Game of Thrones: Dragonstone Review

“Shall we begin?”

After a wait between seasons longer than ever before, Game of Thrones has returned – and so, for that matter, has Daenerys . The Mother of Dragons has finally touched down at her ancestral home to reclaim what was once hers. The premiere of the show’s eagerly awaited seventh season, entitled “Dragonstone,” concludes with a five-and-a-half minute wordless sequence depicting her arrival at the island fortress that gives the episode its title. When Dany utters those three words and the show smash-cuts to the closing credits, the message is clear: The great game is on at last.

Not that the waiting for winter to come has ever been boring. The fact is that without the preceding six seasons’ many twists and turns, few of this premiere’s many beats would have an iota of their impact.

Take the council of the King in the North, for example, where Jon Snow rules alongside his sister Sansa. It’s greatly satisfying to see the two of them safe together after so many seasons apart or in danger. A look at all the friendly faces around them – wise Ser Davos Seaworth, loyal Brienne of Tarth, randy old Tormund Giantsbane and supremely cool young-ruler Lyanna Mormont — makes it even more fun. (Also, a hearty welcome to Alys Karstark and Ned Umber to the Little Lords and Ladies Club)

But the complications add a lot, too. Much ado has been made of the unhappy glances exchanged between Lady Stark and the ever scheming Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. For those of us loyal to House Stark, it was interesting to see their conflict was primarily a matter of policy, with Sansa wanting to punish rebellious Northern houses and Jon seeking to maintain continuity. Their subsequent conversation seemed to ease the tension at put to mind that all was right between the siblings (?). Just as we worry about Sansa’s allegiances, she dismisses Baelish with ease – yet her insistence that she “learned a great deal” from Cersei Lannister, the architect of so much of their misfortune, demonstrates a cynicism and savvy the male Starks have lacked.

Cersei herself, meanwhile, has a skeptical brother of her own to deal with. Jaime has not strayed in his support, but his questioning of her motives and tactics shows worry. With her reign underway, she’s as eager to take on the many enemies she’s collected over the years as she is reluctant to dwell on their son King Tommen’s death. The Lannister Queen has already moved on to her next big scheme: securing the allegiance of Euron Greyjoy, the new King of the Iron Islands. Cersei may send him off to prove his mettle, but with his lack of care for his family, its obvious they already have so much in common.

But despite Cersei and Euron’s best efforts, there are still far more Greyjoys and Lannisters left in the world than Freys. That treacherous house meets its end in the pre-credits open in which Arya Stark, posing as the late Lord Walder, poisoned every male member of the family responsible for the Red Wedding. “The North remembers,” she says to Walder’s child bride as she strides out of the banquet hall. It’s a revenge long in the making, and it’s a dark delight to behold. But a later scene, in which the lone wolf comes across a small squad of young Lannister soldiers (including one awkwardly played by Ed Sheeran) and spares their lives, proves she’s not the monster she sometimes pretends to be.

In this, at least, she resembles her old partner Sandor Clegane, now hooked up with the Brotherhood without Banners. Once one of the most fearsome warriors in Westeros, he’s still got a nasty bark, but he’s saving his bite for those who really deserve it. This means not only gazing into a red priest’s fires and seeing the army of the dead on the march, but also coming to terms with an innocent man and child he condemned to die back before he and Arya split up (thanks recap because I would not have remembered them).

Up North Bran gets a vision that includes zombie giants and in Citadel which leads us to him crossing the wall (without it falling down!).

The funny montage of Sam’s routine at the Citadel highlights his frustration with everyone doubting his story of seeing the Night King, his army and killing a few white walkers with Dragonglass. Jim Broadbent, the show’s marquee addition to the cast for season seven, utters the most beautiful line foreshadowing how the series may end after the eighth season. While soothing Sam’s agitated nerves, the Archmaester says, “Every winter that ever came has ended.” This is not your everyday assurance. The sentence is loaded with promises of more action to come. Archmaester lists the first long night, Aegon’s reign, Robert’s rebellion. All these events turned Westeros upside down. So even if the premiere feels slow, viewers need to be patient, just watch where the players are taking their places.

Watch the trailer for next weeks episode “Stormborn” below:

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