look like a jackass because we know he’s wrong and ignorant.
Sam, however, is able to discover that Dragonstone sits on a pile of dragon glass, an incredible convenience for the characters we actually care about. Alas, a light in the darkness!
And with one last scene to raise your blood pressure high enough to require medication, Sam is gathering food from cells when a particularly scaley hand (hi, Jorah, you creepy iguana) reaches out and asks if the queen has made it to Dragonstone yet.
And yes, my friends, she has. Let the games begin.