Winter is Here – Game of Thrones – Dragonstone (7.1)

Highlights, lowlights, analysis and predictions each week – Winter is Here for this season of Game of Thrones…

SPOILER ALERT for Game of Thrones‘ seventh season premiere.

Overall Thoughts on ‘Dragonstone’: A strong subdued start to the season – after all the major events of ‘The Winds of Winter’ this episode gives the series a moment to breathe before the escalation begins. ‘Dragonstone’ works best when setting up new plot-lines rather than revisiting old ones.

Highlights: 

The Hound and the Brotherhood – last season it was unclear exactly what Thrones was trying to accomplish by bringing the Hound back from his apparent death. This episode clarified, as he questioned his alignment with the Brotherhood before re-establishing it through his epiphany about the White Walkers.

The Hound is a great character, and seeing him burying the father and daughter in the snow was a moment of atonement and grief that was really rather touching. He’s one of the few mains whose final arc is still very up in the air, and he’s with a bunch of interesting supporting characters who have only been in a few episodes up until now. Will Cleganebowl happen? Not for a while if the Hound keeps heading North.

Samwell Tarly in Oldtown – just as the Hound’s scenes were unexpected novel treats, so were the sequences in Oldtown. Sam had a scattering of brief effective moments, from the lovely establishing montage of his work as an apprentice (serving bowls and bedpans) to the surprise re-appearance of Jorah, but the best might have been Jim Broadbent’s Arch-Maester.

It felt like the scene between them was written to make the Maesters seem stodgy and ignorant, but Broadbent delivered the speech with convincing panache – the world hasn’t ended up until now so why should this time be different? Lots of cool stuff happening in Oldtown, a city which will hopefully be a focus of this upcoming season.

The Lannisters and Euron Greyjoy – Full disclosure: Cersei is likely my favourite character on the show now, and with nothing to lose she’s in a really exciting place. Her conversation with Jaime hints at a relationship destined to heat up and boil over, and the audience with Euron’s delaying of their alliance is a smart move. Who or what will be Euron’s gift? Kudos to the show for not immediately making Euron into Ramsay 2.0.

Dany arriving on Dragonstone – A long silent scene that let the visuals and epicness of the moment speak for itself. For an episode named after Dragonstone (also for the glass Sam learns is hidden there), this sequence let the location’s grandeur and emptiness speak for itself. After a few seasons of absence, this seems to be an important point for the endgame.

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Lowlights:

Winterfell – All the stuff that went down in Winterfell wasn’t bad, but it was all vague and as expected. Tormund heading off to man a castle is an interesting turn, and he got a funny little moment with Brienne, but we already knew Littlefinger was gonna be manipulating Sansa, and that Jon and Sansa would be fighting a bit, and that Lyanna Mormont would tell someone off.

If Sansa ends up properly betraying Jon perhaps the decline of their relationship will seem more interesting in retrospect. But it seems more likely that she’ll cut ties with Littlefinger first, and that this’ll amount to little more than an artificial stirring up of conflict between her and Jon. Hoping to be proven wrong about this one though!

The Wall – The White Walker vision served its purpose of reminding us of how super scary and dangerous they are, but the actual scene with Bran and Meera was little more than ticking the box of Bran now being back on the more civilised side of the Wall. Had to happen though, and it definitely wasn’t the weakest moment of ‘Dragonstone’.

Arya and Ed Sheeran – That honour unfortunately goes to the cringeworthy cameo from Ed Sheeran and that whole scene in general. Arya’s heading south not north, and it feels like her character is at a total disconnect from the rest of the show right now, with a big question mark about how she can fit back into things after being cut off from the Hound for two seasons, and everyone else for five. Putting Ed Sheeran repeatedly next to her in the shot only made that disconnect wider.

The opening scene of the episode was definitely meant to be a big crowd-pleaser (revenge for the Red Wedding!) but it was also an emotional repeat of her murder of Walder Frey in the sixth season finale. I like Arya and Maisie Williams a lot, so I hope where she’s headed is more interesting than the massacre of a bunch of unnamed Freys and a song from Ed Sheeran. It’s unclear what that could possibly be in the south.

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Predictions (just for fun):

1. Sansa won’t betray Jon – though I’d love it if she did

2. The White Walkers will breach the wall in the Season 7 finale – as is commonly anticipated

3. Jim Broadbent will go Full Villain when he catches Sam – Broadbent’s done these kinds of latent antagonists before and I reckon he was a bit too nice in the premiere to be honest

4. The Brotherhood will be wiped out before the end of the season – if they’re heading towards the Wall as is suggested, it could well finally spell the end for Beric and Thoros – let the Hound survive for Cleganebowl though?

5. Tormund will be killed by White Walkers – he’s got no ongoing plotlines, he’s on his way right towards danger, and they need as many major deaths as they can muster. Davos also for similar reasons (where was he in this episode?).

6. Euron’s gift will be the capture/murder of the Sand Snakes – they’re dispensible, they murdered Cersei’s daughter, and Euron’s gift is almost definitely going to be murderous. Olenna Tyrell is also a possibility, although there’s less beef there unless the Lannisters somehow learn she was behind Joffrey’s death.

7. Euron will die this season – if a big bad villain has to go (which they probably do to clear room for the approaching White Walkers), it’ll be Euron. A big sea battle is on the cards between the surviving Greyjoys – Euron’s days are numbered and one of Theon and Yara won’t make it either.

8. One of the dragons will die this season – three is too many! Another easy way to up the stakes for the show. Which will it be? Er… I’ll guess Rhaegal. Definitely Rhaegal.

9. Jaime will kill Cersei before the series ends – one for the farther future, hoping the two of them last well into Season 8. Jaime doing it would be the greatest and most tragic impact. It should be him, not Tyrion or Arya.

10. Jon and Dany will sleep together before the series ends – Jon’s got the freedom to do whatever he wants now he’s out of the Night’s Watch and these two have been destined to be together and rule together since day one. It’s gonna happen. It’s what Targaryens do.

That’s all for this week!

Score: Disqualified by inclusion of Ed Sheeran (the moment Game of Thrones jumped the shark).

 

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