A Premiere for the Millions: GAME OF THRONES Returns


Episode 61  “Dragonstone”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Jeremy Podeswa

Shall we begin? Praise the Seven, Game of Thrones is back with a vengeance. Literally. After its longest break between seasons in its history, the season seven premiere brought in its largest viewer rate to date. Not only for the show, but for HBO as well, topping at 10.1 million viewers with the added bonus of 6 million viewers through same date DVR, and HBO GO. Without a doubt, the marketing strategy of making viewers wait longer has certainly paid off, and we aren’t even mad. Especially since we got such a satisfying beginning.

Walder Frey (David Bradley) — wait isn’t he supposed to be dead? Last I checked Arya (Maisie Williams) has served him up a Frey son pot pie and then slit his throat, and yet here the old bastard is, surrounded by all his loyal men, those who had murdered the Starks at the Red Wedding.

Then it clicks, and a gleeful smile lights every viewer’s face, because they know exactly what is about to happen. I mean it’s fairly predictable. A dead guy, bringing all his men in for a second feast, more joyous than he has ever seemed, giving a speech while young women all serve wine to the men. You know it’s coming. It’s the perfect set-up. A mass homicide carried out by the ninja Stark herself, Arya. Only after every last man has fallen down dead, then does she pull off the face of Walder Frey, revealing herself to the terrified women left, and I swear for just a small moment I heard the applause around the world. She turns to his young wife, deadpan, making her face very clear for her to see, and says, “When asked what happened here tonight, tell them the North Remembers. Winter came for House Frey.”

Mic drop.

God, I love her! I want to be her when I grow up! Arya moves along, stepping over the dead bodies littered amongst the floor, wearing a grin to make the Joker jealous.

Credit: Helen Sloan

With a dash of happiness always comes the reminder that everything is about to go to Hell. Yea, Arya got her revenge, but that is nothing compared to the Night King (Vladimir ‘Furdo’ Furdik) leading his army of the dead, which after that battle against the wildlings has only tripled their size; oh, and did I mention they have giants now! Yea, things are looking desolate if Jon (Kit Harrington) and Dany (Emilia Clarke) don’t meet up soon with some sort of plan.

Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) finally make it to the wall and are greeted by Eddison (Ben Crompton). Bran proves his heritage as a Stark, and Edd admits them, dumbstruck at the knowledge that Bran is alive and well and somehow on the opposite side of the wall. While we are wondering how soon Bran will get to reunite with his sisters and cousin, Jon and Sansa (Sophie Turner) are back in Winterfell, holding a meeting with the other leaders of the North. Discussion ensues on how best to prepare for the White Walkers’ arrival, and there is a clear divide on who can fight and who must stay home. Our favorite young badass Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) doesn’t hesitate to stand alongside Jon and claim that all must fight and work, claiming that she will not be sitting by the fire knitting while the men are out fighting. Go Lyanna go! Gender equality for all!

Just out of curiosity, anyone else really hoping that Lyanna and Arya finally meet? Out of any possible outcomes these two women would be a force to be reckoned with.

Credit: Helen Sloan

When talk of what to do with the Umber and Carstarks households are breached, Sansa and majority of those in attendance call for their removal, due to their treachery to the Starks. Jon will hear none of it, and there is a rigid tension between him and his cousin that even the dullest knife could have sliced through. He puts his foot down as King of the North by summoning the eldest children of the Umbers and Carstarks, asking for their fealty, which they gladly give. Everyone seems pleased with this decision after recognizing the reason and logic behind it. Jon is a true King Solomon. Shortly after the meeting, Sansa and Jon receive a raven from Cersei (Lena Headey) ordering them to King’s Landing to bend the knee. It is almost laughable as she has lost over half of the kingdom’s loyalty to her uprising.

Speaking of the Widow Witch, Cersei informs Jamie of her pending alliance with Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) who just so happens to have the largest armada in all of Westeros. With his help they could have a chance against Daenarys. Much to our surprise, however, Cersei declines the marriage proposal that comes with his armada, informing Euron that he is untrustworthy and treacherous. Euron smiles, not at all upset by this, and claims that he will get her the most precious gift a Queen could ever want in the hopes that she will accept him. If ever there was a more deadly union it would be these two. I shiver to think of what they would be willing to do, to remain unstoppable.

Credit: Helen Sloan

In this episode, we were greeted with one of the most stomach wrenching scenes to date, all packaged together in montage of five-second segments. Poor Sam (John Bradley), poor poor Sam. My heart truly goes out to him. He never seems to catch a break. He made it to Oldtown ecstatic to finally begin his teachings as a Maester, only to find out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Not only does he not get to learn how to help Jon against the white walkers, but no one truly believes him. On top of that, he must shelve books in the citadel library, a daunting task in itself, serve food to the Maesters, and oh yea, clean out the Maester’s chamber pots which just so happen to be the same pots used to serve the food! Seconds of Sam, broken into shelving books tiredly, serving chunky stew resignedly, and dumping chamber pots while gagging, was enough for me to even want to turn away. Yet he doesn’t quit. He powers on, all the while longing for the day he may enter the restricted section of the library.

During one of his menial tasks of assisting Archmaester Ebrose (Jim Broadbent) with an autopsy, the subject of White Walkers is broached. All this time that Sam has been there, no one has believed that he saw the White Walkers. This is isn’t at all what he was expecting from the Maesters. What should have been an open desire to learn more about what is happening at the wall, becomes open disdain towards the newcomer and his tidings of woes. Archmaester Ebrose admits he believes Sam’s accounts, but instead of assisting him in learning how to avert disaster, he shuts Sam down telling him Winter has always come and gone, and the wall has always stood. Even with belief, Sam is met with uncaring remarks. So what does Sam do? He steals keys from one of the Maesters in the infirmary — I mean fair trade for having to clean up after the man’s chamber pot — sneaks into the restricted section and grabs whatever books he can find to assist him in his query.

