Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey
Watch The Official Trailer
In Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 1: Dragonstone. We see the unloved children of Westeros take control, with an epic start to this new season Spoilers…
In the wonderful world of Westeros, children are seen as the future. Every house seeks to have children to continue their House Line. House Stark couldn’t rule the north for the thousands of years that they have without these future generations of Stark’s that are ready to continue the family line, and if you kill these house’s most valuable asset (Children), then you can be assured that this will eliminate the house and severely damaging their bargaining ability for future alliances.
The Umbers and the Karstarks were loyal banner men for the Starks. However, after the recent wars, all that is left of those two traitorous houses are two young children who must bend the knee to Jon Snow and pledge Loyalty. The Lannister’s The Lannister’s used to be the most powerful house in Westeros when Tywin used to rule. However, now all is that is left of this house is a one handed traitor, a clever dwarf, and finally a dangerous crazy sociopath that has a reputation of being involved in incest. When looking at Walder Frey, we can see he would be a minor lord, without his children. However he managed to be productive and increase his influences to most of the major families in Westeros, simply by out breeding and having a larger family. If Walder Frey lost his family that he would be losing the main base of power, especially as he is not a proven military commander.
Cerseiis out of options for marriage. Walder Frey is out of male children. A bastard, Jon Snow rules over the lords in the North. While the last child of Mad King Aerys comes across the sea to bear down Westeros and seize the iron throne, a castrato and a cast-off girl leading her navy. Through means fair or foul, the neglected children of Westeros are taking control, and they’ll leave the Seven Kingdoms in ruins if the Night King doesn’t beat them all to the punch. The wayward children are struggling to avenge long-dead relatives or finish out their family goals, whether it makes sense for them or not.
It’s pleasing to be back in the world of Game of Thrones. As the episode opens on the surprising sight of Walder Frey talking to his kin, at the end of this episode sees Daenerys walking into Dragonstone for the first ever time since she was a child. This part makes any viewer speechless, gripped, and unable to believe what is seen on the screen. With a Gruesome opening and all the way to the baby-step triumph at the end, Game Of Thrones remains captivating television.
David Bradley is sheer brilliance in Dragonstone, as mean an old man as has ever been depicted on television, but it’s more than just one-note grumbling. He’s playing Walder, but he’s also playing avenging Faceless Woman Arya Stark; one minute he’s cracking jokes with his sons and the next minute he’s turning the party into a funeral. The Freys might have killed off most of the Stark bloodline, but they left one alive. They didn’t remove the Starks stem and root, and they paid for it in the end, coughing up blood and collapsing. At no point does it completely feel like Walder Frey, more someone doing a
Walder impression; that fits because that’s exactly what it is.
Not terribly far away, the Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners are trying to become more than just annoying brigands, but an important cog in the machine that will protect the living from the dead. For the Hound, that means coming to terms with how his actions in the past have ruined the lives of others. As always, the Hound remains one of the more sarcastic characters on the show, and his exchanges with Thoros and Dondarrion have sufficient bile to them, but this is a different Hound. Sure, he talks smart to his traveling companions, but at the same time, when asked to look into the fire for a vision from the Lord of Light, he does so, rather than stomping off to eat a chicken. That gives Rory McCann opportunity to be both chilling, as he recites his vision to the troubled Brotherhood, and sweet, as he leaves the Brotherhood in the dead of night to bury the father-and-daughter corpses of the people he’d robbed long ago when Arya was his traveling companion. That Sandor has forgotten his prayers isn’t surprising, but it makes his effort all the more emotionally charged. He did his best to them, and his apology by their grave isn’t the rote recitation of a prayer, but a genuine (if brief) admission of true remorse.
There isn’t a tonne of forwarding motion this week. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are content to shift their pieces, put everything on the board, and remind the viewing audience just who these people are and just what they want at this particular moment. In some cases, like with Cersei, this is a bit of an exposition dump; the friction between Jaime and Cersei is definitely foreshadowing a future conflict and mirrors the friction between Sansa and Jon Snow at Winterfell. At least Cersei had the good sense to save her argument for private, rather than having a public disagreement in front of the assembled bannermen of House Stark. The Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners are slowly shifting from an uneasy relationship to a rewarding one for all involved. The Wildlings are going to join up with the Night’s Watch to man the wall. The Iron Islands are split between Yara/Theon and Euron, who have taken opposite sides in the upcoming civil war.
It’s mostly getting things in the right places, but director Jeremy Podeswa takes advantage of the show’s boosted budget. Dragonstone is beautiful to behold. Winterfell feels bigger than it has since the first season. Dany’s fleet is larger, as is the Winter King’s army. The episode has a good flow to it, and rather than go from one segment to another, it follows story lines for a bit longer. Arya kills the Freys, and then Arya meets the Lannister soldiers, who are kind to her. Jon and Sansa meet with the Northerners, then they discuss their public disagreement and whether or not Jon is too nice to be an effective leader. Sansa mentions Cersei Lannister, and the next scene is Cersei looking at a map of her kingdom spreading out beneath her feet.
As Jaime points out, Cersei isn’t the queen of the Seven Kingdoms, no matter what her map might say. She’s in charge of three at best. She’s got enemies to the North in the form of the Starks, to the East in the returning Targaryen queen, to the West in Olenna Tyrell, and to the South in the Sand Snakes. Will she strike first, or will her enemies surround her and crush her before turning their attention to the real threat north of The Wall?
She wouldn’t be Cersei if she could look past her own grievances to keep the world alive through the winter to come.
A fairly standard kick-off to a Game Of Thrones season, then: lots of pieces sliding into place, and perhaps a little slower than we might have expected given that this season only has seven episodes. But if you consider the final two batches as one season sliced into sections, then we suppose there’s more room for little bits of exposition and scene-setting. It’s still exciting to see new alliances form, but surely the best is saved for last as Dany is finally on the same continent as everyone else. Just what will her next move be? She does have dragons at her disposal, after all…
Highlight: Dany’s landing.
Lowlight: The poop montage. Poor Sam.
Kill of the week: It was a bad evening to be a Frey (See Quote of the week).
Quote of the week: “Tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter has come for the Freys.” Arya, perfecting the James Bond killer sign-off.
MVP: The Hound, for his soul-searching. Great work from Rory McCann.
Random thought: Yes, that is Ed Sheeran crooning with the Lannister troops. No one runs in and attacks him for warbling away, but perhaps the producers are holding that for the season finale?
Reviewed by: Stephen