Game of Thrones, S07E01: “Dragonstone”

Game of Thrones, S07E01: “Dragonstone”

Watching the Pieces on the Board Get Slowly Pushed Closer Together is Interesting, If Underwhelming

Out of respect for the fact that there are too many fucking characters in this show, all of whom are to be found spread across every corner of Westeros, these reviews will be divvied up into sections. Each section will be titled after the main character(s) in each area, focussing solely on the developments therein.

Also, if you’re reading this and get upset at the spoilers within, I have a flagon of wine here that you really should try.


Arya – On the Road to King’s Landing

To be fair, she still nails that look of “I’m gonna kill you slowly”. (HBO)

The episode begins with what, for a second, appears to be a flashback to before Walder Frey had his throat slit last season. Is this some sort of alternate retelling of the Red Wedding, or maybe just a few hours earlier in the night before Frey met his maker? Nope, turns out it’s just Arya disguised as Walder, faceless assassin style, back once more to poison the remaining Freys. This becomes pretty obvious about ten seconds into the scene, and anyone who hasn’t worked it out by then will surely get the gist once “Walder” make a toast and doesn’t drink from the goblet himself.

At this stage, it’s pretty difficult not to notice how uninspired Arya’s storyline has become. She started out as one of the show’s two or three best characters, a trend that continued well into Season 5. But last year, everything started to feel pretty familiar and lackluster, to the extent that she ended up reliving her exact some arc for the second consecutive time. Then, we were asked to believe that Arya was stupid enough to be caught off guard by an old woman who was clearly The Waif in disguise, before being treated to what seemed like a parody of vapid chase scenes through a crowded marketplace and then even robbed of the payoff of watching the two of them fight to the death.

Now, as this season begins, there’s some suspension of disbelief here that I’m just not quite willing to work with: after failing pretty hard at her assassin’s training and barely adopting another person’s identity the entire time she was in Braavos, Arya can now apparently wear another man’s skin and accurately impersonate his mannerisms and voice in order to fool his family. Really? I mean, I’m assuming there’s some actual magic at play here, but does that make the Mission Impossible-style reveal of her peeling the fake face off any less stupid? Does it make the fact that she’s basically just the Terminator now any less eyeroll worthy? Whatever. I feel like there was a level of silliness this show avoided crossing for many years that it kinda waltzes back and forth over on a regular basis now, but that’s obviously up to your own personal tastes.


Jon & Sansa – Winterfell

“Can you please all leave so we can… talk?” (HBO)

Some of the best, old school features of GoT are on full display here. Jon and Sansa publicly bickering about the most appropriate way to deal with the families that have been disloyal to the Starks is the same sort of discussion that has happened a million times, but the fresh dynamic of these two being the ones talking it over – in front of a room full of onlooking bannermen, no less – makes it far more interesting. That’s especially true when you consider the follow up, in which Sansa brutally (though accurately) points out the stupidity that led to the deaths of Ned and Robb, hoping to help Jon avoid the same fate.

That said, the other parts of their ensuing talk following the gathering of the Northerners feels like a rehash of plot points that the show simply needs to keep reminding us of. Namedropping Joffre and having Jon and Sansa squabble over whether Cersei or the Night King is a bigger threat just feels like empty time we’re not getting back, especially this late in the show’s run. Still, having kept these characters apart for so long, GoT is scoring a lot of points by examining the intriguing*, burgeoning relationship between the two of them.

Later, there’s a typically creepy exchange between Sansa and Littlefinger, who’s basically a gravelly-voiced sex offender at this point. His wiliness and capabilities in the earlier seasons notwithstanding, Petyr Baelish has devolved into a walking satire of his former self, a man who exists only so that he might whisper veiled threats and reeeeally creepy come-ons whenever he appears. He hasn’t been interesting for a long time, and it seems more likely than ever that he’s headed for a speedy demise after his ambitious reach exceeds his grasp.


