It’s back! It’s BACK! IT’S BACK! IT’SBACKIT’SBACKIT’SBACK!
It’s back and winter is here. The season opener actually gives us a chance to catch up with nearly everyone: Dany & Co. make landfall; Cersei and Jamie finally talk; Jon and Sansa bicker; Tormund still has the hots for Brienne; Baelish is …Baelish; Sam is surviving the ritualized hazing of Citadel novices; Euron is sleazy, gross, and really pissing Jamie off; and Arya continues to put her hard-won murdering skills to work. Oh! and the Night King is still planning to slaughter everyone and everything, just in case anyone thought that was still up in the air. Plus, there’s that whole unexpected cameo that served to lighten the mood a bit.
So, pull up a seat, grab a beverage and, maybe, some chicken, and let’s dive into the long-awaited episode. As always, this post will be dark and full of terrors, so turn back now if you don’t want it spoiled for you.
So, the showrunners opted to start with a cold open for this episode which is totally fitting, especially given the scene with which it opens. That said, it was a little confusing for a minute: my GoT buddy and I were both convinced for quite a few minutes that they were doing a brief recap of the pertinent storylines because the first familiar character we see is Walder Frey, who we know is dead. Really dead. All the way dead. I finally figured out that this wasn’t a recap when the camera did not pan to Jaime and Bron when it should have—at which point, I definitely panicked a little and was a little frustrated at having been robbed of that magical moment of sweet release after nearly a year of anticipation. Once I was finally back in the right brainspace, though… OMG. We watch Walder Frey first praise, then, admonish the men of House Frey. As his scolding becomes increasingly caustic, the Freys start coughing and grabbing at their shirt collars; “But you didn’t slaughter all of the Starks. No, no. That was your mistake. You should have ripped them all out root and stem.” This is about when the Frey men start coughing up blood, right as Walder’s gravelly voice takes on an unfamiliar intensity, “If you leave one Wolf alive, then the sheep are never safe.” And, then:
YUUUSSSSSS! I feel a little conflicted because, as a general rule, I don’t cheer mass murder, but it’s 2017, the world is topsy-turvy, and we are talking about Game of Thrones, so I suppose an exception can be made. Arya turns to Walder Frey’s young, and very weirded out, wife and says, “when people ask you what happened here, tell them ‘the North remembers.’ Tell them, ‘Winter came for House Frey.’” (So, I was really holding out hope, but I think this scene definitively answered the question about whether or not we were going to get Lady Stoneheart on screen.) Then she walks off with a satisfied smirk. Daaaaamn! Cue theme music.
The first scene—a vision seen by Bran in his new role as the Three-Eyed Raven—after the opening credits is nothing short of terrifying: an ominous storm heralds the persistent march southward of the Night’s King, his White Walkers, and his wights. Among the marching corpsecicles we see a giant who is missing an eye—the camera lingers on the empty eye socket long enough to make it seem significant, fueling speculation that the giant in question was once Wun Wun (much like James Grebey, I’m not one-hundred percent convinced, or, at least, I’m trying not to be)—and, then, in the distance, two more zombified giants. We’ve seen what one giant can do. Now, we’re talking about three—that we know of!—icy giants who are, now, especially difficult to kill. So, you know, that’s probably going to be a really big problem later.
Bran snaps out of his vision as we hear the gate at Castle Black open; Lord Commander Ed, after some ominous talk, lets Meera and Bran through the gate. For the first time since season four, Bran and Meera are south of the Wall. Then the show cuts to Winterfell, where Jon Snow is discussing with all the Stark bannerfolks plans to survive the war that is coming. Jon gets some pushback about not waiting out the winter and about his decision to train girls to fight as well as the boys. Of course, young Lady Mormont shuts that sexist shit right down. (Can we just put her on the Iron Throne?) Then he and Sansa publicly disagree about how to handle the houses of Karstark and Umber after having turned on the Starks; ultimately, Jon wins out and, later, admonishes her for undermining his authority. But they do seem to make up and come to an understanding with one another.
Meanwhile, Baelish is still all …Baelish and is still very clearly, if indirectly, trying to secure Sansa place in that “pretty picture” he paints for himself. And Tormund is still head-over-heels for Brienne.
Down in King’s Landing, Cersei of House Lannister, first of her name, Queen of the Andals and First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, is planning the establishment of a dynasty. Nevermind that all of their kids are dead and so Cersei is precluded from actually ushering in a dynasty, she is determined that it will just be for her and Jaime, then. After an exchange that seems to have Jaime questioning Cersei’s mental/emotional health, he points out that they need more allies—better allies—if they are going to survive the coming war. But Cersei has already thought through; enter Euron Greyjoy, stage left. Bringing the same proposal to Cersei that he had planned to bring to Daenerys; after getting in a few choice digs, Euron leaves empty-handed, for now, determined to win her hand with a priceless gift. Jaime looks so ready to murder this dude.
Over at the Citadel, poor Samwell is paying some pretty steep dues for his education to become a maester; it’s basically a Westerosi unpaid internship with bonus chamber pot responsibilities. As he endures the hazing, the poor guy can see knowledge being locked away from him, which is just cruel. While assisting with an autopsy, Sam asks for access to that restricted area, but the archmaester denies the request, resting his argument on the knowledge that every time people thought the world was coming to an end, it continued spinning. So, while on chamber pot duty, Sam swipes the key to the restricted section of the library and makes off with some relevant reading material. In the course of his secretly studying texts on the Long Night, he learns about the mountain of obsidian at Dragonstone and is determined to get word to Jon.
Oh, and Jorah is in a cell at the Citadel, apparently. Well, it’s definitely Jorah’s voice and the arm that reaches out of the window is definitely infected with greyscale. The voice from inside the cell asks Sam if Dany has come to Westeros yet. I’m assuming that we’ll learn more about what Jorah is doing back in Westeros, locked in a cell at the Citadel; for right now, though, a greyscale arm and a voice in the dark is all we’ve got.
As Arya makes her way from the Riverlands to King’s Landing, she happens upon a small group of Lannister soldiers who have made camp. One of them is singing and, holy crap, it’s Ed Sheeran! That is not a cameo I would have ever expected. Anyway, the soldiers invite her to join them for some food and, when asked why she is traveling to a city that is in pretty terrible shape, she tells them—point blank—that she’s going to kill the Queen. Of course, they don’t believe her and everyone has a hearty laugh about it.
We also get to catch up with the Hound as he, Thoros, Beric, and other sundry folks from the Brotherhood travel north. They stop for shelter at the same house he and Arya visited and he sees the bodies of the father and child who had lived there—the ones he left, knowing full well they would likely starve. That night, we see Sandor Clegane—who has every reason in the world to be terrified of fire—actually stare into the flames of the fire burning for warmth and see. He sees the Wall and he sees the army of the dead. He sees! Later that night—in one of the most humanizing moments the Hound has ever had—he buries the man and child and attempts to pray over them, though be bungles it and opts to just say, “I’m sorry you’re dead. You deserved better.” I have to say that Clegane’s character evolution has been a fascinating story arc to watch.
Finally, we see Daenerys make landfall at Dragonstone, her ancestral home and birthplace. After she and her cadre make their way up to and inside the imposing castle, we see her enter the very dark throne room. She actually seems rather uninterested in the throne itself, instead walking past it and into the strategy room. She and Tyrion survey the table carved into the shape of Westeros, while the camera pans along the dragon carved into the room’s wall. Standing at the head of the table, backlit so we see little more than her silhouette, she echoes her call to action from last season:
And begin we have.
Why is next week so far away?