So, was it worth the wait?
HBO’s Game of Thrones returned for its seventh—and, in proper epic fantasy terminology, its penultimate—season where it left off, i.e. with lots of fans saying “OH MY GOD FINALLY!!!!” After the rare cold open, Game of Thrones‘ first volley was more of a quiet breath to recollect and reflect after the explosive episode that preceded it. Over a year ago.
But the episode’s last few moments proved that silence has its own power, as careful machinations led to a moment fans of the TV show and the books alike have been waiting years to see come home to roost. To roost and to wage war.
Spoilers for the currently published George R. R. Martin novels are discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. We highly suggest not discussing early preview chapters, but if you must, white it out. Have courtesy for the patient among us who are waiting and waiting (and waiting) for The Winds of Winter. Play nice. Thanks.
So long, Walder Frey. For real this time. David Bradley did a great job playing Arya playing Walder. So many little tells that were plausible for Walder’s relatives to miss because, well, Freys just aren’t that smart. I’m getting ready for a whole season of Arya going around Westeros making bitter fans’ dreams come true.
I was surprised, however, that Arya was heading south to kill the Queen instead of, you know, checking in on her family at Winterfell. Where is Arya in time? Does she know about Jon and Sansa back at Winterfell? Surely the Freys were talking about it. Why not swing by home first? Yet, her meeting that band of Lannister soldiers seemed to humanize her enemy a bit. I mean, they didn’t rape or imprison her or anything! They shared food and blackberry wine and a laugh with her. As soon as that guy said “be kind to strangers and they’ll be kind to you,” I was definitely expecting all of those kind soldiers to be horribly murdered by Arya instead. There isn’t a gleeful satisfaction in Arya being the most dangerous girl in the forest; it’s a grim reminder of what Arya’s lost during her journey. Arya’s dangerous obsession with her hit list may prove to be her undoing, as much as Cersei’s quest for vengeance will be her undoing.
The Hound will tell you that.
This new, improved Hound is so compelling. Here’s a man who has seen so much death, been the cause of so much death, nearly died himself, and returned from the brink and gave faith and goodness a fair trial and… it didn’t work for him. But he was already shaken before Thoros asked him to look into the flames. Was there some divine purpose that brought Sandor back to the home of the farmer and his daughter that he robbed in the fifth season? He clearly felt a measure of remorse that he was so correct when he told Arya that they wouldn’t survive the winter. Sometimes being right feels shitty. But, now that the Hound has seen the White Walkers in the flame, how can he deny the Lord of Light? How can he not, in part, think that, like Beren, he’s nobody special, and yet not feel like his life was spared for a purpose? He was literally kissed by fire. (Ygritte’s way was prettier.)
Here’s to hoping Sandor’s purpose and the rumored Clegane Bowl clash in an epic, gory, over-the-top way. But I’m most anticipating when he’ll meet Arya along his path. I think she’ll need to see the Hound, too, to see how even he, one of the best killers she’s known, can change, be defeated, and re-purpose his life around not killing.
Mentors seemed to hover around the periphery of the plot tonight.
There was some nice mirroring going on, with Sansa saying she learned a lot about politics from Cersei and, later, Cersei saying she learned about politics from her father. Both women were paying attention to the people who stood in their paths, differing paths though they walked. Both women suffered under misogyny that hemmed them in, killed cruel husbands, and saw their naive pretty princess dreams dashed horribly. And they see enemies everywhere.
I only hope Sansa has taken what she needed from Littlefinger so he can, I dunno, twirl his mustache as he’s being pushed into the Narrow Sea on an ice floe. Fuck that guy. And I’m pissed at Jon and Sansa, too. I was kind of on Sansa’s side in the sentence for the Karstarks’ and Umbers’ wartime deeds. Jon, do you know nothing? Committing treason is usually a pretty serious crime that would get you stripped of your titles. But not every ruler agrees. Ahem.
But, then, Jon was being fair not to punish the traitors’ children and focus on the bigger picture. I just don’t want a whole season of Stark vs. Stark. But I guess I don’t come to watch Game of Thrones to see everyone picking daisies together. It’s just frustrating because anything that makes Littlefinger happy is so bad for everyone else. Sansa is a stone-cold ice princess when she wants to be and is directing it towards the right person, at least. But to what end? I don’t believe she wants the Iron Throne. She just wants Cersei dead and, I’d guess, her name cleared. Is family enough?
Cersei’s pretty much the Mad Queen, no? Losing all of her children gives her nothing to fight for beyond glory. So empty. Jaime looked broken when Cersei said Tommen’s suicide was a betrayal. Surely Sansa and Littlefinger can guess how penned in Cersei is, so desperate for an ally, she’d even turn to (*shudder*) Euron Greyjoy and his one thousand really freaking baroque kraken ships. Seven Hells, what a boring character. Maybe I’m still bitter that Mads Mikkelsen can’t take every role I think he’d be perfect for. But Euron is just lame. And vague. What’s his “priceless” gift for Cersei, i.e. that back-up queen he was going to marry? A horn, perhaps?
Dany’s dragons are safe and at home for now. Their real home. Dragonstone.
I loved how even Tyrion had no words for this incredibly important moment. It was wise to just… let Dany have her moment. I think, if you saw the super-long “Previously on” segment, you were reminded of Dany’s vicious brother and you had to believe she was thinking of him when she walked up to that throne.
- “You think you’re fooling anyone with that top-knot?” Sandor says: fuck your man buns, hipsters.
- So, it seems that at least in King’s Landing, no one cares overmuch about the explosion that took out a zillion cast members and extras last season? Maybe we’ll get a hint of what they thought about all of that in Flea Bottom in a later episode. But pressing question #1: with Margaery and Tommen gone, who will take care of Ser Pounce?! Will anyone please think of Ser Pounce?! I like to imagine that he’s hunting around the Red Keep with Rhaenys Targaryen’s old kitty…
- Poor Pod, caught between Tormund and Brienne’s awkward courting dance!
- I don’t hate that Ed Sheeran fellow. I think tonight was the first time I heard him sing and his voice was beautiful.
- Lady Lyanna Mormont did NOT refuse the call and Bear Island is a progressive one. By arming her womenfolk, her ranks likely swelled to 124! If they all fight like her, the Night King is doomed. I love her so much. Please don’t die.
- Requiem for Sam’s Dream: A new film by Darren Aronofsky. That was a lot of jump-cuts to chamber pots. I’ll never eat lentil soup again. Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn!) made a nice, quiet debut in the Citadel tonight. My, his words about the maesters being “the memory” of mankind through all of the other times that felt like the end times was strangely comforting. Also, look at how far Sam has come—he broke a rule! He is in the Citadel to become a Maester, but his #1 priority is Jon’s true mission. How soon will Jon head down to Dragonstone to ask Dany for some dragonglass?
- Next week: it seems as if Dany’s reclaiming of her ancestral home didn’t go unnoticed by all of the other rulers in Westeros.
Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via raven or on Twitter.