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TV Review: Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 1 "Dragonstone"

07.17.2017

EPISODE 1: Dragonstone

PLOT: In the Season 7 premiere, Jon organizes the defense of the North; Cersei seeks to even the odds; and Daenerys comes home.

THE LOWDOWN (SPOILERS!):

And we're back! Ah, the wait for more Game of Thrones always feels like such a long one, but ever so welcome when it returns. After a rather cathartic season six in which we saw the conclusion of some long-standing struggles, it feels like season seven is setting the chess board for the final game, almost literally by the end of "Dragonstone". Season seven picks up right where we left off last season as each kingdom and/or character continues the advancement of their journey after the ramifications of the finale.

We open on what I first thought was a flashback, as we're in Walder Frey's court with the old badger seemingly alive and well and addressing his kin. He talks of celebration and victory, championing his men for defeating their enemies, including Rob Stark and his bride, Caitlyn Stark and the soldiers they invited into their home for the "Red Wedding." They are all poured some "fine wine" and a toast is given. After the men drink, Frey talks of how they actually all failed him by not killing ALL the Starks, just as they begin choking and dying, obviously from the wine. Once they've all fallen (minus Frey's young bride, who was forbidden to drink), Frey reaches up and rips off his "face".

And it’s Arya! Hell yeah! Definitely the coolest moment of the opener and shows how much Arya has not only grown into her new life as an assassin, but how effective (and brutal) she is at it. She turns to Frey's bride, saying, "When people ask you what happened here. Tell them the North remembers. Tell them Winter came for House Frey." A woman of many faces indeed. It feels like Arya has reached her peak in terms of the journey from child to woman and the tools available to her to exact revenge are now at her disposal. At this point, I think I'll suspect just about any character to be revealed as Arya during this season.

We later see her traveling through the forest where she comes upon a group of King's Landing soldiers sitting around a fire. They invite her over and she surveys their weapons and we can see her sizing up the situation. The men defy expectation and all seem like good men, rather than the murderous savage soldiers we've seen in the past. Arya seemingly relates (and holds back), telling them that she's headed to King's Landing "to kill" the Queen. They all laugh. Silly girl. Right?

While we don't have any extended sequences with the White Walker and Wights, we do get a scene that shows them on the march and showing no signs of stopping. In fact, their numbers have continued to grow, now adding in what appears to be a bunch of Wight Giants, including what looks like Wun Wun, the Wildling Giant that was killed in The Battle of the Bastards last season. Damn. 

At The Wall, we see Meera Reed bringing Brandon Stark to the wall (finally) and they welcome him in after he convinces them that he is who he is, saying “You’ve seen the Night King. He’s coming for us. For all of us.“  Yeah, better let that kid in. Now that Brandon is the new Three-Eyed Raven it feels like this is the season that he will truly shine and prove to be more useful than luggage for his traveling mates.

Back at Winterfell, Jon Snow aka the new King of the North, addresses the men of the North, rallying them to search for Dragon Glass, which is what they need to defeat The White Walkers. Jon also says that all the men, women, boys and girls must train to fight the Army of the Dead. He also tasks Tormund to get the Wildlings together to help man the wall. Jon and Sansa clash over who they should hand over castles and lands to, between those that betrayed them and those that remained loyal. Sansa is a bit more brutal in her thinking, while Jon is more forward thinking. Littlefinger looks on, smiling with disdain and you just know those wheels are turning as he tries to figure out a way to oust Jon, sweep Sansa off her feet and become King and Queen Baelish of Winterfell.

Afterwards, Jon and Sansa do a walk-and-talk and it's actually really great to see them interacting together, having been separated for so long and being very different people when they last were together. It's also great to see their loyalty to one another, even while they don't always agree on the decisions being made. “You’re good at this, you know? At ruling" Sansa tells Jon.“But, you have to be smarter than father. You need to be smarter than Rob." As they walk, a raven note is brought to Jon. It's from Queen Cersei, summoning Jon to King's Landing or face being dispatched as the traitor he is. Sansa councils Jon not to ignore Cersei's threats, as he seems focused solely on The While Walker threat.

This is where I think Sansa will prove that she, too, can be a great ruler. She sees beyond tradition and has survived through some of the worst rulers, Joffrey and Cersei among them. If anyone can help Jon avoid those tragic mistakes, it's her. I'm interested to see how strong their bond holds and how much she can resist the whisperings of Littlefinger, who makes his way to her after Jon exits, again trying to maneuver into her mind and make her think she needs more than she has. After he leaves, Brienne walks to Sansa. “He wants something,” she says.

“I know exactly what he wants.” Indeed, Sansa. I think we all know.

We see Cersei at King's Landing, having a map of Westeros painted on the floor. She surveys it as Jaimie enters the scene. Cersei seemingly knows all that's happening in the Seven Kingdoms, including that Tyrion has become the Hand of the King to Daenerys, bringing up how Jaimie let him go after he murdered their father. “We’re surrounded by traitors," she says. She asks Jaimie where he thinks she will land and he indicates Dragonstone, but is doubtful that she really understands how much trouble they're in. Cersei wants to fight for a "dynasty" but Jaimie is perplexed. “A dynasty for whom? Our children are dead!" he says, for once being outwardly honest about the damage they've taken in this "game".

“A dynasty for us, then,” she says. While he doesn't understand her desire to keep fighting, he still offers council, saying that they need better and stronger allies as they can't win the war alone. "You think I listened to father for 40 years and learned nothing?" she says. I have to wonder if Cersei is really up to task here. Yes, she's shown her cunning in situations before (especially last season), but it's always tainted by her arrogance. It's what's cost her so much each and every time. That said, it's also the most dangerous thing about her; she doesn't care what she has to lose in order to win. I have a feeling we'll see her ruthlessness in full form (likely at it's worst) in this season.

