Game of Thrones is back y’all! And with one heck of an opening episode, I might add.
This review is going to cover everything in the show thus far but won’t include any book spoilers without a warning.
The episode started out back at The Twins with Walder Frey addressing “every Frey who’s worth a damn”. After pouring them all wine, he congratulates them and begins to recap the Red Wedding. As his congratulations become more and more scathing, every man in the room begins to choke. It turns out that this is not a flashback. Arya Stark is wearing Walder’s face and has just killed about every adult male Frey. Before she walks out of the hall amidst the bodies (like a badass) she turns to Walder’s wife whom she had told not to drink the wine and says “tell them that Winter came for House Frey”.
The cold open for this episode was amazing. Seeing Arya continue to take out the entire house after already having killed Walder Frey last season makes me really wonder how wide her path of destruction will be. David Bradley’s acting in this scene was wonderful. His portrayal of Arya playing Walder was so detailed, masterfully letting subtle movements grow more pronounced until Arya revealed her true face.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei is having Westeros’s biggest map painted onto the floor. Jamie joins her, and as he tries to talk to the mother of his children about the death of all of their children, Cersei shuts him down. She outlines, using that handy floor map, that they are indeed surrounded by enemies. I didn’t mind this exposition so much, but then again I am a huge sucker for maps.
As Jamie raises the point that they are heir-less, Cersei mentions that she intends to marry to form an alliance. Enter Euron Greyjoy. Not only does he have a spiffy new jacket and haircut, he also has a brand new fleet of ships. Between taunting Jamie and flirting with Cersei, he manages to sell the extensiveness of his fleet and propose to the new queen. Cersei turns him down, however, and he sets out to bring her a gift that will be worthy of her hand in marriage.
The King’s Landing scenes made me feel a little bad for Jamie because I don’t think he realized that Cersei was as closed off as she is. He’s actually trying to connect with her, in his words their “baby boy committed suicide”. He is a grieving father whose daughter recently died in his arms! Unfortunately for him and his creepy sibling love, Cersei is past the point of no return. Her children were the only thing keeping her human, and they are gone. Euron creeped me out. He did look very nice in his jacket, but if I were given a choice of the two… I’d rather have the jacket. I am anxious to see what his gift is.
In the South
Elsewhere in the South, Sam’s schooling isn’t coming along how he expected. In an equally amazingly funny and horribly disgusting montage, it’s clear that Sam’s days are full of dusty bookshelves, stew, and fecal matter. Sam is the bottom of the totem pole and doesn’t get to do any of the research he was sent there to do as his schedule is full of menial tasks. He brings this up to a maester while assisting him in an autopsy, and the maester explains that every time a disaster comes along, people think it is going to be the end of the world. He explains that he believes that Sam saw what he saw, however as The Wall is still standing he sees no reason why there should be cause for concern. Apparently, they are above the problems of the rest of the world, and he clearly views those within the Citadel as the holders of knowledge and therefore on a higher moral level than the rest of humanity. Sam is fed up, and steals keys so he can sneak into the restricted section of the library (insert Harry Potter joke here) and brings home books to read on his own. While in the room he shares with Gilly and Little Sam, he makes the discovery that Dragonstone is sitting on a large source of dragon glass and writes a note to Jon.
I’ve always suspected Sam would be the one to break the news of Jon’s heritage to him, and if he’s researching the Targaryans then maybe that will happen soon.
The White Walkers and the Wall
Which brings us to The White Walkers. In a breathtaking wide shot, we see their army marching across green grass that turns to snow (I only noticed this on a second viewing but I was also watching through my fingers both times. Those dudes are scary) Its important to note here that the green grass implies that they are south of the Wall (FAR south because its snowing in Winterfell already) and that the undead army now included several giants. It turns out that we are seeing this through Bran and one of his visions.
Bran and Meera have finally reached the Wall. After a very brief interrogation by Edd, they are taken to the other side. According to a fan theory, this could be very significant. The magic that kept the undead out of the Tree Eyed Raven’s tree until they touched Bran is said to be similar to the magic that keeps them on the northern side of the Wall. Now that Bran has crossed to the other side, I wonder if it has allowed the White Walkers to cross as well.
