18th Jul2017

‘Game of Thrones 7×01: Dragonstone’ Review

by Steven Riley

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It may be the middle of July, but for Game of Thrones winter is most definitely coming…

While past season openers are notoriously take a while to thaw out before a generally explosive ending (literally with that season six finale), the laying of the Westeros war table sees the show runners turn the heat up early on.

With a cold opening (pun most definitely intended) that sees Arya Stark take revenge for the Red Wedding while disguised as her last victim Walder we were treated to about as brutal and shocking an opening as we could have hoped for; I haven’t seen so many people regret taking a drink like that since someone suggested tequila shots on a Friday night.

The rest of the episode didn’t hit those highs in terms of action but while it was mainly an hour of exposition to show the aftermath of last season’s climax and establish some new alliances, it did enough to hook the series’ many fans as the show moves further away from its ink and paper counterpart.

A danger that has felt uncomfortably close for a few seasons now was evident once more as the Walker army approaching from the far North; a walker army that is growing in size and appears to have enlisted the husks of fallen giants to do their bidding.

Clearly in a hurry to get away from the frost-covered army of the dead (or to get to Winterfell and claim compensation for that fall from the tower), Bran and Meera have make it to the wall and are greeted by new commander Dolorous Edd. Add is becoming a character who gets more and more likeable with each scene, which is making me worried for his fate when the inevitable happens and the Walkers arrive at Castle Black.

Such an imminent threat seems of little concern in King’s Landing however, where the Cersei is plotting to defeat the enemies that surround her. Complete with her handy map, the newly-crowned Queen points out each of the opposing armies. As Jaime, the most sympathetic Lannister apart from Tyrion, shows concern for her wellbeing, his sister/lover launches into a bitter tirade and claims their suicidal son, Tommen, betrayed them by jumping to his death – also demonstrating how far her descent into madness has taken her and will take her still.

Speaking of mad, Cersei has also appears to have made an alliance with Euron Greyjoy. His proposal to the Queen, and not-very-subtle mockery of Jaime made for an entertaining scene from a character who didn’t get to show the eccentric side hinted at in the books. Here’s hoping actor Pilou Asbæk gets more screen time after delivering a “gift” to Cersei (although let’s hope it’s one of the Sand Snakes rather than Tyrion).

Further up in the cold there’s an enjoyable section back in Winterfell as we see Jon’s first actions as ‘The King in the North.’ Like his father and brother before him, Jon appears to be trying to balance strong leadership with the morals that have become synonymous with male Starks. While his mercy for those who betrayed his house is admirable, it does ring alarm bells for those who have lived through Baelor and the Red Wedding (you weren’t there Jon), and we’re glad to have Sansa by his side reminding him that while Ned and Robb were noble, it was their naivety that cost them their lives.

We get to see more of the Citadel; some might say a little bit too much. While we understand that showing Sam cleaning bedpans, filing books and serving dinners is supposed to demonstrate how long he has been working as a novice, it felt like more a chore for us at home having to watch him shovel up faeces and serve food that looked more like faeces (just think of the poor prop guys having to cook that up for a fortnight). Thankfully the segment did pay off as Jim Broadbent’s Archmaester Ebrose was given one of the most memorable entrances since Tywin Lannister as he sliced organs from a cadaver while offering life lessons to dear old Sam. The revelation that there is fireglass under Dragonstone meanwhile is one of significance as we’ll see later.

There was a nice change of pace as well when we got a little more from previously minor characters like Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr ,while the Hound continued his humanisation in a touching scene as the Brotherhood of Banners found a house that he and Arya had raided back in season four. It was nice to get a little insight into Beric, a man being brought from death and losing a bit of himself each time without knowing his purpose. The Hound appears to be learning his, seeing visions in the flames he once feared in an ironic twist for his likeable gruff character. Plus his derision of Thoros’ top-knot really struck a chord.

The only real weak point of the episode was when Arya came across some Lannister men with a well-known singer in their ranks. Ed Sheeran’s cameo seemed more than a little out of place, looking more like someone who had just stepped off stage at the BRITs rather than a soldier living rough in the Riverlands. While you could argue the scene humanised the enemy and had something to say about how thinly the Lannister army is spread, it was more than a little heavy-handed and felt like a way to shoehorn in a popstar singing. At least Hands of Gold from A Storm of Swords made for a better tune than Galway Girl though…

Finally long-time fans of the series finally got to see Daenarys touch down on Westeros soil and claim her seat in Dragonstone; the same keep Aegon took centuries ago. It’s been six years of waiting for show fans (and twenty for those in the books) but the Dragon Queen has finally returned – even if her new surroundings look like the destroyed house your parents would come back to after being away for so long (“Who drew that fiery heart on the table cloth?!”). Still, it’s a fitting place to start her conquest and her only words of the episode are a fitting note to end on for this season seven opener.

“Let’s begin.”

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