We then see Euron Greyjoy sailing to King's Landing, having taken over the Greyjoy Throne last season, forcing Theon and Asha to flee to Daenerys and pledge to fight with her in order to regain control of The Iron Island Throne. Euron holds court with Cersei and is every bit as arrogant, crude and nasty as before, while revealing his true intentions; to marry Cersei and merge their Kingdoms. Jaimie stands by and they both taunt each other, as both men have killed the kin of one another in battle.

"Ever since I was a little boy I wanted to grow up and marry the most beautiful woman in the world. So, here I am with a thousand ships and two good hands." says Greyjoy. He's a real son of a bitch, for sure, but it strikes a chord in Jaimie and you can see that Cersei is ready and willing to manipulate him, even if she refuses his offer. Greyjoy expects this, though, and says the he'll bring her a priceless "gift" to prove his loyalty and won't return to King's Landing until he has it. Now, what, oh what, would a priceless "gift" be for Queen Cersei? Jon Snow's head? Tyrion's? Sansa's? Something tells me he'll be bringing a head. Call it a hunch.

Meanwhile, Samwell Tarly is having no fun at The Citadel where he empties champer pots, stacks books, serves food and trudges along in a monotonous "dues-paying" cycle as a Maester-in-training. A pretty "shitty" time overall. Tarly is particularly distracted and obsessed with the restricted books in the Maester library, desperate to access their knowledge and information. While helping the Archmaester perform an autopsy, he confesses that he has seen The White Walkers and that he was sent to The Citadel to learn of a way to defeat them, which rests in the restricted section of the library. The Archmaester says that he believes Tarly about The White Walkers, but goes on to lecture him that countless generations have predicted the end of Westeros at their hands for centuries and yet the end has never come. This isn't enough to satisfy Tarly, however, as he steals the keys to the restricted section and lifts a few books to take back and read. There, he finds a map of Dragonstone (the same place Daenerys is headed), which indicates there's a mountain of dragonglass buried underneath.

In the next scene, we see Tarly picking up empty food trays from a hallways of cells. As he reaches for one, a hand darts out and grabs his. A hand that's black and scaly. Then, we hear a familiar voice. "Has she come here? The Dragon Queen, Daenerys Stormborn?" It's Jorah Mormount, obviously in very bad shape, but still carrying that burning torch for his one true love. I suspect we'll see him make some sort of final sacrifice for her, either this season or the next, but it's obvious his days are numbered.

We then pick back up with Sandor Clegane aka The Hound, traveling with Beric Dondarion and his Brotherhood Without Banners. They come upon a cottage that appears to be abandoned. The Hound doesn’t want to go in as it’s the same place he ripped off when he was traveling with Arya. When they enter he sees the corpses of the father and daughter they stole from, a knife at their feet, obvious that they committed suicide after starving. Clegane is deeply affected by this.

Beric and The Hound have a chat and The Hound asks why the Lord of Light continues to bring Beric back to life again and again. “You think I don’t ask myself that? Every hour of every day?” replies Beric. “It’s my band of luck that I end up with a bunch of fire worshippers," says Clegane, in humorous and ironic fashion. Clegane is then told to look in the fire to get the answers he seeks. Begrudgingly he does and after a short spell, finds that he is able to see something.

“Ice. A wall of ice.” Clegane then says that he can see thousands of dead marching on The Wall. “Do you believe me now Clegane? Do you believe we’re here for a reason?” Beric says. Clegane, in essence, has his first pseudo religious experience and its obvious that this will be a life-altering change for the character, who has commonly regarded anything of this nature as bullshit. Later he heads outside and buries the father and daughter in the middle of the night, even attempting to pray for them, ending in a simple apology. He seems on a true path of redemption and continues to be one of the most interesting characters of this entire series. I'm thankful he's back and really looking forward to seeing how his story plays out. Perhaps he will inheret Beric's power (and sword) from The Lord of Light? Time will tell.

Finally, we see Daenarys arrive at Dragonstone, former stronghold of Stannis Baratheon and the ancestral home of the Targaryans. She approaches the castle and explores what’s left of it, seemingly still in good condition and completely abandoned. It's a moving moment for her and a serious step forward for her character's journey. We've spent six seasons trying to get her here and finally she's arrived. She heads past the throne and into the war room, surveying the war table with Tyrion, the pieces scattered about. “Shall we begin?”

And that's it for the opener. A strong episode that feels very much all about set-up for the endgame. All the parts are in motion and with Daenerys landing in Westeros, everything is on the table as this new and final game begins. While there were no major deaths or epic moments, the seeds for the rest of the season were firmly planted and now we just have to sit back and watch it unfold. The showrunners indicated this season (and the next) would move much brisker than previous ones and it certainly feels that way with the season opener. Either way, I'm all in and excited as hell to see it unfold. There's so much I want (and don't want) to happen and, seeing as there's no book to reference, I'm at the mercy of the show (and George R.R. Martin for the future of the books) and I wouldn't have it any other way. We're off to a good start in the final lap of the show.

SEX/NUDITY: Surprisingly none.

VIOLENCE: Arya poisons the Freys. While not violent, Tarley enounters all manner of shit in chamber pots and it could potentially make you violently ill.

BEST SCENE: Again, Arya poisoning the Freys was the "shout-at-the-TV" moment, so I have to give it to her.

FINAL VERDICT:

TELL US WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THIS EPISODE BELOW!

Source: JoBlo.com

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