Airing in the UK at 2am and 9pm Mondays on Sky Atlantic
Writers: David Benioff & DB Weiss
Director: Jeremy Podeswa
Essential Plot Points:
- Walder Frey is holding another party, with similar results to a previous big bash. Except it’s really Arya Stark, and winter has come for House Frey.
- Jon Snow is martialling the north as its new king, but Sansa Stark undermines him in front of the lords. He tells her his word is final.
- Cersei Lannister is creating a grand map showing the kingdoms she will take. She knows Tyrion has been chosen as Daenerys’ hand. There are enemies all around them – the Lannisters need allies.
- Euron Greyjoy arrives at King’s Landing. He offers the 1,000 ships of the Iron Fleet for her hand. She declines and he says he will return with a priceless gift to win her trust.
- Sam Tarly is working as a skivvy, stacking books and emptying horrific chamber pots for the maesters in the Citadel. He finds a locked section of the library but can’t gain access, so steals the keys.
- Lord Baelish still stalks Sansa. He wants her to “be happy”. Brienne of Tarth wonders why he’s still hanging around.
- Bran Stark finally arrives at the Wall.
- Arya stops to eat food with a group of soldiers (including Ed Sheeran!) on her way to King’s Landing. She tells them she’s on her way to kill the queen and they all laugh together.
- Lord Beric Dondarrion, the Hound (Sandor Clegane) and the followers of the Lord of Light are travelling in the snow. They stop at a deserted farmhouse, where the previous occupants lie dead.
- Sam makes an important discovery concerning dragonglass, the substance used to kill white walkers, and writes to Jon. He also briefly sees Jorah Mormont, who is in a bad state following his greyscale affliction.
- Daenerys Stormborn, Tyrion, her dragons and her fleet arrive at the old Targaryen castle. She touches the sand delicately and seems genuinely moved to be home.
Season Seven starts where it left off – with a reckoning for the side of the good. House Fray joins so many other departed houses, as Arya impersonates their lord and wipes them all out with a cheeky glass of vino. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves in episode one, this is George RR Martin after all.
Also, given that she already got her revenge on the man we all wanted to see dead, the architect of the Red Wedding, this secondary act to wipe all Fray’s from the land doesn’t pack the punch audiences are looking for.
Despite those multiple deaths in the first few moments, there’s a large list of characters to check in with, and this episode does a good job of that. Even if that’s pretty much all it does.
There’s also the briefest hint at the dreaded White Walker menace, but you can understand why Sam’s maester bosses struggle to believe the threat – the audience has barely had many sights of them, so no wonder everyone else in the kingdom hasn’t recognised their peril yet.
Glegane is the most compelling character here. His world-weary pessimism is so on the money for such a harsh existence. Yet it’s the call back to his earlier encounter – results that were foreshadowed have now transpired, as death has come for a family he robbed – that sting the most. You want to like him, but he’s still a creature of his environment, and while he’s sorry for these people, you wonder if he’d do the same again in similar circumstances.
However, if you’re thinking of jumping in here to start watching Games of Thrones, don’t. There’s little-to-none explanation of who’s appearing onscreen and at this point, only long-time viewers will get the rewards this episode offers.
“Shall we begin,” Daenerys says at the end of the episode, as she stands in Dragonstone castle. And that’s what this first episode feels like, a holding stance while we see everyone’s place in the world, before Game of Thrones Season Seven truly begins. Let’s hope they’ve saved some fireworks for Episode 2.
- Jon’s meeting to discuss how to face the walkers, which happily is no yawnsome Star Wars senate meeting. Great to see him recognise the contribution the north’s women can make as members of a “living” army.
- Euron Greyjoy might just out-Lannister the Lannisters, if he lives long enough.
- We’d love to see more of Thomas Turgoose, please. Pair him with the Hound!
- Open abuse for a hipster topknot. Love it.
- Ed Sheeran’s cameo. WTF?
- Slow pacing and not much forward momentum, but that’s usually a sign things are about to kick off in this show.
And The Random:
- The library/chamber pot work scene is cut in such a way that you half expect to see Edgar Wright’s name as guest director on the credits.
“Why are you always in such a foul mood?” – Thoros
“Experience.” – The Hound
Review by Matt Chapman