SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Game of Thrones Season 7 debut.
The truly ambitious scope of tonight’s revenge filled and sometimes funny Game of Thrones Season 7 debut 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, the feverous demand for the show seemingly even took HBO’s website down for a bit in the first half hour of the season premiere 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 soon 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 hit the humor marker harder than usual. 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 Citadel 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 potential power for Daenarys and her forces and, as Jon Snow noted earlier in the episode, the best thing to kill White Walkers with.
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, after the haggard Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) present themselves to the Night’s Watch, the still undead Jon Snow (Kit Harington) struggles and begins to succeed with his new role of King of the North. A struggle and a success that occurs in no small thanks to his half sister and also cousin (it’s complicated) 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 and Martin’s mythology, as well as the abundance of flesh, sex, violence and dragons. In that, and personified in Sansa and the 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. ‘Dragonstone’ unveils a new season of GoT that seems 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 victory, 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. That’s obviously changing now thanks to a certain would-be ruler and her trio of dragons. 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 Cersei makes new allegiances, threatens the new King of the North and pours over maps of Westeros in search of real and presumed enemies, Daenarys, her dragons and fleet land on the Westeros shore next to what seems to the her family’s ancient 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 then a war room filled with a map table and model ships.
The now dead insane sadist Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon), whose attack dogs ate his face last year under Sansa’s instruction, once 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, the ending is coming and it will be served appropriately cold, I’m pretty sure.