Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 1 Recap: Shall We Begin?

I finally started the GoT S07 binge and egad, what a lovely way to begin the season – with the exception of that annoying ginger Hobbit who nearly ruined everything. After a month and a half of self-imposed exile from the internet, it’s finally time… for my first episode recap.

The obligatory first episode flashback begins. The green eruption of 2016 and the complete eradication of that overly stretched out People vs. the Red Keep storyline. Poor beleaguered King Tommen and his inability to deal with strong women. The King in the North. The Greyjoys and their drama. The Hound meets the Brotherhood Without Banners. The pride of Samuel Tarly, our last glimpse of Hodor, and the Three-Eyed Raven passing the torch to crippled not-so-little Bran Stark. Daenerys Targaryen leading her armada to Westeros with a face that looks less than happy (come on you guys, it’s the open sea, dress the dame accordingly), Walder Frey getting his just deserts.

Or does he? Lo, ’tis Walder Frey, alive and kicking, getting all his men drunk on the sweet taste of victory, which tastes more like Arbor Gold than Dornish horse piss. Flashback? Dream sequence? When he uncharacteristically stops a serving maid from drinking along with the rest of the, we all realize it’s neither. It’s the youngest Stark, come to claim her revenge as only a Faceless Man can. We always knew Arya was badass; who knew she could give one-liners like an adolescent John McClane? “Tell them winter came for House Frey,” she says before dropping the mic and skipping happily over the bodies of the fallen that line the way to the exit, a deranged smile slowly forming on her cute little face. Ramsey Bolton can only wish.

The Night King reminds us all of his army, and we see a new addition: giants! The zombie army has giants! I almost think they’ll show Hodor, but no. Brandon Stark snaps out of the zombie army reverie as the wall opens, Dolorous Edd and his boys come out to greet him and I tear up unexpectedly. Bran Stark left the Wall a boy, and came back a… slightly older boy. This takes us full circle to the exact same scene in the first episode of this series, so many years ago when it was all likely to be fodder for geeks and no one knew how big this show was going to be. Obama was still president and Stephen Harper was still Canada’s PM. *wipes a tear away*

We cut to Jon Snow being kingly. He reminds  everyone that they are all stronger together and blah blah blah weapons blah blah dragonglass, blah blah everyone must fight. Even the girls. Boom. Jon Snow, feminist. This is richly seconded by everyone’s favourite other badass not named Arya, Lady Mormont of Bear Island. Of course all the women in the hall perk up, because solidarity! Taking two steps forward and half a step back, Jon ignores Sansa’s wise, well-meant advice on rewarding the men who fought for him, choosing to let the Umbers and Karstarks keep their ancestral home to show he won’t be led about by a female. Never mind that it was a Karstark who handed little Rickon to the Bastard of Bolton and killed his direwolf. This calls for a Septa Unella.

Anyway, it’s viewed as a sound decision, but something tells me this might not end well. Something in the form of Littlefinger’s sly smirk in Sansa’s direction.

Oh the symbolism in this episode. Cersei Lannister stands on top of a giant map of Westeros, telling her brother it’s all theirs for the taking, and who cares if they have no heirs to inherit, mua-ha-ha. For all his inner reservations, Jamie Lannister is an able strategist, deducing correctly that Tyrion will lead the armada to the steps of Dragonstone and pointing out that they have no allies because Cersei pulled an ISIS when she blew up the Sept of Baelor with everyone in it,  ensuring that everyone who didn’t already hate the Lannisters now has a reason to do so. She responds by leading her twin to the outer walls and showing him Euron Greyjoy’s fleet, magically expanded in what seems to be a matter of months, sailing in with the tide. “How are they different from the Freys?” he wonders. The shade, the exquisite shade!

Proving he too is proficient with shade, Euron Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands proposes to Cersei, his most persuasive gift other than his gazillion ships being that he has two hands. Oh, meeeow. The look on the Kingslayer’s face! The Mad Queen turns him down, but Euron is undaunted and promises to return bearing presents. It’s a match made in hell, but Cersei already lives in one of her own making, so we all know this just might work out as intended.

