Game of Thrones season 7, episode 1 recap: “Dragonstone”


Game of Thrones has returned to our lives, and the season 7 premiere episode ‘Dragonstone’ could not have been any better.

Typically, each season premiere episode of Game of Thrones has been rather dull affairs. Sure, Bran got tossed out of a window in season 1, and the Sand Snakes went on a family murder spree in season 6, but really nothing much happens.

Premiere episodes of most shows are like the first day back to school from summer vacation; nothing actually happens, you just catch up with your friends about what happened while you were out of school. The first episode of season 7 threw that playbook out the window though, brought us a spectacular hour of television were more than a few things occurred. Since this is Game of Thrones though, “things” means lots of people died.

Spoilers follow below. Be warned.

In one of the series’ rare cold openings, we pick up the action at the Twins. A seemingly resurrected Walder Frey feasting all the male members of House Frey should have alerted viewers that something was immediately wrong. Unless Lord Walder had a visit from Melisandre, last we saw him Arya was slitting his throat in season 6. Lord Walder’s speech quickly descends in tone from congratulatory to mocking, and even the dim witted Freys begin to pick up that something is wrong.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark – Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

As the assembled Freys quickly begin choking to death on their poisoned wine, Walder peels back his face to reveal Tom Cruise! No, sorry, it’s just Arya Stark. Arya turns to Walder’s befuddled wife and delivers her best line of the series. Explaining that “the North remembers, and that winter came for House Frey.” The goosebumps had barely faded when the opening music hits, and we are back lords and ladies!

After an updated credits sequence that included a pretty spiffy look at Oldtown, HBO decided it was best to remind us of what’s coming for all our heroes: the White Walkers. We are treated to a dread inspiring shot of the army of the dead marching south, including some rather frightening shots of some undead giants. As if the odds weren’t stacked high enough against the living. The shot was also remarkable in that we typically only see the White Walkers once per season, and we know from the trailer that there will be at least one more encounter with our icy friends to the north. Looks like winter has indeed, come.

Staying up north, we watch a brief scene that centers around Meera and Bran’s arrival at the Wall. There they meet Dolorous Edd, and after Bran flexes his Three Eyed Raven powers, the pair is admitted through the Wall. Hopefully, the duo is headed to Winterfell, which is our next stop on the Northern tour.

Helen Sloan/HBO

Jon Snow is meeting with the assembled lords of the North in Winterfell and has more than a few house keeping duties to take care of. First Jon orders everyone to scour the North for dragonglass. Jon knows it’s one of the few things that can kill a White Walker, so now its “more valuable than gold.” Jon is also intent on everyone over the age of ten, man or woman, learning to fight. Lord Glover isn’t to keen on this, but after Lyanna Mormont cowers the much older Glover into submission, it’s agreed that everyone will learn to fight.

Jon then dispatches Tormund and the wildlings to Eastwatch by the Sea, the closest castle on the Wall to Hardhome, their best guess as to where the Night King will strike first. After that, Jon is ready to decide the fates of Houses Karstark and Umber, who famously sided with the Boltons last season. Jon favors forgiveness for the Houses and their continued dominion of their lands and castles, but Sansa rather publicly disagrees with Jon. It’s more than a little awkward for Jon, but he stays true to his decision.

Image Credit: HBO

Afterward, Jon and Sansa discuss their public quarrel, and Sansa derides Jon for being too much like Robb, Ned and Joffrey. All three comparisons hit home for Jon, although Sansa does apologize for comparing Jon to Joffrey. Jon’s complaint about Sansa questioning him in public is quite valid though, so hopefully, Sansa can also learn from her mistakes. A letter from King’s Landing brings Cersei’s demand of fealty, although Jon believes the White Walkers remain the primary threat.