Cersei & Jaime – King’s Landing

“Maybe… we should just get a dog, or something?” (HBO)

Based on the merits of consistency, growth and acting, Cersei is GoT‘s best character. Seriously, who else made it through the clusterfuck of Season 6 in tact? Tyrion, Arya and Daenerys were forced to relive their greatest hits, Jon and Sansa crawled as slowly as possible to the “Battle of the Bastards” and Jaime’s been on a two year hiatus from doing much else other than scowling and totally not adjusting to life as a lefty. So, even if Lena Headey wasn’t giving one of TV’s most captivating performances, the now Queen of the Seven Kingdoms would go down as this show’s most rewarding character based purely on how well her arc has been woven into proceedings.

Finally back on top once again (which, love her or hate her, is exactly where she belongs), Cersei is taking stock of the Lannister’s standing in the world. Being that there are literally enemies in every corner of Westeros, she’s returned to strategising, eliciting some largely unhelpful counsel from Jaime in the process. Still, as to be expected, there’s a bristling chemistry to their scene together, driven as much by the ever-present sexual tension as by the widening gulf of ruthlessness that now separates them.

Plus, placing this scene right after Jon and Sansa’s Winterfell talk bears out a lot of comparative elements of these “sibling” dynamics: whereas Sansa is looking to help a reluctant Jon become a stronger ruler, Jaime seems to be treading lightly around his sister’s new title, quietly trying to curb her bloodthirsty rhetoric while reminding her of the circumstances they now find themselves in.

Oh yeah, and Euron Greyjoy – the new King of the Iron Islands – has arrived to ask for Cersei’s hand in marriage. He’s lot more fun than I remember him being, plus his fleet of ships and men does make for an interesting addition to the upcoming Great War. Also, when he offers to return to King’s Landing with “a priceless gift”, that pretty much has to be Tyrion, right? Or maaaybe a dragon, if he’s getting super ambitious.


Sam – The Citadel

His giant boner for knowledge is all that’s keeping those books up. (HBO)

Opening with a spectacularly upsetting montage that lays out all of his duties as a Maester in training, our time spent with Sam this episode is brief but fairly enlightening. At a some point, we find him conversing with one of the elder Maseters (a very welcome Jim Broadbent) during a grisly autopsy, which is reminiscent of Jaime’s conversation with his father Tywin whilst he skinned a boar back in Season 1, for a number of reasons.

Both scenes involve a senior character lecturing a younger protégé, detailing the ways in which legacies and histories shape the world. Whereas Tywin was reprimanding Jaime for besmirching the Lannister name, the elder Maester here wants to settle Sam’s concerns over the White Walkers bringing about the end of the world. Even though he believes Sam has seen these creatures, the Maester isn’t so quick to worry over them: “Every winter that ever came has ended.” It’s an interesting sort of discussion, in both instances, one where the elder character is firmly convinced of his notions of the world despite what he may not be aware of – or chooses to ignore – that the younger character knows.

Also, while flipping through some old books that he’s nabbed from the restricted section, Sam comes across a page that shows a map to Dragonstone, with a mountain of dragonglass hidden below. Seeing as it’s the only substance that can kill White Walkers, there’s probably some significance to that.


The Hound – With the Brotherhood Without Banners

You can tell by his face that, in his mind, he’s always calling you a cunt. (HBO)

In a segment that smacks of more wasted time and paused momentum than anything else this episode, The Hound and his new companions come across the hut where he and Arya stayed the night in Season 4. Back then, The Hound stole the old man and his daughter’s silver, leaving them for dead. Now, he returns to see they did indeed die, though by their own hands so as to not suffer starvation.

I like The Hound, and the redemption arc we’re seeing for him is pretty solid, but we did already get a whole episode last season of him hanging out with a Septon and his clan, before avenging them when they were all savagely murdered. And, I suppose, bringing The Hound back to this place when he was once such a prick and having him bury the bodies of the dead does demonstrate the extent of the character’s growth. Still, it mostly felt like a whole lotta nothing to me, wonderful though Rory McCann’s performance is.

Admittedly, there’s an interesting suggestion that I had never considered before about Beric Dondarrion’s role in the war that’s to come. Gazing into the fire (which he super does not want to do), The Hound sees a wall of ice and an army of dead, which Beric says he believes shows his purpose for being resurrected so many times. If it turns out Beric is indeed one of the key players in GoT‘s final episodes, I will applaud how close to the chest the show played that reveal.


