If you couldn’t tell from all your social media, GAME OF THRONES is back. And I’m happy to report it is just as good as ever. Perhaps even better. The first episode of the second to last season of Game of Thrones, “Dragonstone”, finally feels like a show that has reached its final act. We are definitely moving towards the end game here as almost all storylines boast a plot development that feels huge and a long time coming.
For one thing, Cersei is finally Queen of the Seven Kingdoms (or “three at the most” as Jaime tells her). After her husband and two of her sons died in the position, it feels right that the stage for the finale of the series (yes, I feel like the next two seasons will be one big finale) is set with her on the Iron Throne. She burned her enemies and she is surrounded with no allies. She’s lost all her children, as the witch foretold her as a little girl. Cersei has everything to gain and nothing to lose. Except Jaime, but is there any doubt that their relationship will end poorly? Either he kills her or vice versa, right? At any rate, as of right now he still remains loyal to her and brings up this issue of them having nobody to fight the oncoming war with.
Of course Cersei is smarter than that. She has already arranged a meeting with Euron Greyjoy and his fleet of ships from the Iron Islands. They command the seas and would be a tremendous asset to Cersei. However, as with everything in Game of Thrones, there is some history here. The Iron Island rebelled from the Seven Kingdoms, and Euron Greyjoy actually led an attack on the Lannister’s home Casterly Rock. Jaime in turn fought battles at the Iron Islands, of which Euron spectated from afar with pleasure. How can Cersei trust Euron, a man who betrayed his family to sit on the Salt Throne? Well, Euron says he wants to marry her. This puts him directly at odds with her brother lover Jaime. Still, Cersei needs more. Promising to prove his loyalty by returning with a priceless gift (I think this will be Tyrion somehow) Euron leaves.
In Winterfell, Jon, Sansa, and the Northern houses are preparing for the real battle, though. The one with the army of the dead. They know it fast approaches. Jon sends Tormund Giantsbane and the Wildlings to defend The Wall. He commands that women of the North be trained to fight because they can’t win with half their population sitting on the bench. And there is an issue of what to do with the Houses of the Umbers and Carstarks, those families who sided with Ramsay in last season’s biggest conflict. Sansa openly argues with Jon’s decision to allow the families to keep their castles, and to not punish the sons for the sins of their fathers. Sansa says other loyal families should be rewarded the castles. Later, Jon calls her out on questioning him in front of everyone. Is this setting up a conflict between the siblings? It would certainly be interesting, but the North needs a united leadership.
The other remaining Stark children, Bran and Arya, are making their way through the world that does not know they still exist. Brandon and Meera arrive at The Wall and are let in, warning of the coming dead. Arya opened the episode using her new Faceless Men skill of becoming Walder Frey to poison all the Freys that were present on the night of the Red Wedding. Bad. Ass. Later, she travels south to King’s Landing to kill the Queen and runs into some soldiers (Ed Sheeran cameo-ing with a song and all in the episode’s by far dumbest part). Was there some chemistry between Arya and one of those soldiers? Or was that just me?
Arya’s old friend The Hound is forced to recall some of their time together as he travels with the Brotherhood Without Banners and stumbles upon the old farmhouse he and Arya did a few seasons back. He killed the people there and took what he could. Arya was angry at him then but The Hound pointed out they probably wouldn’t survive long anyway. The Winter would kill them or some other roaming burglar would. But now The Hound has changed and he actually has remorse for what he’s done. He buries the corpses and actually apologizes. Wondering what the Lord of the Light is all about, he looks into the fire and actually has a vision of the army of the dead passing south of The Wall. Suddenly the Brotherhood Without Banners seems to have a mission.
In Oldtown at the Citadel, Sam is leading a pretty mundane life studying to become a Maester. He’s doing the “Charlie Work” if you will, for all you It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia fans. He’s cleaning toilets, and lugging books around, and serving dinner, and taking empty plates. He is NOT doing what he came there to do–to study the vast library and seek knowledge on how to defeat the army of the dead. It seems that that knowledge would be reserved for the part of the library that gets locked up and only Maesters are allowed to enter. Ultimately he decides to steal the keys and enter, and it’s a good thing he does. He finds a book that tells him where a reserve of dragonglass can be found. Dragonglass is the only known weapon able to kill a White Walker. Apparently the Targaryen’s kept a reserve of it beneath their home of Dragonstone. Sam has to get work to Jon!
And in the episode’s final moments, we see Daenerys getting off her ship and ascending the steps into Dragonstone. We last saw Stannis and the Red Woman here planning their attack on Blackwater Bay in Season 2. Abandoned, she walks right in and claims it as her own. She sees the map of the world Stannis had been using to strategize. She glides her hand across it and she asks Tyrion “Shall we begin?” The Targaryen’s have finally returned to Westeros and they are coming for the Iron Throne, baby! Right now it seems lucky that Daenerys and her forces hold Dragonstone and thus the cache of dragonglass. But we know that Euron and his formidable fleet are most likely going to attack Dragonstone on behalf of Cersei, and soon.
Overall, a strong start to what will surely be an epic season! Gets a ‘minus’ next to that A for that Sheeran cameo, though. C’mon.
Season 7, Episode 1 (S07E01)
Game of Thrones airs Sunday at 9PM on HBO
Paul Gulyas | Contributor