Season 7 Episode 1: Dragonstone - Spoilers be here.
Dragonstone, the first episode of the new season followed a similar, if more condensed path as season premiers past with a few notable and exciting big moments. Before we get to the events of the actual episode, I think it's worth noting what a great job was done with the opening montage of events leading up to this season. Nothing too telegraphed, but a lot of information about all the characters we have left created with thought and care.
We open with the majority of men of importance in House Frey being poisoned at a feast completed by a disguised Arya. Maisie Williams said in an interview that she hoped that some people were fooled - if at least momentarily - that it was Arya disguised as Walder Frey. I don't think that's possible given that her execution of him was a stand out moment last season, but lacking any element of surprise for this reveal didn't diminish at all from this moment. Arya not only executes them en mass, but also manages to give them a stinging rebuke for the Red Wedding and prove that she's willing to discriminate on her kills by sparing Frey's young wife seated next to h(er). Cautioning the Freys that "The North Remembers" and that if you leave one wolf alive, no sheep are safe, Arya struts out of the Twins like a badass. Jumping to her next scene with Lannister solidier Ed Sheeran, Arya gets a reminder that the townsfolk are simple people with goodness in them. My main complaint with this episode is how much time this eats up and it is somewhat unnecessary as Arya, although quick to kill a Lannister or Frey, has showed some amount of restraint in the past. If we didn't have this cameo (which was surprisingly pretty good), maybe we could have had more time at Dragonstone or in some other storyline.
We get a look at Cersei and Jamie charting out their next steps to fulfill their "dynasty". Their interaction is strained as Cersei blames Jamie for the death of Joffrey, death of Tywin, and Tyrion's escape. Cersei is even more fearful now and everybody knows it as she has nothing left to lose. Two things about this scene bothered me, although I'm willing to overlook them both. The first is that Jamie has completely adopted that the children were his and Cersei doesn't rebuke him. She should and I think naturally, even at this stage she would. Cersei doesn't think of them as Jamie's children. Or Robert's children. They were always *her* children. Second, Cersei has so much information so soon after the events of last season that I question the timeline here. She knows Daneyrs is en route with dragons with Tyrion at her side. She knows that Sansa stands beside Jon who was named King of the North in Winterfell. She knows that Lady Olena (and seemingly the great houses of the Reach) support Danerys. The introduction of Euron, and Cersei's display of political prowess suggests she's going to seal their alliance with a marriage. I am both glad she rejected this proposal and her reasons for doing so and disappointed as I quite look forward to these two schemers working against each other for a mutual goal. He promises, after an great jab at Jamie to bring Cersei a "priceless gift." Is it Tyrion? Is it a dragon?
In the North, and my opinion the most interesting and strongest scenes of the night we see Sansa flex her political muscles by telling Brienne that she knows what Lord Baelish wants, that Cersei is a grave danger to the North, and that Houses Karstark and Umber should not be rewarded for their disloyalty to House Stark. Sansa's assessments are an obvious mirror of Cersei's tutelage (as is her hairstyle) and Jon points out that she seems to admire Cersei. Sansa seems to acknowledge a certain appreciation for Cersei but also points out to Jon that he's good at leading, that he should avoide the mistakes that Ned and Robb made. She could also be right that rewarding disloyal houses in the North may sow discord amongst the other houses. While there is going to be continued tension between Jon and Sansa, I am hopeful they can also continue to have these conversations to maintain Northern rule. Jon continues to show an affinity for thinking outside the box and inspiring loyalty, by declaring all the North should be armed and trained for the coming battles, primarily against the Night King. There is a lot of potential foreshadowing in these scenes, i.e. the wall could fall, Sansa may marry Baelish to secure the Knights of the Vale, Cersei will plot within Winterfell to kill Jon or even march armies on the North. It is my hope that the growing bond and appreciate between Jon and Sansa, while capable of being strained cannot be broken.
We see more changes with the Hound and he develops the ability to see events in the fire. In hindsight, I didn't love this portion of the show. I mean, it was nice enough and the dialogue kept me entertained but I feel like we know that the Hound is remorseful. We saw almost an entire episode dedicated to that issue last season. Although, his abilities in divination set up an interesting dynamic of non-belief coupled with 'proof' of the existence of the divine.
Samwell's baby has grown in proportions and we get a pretty disgusting montage of life at the citadel. This is probably, and shockingly, the least bored I've been by a Samwell scene. He steals the keys to get into the restricted section of the library and finds out that according to history texts, there is a large amount of dragonglass buried on Dragonstone. Okay. Again, did we need all of this or can we get some more of Dany's crew? Melisandre? We also find out that Jorah is being held in the citadel and his greyscale looks bad.
Dany arrives at Dragonstone and we have a powerful, silent few minutes of her exploring her birthplace. Why is NO ONE at Dragonstone? It seems odd that no one is there at all. Stannis didn't leave anyone? Cersei didn't send anyone to claim the castle? Seems odd. I am not complaining that Dany didn't have any dialogue in these scenes. I think the silence and the simple line of "Shall we begin?" was very effective. I might have liked to see some dialogue on the ship on the way there. Perhaps an explanation of Dany's current trust of her dragons? Perhaps an idea of what Tyrion feels about returning home to wage war on his family? Perhaps some trepidation about bringing an army of former slaves and Dothraki 'savages' to the West? Still, I'm super excited for next week and Dany's costuming (and Melissandei's) is badass.