In the books he discovers the answer to his prayers! A map of where to find Dragonglass, the only material capable of killing a White Walker, and it just so happens to be buried under Dragonstone! Well gee, really? You think? I mean the name itself lends to the fact that if there ever was a place to find Dragonglass it would be at the Targaryen strong keep, Dragonstone. Immediately Sam writes to Jon to give him the news, and it dawns on me, does Sam know that Jon is now King of the North? Or that he had died for a few days only to be brought back? I forget just how out of the loop Sam really is sometimes. Another day later or so, Sam is among his duties, when passing by locked doors, he is surprised by a hand shooting out at him, with the advanced stages of Greyscale. A voice comes from the dark, one that we recognize. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). How the bloody hell did he get there?! Regardless of that minor detail he still seems as fervent as ever over his dragon queen, begging for news of her arrival, of which Sam has none. 

Meanwhile in the woods, melodious singing can be heard as Arya rides through. Having found a camp of Lannister soldiers, they welcome her to their fire pit and food. Lo and behold, who is it that happens to be singing? None other than the controversially hated and loved Edd Sheeran! His appearance in the show has caused quite a stir amongst the GoT tribe, most of them proclaiming what a distraction it was. I have to admit to being among those in agreement. The thing I love about this show is its drastic life from the real world, and the last thing I want to see is a cameo of a dopey faced singer, that even the real world doesn’t take too seriously. At that instant of recognition my only thought was, stick him with the pointy end Arya! Alas, this run-in with her sworn enemies went far more peacefully (and unrealistically) than any scenario GoT has brought us. However, I will say it did have some merit, as it showed that even the men working for evil are still humans trying to survive to get back to their families. Hell, some of them even have manners. Could Arya be feeling a little guilt for murdering 50 Frey men in cold blood? I hope not. Don’t forget Arya, Valar Morghulis.

Credit: Helen Sloan

Somewhere in the realm, the Hound (Rory McCann) and Beric Dondarrion’s (Richard Dormer) Brotherhood come upon an abandoned house in the middle of a snow storm, and we all receive a moment of deja vu, but let it pass without another thought, that is until the Hound appears to recognize it and we wrack our brains for what it could be. Upon entry into the home, the men are met with a depressing site. The corpses of a father holding his young daughter, a bloody knife at their feet, and our ears ring with unplaced recognition. The Hound especially seems at unease amongst these particular dead, but the brotherhood is none too bothered by it.

That evening Thoros (Paul Kaye) looks into the flames for answers from R’hllor the Lord of Light, and invites the Hound to join him. Sandor is of course reluctant, rightfully so, but eventually agrees. At first he sees nothing but flames but after a longer look, he recites back in a dumbstruck tone, “…a wall of ice. The Wall. Where it meets the sea. There’s a castle. A mountain. Like an arrowhead. The dead are marching past. Thousands of them.” A collective shiver seems to pass down everyone’s spine, Sandor’s especially. For a man who never believed in divine entities, he has just been presented with undeniable proof, that even if he had been intoxicated he couldn’t have denied.

Later that night, Thoros is awakened by the sounds of shoveling. Upon investigation he finds the Hound in the midst of burying the Farmer and daughter. Thoros assists quietly, perplexed as to why a man of such callous uncaring, is all of a sudden showing a dose of humanity for two, to be presumed, unknown dead. After they are laid to rest, Sandor attempts to list off the prayer of the Seven, halting only part of the way in, stating he can’t remember it all, apologizing that they died, and they deserved better. Then it clicks! These two are the same farmer and daughter that Arya and the Hound had encountered two years ago shortly after the Red Wedding. It is because of Sandor that they are dead, as he had stolen their silver and beat the farmer for it, proclaiming to Arya that they were good people but would die by Winter, and dead men don’t need silver. For once the Hound is feeling remorse and guilt of his actions, and our hearts break ever so slightly with his.

Credit: Helen Sloan

Across Westeros, ships lay anchor at the shore to Dragonstone, and a still fresh faced Daenerys steps from a boat on to the sand of her long lost home as her dragons swirl in the air, dancing in joy as if they recognize their home already. Accompanied by a silent Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and a few of her men, she makes the exhausting trek up long flights of carved stone stairs, to a gate that opens onto a narrow walkway over a sheer cliff with the sea on either side, leading to the castle itself. Upon entering the abandoned fortress, she rips down a Baratheon banner, making her way to the Throne room. Everyone holds a collective breath at the sight of the Throne, three times the size of the Iron Throne, carved out of burnt and melted Dragonglass. Inside I am screaming, “sit on the throne sit on the throne!” Of course it is just like Dany to put aside the idea of the image of power. She just made the journey across the ocean, which had to be a hellish experience at best, I’m sure she would love nothing more than to sit and relax, but instead she averts away from the throne and makes her way to the war room, where a large stone map of Westeros is waiting for her. She takes her place at its head, surrounded by her counsel, and utters, “Shall we begin?” She wastes no time! Doesn’t hire a decorator, doesn’t wait for the rest of her fleet to unload, she gets right down to the nitty gritty.

This season is already packed with juicy plot lines waiting to integrate, and it’s only the first episode. The sad thing is, with so much in the works to happen, we only have six episodes left! They are either going to have to rush a lot of plot lines and allow time to merge a little for this to work or we are going to be left with the biggest cliffhanger of all.

 

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on HBO.

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