Speaking of Cersei, it’s down to King’s Landing we go. We find Cersei standing in that epic map room from the trailers, and Jaime appears, ready to discuss strategy. It’s an interesting contrast to Jon and Sansa’s sibling disagreement. Jon clearly values and weighs Sansa’s advice, while Cersei ignores pretty much every argument made by Jaime. This even includes discussing Tommen’s suicide, which Cersei labels a betrayal. Nice.

Helen Sloan/HBO

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Cersei does have a plan, however, and it centers on an alliance with Euron Greyjoy. Euron strolls in the throne room and almost steals the episode. Cocky, clever and a bit maniacal, Euron promises to bring Cersei a great gift to seal their alliance. Gifts on Game of Thrones typically involve someone’s death though. Look out Dany.

As we depart King’s Landing, we head ever farther south to Oldtown where Samwell Tarly is on shit detail. Literally. It’s a fairly disgusting montage of Sam changing bedpans and scrubbing toilets between his other duties at the Citadel. While performing an autopsy, we are introduced to one of Sam’s instructors, played by Jim Broadbent. The arch maester believes Sam’s story of the Night King but refuses to grant Sam access to the restricted area of the Citadel library.

No matter though, as Sam simply steals a key and then takes the books he was looking for. From the stolen books, Sam discovers that Dragonstone is actually sitting on a “mountain” of dragonglass, and quickly scribbles off a note to Jon about this. We also catch a glimpse of Catspaw in the book, a Valyrian Steel dagger last seen in Littlefinger’s possession back in season 1. Interesting.

Before we leave Samwell, we watch him make the rounds in the Citadel one more time, only this time it’s in a sort of quarantine wing. There we discover that Jorah Mormont has been holed up in the Citadel as his Greyscale spreads, looking for a cure. Jorah is eager to hear any news of Daenerys, but Sam has not heard any.

Back to Winterfell, we go, as Brienne beats the stuffing out of Podrick after being harassed by Tormund. Littlefinger attempts to sleaze his way back into Sansa’s good graces, but like anyone twenty something at a bar at 2 am, Sansa shuts creep o boy down. Brienne offers her support, but Sansa doesn’t appear to need it. Yet.

We pick up with Arya once again, as she rides for King’s Landing. Happening upon some Lannister soldiers (including a cameo by Ed Sheeran), Arya joins the group for some rabbit. It’s an oddly disarming scene, as the Lannisters soldiers are rather kind to our young sociopath. Hopefully, they don’t all turn out to be rapists or murders next week.

Elsewhere in the Riverlands, we join the Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners in the episode’s best-extended bit. Rory McCann’s portrayal of the Hound has long been one of the show’s most underrated aspects, as McCann plays the character with just the right amount of damaged skepticism. The Hound questions Beric Dondarrion as to the purpose behind his continued resurrections, without coming off as mocking Beric. After a fire vision courtesy of Thoros, the Hound does appear to be coming around though.

In another disarming moment, we later find the Hound burying the occupants of the house the Brotherhood is staying in for the night. The Hound previously met the farmer and his daughter back when he was traveling with Arya Stark. Repeating the sibling contrast from earlier, the Hound is now leaning more towards the light, while Arya is clearly descending into darkness. It’s the exact opposite of where the duo was when they first met.

Finally, we meet up with Daenerys Targaryen as she lands on her family’s ancestral seat of Dragonstone. It’s the last place Dany ever set foot on in Westeros before fleeing to Essos as a child, so the symmetry here is pretty neat. Dragonstone also gets a heavy CGI upgrade, as when Stannis was occupying the island we only see the interior of several rooms. Not here, as Dany’s dragons soar over a sweeping vista and a huge sprawling castle.

Next: Did “Dragonstone” live up to the Game of Thrones hype?

Dany visits the throne room seen in all the trailers, before heading up to the map room we saw Stannis consulting so many times. After briefly surveying the map, Dany utters her new catchphrase; “Shall we begin?” Fade to black, as we all try to process the ocean of information, and most importantly, that Game of Thrones is back in our lives.