Season Seven, Episode One — “Dragonstone”
By Jarrod Jones. There are but a mere twelve episodes left to Game of Thrones, as insane as that sounds. How do you blast through hours of intrigue and suspense just to get to an ending that has — as far as adaptive material is concerned — yet to be published?
The short answer is you don’t. Yet there seems to be a real desire to get this show on the Kingsroad (at least on behalf of HBO), and if the pacing of the last year’s whirlwind season and Sunday night’s premiere are indicators of what to expect on that front, don’t be surprised if your eyes begin to glaze over the particulars as the show hustles to get to the good stuff. Bring on the dragons, betrayals, and now (seven hells!) zombie giants.
For folk who like their fantasy a bit more comprehensive, it would be more of a hoot to spend as many hours as one could in the Citadel, the Google headquarters of ancient Oldtown, absorbing as much lore and mystery as humanly possible before it’s all taken away. Samwell Tarly would likely agree, though, in a display of how far removed the HBO series has grown from its source, the premiere episode of Season Seven leaned into broader territory, with Sam scrubbing out gnarly bedpans and slinging slop to the aged members of the Citadel. (Perhaps the maesters should amend their diets? Seems like their forte.)
It wasn’t all goofs, however. HBO can definitely afford to bring on Oscar-caliber performers who can lend a bit of gravity to the overall hyperactivity of the series’ latter half. Last season we saw Max von Sydow mentor Bran Stark, in a peculiar twist of the Doc Brown/Marty McFly dichotomy, as the Three-eyed Raven. This year it’s Jim Broadbent, as Archmaester Marwyn, who enthralled us with a stirring monolog as Sam weighed hearts (wink, wink) and spotted livers.
While Marwyn beguiled us with words (and even snuck in a Harry Potter joke to boot), things were far more quiet over in Dragonstone. A curious thing, considering it’s now the home base for three of the chattier characters in the series: Tyrion Lannister, Danaerys Targaryen, and silky-smooth Varys, who has been far too silent of late.
Dany made good on six seasons’ worth of promises and finally returned to her family’s ancestral home. It was pure orchestral majesty as she knelt to touch the soil of the land she will soon conquer while her entourage hung back to let us properly soak all the drama in.
It was inside the castle where she found the pieces of her great-great-great (etc) grandfather’s Painted Table, a cartoonishly oversized map of Westeros, scattered among the rushes. That signifies seven kingdoms in disarray, clearly, not to mention the lack of aesthetic worry Stannis Baratheon — Dragonstone’s last tenant — had for the castle’s upkeep. Dany has her work cut out for her, not to mention a certain shithead pirate king hot for the head of her newly acquired Hand.
That’s right, Tyrion Lannister appears to be the bargaining chip Euron Greyjoy has brought in front of Queen Cersei. Euron showed up this week decked out in black gear and a bit of eyeliner — more Jack Sparrow than was probably necessary, considering Cersei’s predilection for killing Sparrows, but it certainly conveyed the swagger he needed to woo the Queen in front of her brother. “Here I am. With a thousand ships and two good hands,” Euron said, right in front of Ser Jaime, who was likely thinking about jamming his golden fist right up Euron’s bum in that moment.
Further north, Sandor Clegane spent some time with Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion, two fellows keen on getting their Brotherhood to the Wall for prophecy-related reasons. The Hound cast shade as far as he could in the midst of a blizzard, particularly at Thoros’ decidedly Williamsburgian top-knot. “Think you’re fooling anyone?” he taunted the balding priest. Maybe Thoros is just trying to be his best Thoros, Sandor. Did you ever think of that?
Anyhow, Thoros knows how to get The Hound to clam up. Stick your head in the flames, the Myrish Red priest said, and tell me what you see. It took some cajoling, but the knight who once ran away from the Blackwater for fear of fire peered into the hearth and laid out the course for the next twelve episodes.
How does one find truth in the flames, anyway? I bet it’s like staring at a Magic Eye. Just let your eyes glaze over and let the bigger picture come into focus.
Cersei: “You murdered your own brother.” Euron: “You should try it. It feels wonderful.”
“It’s my fucking luck that I end up with a band of fire worshippers.” – The Hound.
BEST MOMENT: Arya brings winter to the Twins. Even though it felt like we had just done this, GoT allowed Arya a little more Frey bloodshed in the season’s cold open. David Bradley got to take a bow as the odious Walder Frey, who was smirking into his cup a bit more than usual, a tantalizing hint that something was horribly amiss. Walder was Arya, our Faceless Stark, keen on removing all the male Freys from Westeros, and good riddance.
EPISODE’S MVP: Jim Broadbent’s Maester Marwyn, who can make anything sound magnificent even with an open corpse sitting in front of him.
– The premiere crashed HBO GO — again. Good job, everybody.
– How did Meera drag Bran all the way to the Wall with the White Walkers nipping at their heels? Surely Coldhands came back to help them, right?
– Sansa asserted some authority over Jon in front of his men this week. King Snow’s morality may have shifted towards benevolence after that little kerfluffle at the Wall early last season, but so has Sansa’s. “You’re good at this. At ruling,” she told Jon moments after undermining him in front of his court. Has Littlefinger’s duplicity rubbed off on Sansa?
– Ser Jorah Mormont has come to the Citadel to cure himself of grayscale. Is this the reason why we’ve put Sam through the trouble of Oldtown’s sluggish tutelage? Because Jon already knows about the Obsidian over in Dragonstone.
– Brienne and Podrick got some screen time over in Winterfell, which happily reintroduced the world’s greatest ship: Tromund Giantsbane and Brienne of Tarth. Aw.
– Sandor buried the dead of the cabin, the family he robbed back in Season Four, like a good Gravedigger should. That might have been a better Easter Egg had the show not spoiled the surprise in the recap.
– Ed Sheeran guest stars as a singer in a Lannister red cloak. I’m told he’s good at his job.
– From the looks of next week’s episode, Yara Greyjoy and Elia Sand are probably gonna, um, unite their houses. Good for them.
– How would you describe Euron’s look? A bit on the metro side, no? And how do you feel about the show’s quickened pace? Blast the Horn of Winter in the comments section below.
7 out of 10
Next: “The Queen’s Justice”, in two weeks.
Before: “The Winds of Winter”, here.