GAME OF THRONES 7.01 ‘Dragonstone’ Review

Arya unleashes death, Daenerys comes home, and Cersei ponders an alliance as Jon Snow faces unexpected tension in the season premiere of 'Game of Thrones.'

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

GAME OF THRONES Season 7 Episode 1

Episode Title: “Dragonstone”

Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss

Director: Jeremy Podeswa

Previously on Game of Thrones:

Episode 6.10 “The Winds of Winter”

There are spoilers ahead for last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, but don’t pretend that you didn’t know that!

Have you ever wondered if Game of Thrones is pushing believability for a show that has dragons, magic, and undead zombies? There’s no denying that the cold open with Arya was a satisfying way to deal with the treachery of the Freys, but what Arya did bordered on the supernatural. She so perfectly disguised herself as Walder Frey that actor David Bradley got one more paycheck as he/she oversaw the belated revenge of the Starks.

It was a great sequence, but what Arya did goes beyond mere disguise and displays a mastery of the Faceless Men’s techniques that she didn’t really display in Braavos. It’s almost enough to give credence that the Waif killed Arya last season and has now convinced herself that she is the vengeful Stark daughter. That would be a neat trick, but it’s more likely that this is Arya’s status quo going forward. She can become anyone, and she’s willing to kill as many people as it takes.

Arya had her brief moment of mercy when she wouldn’t let Frey’s wife drink the poisoned wine, but the fallout of her actions means that we expect her to kill at all times now. The tension in Arya’s scene with the Lannister soldiers is that she could have killed them all, if she wanted too. It was a clever reversal that these Lannister men were honorable and even friendly towards her. And yet I wonder how many that she’ll kill to get to Cersei, the last major name on her death list.

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There is an argument to be made for each of the surviving Starks to have a gift/power: Arya’s got her disguises, Bran’s basically a psychic time traveler, Jon’s experienced life after death, and Sansa….she’s clever? The eldest Stark girl got the best of her verbal sparring partner, Littlefinger, in one of the episode’s genuinely funny exchanges. Sansa even had a strong argument to strip rival families of their castles and lands for not staying true to the North. The problem is that Sansa appears to resent Jon’s rule, and that seems like Littlefinger’s cue to whisper poison in her ear. That’s why she’s not as clever as she thinks.

The thing is that Sansa isn’t really wrong. Jon’s leadership style already got him killed once because he was too generous with his enemies. Robb and Ned lost their heads because they played by the rules in a world that doesn’t value morality. It’s a reminder that David Benioff and Dan Weiss haven’t forgotten the world that they’re playing in, and it makes the inevitable conflict between Sansa and Jon into a tragedy. They’re both right, and neither one can back down.

Also: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 May Have Feature Length Episodes

I made the mistake of eating during this episode right when the show cut to one of its most disgusting montages to date, as Sam cleaned up feces and chamber pots in Oldtown. Too. Far. That bit would have been overdone and too long even if I wasn’t eating. That was also like a training montage that doesn’t actually do anything except establish the passage of time. Sam’s scenes and discoveries were necessary, but it was also the part of the episode that dragged on. The only memorable parts came when Ser Jorah made his cameo and Sam risked his status to steal a few forbidden texts. I wonder what the penalty for stealing is in the Citadel. Also, the Archmaester’s speech about the Wall almost guarantees that the White Walkers will end up at Oldtown by the end of the season. Because that’s simply how these things work.

Surprisingly, the most moving part of the episode was the Hound’s road to redemption. Sandor Clegane is still a hilarious dick, but he was also deeply troubled by the deaths of the farmer and his daughter that he robbed years ago. That was a terrific callback to an earlier season that made the Hound’s change of heart more affecting. He’ll never be heroic in the way that Jon Snow can, but the Hound actually feels remorse now. That’s not nothing. If anything, the Hound’s vision in the flames means that he may be even more important than we suspected. Neither Beric Dondarrion nor Thoros of Myr appear to be able to see visions as easily as the Hound did. Very interesting.

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It’s worth noting that Jaime Lannister is desperately trying to get his sister/lover, Cersei, to feel any kind of human emotion. She’s too far gone for that, but Jaime needs to believe in her or else he may have to deal with the knowledge that Cersei is a remorseless survivor who would kill anyone to hold on to her power. But she won’t just marry anyone, as Euron Greyjoy discovered. Euron’s appeal for Cersei’s hand was sublimely, and this show clearly knows how to play its moments of humor. The sudden closeup of Jaime’s reaction to Euron’s trolling was absolutely hilarious. Euron is still pretty one-dimensional compared the show’s other characters, but if he’s going to be that genuinely funny than this could work out well.

The episode ended with near silence as Daenerys and her entourage arrived at Dragonstone for her long awaited homecoming. The creative team showed a lot of restraint by not overplaying the moment and allowing it to breathe over several minutes. Emilia Clarke doesn’t always get credit for her talent on this show, but her facial expressions were masterful. Everything that Daenerys was thinking seemed to be etched into her face. The real queen has come home, and she’s ready to reconquer her homeland. We’ve only been waiting seven seasons for that. What’s one more episode?

What did you think about the season premiere? Let us know in the comment section below!

Photo Credits: HBO