Welcome to our weekly recap of Game of Thrones, the show that makes you scream obscenities at your television. We’re well beyond the books and no one knows what’s going to happen, although as you might imagine, there are as many theories as there are characters in the series—and that’s not a small number. This season promises to be epic—winter has come, the dragon queen has returned home, and the stage seems set for one last, monumental war…
Before the episode starts, we get a beefy “Previously On” segment that reminds us of where everybody is: Cersei on the Iron Throne, Daenerys is on her way to Westeros with a metric shit-ton of ships, Euron Greyjoy has crazy-ed his way to the Salt Throne, and Walder Frey got his throat slit by Arya.
… and then the show opens with Walder giving a speech at a banquet. What is this, a flashback? But it only took a few seconds for me to realize what was really going on: Arya had not only killed Walder, but she had peeled his face off and is now wearing it like the world’s creepiest Halloween mask. I admit without shame that I was cackling with glee when she ordered that wine be served to all of the “most important family members” so that they could drink a toast. Before you know it, the entire Frey household (but not the women) were puking blood and Arya is ripping off Walder’s face and declaring “Tell them that the North remembers. Tell them that winter came for House Frey” before striding out like some tiny goddess of death.
And… roll opening credits. Jesus, what a way to open season 7! And it raises a question: can we trust anything we see from this point on? Arya is now prowling around Westeros playing a really messed-up game of hide and seek and could be anybody. I’m not sure my heart can handle this. But now that this is out of the way, let’s check in with the rest of the cast.
Continuing with Arya, we see her later riding alone through the forest and she comes across a group of King’s Landing soldiers, including singer Ed Sheeran in a cameo role. It’s a sad testament to what this show has done to me that I immediately began yelling at the TV screen, telling Arya to keep riding before the soldiers robbed her or raped her or something equally awful. Surprisingly, none of the above happens! The men share food and wine with Arya, chatting about their families and generally being nice people. Well, that’s a change from the usual—this scene humanizes the soldiers, both for us and for Arya. When they ask Arya why she’s going to King’s Landing, she tells them point blank that she’s going to kill the queen, and they think she’s joking and laugh.
As an aside, why in the world is Ed Sheeran getting so much hate for his cameo? I honestly don’t get it. Granted, I recognized him, and that voice is hard to mistake when he’s singing, but really?… there’s no need for the uproar. The poor guy has deleted his Twitter account after all the nastiness of the past few days.
But he’s going to have to take care of himself, because now we’re going to jump to the Hound and his group. He’s still palling around with Thoros and Beric Dondarrion, and we find them seeking shelter from a snowstorm in a convenient farmhouse. It’s even more convenient because, if you paid attention during the “previously on” segment, you were reminded that the Hound robbed the farmer and his young daughter when he was last through. Alas, the pair apparently were starving to death and the father killed the both of them with a knife. The Hound, experiencing the unusual sensation of guilt, demands to know why Dondarrion keeps getting resurrected by the Lord of Light when this family is dead. What’s so special about him? Dondarrion doesn’t know, but Thoros attempts to explain things by having the Hound look into the flames. Yeah, ask the man with a fear of fire to put his face close to a blaze. He does, and he sees a vision of the army of the dead passing the Wall. Not ominous in the least.
Up at the Wall, Jon and Sansa are having a wee disagreement about how to handle the treason of houses Umber and Karstark. Sansa wants their estates given to loyal families, but Jon (unsurprisingly) won’t punish the children for their fathers’ sins. The young heirs pledge to House Stark without a fuss. Oh, and Lyanna Mormont throws shade at everyone and promises to train every man, woman, boy, and girl on Bear Island to fight. No knitting by the fire for her! Seriously, though, can we just give her some dragons and turn her loose on Westeros? She’d have things cleaned up in no time.
Jon and Sansa later argue a bit about the incident: Jon thinks Sansa is undermining him, and Sansa just wants to be listened to. When Jon gets a raven message from Cersei demanding he come to King’s Landing and bend the knee to her, Sansa points out that while Jon has military experience, she knows Cersei and what she’s capable of. Sharp-eyed viewers noticed that Sansa’s hairstyle is mimicking one of Cersei’s early in the series, so again, not ominous at all.
Along with her hair, Sansa is rocking the snark factor. When she’s approached by Littlefinger, who oozes up to her asking what would make her happy, she shuts him down and finishes with “No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish. I’ll assume it was something clever.” Damn, girl. Unfortunately, she needs Littlefinger because she and Jon need the Knights of the Vale, so she can’t toss him out on his ear.
Even further north, Bran and Meera arrive at the Wall, where they’re met by Dolorous Ed. Once Bran demonstrates his creepy three-eyed raven powers and reminds Ed about being at Hardhome and seeing the White Walkers, Ed lets them in. Theories abound that since Bran was touched by the Night’s King, if he crosses the Wall, it’s protections will fall and the army of the dead can come through. Given the Hound’s vision, this isn’t at all ominous.
Over in Oldtown, Samwell has his heart’s desire: a spot in the Citadel of the Maesters! Too bad they’ve got him on bedpan and bookshelving detail. Viewers are treated to a montage in which shit and stew are almost indistinguishable, and we gag right along with poor Sam. Over a stimulating round of autopsy, Sam asks the High Maester (played by Jim Broadbent) whether he believes his stories of the White Walkers. The High Maester does, but he takes the same view that many people take with climate change—nothing bad has ever happened before, so why should it happen now? In this case, since the Wall has always protected Westeros, it always will.
Thankfully, Sam has a Harry Potter moment and manages to sneak into the restricted section of the library and makes off with some books. In one of them, he finds reference to Dragonstone having a mountain of dragonglass underneath it. He quickly send a raven to Jon with that info. And in the background, baby Sam is adorable. Later, in a blink-and-you-might-miss-it moment, Sam has a brief encounter with Sir Jorah, still suffering from greyscale and quarantined in the Citadel.
Hopping over to King’s Landing, we find Cersei brooding over a courtyard-sized map of Westeros. Jaime arrives to point out that they’re short on allies. To sum up: Jon’s in the North, Dany is coming from the East, the Sand ladies are in the South, and Olenna Tyrell is holed up in the West. But Cersei has what she thinks is an ace up her sleeve—an alliance with Euron Greyjoy, who arrives in the throne room in bad boy leathers and almost rocking Captain Hook’s guyliner from Once Upon a Time. He offers Cersei his fleet in return for marrying him, which she refuses. Euron leaves and promises to return with a courting gift, but not before getting off a few digs at Jaime and swaggering around like a rock star. (Seriously, he does everything but whip it out to display for Cersei’s approval.)
And the big moment of the night occurs when Dany finally returns to Westeros and her birth home of Dragonstone. Her dragons circle the citadel as she climbs the steps, enters the throne room, and finds Stannis’s strategy room with his massive war planning table. The episode ends with her saying to Tyrion, “Shall we begin?”
And that’s it for week one! If the previews for next week are to be believed, Arya will finally be reunited with her direwolf, Nymeria, who hasn’t been seen since season one!