A dead Walder Frey opening the seventh season of HBO’s epic fantasy series was as shocking as say, an unexpected character death. But after the initial shock subsided, it was almost a given who it was behind that raspy, foul voice — Arya Stark.
By calling each and every Frey man worth his name to the party, and offing them, Arya has cleared a major name off her list. And the most satisfying were her parting words to Walder Frey’s daughter, “Tell them winter came for House Frey.” Whoo!
Despite there being only 7 episodes in this 7th season, this was still a tablesetting episode. Arya is on her way to King’s Landing (“I’m going to kill the queen”), Jon is gathering the Northern houses to prepare for the Great War, Cersei has invited Euron to hear his proposal, the Brotherhood Without Banners is going north of the wall, and Dany finally sets foot on Westeros. There will be a lot of scheming and action in the coming episodes, for sure, but this episode kept gore and sex at bay, save for “A Girl’s Massacre of House Frey.”
Bran sees the army of the dead marching over what looked like green grass, which seems to suggest that he is seeing the future. The Night King’s army now has undead giants with it too, which should ensure more awesome action. Bran and Meera are allowed to cross the wall after he spooks Edd, the current Commander of The Night’s Watch, by recounting the places where the latter had been, north of the wall. Bran certainly has made good use of the gap between the seasons.
But nothing can beat the machine gun-intensity of Lady Lyanna Mormont, cutting down to size men far older and experienced than her, besides showing a sense of gender equality that wouldn’t look out of place in many countries even in this day and age.
That meeting sequence also provided us with the first instance of the sibling rivalry between Jon and Sansa. I felt it was masterfully written, and acted even better. Sansa publicly questioning Jon, and later backing him and acknowledging his leadership qualities was certainly confusing. She seems to be free of Littlefinger’s machinations at the moment, even shooing him away when she got the chance. She knows he is dangerous to have around. And aside from the looming Baelish, this scene also shows how Jon and Sansa are simply failing to understand each other clearly. Sansa has learnt a lot (she admires Cersei!), but others, like Jon, simply can’t see that. He still takes her to be the homely girl we saw way back in season 1. That she is not. Jon, on the other hand, has been to the other side (both literally and figuratively), and he has little time for the politcs of the seven kingdoms. But Sansa, like the maesters at the Citadel, doesn’t care or believe that threat enough. Better sense needs to prevail, and soon.
At King’s Landing, Cersei is punch drunk on power, and she only wants more of it. She wants to “launch a dynasty.” Jaime reminds her that they are the last of their name, and there is no use creating a dynasty now. She isn’t meant to understand that, though. She is Cersei. One thing that I found odd was the use of the word “armada” in this episode, first by her and then by Euron Greyjoy. A Spanish-origin word being used in a medieval fantasy show?
Cersei has already shot off a letter to Jon to come to her and kneel and accept her authority, but she doesn’t understand that while the Lannisters have enemies to every side, they have barely any allies. Even the Freys are finished now (the act of an “unknown” person). But Cersei shows she has learnt from her father, by iniviting Euron Greyjoy. This was always on the cards. With his nephew and niece having sided with Dany, Euron was always going to side with the Lannisters. Team Heroes Vs Team Villains!
And rather than being flattered by his fulsome praise of her, she rejects his proposal of marriage in exchange for his “a thousand ships and two hands.” Euron promises to prove his loyalty by bringing a gift for her. I suspect he means one of Yara/Theon?Tyrion. Euron’s courting of Cersei, if it can be called that, plays out as an ego fight between him and Jaime while also positively displaying him as a psychopath. And oh, I loved that Westerosi history lesson we got there. More history for me, please. Plus Euron’s dressing style.
At the Citadel, things haven’t been going swimmingly for Samwell Tarly. He has to clean the crap of the old and ailing and feed people. In what might be a novel thing for Thrones, we see quick cuts and repeats of Sam’s work schedule and gagging that would have made me throw up had it kept on repeating for another 30 seconds. Yuck!