Daenerys & Tyrion – Dragonstone

“Damn, Kanye does not sound good live. Like, at all. ” (HBO)

I… I don’t even know how to begin talking about what a fucking dicktease this entire segment is. The Khaleesi and her followers arrive at Dragonstone, and then… either I blacked out or literally nothing else happened. It’s basically an hour of people walking, set to tribal drums and chanting, and the least interesting of the characters (go on, guess) is the only one who speaks. Seriously, do you have any idea how much money Peter Dinklage just made by sauntering a few paces?

And I’m entirely willing to accept that this is the first story thread the show will pick up on next week, something that I’m at least cautiously optimistic for. But the pacing here concerns me. If the show is gonna spend a whole episode of this abridged season on other matters – intermittently intriguing though they may be – while barely advancing the plot, we’re gonna run out the clock on this thing. Meaning some of the key players in the show’s ultimate conflict might not even meet until the last episode of this season.

Honestly, I cannot tell you how pissed I’m gonna be if the last shot of this season is Dany and Jon walking towards each other on a windswept cliff face. Don’t fucking do it, Game of Thrones. Don’t you dare.


Rating: 6.5/11


Quotes, Random Thoughts & Housemate Contributions


  • First off, the five seconds spent with Bran didn’t feel worth recapping, so we’re just gonna give that a miss this week. But yeah, he made it to the Wall. Oh, and Edd’s still there. Hi, Edd!


  • Second: so, unless I misinterpreted that first bit with Bran, wasn’t he warging into that giant? Couldn’t he just, y’know… use the giant to kill the whole White Walker army?!


  • Housemate Contribution #1 – When Bran appeared: “Wax ya fuckin’ brows!”


  • *I will continue to argue this point until the show proves me definitively wrong, but I genuinely believe the show is setting up a romantic pairing between Jon and Sansa. Come at me if you must, we’ll see in due time…


  • “I am every bit as much a Northerner as you, and I don’t need your permission to defend the North!” So sayeth Lady Lyanna Mormont, Queen of Bear Island, perpetual bad-arse and perhaps the best thing to come out of Season 6.


  • “Everything before the word ‘but’ is bullshit.” Ned Stark gave a lot of weirdly applicable conversational advice to his kids. Did he ever say anything about whether he was cool with you fucking your cousin? I bet he would’ve been, Jon.


  • Christ, those bird’s-eye view shots of Cersei and Jaime standing on that painted map are incredible.


  • “We’re… The Last of Us!” Jaime opens the door for an ill-advised videogame crossover.


  • “Place was getting crowded.” Euron’s response to Jaime reminding him how many Ironborn were slaughtered during the war. This isn’t a sitcom, obviously, and it shouldn’t need to reach a weekly quota, but this is one of the only legit laughs all episode.


  • Find someone who looks at you the same way Tormund looks at Brienne, and never let them go.


  • Ed Sheeran has a mighty sweet voice, and the song he sings is, as Arya says, “pretty.” His cameo, otherwise, is fucking pointlessly stupid, and the camera’s constant insistence that we see it is indeed Ed Sheeran becomes increasingly obnoxious.


  • Housemate Contribution #2 – To Sheeran’s assurance to Arya that “it’s a new song” – “Catch it next week, when I’m on tour! Seriously, is he just gonna hold up his album or…?”


  • “You think you’re fooling anyone with that topknot? Bald cunt.” Gregor Clegane, reading Thoros of Myr something savage.


  • Sidenote for those who have read the books (or are at least somewhat familiar with the mythology): Beric has got to be Azor Ahai, right?


  • Turns out Jorah Mormont is in a cell in the Citadel, and the rock cancer is… not going well.


  • The last five minutes of this episode played out like a Christian death metal music video where a mandolin suddenly busts in at the halfway point. It was stupendously underwhelming and jarring, is what I’m saying.


  • “Shall we begin…?” You’re aware you’ve only got 12 episodes left to wrap this up, right? YOU WANNA GET A FUCKING MOVE ON!

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