And then we find ourselves in Oldtown, with poor Samuel Tarly slaving away in the Citadel. One thinks his father may have loved him just a little after all, when he forbade him to be a maester; all he seems to be doing is either emptying out or dishing out slop. It’s an almost unbearable montage of slop for a good two minutes, with a nice side of Tarly gagging. Really, you all. We don’t need to see the results of the maesters and their moving bowels, it goes in as brown slop, it comes out as brown slop, we get it. Like a young boy searching for his father’s porn, Sam sniffs out the library’s restricted area in no time at all. It’s under lock and key of course, but we all know that’s not going to stop a determined young man like Samuel Tarly. We get treated to an extended scene where Sam helps the Archmaester dissect a fellow learner who died of drink (oh look, flaccid penis!), filled with nice gloppy sounds as he cuts out first a liver and then a spleen(?) lung(?) something gross and hands them to Sam for weighing. One thing leads to the other, and Sam comes to the realization that Dragonstone is chock-a-block with dragon glass and Jon must be informed! Dun dun dunnnnnnn.

Speaking of the North, despite Jon Snow’s earlier recognition of women’s abilities, the males still only want one thing from the females. Tormund Giantsbane and his meaningful looks are throwing Brienne into a tizzy, or as much of a tizzy as she can allow herself to show while training Pod in the art of swordfighting. Poor Brienne. And poor Sansa, who can’t seem to get a moment of peace without Littlefinger hovering over her shoulder. Somewhere else in the North, Arya is going through a glade when she hears voices and a singing Hobbit appears, dressed in Lannister soldier drag. It’s Ed Sheeran singing under a tree. Stunt casting strikes for the first time in a show that never really had need of it. You are better than this, HBO.

Hey it’s the Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners! After some masculine ribbing including calling Thoros of Myr a bald cunt which makes him sound like someone who got a thorough Brazilian, the Hound gets to stare into the flames (isn’t he supposed to be afraid of being too near a fire?) pull out his sixth sense and say he sees dead people. Oh, and ice. Lots of ice.

Somewhere warmer, Sam is still slaving away cleaning up human dung and feeding the sick, and hey, it’s Jorah Mormont! He’s clearly disobeyed his queen by not getting cured. Which is a nice segue into the Dragon Queen storyline, because now we’re at Dragonstone. As Daenerys Targaryen catches sight of the place where she was born and her dragons wing happily over the palace, I get a lump in my throat because she’s finally home. It only took seven seasons, two marriages, countless escapes and numerous freed slaves but she finally gets to Westeros!

And then a nice little drawn out sequence as she touches home soil and walks past stony cliffs of black rock which obviously alludes to Sam’s earlier epiphany. It turns this last little segment into a There Will Be Blood reference except Dragonstone is rich in dragon glass rather than oil and how did no one ever notice this before and I’m flashing ahead to a possible storyline where everyone including Cersei Lannister begs Daenerys for dragon glass to defend themselves from the Night King and she laughs evilly and says she will drink everyone’s milkshake and the camera settles on a horrified extra who looks like Paul Dano. Sorry, end stretch. There’s been so much to absorb.

This version of Dragonstone is far richer looking than the crappy little rock Stannis Baratheon occupied way back in season two. There’s more sunshine, as well. This may just be an aftershock from Marvel’s The Defenders, but it feels like the mystical K’hun- Lun. What was that I said earlier about symbolism? Dragon heads guard the doors, a throne is carved out of dragon glass, Daenerys tears down the hearts aflame banner of Stannis Baratheon and marches into the the war room, running her fingers over the carved map of Westeros, which, being carved, is in 3D and not 2D like that lame-ass map that Cersei stood on, so there.

“Shall we begin?” she asks.


Image via Time

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