But this emphasis on the Citadel isn’t there only to show Sam’s misery. We do expect Thrones to show us something more important than crap and stew. Sam’s arduous journey with Gilly and Little Sam was to learn ways to kill the White Walkers. The first step in this is to gain entry to the restricted area of the library, which is allowed to maesters only. Since Sam isn’t one yet, he approaches Archmaester Ebrose during an autopsy. And what do we have here? Jim Broadbent! Wow! One celebrity cameo done here. Archmaester listens to Sam patiently and believes him, unlike the others in the Citadel. But he thinks this winter isn’t going to be any different from the past winters which means that he won’t allow Sam entry to the restricted area. That forces Sam’s hand. He steals the keys and takes some books to his room to read. Smart work, old boy! His reading discovers the fact that there is a mountain of Dragonglass at Dragonstone. Gilly is reading “The Long Night,” which should also answer some big questions. Just goes on to show the importance of books in life. It seems people didn’t read many books even in Westeros, just like 21st-century earth. If they did, they’d probably have the answers to most of their questions. On a side note, I was so fascinated by those books. I want to read them. Messrs. Benioff and Weiss, can you ship me those? Puh-leez?
Arya, after offing the Freys, is going South. This is slightly disappointing because I had expected she’d go to Winterfell to meet her siblings. Maybe that would take place later. Or maybe Sansa’s “lone wolf” line was meant for Arya? Either way, she comes across a few Lannister soldiers singing and roasting meat. And here we have our second celebrity cameo of the hour. The lead singer of the group is Ed Sheeran! It does seem right, quite symmetrical to the real life. The soldiers offer Arya food, and all the while this badass assassin is looking at their unmounted swords. It isn’t until they tell their own touching stories that we see Arya’s heart melt too. I think it was for the first time since the Red Wedding that Arya was sad/teary-eyed. When she tells the soldiers she’s going to King’s Landing to “kill the queen,” there is a momentary silence. And then they all laugh. It was such a un-Thrones sequence, and yet warm and endearing. Mr. Sheeran’s presence definitely helped.
The Brotherhood Without Banners is marching north. They come across a deserted house and think of stopping there for the night. The Hound, who joined them last season after the death of brother Ray, doesn’t want to go in that house. Reason? It is the house of the same farmer who provided shelter to him and Arya way back in season 4. The Hound had repayed his kindness by looting his silver. In this time of starvation, the father-daughter duo embraced death to beat the pain of hunger. Although the Hound doesn’t say much, he does realise he has to share more than a part of the blame for their deaths.
When he later buries them, it feeds into his remarkable arc of redemption. His saving of Sansa in the second season was where things turned around for him.
The Hound doesn’t understand why the Lord Of Light keeps bringing Beric back, especially when the latter has “nothing special about him”. As the two are debating the Lord’s decisions, Thoros invites the Hound to look into the flames of the fire he has lit. Curiously, despite his fire-phobia, the Hound watches intrigued. His visions seem to be pointing to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Bran’s warging earlier in the episode and Jon’s assessment at the northern houses’ assembly also seems to suggest that that castle is going to be a key area this season. My guess is that the ice battle scenes teased in the trailers would take place there and if so, Jon has to go there too. I’m worried for the Brotherhood and Tormund’s life, though. They mightn’t survive the season, despite having a red priest among them.
At the end of the Citadel scenes, we see Jorah Mormont’s fully greyscaled hand. He is in dire need of getting a solution to his ailment. And what better place for the treatment than the Citadel? Poor Jorah, he’s still asking about Dany. Infatuated doesn’t even begin to describe it.
And at last, as is the show’s wont, we get Dany’s section of the story. She reaches Dragonstone, the seat of her family and her first time back in Westeros since her exile. Now that the show’s Moses is back in the promised land, where does the story go? We’ll find out soon, won’t we?
The credits roll to that familiar Epic-Dany-soundtrack.
All images credit : HBO
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Here’s the preview for episode 2 : Stormborn