The truly ambitious scope of the revenge filled Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 can perhaps best be summed up in its final words as the thrust of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) towards claiming the Iron Throne takes form and she says, “Shall we begin?”
Ineligible for the Emmys this year because of its later than usual debut date, the two-time Best Drama winner and record breaker has dominated the cultural landscape the past several weeks and looks to do the same with its Comic-Con Hall H this week — and tonight’s scalding Game of Thrones proved exactly why it sits among Peak TV royalty, critically and ratings-wise. Hell, it even took HBO’s website down for a bit on Sunday.
Opening with now trained assassin Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) poisoning all of those who killed many of her family members in the infamous Red Wedding from’ The Rains of Castamere’ episode of Season 3, the beginning of the penultimate season of the premium cabler’s Emmy-winning blockbuster series based on George R.R. Martin’s books put all the major players on the move in the intricate great game that is GoT at its best. Following the literally explosive Season 6 finale that saw malevolent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), now ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, it is clear from tonight’s episode, titled ‘Dragonstone’, that a lot more than Winter has arrived.
The episode is penned by executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and for one thing, it hits the humor marker, there was that much hyped and near priceless cameo by Grammy winner Ed Sheeran, who stuck to his knitting and sang us a bit of a “new one” about a “woman’s hand.” More true laughs, a rare thing on GoT over the the blood and sex drenched seasons, were to be found in the montage of Samwell Tarly (John Bradley-West) emptying bedpans and repeatedly retching as he is in theory training to be Maester of the Night’s Watch in the North. Later, previewing the hostilities so to speak, Samwell studies long into the night in his small Citdel apartment and finds a map of Dragonstone in one of the books he’s managed to smuggle from the restricted area of the library. In his study, he realizes Dragonstone is built on a huge reserve of Dragon glass – a great power for Daenarys and her forces.
Also, in that vein too, there was the re-emergence of the Night King and his legions on the move and later Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann),better known as The Hound, looking into flames and seeing a “wall of ice” and massive army of the dead “marching fast.” And, speaking of the North again, the still undead Jon Snow (Kit Hargington) struggles and begins to succeed with his new role of King of the North, in no small thanks to his half sister Sansa (Sophie Turner),who is thinking many moves ahead – for both herself and her kin.
One of the often flexed strengths of Game of Thrones as television is that it has never tried to reduce the complexity of its overlapping narratives, storyline strategies, and foibles amidst the swordplay, Martin’s mythology, the abundance of flesh, sex, violence and dragons. In that, and personified in Sansa and of course the now Daenerys advising Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), as an indiction of where the seven episode seventh season intends to go, tonight’s Jeremy Podeswa helmed show delightfully doubled down on that balancing act. In that, ‘Dragonstone’ unveils a new season of GoT that seem intent on being much more explosive, at least in the telling, than the now childless and unrestrained Cersei blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor and murdering her King’s Landing foes at the end of last year.
Even in humiliation and lesser sleights, Cersei, like Kevin Spacey’s President Frank Underwood in Netflix’s House of Cards, has lacked a true equal for a rival over GoT’s murderous run, but that’s obviously changing now. That expression, ‘the future is female’ didn’t see Hillary Clinton become America’s first woman POTUS but, as with Jodie Whittaker being named the thirteenth Doctor Who today, it appears to be very much where GoT is going – sorry, Jon Snow and conscience growing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
As Cersai makes new allegiances, threatens the new King of the North and pours over maps of Westeros in search of enemies real and presumed, Daenarys, her dragons and fleet land on the shore next to what seems to the stronghold of Dragonstone. Passing through gates that are flanked by giant stone dragon heads and accompanied by Tyrion, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Joanne Emmanuel),Daenarys finds an empty throne and a war room filled with a map table and model ships.
As the now dead insane sadist Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon), whose dogs ate face last season under Sansa’ instruction, said back in Game of Thrones‘ third season: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
Tonight’s Season 7 premiere was all about making sure you really pay attention because winter is here and the ending is coming.