Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 1 'Dragonstone' review (Spoiler-free!)
How did Arya Stark kill the Freys? Who would she kill next?
Is Jon Snow a popular King in the North? Does Sansa Stark secretly hate him?
Where exactly are the White Walkers?
Has Samwell Tarly learnt anything new at the Citadel?
And most importantly, how's Cersei Lannister doing, now that just about everyone is dead?
These are some of the questions Game of Thrones Season 7's first episode, titled 'Dragonstone' after Daenerys Targaryen' rightful castle, directly addresses.
Of course, we get to see the castle itself, and learn a secret it holds. A rather obvious secret, if one thinks of it, but integral nonetheless to the story.
The board is set
The first episode, thus, is a great set-up for the rest of the season. In keeping with the game analogy, the episode touches upon each character (or player) and gives them a starting point.
All players are informed of where their friends and enemies are stationed, and therefore, they all know exactly what pieces to move. The Lannisters are attempting to make new friends, the Starks are taking back old friends, and the Targaryens seem to have all the friends they need.
The board is set for the game to begin. Alas, Winter is here.
While kingdoms, no matter how informed, continue to plot against each other, there are more pressing matters to be addressed.
The White Walkers are quite evidently smarter than the average (and also, above-average) human. While the entire Game of Thrones universe is counting on them getting stalled by the wall, they're calmly devising new routes.
Of course, it doesn't help that Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) let the Night King touch him in a moment of sheer idiocy last season. (Even Rickon's awful lack of criss-crossing abilities was less idiotic.) Despite being the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran seems awful at being self-aware or getting his timing right. (We're still not over Hodor's death.)
Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), on the other hand, is fortunately on the right track, with Sansa (Sophie Turner) on his side for now. While the last season made us pit them against each other, it appears their conflict may actually have room for constructive criticism.
Jon understands the dangers White Walkers pose, but Sansa, unlike him knows what Cersei (Lena Headey) is capable of. Now, if they were to put their heads together, with Arya (Maisie Williams) slowly eliminating every bloodthirsty idiot along the way, the Starks might actually save the day.
Shall we begin?
Speaking of Arya, Maisie Williams really shines in the first episode. She opens the season with a bang, but her acting chops are best witnessed in lighter moments. In one particular sequence with a singing soldier (Ed Sheeran), Arya announces her next target. So preposterous is her statement, that everyone laughs.
That Game of Thrones is still capable of having these light moments is remarkable. And it's truly satisfying to see Arya Stark this self-confident and well, just happy.
For those wondering if Ed Sheeran is any good in the little cameo, you won't be disappointed. And as far as cameos go in general, there's also Jim Broadbent playing a rather matter-of-fact maester tutoring Sam on the job. Let's just say we hope to see more of him in the coming episodes.
Arya's old friend Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane (Rory McCann) is hanging with Beric Dondarrion and his Brotherhood Without Banners, which is down to very few men. McCann is another fine actor on the show, who continues to exhibit a soft human side despite his hard exterior.
For a man who has seen as many deaths as The Hound, it's interesting how he still believes in a moral right and wrong. Given his dilemma, it is possible he'll soon become an ardent follower of the Red Faith, much like his friends.
The first episode hasn't touched upon the faith issue much, an especially touchy subject after Cersei single-handedly destroyed a whole religion.
What the episode does carry forward from Cersei's carnage though is the direction. Much like the silence preceding the Wildfire that destroys the Great Sept of Baelor, there is silence when Dany (Emilia Clarke) finally makes it home.
Silence, only to be broken by one simple dialogue.
“Shall we begin?”