Just a tad further south, Jon and Sansa are holding court. Jon orders that every able bodied person above the age of 10 be trained to fight, including women. Lyanna Mormont obviously stands up to defend this decision. Jon also orders that any and all dragonglass be collected, and orders that the Wildlings go defend Eastwatch-by-the-sea. Next comes the issue of the Umber and Karstark castles. Sansa urges Jon to strip the two families of their castles as punishment for turning against the Starks, but Jon instead elects to have the new heads of the families (a very young and scared Ned and Alys) swear loyalty to them while declaring that a son would not be punished for the crimes of their father.
Later, Jon chastises Sansa for questioning his authority in the meeting. Sansa brings up the valid point that although Robb and Ned might have been noble, they are both dead. She has valuable experience from her time in Kings Landing, and Jon should take it into consideration. As a raven arrives from Kings Landing announcing Cersei’s leadership and demanding that Jon come to the capital to bend the knee, Sansa warns Jon not to underestimate the queen.
Later as Tormound fails once more at flirting with Birenne, Littlefinger approaches Sansa to try to get under her skin. While Sansa rebuffs him, Brienne is concerned and asks why he is still here. Sansa replies that they owe him their lives due to the Knight’s of the Vale’s surprise appearance in the Battle of the Bastards, but claims she knows what he really wants.
My takeaway from the activities at Winterfell is that Jon and Sansa need to communicate, and Sansa needs to send Littlefinger away. But the northern ladies are otherwise killing it. Heart eyes all day at Brienne and Lyanna, and a huge huzzah for the generation of Northern Lady Warriors that will result from Jon’s decision. It was also interesting to note that the Baratheon stag is still over Kings Landing in the credits, but Cersei ‘s note to John was signed with the Lannister lion.
Jumping back to the Riverlands, it looks like The Hound is still traveling with Beric and Thoros of Myr. They come across the house that he robbed back in season 4 when Arya was with him and finds that the farmer who lived there and his daughter are dead, apparently by the farmer’s own hand. Thoros asks the Hound to look into the flames, and after reluctantly doing so he claims that he sees the dead walking where the Wall meets the sea. It looks like they’re all going to Eastwatch-by-the-sea where Jon just sent the Wildlings. In the middle of the night, he buries the farmer and his daughter and apologizes over their grave.
This was the stand-out scene in the episode for me. Seeing how much the Hound has changed in a few seasons and watching Rory McCann’s emotional portrayal of the moment was really fantastic. Beric and Thoros are two fascinating characters, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them this season and possibly finding out more about their religion that has brought at least two people back from the dead.
Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Arya interrupts a Lannister soldier sing-a-long and we are introduced to what might possibly be the most controversial cameo in pop culture history for who is leading the sing-a-long but Ed Sheeran. Arya accepts the soldier’s invitation to sit and share their food. I was sure that we were about to watch Ed Sheeran get murdered but that turned out to not be the case. As the soldiers talked with Arya, it became clear that they had no love for the Lannisters and that they were simply trying to get by with families of their own.
Although a lot of people seemed to hate it, I personally did not mind Ed’s cameo. I knew from her social media that Maisie Williams is a fan, and correctly assumed that it was done as a gift/surprise for her. The main complaint seems to be that either the scene was pointless, or that it pulled people out of the reality of the show. I thought the scene was a little awkward but served to show that Arya is not killing every single Lannister she sees. Just as when she left the women alive at The Twins, it seems like Arya is reserving her killing for the people who gave or carried out the orders instead of those guilty by association. As for the suspension of disbelief, to me, Ed Sheeran is equally recognizable as Mark Gatiss, or David Bradley. They don’t pull me out of the story and neither did he.
The Queen is in Dragonstone
The episode ends with Dany finally arriving at Dragonstone. This scene was beautiful, the location was breathtaking and the set design was on point. I’m so incredibly happy there was no dialogue, that would have given the scene a cheesy tone no matter how beautifully it might have been written.
As far as season openers go, this one was fantastic. I’m very excited for the upcoming season, as it seems like everything is falling into place very quickly for battles that have been talked about for seven seasons.