With Game of Thrones returning for its seventh season – how does the first episode ‘Dragonstone’ get things moving again?
15 episodes. That’s all that stands between audiences and the end to HBO’s Game of Thrones. That’s not a lot of hours, so the show has a lot to get busy with as it enters the seventh season. Lots of characters need progressing, lots of threads need wrapping up and Sam finally needs to get his Maester on. Did Dragonstone manage any of this? Let’s take a look at this weeks happenings in Westeros.
Right off the bat, the opening with Arya was a delightful change of pace. Cutting out the theme, it tied up the Frey loose end and also further cemented just how demented Arya’s character is. Some might argue that it’s too strong a moment for her character – effectively killing off an entire hour – but given how relentlessly awful her storyline has been over the past two seasons, it’s good to see her getting something done in a major way. It does have the awkward feeling of rendering the Frey storyline from the last few seasons as irrelevant, but cutting loose the weak threads makes sense at this stage. Will anyone really miss them?
Back up in Winterfell, Littlefinger’s seeds of doubt began to bear fruit from the word go. Sansa and Jon Snow’s dysfunctional relationship threatened to spill over in front of a watching North. It set the stage for an impressive tug of war, with the two Stark children fighting to be taken seriously. The exchanges between the pair were more heartfelt, but ultimately served to showcase how different their styles of leadership were. Because of the need for conflict in driving the story forward, it’s hard to not feel this story is somewhat needless in the bigger picture. We just need to wait and see if it actually goes anywhere.
Something I was a little disappointed in though was the lack of focus given to Sansa and Littlefinger. There was a brief scene where the two talked, one where Sansa revealed she’s not entirely happy with the way the situation is playing out – but it didn’t feel necessary after the initial outing. If anything, it only made Littlefinger seem a little redundant, as several characters correctly asked why he’s still hanging around. I get that the writers want to make Sansa seem clever (after spending several seasons making audiences question that) by is fully aware of what Littlefinger wants from her – but it comes off as padding right now. If Sansa was that smart, she’d have thrown him to the wolves long ago. Please let’s avoid another pointless Sansa arc that does nothing for anyone.
I’m also not sure if I’m OK with Cersai’s sudden decision to decry Tommen. For all the talk of prophecy and danger, she seems to have gotten over the death of her youngest son relatively easy. Heck, the entire conversation with Jaime Lannister felt like an excuse to knock all loose threads off the table. I get that time is important, but a bit more emotion from the woman who only last season was desperate to save her kids – by any means necessary (That painted floor looks marvelous though!)
We also got to see Cersai playing the political game. Yuros Greyjoy arrived in Kings Landing, busy angling for a new Queen to sit by his side. Clearly seeing the weakened position of the Lannister army, he fancied his chances of jumping in bed with Cersai. Obviously she said no (Largely because Jaimie looked like a lovesick puppy when he realized what was going on) but it sets up an interesting new dynamic on the show we haven’t seen. Cersai, now more than ever, has to play the Game of Thrones harder than anyone – even if it upsets Jamie in the process. I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this, and it’s incredibly interesting to see it playing out.
Meanwhile, Dragonstone saw Sam finally begin his long journey to becoming a Grand Maester – by emptying the bed pans of others. Clearly hating every second of it, his frustration at being the new guy int he area only served him to question his ultimate purpose. Even when people believed him, they failed to see the looming thread of the dangers “The world goes on” he was told, before being forced to weigh a dead mans heart. If that’s not “shut up and get on with it”, I don’t know what is.
If nothing else, Sam at the very least setup a fateful meeting between Daenerys and Jon Snow – now that she’s inherited a mountain of dragon glass. He also showed us where Jorah ended up, as his grayscale has begun to consume him wholly. I guess it’s nice that Sam is pushing other storylines along, even if his is the least interesting all to itself. I do hope that he moves beyond exposition man for the show though – it seems insane to waste so much time on him if there’s no intention of doing anything overly interesting.
One of the better scenes in Dragonstone was Arya sitting down with the Lannister soldiers (Shoutout to Ed Sheeran, who delivered a fine tune). Normally, Arya would have killed every one of them – but the show took an interesting twist. Showing that all these soldiers are actual people with kids, wives and families to feed. Most of them seem really jaded by the wider goings on in Westeros – and I suspect this humanization session will bring Arya back from the brink of mad murder. It was a nice scene – and helped to wash away the earlier killing spree Arya racked up.
While her aside was welcome, Clegane’s was less so. Really his whole part in the episode was more of last seasons stuff, and that wasn’t great the first time around. He also managed to tap into that mystical power source everyone in Westeros seems to be using these days, getting a line of sight on the army of the White Walkers – with the help of the Red God’s power. I’m not the biggest Clegane fan – so I’m not really in on these scenes. I guess he has a much bigger role to play in the war to come – it’s just a shame he takes up so much time with pointless filler getting there.
The closing segment with Daenerys was fine for what it was. The show felt the need to indulge in her return to Dragonstone – giving itself a good pat on the back with some strong set design. It feels a bit weird that she literally did naff all, but I guess that they needed to assert the passage of time. Hopefully she can get some candles into that castle and spruce it up – because Stannis left it in awful state.
Overall, Dragonstone was a fine return for the show. It didn’t blow any minds at all – instead indulged in a lot of movement round the board. I’m not a fan of some characters playing the role of exposition dumpers – something Sam seems to have awkwardly landed in – but I guess we take what we can. The Jon and Sansa story has potential, but there wasn’t enough time given to it for true impact. A shame, but we’ll probably see more of it next week.
Not a bad return to form for Game of Thrones, but Dragonstone was far from the best the show can deliver. At least with Danerys parked on Dragonstone, things can pickup from here.